Three volumes in and Inio Asano’s latest is finally starting to make some worthwhile strides towards the level of quality I normally expect from his series. It’s really evident once we find out that one of Kadode and Ontan’s friends has died as a result of the latest human/alien skirmish. Seeing the way the girls cope with this, and how it cuts through Ontan’s overbearing quirkiness, helps to drive home the fact that this isn’t really a story about humans living alongside aliens. It’s a story about life during wartime.
From the opening chapter about the woman who works for an arms manufacturer, to the nicknames of warctopus and peacesquid given to those who are for and against war with the aliens, and the tours of significant sites wrecked by alien craft, the signs of war are all around everyone. The most notable one for me is the “Current Status of War: Favorable” screen seen a train which strikes the right balance between absurdity and believability. All of these things help contribute to a shift in my perception of the series as, up until now, the alien presence had come across as a benign one. Now, it’s a little more unnerving to observe the effect their presence is having on the human population.
As for the humans which populate this volume, they’re more or less committed to living their lives in spite of the fact that armed conflict may break out around them at any moment. Kadode and Ontan have to deal with graduating high school and the stresses of passing entrance exams for college, their mutual friend Ai goes on a date with a boy who asks her out, and Ontan’s brother learns a lesson about managing interactions between the real world and online. This everyday stuff is endearing in its own way, but there’s now an interesting tension between it and the simmering war tensions in the background. It’d be nice to say the declaration on the last page adds to said tension, but at this point it feels easy to shrug off outside of any other indication that it’s actually going to happen.