Title: So Cute It Hurts Vol. 9
Author: Go Ikeyamada
Publisher: Viz Media
Genre: Shojo, Romance
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
The Kobayashi twins finally stop swapping lives; which really allows their love lives to pick up some speed. Megumu finds herself trapped in a love triangle with Uesugi and Aoi while the two battle it out over who is more deserving of her affection. This makes Megumu fall even deeper for Aoi; who still can’t bring himself to confess his secret. Meanwhile, Mitsuru gets close to Azusa, who vows to win his love. Will it all work out in the end for both twins? Find out!
Volume 9 of So Cute it Hurts brings us the most anticipated ending in this series, thus far, but before we get to the ending, let’s talk about the journey that brought us there in this volume. We pick up with Uesugi trying to steal Megumu away, but as with most big cliffhangers, when the next volume comes out, we soon learn it was misdirection. We see the history between Uesugi and Aoi, which paints Uesugi in a much better light and explains his actions. In fact, you kind of feel sorry for him.
After this, we bounce over to Mitsuru and Azusa, albeit briefly. There is just minor progression in their story in this volume. All they really did was confirm that Azusa likes Mitsuru and she wants to make Mitsuru beg her to be her boyfriend, in which Mitsuru accepts the challenge. Outside of this, there isn’t really much in the way of that progression, but it is not the last we see of Mitsuru this volume.
Once the matters are settled between Aoi and Uesugi, they go their separate ways for now. Megumu and Aoi have a bit of a fight after it rains and she tries to take a peek at Aoi’s body and inquires about a giant scar on his shoulder. Aoi gets angry and runs off. Uesugi strolls by and comforts her. A random group of spite-filled kids see Uesugi and Megumu together and make the incorrect assumption that they are a couple. In order to enact an unexplained revenge against Uesugi, they kidnap her. Aoi, Uesugi and Mitsuru all team up to rescue Megumu.
Then we come to the conclusion of the volume where Aoi finds Megumu, but one of the unnamed thugs swings a chair at the two of them. Aoi shields her and in the process, Aoi’s eyepatch falls off and we finally get to see what is underneath it! I won’t say what is underneath it for the sake of spoilers, but the volume ends there on that cliffhanger.
Aoi and Megumu take center stage once again this volume and it’s giving off the impression that Ikeyamada is turning this series into the Aoi and Megumu show. Then again, Mitsuru and Azusa’s stories were written in such a way where they are at a stasis right now that can be picked back up at any time. Once again, we get no Shino in this volume other than a mention of her name by Azusa. I am enjoying the story and the big reveal at the end made all of the buildup and tension worth it. It was the perfect spot to end the story on because now everyone is going to want to see Megumu’s reaction to it, although it’s highly predictable how she’s going to react. She’ll just accept him, but I’m sure Aoi will think she won’t and there will be another rift that gets closed quickly, etc. We’ll have to wait and see in Volume 10 if I’m right with that.
This volume of So Cute It Hurts really laid out the stuff readers needed to feel reinvigorated about the series. The love triangle between Aoi, Megumi and Chiharu is more apparent than ever. Quite frankly, I think it adds an interesting dynamic to the relationship between Megumu and Aoi because it was beginning to feel a bit unrealistic. In this volume, Megumu is given a real choice when it comes to what she wants in a maturing relationship and she makes the decision that feels right to her. I don’t think it will end here, I predict she will have more forks in the road to face as the series progresses. For now, she decides that Aoi is the one for her and then the big reveal happens at the end of the volume.
Azusa and Mitsuru progress a little bit. She finally confesses her obvious passion for Mitsuru in the most obnoxious way possible. She also acknowledges Mitsuru’s feelings for Shino and in a roundabout way admits that she is (or was) a rival. She is determined to ‘win’ Mitsuru’s love, which is only natural for her competitive personality. Unfortunately we’ll have to sit back on this until the next volume to see if Azusa is actually capable of nurturing a relationship. Both stories in this volume end on cliffhangers that truly command your attention.
I’ll touch on Azusa first since her development was quick and to the point. Azusa finally confesses her feelings for Mitsuru, but in true tsundere fashion, she acts cold and mean, telling Mitsuru that she will make him beg to be her boyfriend. Kind of an odd way to develop the relationship, but her shell is cracked, but not cracked completely. I’m sad that Mitsuru accepted the challenge and began to realize he has feelings for Azusa. Shino is still best girl!
Uesugi gets the most development this chapter and, indirectly, Aoi as well. It’s kind of a sad past because (some spoilers here) Uesugi had a heart condition and he made a friend in Aoi. Just by having fun, one day, he had a heart attack. The doctors saved Uesugi, but Aoi began to ignore him because he didn’t want to be responsible for hurting Uesugi because he cared about him. This caused Uesugi to be haunted for years and all he wanted was for Aoi to notice him again. This is why Uesugi wanted Aoi to fight him because he just wanted to be recognized. You really feel bad for Uesugi and it kind of makes you dislike Aoi a little bit, but at the same time, you can understand Aoi’s feeling and how he was simply trying to protect his friend by distancing himself from him.
Aoi, on the other hand, also has his past revealed and why he’s afraid to touch girls. It all has to do with his mother not being able to handle the fact that her daughter is deaf and Aoi is… well.. saying why spoils everything about the eyepatch so I won’t say. Needless to say, Aoi’s own mother rejects him and doesn’t want him even near her. She doesn’t want Aoi touching her either and it is that memory, that painful rejection that causes him not to be able to touch girls. Of course, all of this happened to him when he was a child and in that impressionable state, something like that will stick with you for the rest of your life. Your brain begins to program itself to react in fear whenever a similar situation is repeated and this is the case for Aoi. Between being afraid of hurting Uesugi and the rejection from his mother, you’d think Aoi would be a bigger wreck than he is. I’d say he’s handling it well.
Outside of that, Megumu doesn’t get any development at all. In fact, she plays the role of plot device in this volume so I guess it’s cool for a cooldown period on her. We got a LOT of interesting developments in this volume and anymore would have been an overload, in my opinion. The volume actually felt like a pity party for the characters more than anything, but it still makes you feel connected to them.
I have to admit, the truth behind why Aoi can’t touch girls took me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting the route that Ikeyamada picked but I respect it. The cause brings up real issues – think of the few pages that cover Aoi’s past as a softcore version of Goodnight Pun Pun. Aoi’s mother is a jerk and really shouldn’t have had children. Now her two children have to suffer because she was a miserable person. This reveal was unexpected I wasn’t prepared to find that kind of material in a cute, slice of life comedy about teenagers falling in love. It’s actually refreshing.
I thought the reveal behind Uesugi’s and Aoi’s past was weak in comparison. Uesugi has a heart condition and Aoi seemingly abandons the friendship to protect his one and only friend. The author could have found a better reason for the friendship breakup but maybe one extremely serious back story is enough for a series like So Cute It Hurts.
Azusa remains ever so annoying as she fulfills her purpose as a stock character. She unloads her feelings in the most predictable way, making me dislike her even more as a character. Since this is a character that reoccurs throughout various anime and manga, I wonder if people actually like the tsundere. Her development revolves purely around her own selfish means. She wants Mitsuru and treats her pursuit of him like hunting. Instead of just confessing her feelings and asking him out on a date, she is mean and unfeeling. She completely expects him to fall for her because commands it. Not only that, when he does fall for her, it has to be in a very specific way that she expects to be genuine. To sum it up, she basically tells him she will make him fall in love with her, but he can’t love her out of pity. Her personality doesn’t transform into something likable. Mitsuru, intrigued by their friendship begins to feel a certain attraction to Azusa despite her being a complete brat. He accepts the challenge of falling in love with her. I suppose the potential with Shino is dead and now Ikeyamada is stomping on the corpse?
This volume of So Cute it Hurts had a great balance between action, drama and character development. It knew which characters needed it and which characters to put on the back burner. Despite this, I am convinced this series will mainly be about Aoi and Megumu since Mitsuru and Azusa are, once again, being made to feel like background characters more than anything. In the beginning of this series, there was a great harmonious balance between their two stories, but now the scales are heavily weighted in one direction. Maybe that will balance out as time goes on, though. Still sad there was a lack of Shino and development on her regard, but as each volume passes, the more I am feeling that she was just a character for the sake of being there and being part of the world this series is building. Maybe I’m wrong, but I really like her a lot more than Azusa. Despite these new thoughts, I’m going to cling onto hope that Shino and Mitsuru end up together. I don’t care if a UFO beams Azusa up and puts Shino in her place with Mitsuru’s memories being manipulated into liking Shino and forgetting about Azusa. I’ll still take it!
This volume of So Cute It Hurts had all of the ingredients that this series needed to reinvigorate the story. Between the twins and their love lives I was beginning to feel that the world in So Cute It Hurts was getting stuffy and dragged out. I like the series but the universe Ikeyamada has created is very small. There is little outside of the Kobayashi twins and their friends. For example, as Josh noticed, Shino isn’t around now that she doesn’t serve any purpose in the two love stories. I imagine Uesugi will meet the same fate once he is no longer necessary in the Megumu/Aoi world. I could even go as far as agreeing with Josh, that Azusa and Mitsuru are background characters that simply serve to distract us from Aoi and Megumu when the exposure has been too high.
I wish something would be done about Azusa and Mitsuru. She’s not at all an interesting character and I think the series would be fine without her. Maybe a Shino/Mitsuru revival is in order although that seems highly unlikely. Azusa is truly the one variable I dislike about this series.
Overall, after the intense cliffhanger when Aoi’s eye patch comes off was worth reading past the Azusa nonsense. I am filled with anticipation for the next volume.
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This item was provided for review by Viz Media