Volume 4 of Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki was noteworthy for ending not as everything was neatly resolved, but rather just as we were starting to see the aftermath of what we thought was everything being neatly resolved. Volume 5 acts as a direct follow-up to this cliffhanger ending, and in doing so provides some of the more interesting, thought-provoking narrative work in the series.
The fourth volume of Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki largely focused on our eponymous hero’s efforts to convince class queen bitch Erika Konno to care about the school sports festival. Through a convoluted set of circumstances, he was successful — but unfortunately said circumstances also ultimately resulted in Konno being dropped rather rudely back down to earth after being on something of a high — and she really doesn’t like it when that happens.
The romance between secondary characters Yuzu Izumi and Shinji Nakamura has been brewing in the background of Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki almost right from the outset, with particular attention being paid to it in the third volume.
This has always been quite a pleasant aspect of the series, since it allowed Nakamura, an initially antagonistic character, to be considerably humanised, while at the same time it emphasised the fact that despite a majority female cast, Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki is not a harem piece.
In other words, although Izumi is one of the first characters that Tomozaki manages to successfully speak to in the series — and although he obviously finds her very attractive, as most people almost certainly do — he is not depicted as having any sort of romantic interest in her, and even his comments on her attractive appearance are more moments of distraction than more substantial feelings of lust.
The conclusion of the fourth volume of Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki brings the Nakamura-Izumi relationship together once and for all, however — albeit with the typical awkwardness we’ve come to expect from the pair of them by this point — and this is the catalyst for Konno to go full-on villain.
She’s always had a thing for Nakamura, you see, and part of Tomozaki and friends’ strategy for getting her to care about the sports festival was to remind her of that fact, and that Nakamura was doing his best in said festival. Consequently, her feeling like she’s being deprived of her “reward” at the last moment — and by one of her best friends, at that — is enough to send her off the deep end.
Oh yes, Izumi is one of Konno’s closest friends, and as such Konno, having a certain amount of dignity about her, doesn’t feel like she can attack one of her friends, even if she’s feeling betrayed by them. Towards the conclusion of Volume 4, we saw her start to take things out on a rather “weak” member of the class — but recurring character Hanabi Natsubayashi, better-known as “Tama-chan”, stands up for her classmate and provokes Konno into attacking her instead, since she knows she’s more than capable of giving as good as she gets.
Unfortunately, Tama’s behaviour ends up turning the class against her, because as conventional wisdom has it, striking back at a bully often only ends up making the bullying worse. And thus over the long term, Tama’s consistent defiance of Konno ends up causing the class to resent her, because they see her as causing the feud to persist rather than allowing it to fizzle out naturally. Tama, to her credit, recognises that what she’s doing is a problem for everyone else, but also acknowledges that it’s against her nature to do things any differently. And thus she comes to Tomozaki — someone whom she has witnessed make significant changes in his life — to help her look at things from another perspective.
That’s where we join Volume 5, and the majority of the narrative concerns exactly how the pair of them hope to go about that. As is probably already clear, Tama is a stubborn one, though she repeatedly demonstrates an honest desire to change for the sake of the class mood in general, and specifically for the sake of her best friend Mimimi. Tama and Mimimi enjoy an extremely close relationship, you see, and when Tama is in trouble Mimimi suffers because she doesn’t know what to do; Tama, naturally, feels guilt for this, and thus wants to take the pressure off her friend.
This raises some interesting questions that the series has already pondered a few times by this point: specifically, if you’re changing for the sake of someone else, are you really making those changes for the right reason? And are you really being “yourself”?
Tomozaki himself has already been through this crisis of confidence by this point in the narrative, and came to conclude that despite still having a few hang-ups about the approach he has been taking, on the whole he actually liked the person he had gradually been moulding himself into under main heroine (and possibly villain) Aoi Hinami’s tutelage.
At the same time, though, he also came to the conclusion that simply blindly following the rules of the game of life isn’t the best way to end up happy and secure in yourself — so it’s important that you also acknowledge the things that you want to do, and attempt to fit those into any efforts to better yourself.
Part of the struggle in Volume 5 of Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki is our hero attempting to get this concept across to Tama, because there are a number of times where one can naturally question whether or not Tama really wants to change. Notably, Hinami is very resistant to the idea of Tama changing herself for the sake of someone as odious as Konno — though as has happened several times by this point in the series as a whole, Tomozaki starts to see the entire situation as a means of proving the way he has come to look at life is actually healthier than Hinami’s “perfect heroine” routine.
There are some serious matters at the heart of all this, too — most notably in the matter of how dealing with bullying is rarely a straightforward matter. During our childhoods, most of us are told several things with regard to dealing with bullies: firstly, that saying “no” is always an option; secondly, that ignoring what the bully is doing is often the safest means of resolving the situation; and thirdly, retaliating against the bully inevitably causes things to escalate.
Trouble is, life isn’t that simple. While Tama’s actions certainly prove that the third point is true, her attempts to simply take Konno’s “punishment” without reacting demonstrate that ignoring her isn’t going to do the trick, either. And Konno isn’t the sort of person on whom a simple “no” works; any attempts to confront her directly inevitably result in her managing to position any of the bullying incidents as simple accidents or coincidences.
So what, exactly, do you do in that situation? It’s a challenging situation to ponder, of course, and that’s why it takes the entire volume to resolve. Along the way, we see further evidence of how Tomozaki has grown as a person, because he no longer feels like he has to tackle such situations alone. Indeed, he now has quite a substantial group of friends that he feels like he is able to call upon to assist him, and he gradually gathers a “party” to assist Tama over the course of the volume as a whole, with each of them offering their own distinct perspective on how to proceed.
Notably, though, he deliberately excludes Hinami from all this for the most part, for several reasons: firstly, because she has already demonstrated her resistance to the idea of Tama changing for the sake of someone who would do her harm, but also because as the series has progressed, it becomes clear that Tomozaki wants to wean himself off relying on Hinami for how to deal with social situations.
Indeed, as he has come to know her better and better, he is seemingly starting to outright resent some of the ways that she does things — his sarcastic descriptions of her as the “perfect heroine” gradually escalate to outright referring to her as a “demon queen” by the end of the volume.
And, to be honest, it’s not altogether surprising — because the way Hinami acts during the climactic moments of the volume is rather eye-opening, to say the least. As always, I’ll leave a few details for you to discover for yourself when you read the volume for yourself — but suffice to say that things very much appear to be building towards some sort of “final confrontation” between Tomozaki and Hinami at some point in the future.
Exactly what form that confrontation will take isn’t exactly clear as of the end of Volume 5, but one thing’s for sure: it’s going to be fun to see what happens once Tomozaki finally gets his wish to understand who Hinami “really is”.
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