Good day and welcome to the fourth installment of "Saike on the rewind"! We're rounding the end of the first volume, and I hope you've found this recap of Saike from the beginning as interesting to read as I have found it to write! Let's get right into it!
It appears to be a morning like no other for Saike. Kind of telling that his mom is the one who reminds him of his earphones. Also, Saike's deliberate wording, "I don't need those anymore" rather than "I don't need them today". He's resolved to see this out to his end.
I really like this cover page. It's so deliciously gothic and unlike Fukuchi's normal artwork. The scales also fit perfectly with the theme that this seemingly final loop is taking us toward. For Saike who has been through "today" several times, this truly is the last one.
A call and response looping the first chapter. Saike, have you learned nothing?
And then that bait and switch. As much as we'd like to cheer for Saike for finding that one thing he really wants to do, his incredible amount of shortsightedness makes it difficult. He's thinking of himself while thinking of Mikan while not thinking of himself or Mikan at the same time. It's truly the human condition of how --just like everything else, alturism can be taken to an unhealthy extreme. Granted, I will give him this --that he really does have his heart in the right place, and he really is trying.
However more important than saving Mikan is this. In his bid to make it through this last "today" Saike is experiencing a side of life that he had long since forgotten/ignored. Ironically it's the fact that he thinks he's going to die which in turn is forcing him to actually live.
As people, we find routines calming, natural, and most of all --safe. It's easy to tell ourselves and others to break a routine --to crawl out of a niche to improve ourselves, but it's hard to actually act. Yet, all it takes is one little change --like leaving your earphones at home, or a major one --like thinking you're going to die, to cause a positive change. Notice that the book Saike is reading is now slightly closer to something someone his age would read. (And also that the art on the cover is decidedly different from Fukuchi's typical art style.) and he actually takes the initiative (!!) to lend it out rather than waiting for someone to ask him about it. I find it great that the girls are like "Uh, okay?" to his offer too. It's evidence of how much of a non-entity Saike was up until now.
Saike repeats the same conversation he's had with his teacher a few times now, and has come up with an answer to his question. Even the teacher is surprised and can only offer him good luck. Technical merits of this page has to be the perception shot of Saike grabbing the pen before it falls. Fukuchi's good at creating a focal point and using perspective to make it seemingly pop out of the page. Also, it might be reaching on my part, but in Japan there's a superstition that if one leaves their chopsticks standing straight up in rice, that it's an omen of death. In the first loop(s) the pen also falls and sticks straight up out of the ground which the teacher comments on. This time though, Saike catches it preventing that from happening. Could this be foreshadowing? Is someone not going to die? Then who?
I mostly linked this for the associated imagery. It's very "Yuusei Matsui-ish". (If you don't know who he is, I'd reccomend reading his two series, Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro & Assassination Classroom. They're both super awesome!) Anyway, rather than spend a page with Saike thinking of what he should do, Fukuchi gives us related images, which makes it seem more matter-of-faculty than what it actually is. Looking at this, it'd be easy to think Saike is talking about something a lot less lofty than dying for his friend's sake.
Once again we're treated to this conversation about Mikan's artistic aspirations. However, this time Saike is genuinely encouraging her to pursue her dreams in the bottom panel rather than acting with a sense of feigned interest. He asks if they can take a little detour before going to Mogura pond, and it seems that he wants to go back to the scene he passed in the second loop where the young lad was being bulled for the manga he bought.
To the surprise of everyone (including the audience!) Saike steps in and helps the young man! Now this might be a part of his acceptance of this fate, but I'd like to think it's more than that. After all, the person he wants to save is Mikan, right? What does a detour where he's more likely to get hurt and gain nothing from it do for him?
While on one hand, I like this epiphany, and I realize this is a shounen publication so it falls in line with those tropes, I don't quite agree with Saike's self assessment that he's "weak", at least not in the way he says he is on this page. Getting involved takes different forms, and can be done directly or indirectly. I don't necessarily agree that a person should always be directly involved if they cannot, or feel they are weak if they choose not to be. There's only so much one can do after all, and chasing after every single cause is only asking for trouble. There's no "one answer" to the question of how involved one can become for a cause, and whenever possible this should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Now with that said I'll put my adult logic aside and say that I do like Fukuchi tackling the idea of the "bystander effect" in a shounen manga.
Full shot dual page spread. I've said my piece on Saike's conclusion, but again I like that he has a sense of agency now. Drifting through life and waiting for someone else to take care of everything is foolish, and Saike now realizes this. He wants to give actually living his life and interacting with others a shot, and this is his entryway to doing just that.
This page is really reminiscent of Makoto "Gash Bell" Raiku
Look at me dropping all of these other manga author names in this entry... What with the pose, flecks of debris and the way Saike is shaded in comparison to the background and even Mikan. He's now fully committed to becoming someone aside from the bystander he used to be, although there is the matter of his hypocritical wish to die while also changing who he is.
Purposefully, Fukuchi doesn't make a distinction between Saike putting the past self he used to be to rest, and his actual death wish. He treats them as the same thing here -- that Saike cannot become a better person without "killing" the person he used to be. Normally this is a metaphor, but in this case, Saike really believes that this is the only way he can change, despite it meaning the end. It goes back to what I was saying before, that Saike while honestly trying to change is still somewhat only thinking of himself --except now it's in the sense of "I have to do this so no one else has to".
A bit short, but a good chapter nonetheless! Much better than the one before it, even though all it serves as is a bridge between Saike's decision and the execution.
literally. To see the changes in Saike's life in this loop really gives a deeper sense of empathy toward his character, and of course his fatal flaw --he's interacting with others but still unable to rely on them. This is something that will come into focus later, but for now it's the disparity he's dealing with. You could say that despite his wish to die in order to save Mikan's life, that this chapter showed Saike as a person who has a lot to live for. In any case, next time we meet, it'll be to discuss the end of volume one. I look forward to seeing you here!