Ah I remember translating this from the weekly publication and wondering if this would be the final chapter of the series. It's not a weird thing to consider as the chapters had all been extra long and the story itself seeming like a self contained tale. While Fukuchi himself has said on occasion after Anagle Mole that he wants to do a longer series, after two unfortunate hiatuses, I figured he'd want to try shorter stories first. Glad that I was wrong about Saike's longevity though!
So picking up from the last chapter, Saike picked a fight with some punks who were punking a poor kid for his purchase. (Sorry, no more alliterations.) I always found it weird that poor Saike got knocked out of his shoes, but more importantly look at his expression. This is probably the first time we've seen him look --well, satisfied. Maybe even a little happy? This is Saike accomplishing something he set out to do which hasn't gone well in regard to his life and saving Mikan's.
Again with the shoes. Is Fukuchi trying to tell us something about proper footwear? Though in all seriousness, Saike explaining himself to Mikan is really refreshing at this point of the story, although he's still hiding things. I like that he's admitting that doing this is both because it's the right thing to do, and because he wants to look cool in front of his friend. It's this sort of selfishness that makes him seem more human and even if it is a bit foolish --likable.
For his efforts, Saike gets a premium key holder. I don't know about you, but I'd totally read "War God Circus". Maybe once Saike ends, Fukuchi can get on that. Again in the third panel, Saike looks tired, but happy. Moreover, Mikan's expression has softened --but not just because Saike did a good thing, but something else, something deeper. There's a hint of familiarity in that expression that we haven't seen in her up until now. In any case the two head over to Mogura pond and...
To his surprise, Mikan is totally silent. I like that they're friends enough that she can totally read his thoughts. Also these two pages without a whole lot text says a lot which I'm a big fan of in manga --especially shounen which can get bogged down with long explanations over several pages. Mikan doesn't have anything to say, and rather than Saike pressing the issue he immediately seems to understand why. He's evolved --not only as a character in our eyes, but as a person in Mikan's.
Though with evolution comes self-awareness. By realizing what Mikan wanted to say to him, and thus to some extent legitimizing and becoming aware of himself as a person, Saike's death wish wavers. Or well, I hesitate to even call it that, as it was clear from the beginning that it's simply a misguided and desperate attempt to make things right. What is important here is that at long last Saike's journey has brought him to a point where he not only realizes the importance of being alive, but also desires it--life for himself.
There really isn't anything to say here. Saike has always taken for granted how important Mikan is to him, just like we might do so to our close friends. Of course we don't have the ability to repeat a day by drowning, so our realizations aren't quite as easy to come to.
But as they say, the show must go on. I want to believe if Saike was given any other option to save her, any at all he would have taken it. The loops he's been through haven't given him much legroom in that matter so he does what he thinks is best.
The techinical merits of this page come from the symmetry. I like that all the text boxes are in the same place for each panel, so you could split the page right down the middle. Also the POV from Mikan's shoulder from an interesting obtuse angle shows that this is all happening in slow motion --if it were animated, it'd probably be silent too. Of course Saike being reflected in Mikan's eyes is a nice touch too. Now on the other hand, Saike's final thoughts being for himself seem somewhat selfish, --and they are, but it once again reflects his psyche (Saike?) Why worry how anyone else feels if he felt his life was still ineffectual in the larger scheme of things?
Well...that was unexpected. Though wait, before we get our "contrived convenience" pitchforks out, lets look at this from a different angle. The one thing Saike had avoided doing this whole time --getting involved in the lives of others has saved his life. Sure this is as plausible as his power would be in real life and I'm not at all defending Fukuchi on that --but the intent is key. By standing up and getting involved in something completely unrelated to him, he's not only improved their life but saved his own. Can't beat that! Though that truck driver might argue otherwise, but the guy did look either buzzed or tired. Also I can't get enough of Saike's expression in the bottom panel.
After slapping him around a bit
which hey, he kind of deserved. Mikan gives Saike the answer to the question he had when he thought he'd die. Never forget everyone, there is someone who's life would be irreconcilably affected by your absence. If there's no other lesson one can take away from Saike after this, please, please let it be this one.
Posted essentially because Mikan trying to hide her tears is the cutest thing. Oh, and the driver is actually okay, so it worked out for everyone!
Now for the reason why Mikan has been so insistent on coming out here. Apparently Saike really has forgotten about some sort of promise he made to her ten years ago. Again I really like the pacing for this first volume. Things unfurl slowly and through little deviations in each loop Saike goes through until we reach this point. Also on a technical level, I do like the worm eye angles in the first and fifth panels. It gives a sense of atmosphere and in the case of the fifth panel --contained space. Fukuchi really knows how to make even small panels pull their weight on a page.
Mikan mentioned this way back at the beginning of the series --how Saike saved her from drowning. (Also lil' Saike and Mikan are both so cute, my heart.) These pages also explain Mikan's insistence on coming to the lake, and her tools of the trade being with her. It was all to dig up the time capsule.
A brief page explaining everything up until now, and even why Mikan was in tears on one loop. Saike is able to work it out using the information he has now, and understand just how important the friendship is to her as well as him. For him to refuse to go to mogura pond indicated to her that the friendship she holds so dearly had ended. Granted this was all just a misunderstanding from the start, but this is why communication is a really important thing.
First, congrats to my buddy Jagman who scanslated this. The original text on the left was in Japanese, obviously but he managed to match the crayon scribbling perfectly and even keep it as childish looking as it did in the Japanese version without losing the intent. In any case, now we see what Mikan saw in Saike --and what he himself wanted to be until he became disillusioned in life somehow. After everything that's happened to him so far, now his resolve has returned and he intends to dedicate himself to heroism.
And the hook --the final page of volume one. Remember the guy from chapter 2? Fukuchi brings him back here and it's clear like Saike he has some sort of ability. Now I've read opinions from people that Saike probably should have and could have ended here by removing this character from chapter two and going with the happy ending from the pages before this --and honestly speaking that's very true. it really would have made a perfect one volume story --but I don't think Fukuchi drops the ball by having this confrontation here. Rather there are still unanswered questions, and whether the sentimentalism of the happy ending is enough for some is another matter completely. I want to know more about these powers and having another character who's clearly more experienced at this "game" is the way to find out.
And that's it! We've come to the end of Saike volume 1! Hah, my intention was to get a lot further than this before Saike returns from it's month off in two weeks, but sadly things rarely go to plan. I've really gotta catch up on other translations, and I don't want to leave off in the middle of a volume either, so volume two may not happen for some time. However! That doesn't mean you can't go to your favorite scanslation site (or if you know Japanese, buy the volumes digitally or physically) to continue the journey on your own! This is more a supplement to the series than a guide in itself, so please feel free to read ahead! I'll catch up with you all eventually, haha..ha. Until volume two, be kind and rewind.