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High Score Girl Continue, vol. 6 (SquareEnix, 2015-16), by Rensuke Oshikiri. Grade: B+.
The showdown starts with Samurai Spirits, and Felicia and the rest of the night club gamer members are all rooting for Koharu. The game proceeds with Haruo and Koharu equally focused, but it's pretty clear that Koharu has been practicing more. She eventually wins. They switch to King of Fighters 95, and Haruo resorts to dirty little sneak attacks with his characters that slowly but surely give him the win. Tied 1-1, they move to Vampire Hunter, and Haruo goes into an insane rage attack with the controller. He's obviously having the most fun playing games that he's had in a long time, and he still seems to be on the edge of losing. Felicia is proud of the way her disciple is keeping her cool. Miyao is stunned by how good both of them are, but he's also convinced that Haruo is going to lose. On the other hand, the fictional Guile is telling everyone that he's been watching the boy day after day, knuckling down to study for school, working at the bento factory, saving his money, and then still spending the last of his free time getting better at these games - he knows what this boy is capable of. Finally, at the last second, Haruo has built up the energy level of his character to the point where he can unleash its ultimate attack, and he destroys Koharu in the blink of an eye. He's so pleased with himself that he walks over to her and says "Did you see that?! Did you see how I won there?" She smashes him in the face and tells him that he still doesn't understand her feelings. Felicia talks her down and leads her from the game center, saying that she should use this sensation of pain and humiliation to drive her to get even better for a rematch.
(Felicia, in black, narrates the showdown between Haruo and Koharu.)
The scene switches to Hina Ohno, who has her own tribulations to overcome. Her tutor, Gouda, has had the previous chauffeur replaced with a stiff, silent men-in-black kind of driver, and she's doubling up on the lessons Hina has to take. Makoto and the old driver watch on, feeling frustrated that there's nothing they can do to help the girl. At the end of every day, Hina flops dead on her bed, pulling out the Print Club photo she'd taken with Haruo and staring at it wordlessly. After some days, Hina comes down with a fever and is bed-ridden. Makoto tells Gouda that this is what happens when you push people too hard, and the tutor mumbles that maybe it's time to give the girl a short break. Makoto discovers the Print Club picture, and gets the old driver to tell her about the boy in the photo. Soon, Haruo goes to one of the game arcades, and is surprised to find someone that looks like Hina. Looks like her, but acts like a banshee. She introduces herself as Hina's older sister, which doesn't shock him. Makoto is new to the world of game centers, and uses Haruo to teach her about the machines, and to pay for the UFO Catchers when she claims to be trying to get an ugly doll as a present for Hina. She encounters one capsule ball dispenser that dispenses panties, which she pockets for herself. She gives the ugly doll to Hina, who is happy with it, and she leaves Haruo with a present - a copy of the video game Tokimeki Memorial Forever With You.
(Koharu dislikes Haruo's attitude when he wins the third game.)
Haruo tries to play Memorial, but it's a girls pick-up game, and he's got no idea how to respond to any of the girls in it. His mother comes into the room to give him advice, but it doesn't help. At the Ohno household, Makoto irritates Gouda by gleefully talking about all the things she's learned about game centers, then she goes to Haruo's house to help teach him about what girls want. A little while later, Haruo runs into Koharu, who wants her Playstation console back, but he tells her he's using it to run Memorial, so she also visits his house, and now she, Makoto and Haruo's mother all ridicule him as he makes bad decisions. Finally, Makoto suggests that he design an RPG specifically for her to give Hina as a secret present from him. So, Haruo then spends the next few weeks doing the game play layout in school, and coding the game at home. The main boss monster is a serpent demon that represents Gouda. When it's finished, Makoto has Hina visit the old driver's room, where they have Koharu's Playstation hooked up to the only TV in the house. Hina starts really getting into the game when she figures out who made it and why. Unfortunately, Gouda gets suspicious, and enters the driver's room, finds the Playstation console and game in a bag next to the desk, and she throws the entire thing into the trash. The next day, Hina goes to the driver's room and becomes frantic at not being able to find the bag. Gouda confronts her, and says that it's an unwanted distraction that she tossed out. Hina simply walks up to her, starts crying and walks silently to her room. Gouda realizes that maybe she'd pushed the girl a little too far.
(Haruo works on the RPG for Hina. The winged demon on the left is Ms. Gouda.)
Haruo is at the bento factory, trying to load the last of the pallets of finished bento boxes onto the truck, when Gouda comes up to him to talk. He gets her to help him move the bentos into the truck so that it can leave for the day. When they're done, she tells him that she'd found the game and tossed it, and to apologize, she'd gone to a game store, where the salesclerk talked her into buying a Famicom Twin console to give him. The two of them talk, and it's clear that Gouda isn't simply a soulless monster. She does want the best for Hina, but after having messed up with Makoto, she'd tried to make sure that Hina would turn into the right kind of heir to the Ohno estate. Obviously, that didn't work right, either. One of the other factory workers comes out to tell Haruo he has to get back to work, and Gouda goes back to the estate.
(Hina confronts Gouda after her tutor disposes of Haruo's RPG.)
Back at his house, Haruo and his mother are preparing to go to the AOU Game show, but the boy is distracted by Guile, who is kneeling in the middle of the street and blocking his way. A few seconds later, Hina walks up, so Mom bows out and has her son take Hina to the show in her place. The girl is holding an umbrella in her hands, and Haruo guesses that Gouda had given it to her and asked her to return it to Mom for her. They take the trains from Takatsu station to Kaihin Makuhari (presumably to go to Makuhari Messe). Along the way, they get crushed by the commuter crowds, and Hina grabs his hand for support, and doesn't let go. At the convention center, they run around like little kids, looking at all the new games being promoted, including Soul Edge and a couple arcade race driver machines. Haruo uses his Tokimeki Memorial training to determine that Hina isn't fully satisfied with their date, so he buys her various foods that she likes. They talk about UFO Catcher toys, like the ugly doll that Makoto got her, and Haruo says he'd rather win a battery-powered fan to put on his desk in the summer. On mentioning toys that really matter to yourself, he provokes Hina into pulling out the ring he'd given her, which she's wearing on a necklace. They watch fireworks together, then return home. Haruo realizes that he's at a Memorial event flag point and tries to tell Hina to stay with him, when the old driver comes barreling up in the limo and smashes into him. It's just like old times.
Summary: The war for Haruo's heart is a bumpy road, with Koharu getting nowhere, and Hina slowly finding herself more attracted to the boy. Recommended if you like this kind of story. Volume 7 comes out in January.
Sidenote, these chapters originally ran in Monthly Big Gangan magazine in 2014.