The second last volume! I always find it a bit surreal when I’m so close to ending a long running series. This volume’s cover is also quite nice. It’s very simple, but the colours are very pretty.

Summary


Mokuren experiences a miracle with the help of the Earth and with her dying breath asks Shion not to give up because the dream is too beautiful to remain just a dream. When Alice comes too, she awakens beside Rin, who proceeds to kiss her and then asks her why she didn’t push him away as he is Shion.

Alice tries to persuade Rin that he is just infatuated with Mokuren because Shion never loved her, which prompts Rin to get really angry to the point that he refuses to discuss anything but the passwords. He even shreds Alice’s clothing when she refuses to tell him. However Alice is adamant about not telling him until he tells her why he needs them so desperately. Seeing no other way around it, Rin begins to tell her that the reason he needs the password is to prevent wars from happening on Earth. It seems that after Mokuren died, Shion noticed wars on Earth and made it his personal mission to stop them using the technology on the Base. Now all he needs is the passwords and Alice’s kiche powers.

Meanwhile, Jinpachi is freaking out when he learns that Rin/Shion has managed to capture Alice. Issei manages to calm him down and not much later Daisuke and Sakura arrive with good news: Mr. Tamura is out of jail and Majima is now the prime suspect. Alice’s brother, Hajime, also arrives and tells the group that there won’t be any more charges from Rin’s family against Tamura as Rin’s mom told his dad everything.

The next day, Rin comes to see Alice again. While he presents a facade that nothing is wrong, he had been struggling with his memories of his time spent alone on the base again. He sarcastically says they should reminisce about old times, but their conversation eventually leads Rin to saying he wants to blow up the Base, which is mutually exclusive with the goal of using it to prevent wars. Alice points this out and from Rin’s confused response, she finally realizes that within Rin there are two psyches battling for dominance, Shion and Rin.

The scenes then abruptly shifts to Mikuro who is trying to get information out of Majima. We also have a glimpse of Rin looking at Tokyo Tower and Bone and Doctor Mori come to rescue Alice just as volume 20 comes to a close.

My Thoughts


This volume is a really great setup to the finale, I think. While we still don’t know what will happen, this volume finally lets us in on what Rin/Shion has been planning all along. Surprisingly, even though it is a setup volume (my terminology), it is still surprisingly tense and doesn’t feel any less important. In my experience, volume dealing with a setup tend to be less interesting and also tend to be momentary slow downs in series that are otherwise quite gripping (Please Save My Earth’s own volume 5 suffered from this phenomena as well). This can be quite a problem, and was, in fact, the reason I regrettably put Please Save My Earth on hold for a couple of years after picking up volume 5. So it is definitely great to see that Ms. Hiwatari has avoided the same sort of problem that plagued her story before.

As for actual happenings in this volume, the fact that it was Mokuren who saved Rin when he fell off the balcony back in volume one is a very interesting twist. I personally feel it is not necessary to explain why he miraculously survived -I always thought it was Alice’s powers that saved him based on the fact that the trees cushioned his fall- but it does explain why the fall caused him to rapidly start recalling his memories. Mokuren’s presence was probably the trigger rather than just the shock from the fall, which we were led to believe before. In light of previous information (Haruhiko triggering Alice’s memories; the phenomenon of synergic cascade as presented back in volume 6; and the synchronization of the dreams between Jinpachi and Issei), this is a welcome twist and makes sense through the story’s internal logic. It also allows Mokuren to say goodbye to Shion without telling him she loves him and thus maintains the status quo as previously established without being unnatural (which was a major problem in volume 19).

Overall, this volume is a return to form from the previous volume, which was quite disappointing. There are a number of aspects that I liked about this volume. For one, I thought the dual psyche approach to Shion and Rin was a good call on Ms.Hiwatari’s part. This way the extreme behaviour of Rin isn’t out of place (because it’s really Shion) and it proves a clear cut path to the climax. Likewise, I’m happy to see Alice has really developed as a character. She and Haru have really grown up these past few volumes. While both are still rather overly sensitive and prone to crying, both of them have stood their ground; Haru when he told the others what Shukaido did and Alice with her refusal to tell Rin her password. I’m not usually a fan of characters that just cry at the slightest provocation, but it works with these two because Ms.Hiwatari has taken time to actually develop them as characters and actually make their emotional responses not a simple “character trait” but rather a realistically complex human response that arises from their personality, experiences, and desires. This is why I respected Ms.Hiwatari’s story telling skills. Her characters all felt very human, rather than manipulative pandering. So it is a real shame for what happened back in volume 19. I can say that this volume has made me regain quite a bit love for the series. Hopefully the final volume takes what was so good here and runs with it.

Another interesting bit about this volume were the side notes by the author herself. In them she discussed how easy or difficult it is to lead particular characters to do what she wants (to keep the story moving) and how the characters developed their own life outside her. It was definitely an interesting read. I like how Alice is one of the characters that is causing her the most trouble. xD I can even see it because Alice has really grown up since way back in volume 1. There are a few other interesting tidbits. Jinpachi’s was interesting too and I can see how he could have forcefully made Ms.Hiwatari draw the kiss scene between him and Alice. It’s such a Jinpachi thing to do, after all! Shion’s bit on Kyaa and Lazlo was interesting too because I definitely agree that without those two, there would definitely be no way to realistically believe in Shion’s redemption. The most interesting thing is that Ms.Hiwatari planned on making Mokuran “a saucy tomboy” and got a lot of letters from fans that made her think she went overboard. I thought that was sort of weird because tomboy isn’t a word that I would use to describe Mokuren. Oh she was sure “saucy” and I definitely liked that, but I never really saw how she was suppose to be a “tomboy”. And it’s not a cultural thing either because Himeko from Hime-chan no Ribbon is called a tomboy and basically fits what we in the English speaking world would call a tomboy. So I’m rather perplexed by this kind of thing. I’m also surprised people thought Mokuren was too extreme. She’s pretty subdued in my opinion. Shusuran on the other hand, yeah most definitely much more “saucy”. I guess people had a certain image of Mokuren in their minds and it was probably the very image of “femininity”. It really pleases me that Ms.Hiwatari decided to take so long to actually show us Mokuren’s perspective because it is definitely a classic example of people judging based on looks and fits quite nicely into the theme of subjective view point that runs through the PSME manga. Ah, there are so many great things about the manga. It just makes me feel that much more saddened with what happened in volume 19. Ok, that’s the last time I bring that up. ^__^;;;

Well then, I am going to go start volume 21 now. Can’t wait to see how this series ends now.

–SW

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