Christmas time is upon them, and Hana and her friends win a raffle for a Christmas tree. All of them have a tree already so they insist Hana give it to Takane. Once it’s set up, Mizuni and Hikaruko artfully slip out, leaving Hana and Takane alone. Their solitude is quickly interrupted by Rino, a friend from Takane’s high school years who is incredulous that Hana is his arranged marriage meeting partner. Rino is in love with Takane and she grills Hana on her feelings for him. She ends up weaseling a date out of Takane, but he instead invites them both to tag along with Hana and her friends at their annual Christmas dinner. There, Hana learns a deep secret about Rino, and discovers why she is no threat to her relationship with Takane. We also meet Takane's young cousin Hiromi, who is trying to be exactly like Takane, so much so that Hana knows just how to manipulate him.
Yes, there comes another girl to challenge Hana's pretenses to Takane's affections, but Rino isn't the normal "old flame" type of character. The introduction of Rino makes the overall storyline stronger and takes this from a typical shōjō story. I also appreciated Hiromi as a caricature of Takane, and found Hana's "manipulations" of him hilarious but telling. She knows more about Takane than I think she realizes. This volume also starts to show some of the series' positivity towards the LGBTQ+ community, as the cast of characters show acceptance towards another's chosen lifestyle.
Sara's Rating: 9/10
Suitability Level: Grades 8-12
Reviews of previous volumes in this series: vol 1, vol 2, vol 3, vol 4
Tags: Rating: 9/10, Suitability: Middle School, Suitability: High School, Manga, Realistic Fiction, Romance, LGBTQ+
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