I’m not sure I could ever describe a volume of this series as “coasting,” but things come awfully close here. The opening chapters, which involve detailing a certain character’s backstory, Miyuki and Kaguya reaffirming their love for each other, and setup for the Valentine’s Day chapters, are all fine. It’s also nice to see Ishigami coming out ahead on this holiday for once. The problem is that they’re not particularly funny, nor do they advance any particular character arcs. This continues into the volume’s back half as we get a couple of genuinely great chapters, which revolve around the Shirogane family’s move to a bigger place, and Chika and Ishigami’s shared birthday, and a couple more that are just fine. It’s probably worth mentioning that this title’s “fine” is still better than most other manga rom-coms best efforts. Yet I’ve come to expect more from “Kaguya-sama” after all these years.
Which is what we get to close out this volume. Longtime readers will know that Ishigami came to Shuchiin Academy under a dark cloud where he was rumored to have stalked a girl at his previous school. While he’s been able to carve out his own space here, that initial misunderstanding has never been cleared up. Until now. Only not really. Let’s just say that one character has decided to fight gossip with gossip, and suddenly Ishigami’s prospects are looking that much brighter. The catch is that this also ties in a bit with his romantic prospects, and the drama there is sky high as it’s still unclear who he’ll wind up with between Tsubame or Ino -- or neither of them -- in the end. That’s what has me excited for the next volume, moreso than the usual comedic antics of the series’ main couple.
(Also, some of you may be wondering why Miyuki is so upset about why his dad refers to himself as Mr. Minato Ward at one point. While I don’t know if that particular name has any specific connotations, I seem to remember Mr. Shirogane referring to himself as a Downtown Independently Livestreaming Father at this same point. No idea what that means either, though... )