A brief interlude in Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki vol. 6.5

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So far in Yuki Yaku’s Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki series of light novels, we’ve seen things entirely from the perspective of its eponymous main character Fumiya Tomozaki. But with the unusually named volume 6.5, we get the opportunity to see things through the eyes of numerous other cast members — and that gives us a great chance to understand what makes some of them tick.

Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki volume 6.5 is a compilation of short stories rather than a direct continuation of volume 6. Yaku himself admits in his afterword that he understands why some people might be skeptical of this, but does his best to reassure everyone that he did it because he wanted to do it, rather than simply following the trends of series that get popular.

He then proceeds to demonstrate that it is very much business as usual by going off on a lengthy tangent about the deeper meaning of the tiny glimpse of leading lady Aoi Hinami’s white socks we see in the book’s frontispiece. I hope this man never changes; he’s an absolute treasure.

Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki volume 6.5

Anyway, the main reason that some readers may find volume 6.5 potentially frustrating is because volume 6 ended with one hell of a cliffhanger; in the midst of Tomozaki mulling over who he might potentially like to pursue romantically in response to yet another assignment from Hinami, he finds himself on the receiving end of a not-entirely-unexpected confession from Minami “Mimimi” Nanami.

Trouble is, although he knows that he and Mimimi get along really well, he’s not sure how to respond to her. On top of that, at the time he receives her confession, he’s only just coming to terms with the realisation that he’s been living his life believing that he doesn’t have the right to choose anyone, and that he wasn’t worthy of being chosen himself.

A difficult situation, to be sure — even though it feels very much like dating Mimimi would be a consistently fun and exciting experience. Yaku clearly has great affection for her — which perhaps explains why she has her own spin-off manga series on the way.

But I digress. Perhaps as a means of highlighting the fact that Tomozaki’s brain is in turmoil over this revelation and needs time to process it, or simply because Yaku felt it was the right time to do so, Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki’s volume 6.5 is all about the other members of the case; while Tomozaki appears occasionally and even has his own chapter where he goes shopping with Hinami, for the most part, the stories are all about the characters’ lives when he isn’t around, giving us a rare insight into the more private parts of their lives.

This, of course, has great potential for deepening our understanding of some already impressively complex characters — and thus it’s fitting that the volume opens with a story about the perfect heroine Aoi Hinami. Only rather than simply showing her as we already know her, we instead get a sequence that shows how she was in junior high — a time when she was not yet perfect, and was still forming the near-impenetrable shell around herself that she has in the main narrative.

Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki volume 6.5

Fittingly, unlike many of the other stories in the book and indeed Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki as a whole, the story about Hinami is presented in third-person perspective. This reflects a couple of possibilities: firstly, that Hinami keeps her own mind and feelings so closely guarded that she won’t even let a non-participant omniscient narrator in to relate them in first person to the reader; or perhaps secondly, that Hinami is so concerned about her outward appearance that she actually thinks of herself and the things she’s doing in third person.

This actually isn’t as implausible an idea as it might sound, because by this point in Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki, both Tomozaki and Hinami have had numerous discussions and debates over whether it’s better to enjoy life from a “character’s” perspective or a “player’s” perspective.

Tomozaki has always been a character-centric player, whether it’s in video games or participating in the game of life, whereas Hinami is very much aware of her status as a player — not in the “ooh, she’s such a player” sense, of course, but literally as if she was the player of a video game, and the “Aoi Hinami” that the world sees is simply a game character that she is controlling.

Anyway, the chapter about Hinami confirms the things that we (and Tomozaki) have known for quite some time now: she’s pretty cold and calculating, and primarily observes life from a somewhat detached perspective in order to determine what she needs to do in order to attain whatever her ideal of “perfection” is. She wants to win at the game of life — though at this point in her development, it appears that she’s not yet thinking of things in terms of video game analogies — and, as such, is open to all manner of experiences in order to determine their “worth”.

Notably, we actually see her dating someone for a brief period, though even here it’s obvious that she’s doing this for her own selfish reasons — particularly as she’s the one who ends things after determining that an intimate relationship is not something that will help her accomplish her goals. She’s becoming an increasingly tragic figure — in the traditional dramatic sense — as the series progresses, and at this point one can only wonder where she’s going to end up by the end of everything. Still, one thing’s for sure: it’s going to be interesting finding out.

Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki volume 6.5

Another noteworthy story in the book gives us a look at the girls’ side of the camping trip depicted in volume 3. Here, Yaku depicts some fundamental differences between the boys and girls in the world of Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki; while they’re both honest in their own ways, the girls in particular are, for the most part, a lot more honest about their own feelings.

Of particular note here is the indication that Mimimi may have been showing an interest in Tomozaki as early as this point in the overall narrative — though she’s quick to deny it to herself, and quick to completely reject the idea of him getting together with Hinami, also. I think we’re all with her on that last point — for now, anyway. Tomozaki knows too much — but also not enough.

A particularly heartwarming story depicts the earlier life of Fuka Kikuchi, the timid young girl for whom Tomozaki clearly holds the most affection out of the whole cast. To date, we’ve learned that Kikuchi feels a particular connection with the (fictional) author Michael Andi, but this story explores that in considerably more detail. Specifically, it explores Kikuchi’s feelings towards a specific tale by Andi known as Poppol and Raptor Island, which she discovered during her time in middle school.

Poppol and Raptor Island tells the tale of a blind creature known as Poppol. As a foundling taken in by a human-elf couple, he’s been an outcast for as long as he could remember; not only was he the foster child of an unusual partnership — since humans and elves were unable to breed with one another, it was rare for them to become couples — but he was also clearly… something different.

Exactly what he is is never made clear over the course of the story as a whole, but it’s clear he’s different — enough to cause fear wherever he goes, whether it’s to human or elven settlements.

As an aside, this whole sequence demonstrates that Yaku is actually an exceedingly talented writer, if that wasn’t clear already from the earlier volumes of Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki. He effortlessly transports us from the scene of Kikuchi sitting in the library reading the book to actually being right there in the world of Poppol, seeing what is unfolding before us and instinctively understanding the inherent emotions of the situation. In other words, we’re right there alongside Kikuchi as she discovers this story for the first time herself.

While you’re reading this particular chapter of Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki volume 6.5 yourself, you probably won’t notice the transition, it’s so smooth — but when you look back on it after the fact, you’ll realise you just experienced something rather special. But I digress.

Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki volume 6.5

It’s not hard to see how Kikuchi, as someone who has always been alone in what she describes as her “grey world”, might respond to a story like Poppol and Raptor Island. And the core message of the story as a whole — that Poppol is eventually able to help people overcome their fear of him through the power of words — is something that resonates deeply with her, too.

It’s at this point that she comes to understand the true power of the written word, and how it can bring colour to an otherwise grey and barren world. Or, rather, how it might allow one to escape that grey and barren world into a whole other world filled with vibrant hues and shades.

Poppol’s story mirrors Kikuchi’s own development, too; it’s the power of words that allows her to develop a genuine friendship with her middle school librarian — whom it’s implied remains a personal friend of Kikuchi even after she graduates — and also the means through which she develops a connection with Tomozaki, even if the latter is initially based on a misunderstanding. The story of Poppol specifically also becomes of crucial importance in volume 7 of Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki — but that’s a discussion for next time.

Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki volume 6.5 continues in this way, jumping through time and giving us little vignettes of the various major characters’ lives at various points; not all of those points are what you’d necessarily regard as “important” in their overall development, but all of them do give us some further insight into why these characters are the way they are — and, pleasingly, these tales aren’t simply forgotten about either. Much as Kikuchi’s story becomes relevant in Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki’s seventh volume, so too are most of the other things raised in volume 6.5 at least referenced at one point or another from hereon.

And, just to tide the fans over until they get to volume 7 proper, the final story in the volume concerns the immediate aftermath of Mimimi’s confession to Tomozaki — from Mimimi’s perspective after she fled from him. It’s a very brief story in comparison to the other tales in the volume — but it’s a touching one that, along with another couple of Mimimi-centric stories elsewhere in the book, gives us some noteworthy insight.

Specifically, it casts doubt on the image we might have had of Mimimi up until this point in Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki: that she finds being a “normie” completely effortless. There’s part of her that struggles to accept herself — particularly when she can’t resist comparing herself to Hinami — and it becomes abundantly clear that she’s struggling with some fairly significant self-esteem issues. Her vibrant, exuberant, energetic personality is absolutely genuine, but it’s also an attempt to compensate for the sadness that she feels inside herself.

In short, if you don’t come away from this volume wanting to give Mimimi a big hug and tell her that everything’s going to be all right, you are a much stronger person than I am!

Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki volume 6.5 is available in paperback and Kindle format on Amazon.

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Pete Davison
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