Friday, May 30, 2014

Hatsuka Nezumi no Jikan, vol. 3

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Hatsuka Nezumi no Jikan, vol. 3, by Kei Toume (2006-7, Monthly Afternoon). Grade: B+

----- Spoilers -----

No real big action scenes in this volume. Nagi takes Kiriko and Maki to his apartment, and now has to figure out what to do with the extra mouth to feed. Kiriko promises to take responsibility for Maki, and succeeds in getting him a part-time job at a liquor store as a delivery boy, saying that he's a friend from the "countryside". There were several people that were concerned at her sudden disappearance and Kiriko has to make the rounds of her friends to apologize for being out of contact for 3 months. At least one of the women, a customer at the bar she works at part-time, tells her that it's not good to be staying with Nagi, since the guy had seemed so disinterested in finding her. The friend offers to let Kiriko stay at her new apartment.

(Back cover)

Kiriko and Nagi are almost constantly at each other's throats every day, largely over issues like Nagi's living in a rundown apartment, and his tobacco habit, which she hates. So, she at least has to think about why she's staying with him, and not jumping at the possibility of moving out. Nagi, on the other hand, is caught between a rock and a hard place. He has to live a secret existence to avoid his father's tracking him down and dragging him back to the school/testing lab. This means living out of abandoned apartments, and making a living by cooking up a slightly-hallucinogenic street drug that he sells to university students. Either due to the fumes of the drug, or the side-effects of the medicines his father tested on him as a child, Nagi's health is deteriorating and he's suffering from occasional nosebleeds. He doesn't want Kiriko hanging around too much and noticing any of this stuff.

(Character guide from the inside cover flap.)

Maki slowly learns how to survive in the real-world, but takes to his delivery job pretty quickly. His immediate boss is the son of the owner of the liquor store. The owner is an old man, and the son does most of the work in running the shop. While he drives the truck, he asks Maki about the relationship between Kiriko and Nagi. Since he can't answer that, one day he asks Kiriko herself, and she can't answer either. During one delivery, Maki accidentally runs into Natsume at the home of a customer. Natsume doesn't recognize him right away, but he's been having random flashbacks to the school, indicating that Narusawa Pharmaceutical's memory eraser drugs still aren't 100% effective. Kiriko convinces Maki to keep his distance from Natsume to let their former friend live happily in his new home. However, that's really not happening. Natsume has always liked writing short stories, and his "mother" has been confiscating his notebooks, including the hidden ones, telling him he has to focus strictly on his studies. His "parents" are never home and a caretaker tends to him instead. Between the flashbacks, the lack of love and the loss of his notebooks, Natsume to getting close to a nervous breakdown.

(Maki checks out his new digs, while Nagi wonders what he's gotten himself into.)

Meanwhile, back at the school, Mei has been keeping her distance from Ryou. She refuses to talk and goes to the nurse's office for more medicine. At the same time, the principle, Mayumi, has been called to the hospital to meet his father again, the owner of Narusawa Pharma. After the latest meeting, Mayumi goes to the nurse's office to complain to Yuuko. Standing outside the door, Mei overhears their conversation. Mayumi is upset that his father is so obsessed over having Nagi come back to him. Mayumi has been looking, but not all that hard. There's been word around Shibuya and Shinjuku (shopping districts in Tokyo) of a street drug showing up called "Kiriko", so that's where he should be searching. Realizing that there's some connection between Kiriko, this "Nagi" and Maki, Mei runs away before the door opens.

(Kiriko tries to explain her feelings about Nagi to Maki.)

Mei tells Ryou to meet her at their secret clubhouse on the grounds outside of the school. She tells him that the reason she balked during the escape is that she's been upset at having her life disrupted ever since Maki met Kiriko. She wants Maki back so the three of them can return to their happy lives. Ryou realizes that Mei loves Maki, while he's in love with her. They return to their rooms, and the next morning are surprised to hear the PA calling them to the principle's office. There, the voice over the speaker next to the camera tells them that following the last breakout that the security cameras have been repositioned, and they know about the secret house in the woods, too. As the guy talks, Mei realizes that he's the one she heard in Yuuko's room. She asks to talk to him face to face, leaving Ryou in the lobby. Mei tells Mayumi that she can lead him to Nagi, in return for him letting her, Maki and Ryou live in happy, drugged peace.

A little later, Yuuko sees a note Mayumi had written on Mei's chart prescribing the issuance of a strange new pill. She confronts him about it and he tells her to keep her nose out of this matter. The relationship between them is unclear. While it looks like they live together and she cooks his meals for him, Yuuko always calls Mayumi "nee-san", or "older brother". While they're probably not directly related, they don't seem to be lovers, either. Mayumi says that Mei is going to be allowed outside, and Yuuko realizes that a trap is being set up for the girl to give the pill to Nagi in order to kill him. Mayumi has always been the stronger, more reliable son, constantly striving to do what his father expected of him. But, for some reason the senior Narusawa has always loved Nagi more. To resolve this situation, Mayumi has decided that if Nagi dies, his father will have to accept handing over the pharmaceuticals company, and the school, to him. Yuuko thinks that this is an unhealthy environment to stay in and asks Mayumi to run away with her.

(Yuuko confronts Mayumi over his issuing poison to a student.)

Mei suddenly shows up in front of the liquor store, and grabs Maki in a big hug. She begs him to return to the school with her. Maki is conflicted, and brings her to the apartment. He determines that there's only one school employee escorting her, and he's currently staying at a hotel waiting for her, and that Ryou is being treated as a hostage at the school. Mei talks to Kiriko for a while, as they wait for Nagi to come back home. Mainly it's about Mei's desire to have Maki back, and how Kiriko feels about Nagi. Specifically, what Kiriko would do if Nagi left and never came back. Towards the end of the conversation, Mei complains about the heat and asks Kiriko for another glass of ice tea.

(Natsume reacts at discovering that his notebook with his latest short story has been confiscated.)

In the school, Ryou is approached by a strange female student that asks him if he thinks that his group is the only one that has been trying to escape. She berates him for being naive, while not really talking that much about herself. At this point, it's unclear if she's a spy for Mayumi, or someone very similar to Kiriko. Back at the apartment, Nagi has returned home. One of his arguments with Kiriko had been over the fact that he refuses to ever see his father or the school again. As he's trying to decide what to do with Mei, he starts coughing and asks for water. Kiriko gives him her glass of tea and Mei watches him really closely as he gets ready to drink from it. He smells the poison first and throws the glass down. Mei is angry that her plan to kill Kiriko has been exposed (without Kiriko around, Nagi would be more willing to return to Mayumi), but Nagi immediately figures out what is going on and says that he'll go back after all.

Comments: Hatsuka no Nezumi is a simple story about relationships, so there's no real action or fight scenes. Things just unfold at a steady, regular pace. They are telegraphed a little too blatantly, though. I had been expecting Mei's betrayal since early in volume 2, and Natsume's plans for Nagi several chapters in advance. Even so, I do still want to keep reading. The series only runs 4 books, and I already bought the last volume. I recommend this title to fans of Kei Toume's other works.

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