Welcome to the third installment of "Saike on the rewind"! I don't mean to alarm the audience at home, but we've only got two more chapters left in this first volume! The chapters were extra long, and as such there were only five rather than the usual eight or nine. Anyway, to chapter three!
The 3rd take. I'm really fond of this frontispiece for how simple it is.
This time Saike is experimenting with different ways of avoiding what he calls a "bad ending". The term is written in English even in the original Japanese script --much akin to a video game. Which sort of fits with Saike's age. Also I love Mikan's pose upon being told no, and Saike glibly warning her about the gust. He's totally gotten used to the looping despite doing it twice.
Again we see that Saike is treating this like a video game, not that we can really blame him considering the nature of his power. Though what's more interesting here is Mikan's insistance to go to Mogura pond with or without him, and not only that she insists on calling him when she gets there. It's quite the enigma, what could possibly be so important that she needs to go there, and call Saike when she arrives?
Now that the "game" is over, Saike is faced with the pseudo reality of having to kill himself to restart --again sort of like a video game. It's now that he's beginning to consider the circumstances of his ability. Fukuchi dances around the topic until a later chapter, but the fact is, Saike doesn't just jump into Mogura pond and teleport to the morning before, he actually *dies* and restarts at a spawn point earlier in the day. It's actually really morbid for a shounen manga. Still, as the middle panels show, Saike is beginning to understand his (non romantic) feelings towards Mikan.
Saike's beginning to realize that Mikan will go to the pond no matter what he does, but since he's still not so great at initiating conversation, he sort of avoids the obvious tactic of just asking her why she's so dead set on going to the pond. Granted, it would be an awkward conversation as he's not supposed to know that yet, but there would be a way around that. Instead, he tries to forcefully manipulate himself into a situation where he saves her instead. This too --using his ability to "force" others into the "right" situation will come up later.
This whole exchange, lol. This exemplifies the things I dislike about the romance genre, but since Saike is clearly not trying to get with Mikan, we can examine it in a different light. It's also one of the oddities of this chapter which I'll get into at the end. For now the awkward levels are so high that I'm cringing a bit here, haha.
It's a good thing to the customers in the restaurant that this is only the first time they've had to see Saike apparently get dumped though. Mikan's line changed from last time as well, from "I don't like when you're like this" to a very straightforward "I don't understand you!" What I feel is intriuging is that she leaves but still invites him to mogura pond later. C'mon Saike, ask her what she wants already!
Saike has a contingency plan ready, yet again showing just how resourceful he can be when he puts his mind to it. Meanwhile this is probably the first time we've been able to see into Mikan's point of view. Up until now while she is pretty cute, she's more or less just a fulcrum for Saike's character development. Even though it's just a little bit on this page, it's great getting into her side of things. Also that last panel-- she's still a maiden at heart, haha.
And what started on the last page continues! Mikan really is just adorable though, and I love the tiny fourth wall breakage as she physically wipes away the memory of the awkward scene in the restaurant. Also the implication that she hasn't been able to talk to Saike honestly for a while is interesting, as well as insightful. I can see him being the type to avoid her advances in the past, which is probably why she had to surprise him this time around to get him to talk about his career path. Also it's here that we perhaps get an idea of what she seems to be so insistent about in regard to going to the lake and inviting him. Also on a technical level, the range of facial expressions Mikan goes through in one page really is deft on Fukuchi's part. He can vary his art style to different degrees and isn't afraid to do so.
I'm linking this because again Saike's pose on the second panel is great. It seems to be a Fukuchi trademark, as seen in the second image, third panel from Fukuchi's previous work, Anagle Mole,
which I translated as well! I love it when authors have little quirks that carry over in multiple chapters/works. It's often easy to see manga artists as machines created to entertain us, but stuff like that is a good reminder that they are human with preferences, likes, and dislikes. As well, it shows that Fukuchi's art has upgraded in some ways while still keeping it's charming cuteness between works. In any case, Mikan flat out asks Saike if he forgot the promise from ten years ago, and he clearly doesn't.
Once again, Saike tries to forcefully "correct" the issue without getting anyone else involved, and is a bad liar to boot. Good intentions can only take you so far, unfortunately and Mikan is already prepared with her wire clippers. (With requisite "Dadadadaaaa" SFX) So whatever this promise is, it's important for Mikan to come prepared to commit trespassing. The mystery continues to deepen...
This part of the chapter is a little weak, I think. I understand the intent Fukuchi was going for --that no matter what Saike does, Mikan goes to the pond and ends up dying, but this comes off as something we'd expect from a comedy manga rather than something that has serious ramifications if he fails.
Not that it isn't funny, I just don't think the pacing/execution was best here. That being said, the next page of Saike's countless failures alleviates this a little bit. This has got to be driving him crazy.
Finally Sake just goes for the direct approach, his constant failures finally weighing on his consciousness. While I do think his intention to save Mikan is genuine, this is probably the first time he's actually tried to involve her in the process of saving her life, rather than shouldering everything himself.
Unfortunately it has the opposite effect. It's not stated outright, but it's implied that Mikan misunderstands his intentions and thinks instead that he's forgotten the promise that's clearly extremely important to her.
Saike's back to asking God what it is he should do, recalling his conversation with his teacher. The one panel on the right page of him walking away almost seems to represent his slow realization of what he thinks he must do, what he has to confront. The parallel with his teacher's words ..."One thing that completely snatches your attention" echoes his decision as well. There's only one life, and as such what we do with it is important. Saike turning around and leaving as he considers these words leads him to a crossroads, and the path he decides to take is...
Mostly linked for the second panel with the water/panel-work effects. Rather than showing Saike drowning each time and effectively taking up pacing with something we've seen before, he finds inventive ways to reduce space and get the same effect, all in the confines of a single panel. We get what happened, and Fukuchi manages to do it effectively and quickly, which allows him to spend more time on the story.
There's a reason why Hiromu Arakawa's Fullmetal Alchemist is an enduring work --it takes a basic life truth applies it to a worldview and builds a working internal logic around it. Here Saike repeats that very life truth, as he comes to a realization about life. What's bitterly ironic is how he's not wrong, but not completely right either.
The teacher's words, Mikan's words, Saike's determination have all intermingled to his conclusion. The one thing that has "snatched Saike's attention" is the life of his friend. If he can only do this once, then he'll do it for her sake. A lot of this obviously has to do with how little Saike values his own life, --as a humdrum passerby with nothing to offer, but this is what I mean by him not being wrong, but not being right either. He hasn't yet realized that his life is meaningful --and there is a difference between heroism and sacrifice.
That's chapter three! If I am to be honest, chapter three is the weakest one in this first volume, but that's not to say it was completely without merit. Being able to get Mikan's point of view was invaluable, and gives us a reference for her actions outside of being a plot point. That being said, the pacing left a little bit to be desired. Still, volume one is still going strong, and the next chapter is where we start heading toward the conclusion of this arc. Thanks for reading, and see you again!