Ririchiyo is surprised to realize that, despite her continued prickliness, she has become friends with Watanuki and Karuta. Closing the gap between herself and Soushi proves to be far more difficult, however. Whereas the other client-agent pairs tend to be more relaxed around each other, Soushi is always the perfect and servile bodyguard. Ririchiyo decides that having a cup of coffee with him, as friends rather than as client and bodyguard, might bring them closer, but her plans are ruined by the arrival of Kagerou, her fiance.
This is the volume in which the details of Soushi's past and his reasons for being so devoted to Ririchiyo are revealed. It happened a little sooner than I expected – the anime saved this revelation for the very end – but I still loved it. I loved this evidence that Soushi was at least as vulnerable and lonely as Ririchiyo, and seeing them grow closer via the letters they exchanged was sweet and kind of heartbreaking.
The bits with Watanuki and Karuta at the beginning were so-so – to be honest, the hints of romance between those two didn't really interest me. Watanuki kept saying that there was more to Karuta than there appeared to be, and that did seem to be true, but for the most part those hidden depths stayed hidden. She was primarily just a sleepy-looking girl who loved food, and I got the feeling that Watanuki was going to be left pining for her forever.
And then Kagerou. Oh, Kagerou. He'd have been creepy if he hadn't been so ludicrously over-the-top. To him, everything in the world, including inanimate objects, could be classified as either S (sadist) or M (masochist). He didn't even vaguely try to win Ririchiyo over. I'm still not sure if it was Ririchiyo's closeness with Soushi that bothered him, or if he was just bothered by Soushi, period. Soushi was smoother and more cultured than him, and at the same time completely lacking in shame. There was nothing that Kagerou could say or do to him that would hurt him in any way, except maybe exposing Soushi's lies to Ririchiyo. I hope that the series takes a closer look at Kagerou at some point – I was intrigued by the indications, near the end of this volume, that there was more to him than there appeared to be, and that he was more than just some weird guy who shouts “S” and “M” at everything.
I absolutely loved this volume. The revelations in the latter half of it were excellent, and I'm looking forward to seeing if anything else in this series ever manages to top it. I just wish the cover weren't so gross. See what I mean about Ririchiyo's hands looking like those of a toddler compared to Soushi's?
- 14 pages of side stories and joke comics - I could have done without Nobara's "smexy" lessons, but "Useless Skills" and "What's in the Box" were okay. I especially liked it when Soushi got mad at Kagerou for being more disgusting than usual towards Ririchiyo. Oh, and the "S&M" side story involving Kagerou and Sorinozuka was great. Sorinozuka makes a fabulous anti-Kagerou weapon without even trying.
- One page of translation notes - Again, I always appreciate these, although only one of them came in handy for me this time around.
- A two-page Inuboku postscript - Cocoa Fujiwara's recent death made this kind of painful to read.
(Original review, with read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)