Decisions to be made in Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki vol. 7

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If you’ve been following Yuki Yaku’s Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki since the beginning — and why wouldn’t you start a light novel series at the beginning? — then the anticipation for the series’ seventh volume would have been immense. Not only did volume 6 end with an exciting cliffhanger, Yaku then decided to tease us all with an (admittedly excellent) volume of short stories before resolving anything.

Well, now the moment of truth is here. Having received a not-entirely-unexpected love confession from Minami “Mimimi” Nanami, our hero Fumiya Tomozaki now has some important decisions to make — decisions that he’s been mulling over for quite some time now.

You may recall that Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki series heroine Aoi Hinami had set Tomozaki a challenge that would help him achieve one of his long-term goals: to have a girlfriend by the time he entered his final year of high school. Tomozaki has always been a little uneasy about this, because he’s never been someone who likes to do things just for the sake of doing them, and as such questions the value of “getting a girlfriend” just to say he has a girlfriend.

Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki volume 7

At the same time, he also recognises that engaging in a relationship like this will mark an important milestone in his progression — and, as a gamer at heart, he knows that reaching progression milestones is an important part of the overall experience. On top of that, it’s abundantly clear that he has affectionate feelings for several people with whom he has become more closely acquainted over the course of the previous volumes — with some of those feelings having been veering towards the romantic side of things for quite some time now, even if he wouldn’t admit it to himself.

Anyway, Hinami’s challenge was relatively simple: decide on at least two girls that he was interested in, and start getting to know them a bit better, with the eventual goal being to form a more intimate relationship with one of them. Tomozaki, having a somewhat traditional view of interpersonal relationships prior to this, was understandably a little perturbed by the idea of pursuing multiple prospective partners, but Hinami was quick to place him at ease in this regard.

At this stage in the process, she argues, it doesn’t make sense to tie yourself down to one person because you might not be entirely sure about how you feel about them — nor about how they feel about you. She likens the process to that of a dating sim: in order to “get the girl”, as it were, you need to clear her “event map” and then trigger a “key event” in order to take that next step into her “route”. The difference, however, is that the “event map” and “key events” are not things that are set in stone and written in advance — they are, instead, things that you need to decide for yourself.

Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki’s seventh volume opens in the aftermath of Tomozaki receiving Mimimi’s confession, which of course has thrown something of a spanner in the works. Having never been placed in this situation before, and still mulling over Hinami’s challenge, Tomozaki understandably feels that choosing someone other than Mimimi will somehow be betraying her — despite the fact that he has not given an answer to her confession as yet, nor has he made any sort of commitment to do so.

Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki volume 7

To make matters worse, Tomozaki isn’t sure that he has the right to tell anyone about what Mimimi said. It felt like a private moment between the pair of them — and thus if anyone is going to tell other people about her feelings, it should be her. With this in mind, he feels unable to even ask Hinami for advice about the situation — but he manages to wheedle some out of her regardless.

“Just think about it,” she says. “You honestly can’t decide on one person, but you force yourself to choose someone anyway? That approach might match up with your internal rules, but don’t you think it’s even less sincere than the alternative? I’m not saying you have to ask her out right away, and you don’t even have to be sure you like her. All you need to do is decide who you’re going to deepen your relationship with.”

Tomozaki ponders this, and eventually comes to a conclusion: one he’s reached on his own terms and based on his own convictions, rather than out of feeling any sense of obligation to others, or an obligation to respond immediately to Mimimi’s confession.

“This wasn’t a passive choice I made because someone said they liked me,” he muses to himself before giving his final answer. “It was a feeling I discovered in my own heart. I needed to approach that feeling honestly so I could be sure of it… which meant I needed to say it out loud. Who did I want to deepen my relationship with? When did my heart beat the hardest? Who did I see in that way?”

The answer, of course, is both Mimimi and the book-loving, rather shy Fuka Kikuchi — the former because even with the added pressure of her confession, it’s been clear throughout Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki that he likes her both from a physical attraction perspective and due to her personality; the latter because he spontaneously breaks into flowery, poetic language in his internal monologue any time she is even in the vague vicinity, and that has to count for something. That and the fact that on the occasions they have managed to spend time together, they have clearly shared a deep, personal, emotional connection with one another.

All this is obviously a hugely significant moment, and it all happens within the first few pages of Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki’s seventh volume. The remainder of the story this time around concerns exactly how Tomozaki goes about approaching his new challenge: getting closer to both of these young ladies that he’s decided he wants to know better.

Of course, initially unbeknownst to Hinami, the conclusion to the previous volume of Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki means that he’s sort of skipped most of Mimimi’s “event map” and found himself right at her confession scene, but that doesn’t mean there’s no value in him trying to get to know her a bit better — and, of course, there’s still Kikuchi to consider, too. So Tomozaki figures that if he’s going to do this, he’s going to do it properly and, spurred on by Hinami, finds himself taking an active role in the school festival for the first time ever.

There are two main threads to this, and as you might expect, they focus around the two love interests. With Mimimi, Tomozaki agrees to take part in a comedy routine — largely through her own urging , since she wants nothing more than to make things less awkward between the pair of them since her confession. And with Kikuchi… well, things are a little more complicated.

Since Kikuchi is the shy, retiring type, she’s not necessarily the sort of person who will put herself forward for anything too high-profile. At the same time, over the course of several previous volumes of Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki, we’ve seen evidence that she believes she wants to change herself in a similar way to what Tomozaki has been doing. Recognising and respecting this, Tomozaki sees an opportunity when the class decides it wants to participate in the festival’s main performance, but they have nothing to perform.

One piece of evidence demonstrating how close Kikuchi and Tomozaki are is the fact that Kikuchi is willing to let Tomozaki read the manuscripts of her stories. The pair have previously bonded over a shared love of author Michael Andi, after all — even if Tomozaki’s initial interest in Andi was a lie of convenience — and thus Tomozaki has shown himself to appreciate the same things that Kikuchi does.

Tomozaki is particularly struck by an unfinished story in Kikuchi’s manuscript, and decides to ask her about it. It transpires that she never intended to include that story in what she handed over to him — and it’s obvious that it’s not just because it is unfinished.

The story is a very obvious allegory for Kikuchi’s own situation in the grander context of Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki as a whole, unfinished because she hasn’t resolved her own feelings yet. It features a character who is clearly Tomozaki, along with another who is clearly Hinami. Tomozaki is slow to recognise this for himself, but it will likely be obvious to the reader almost right away — particularly as Kikuchi’s main hesitation over finishing the story is deciding who the Tomozaki-substitute will “end up with”.

Regardless of Kikuchi’s reason for writing the story, Tomozaki believes it will make an excellent stage production, and decides to work with Kikuchi on adapting it for performance, with her working out the ending later. By a stroke of luck, they manage to cast Hinami in the role of her own substitute — though the “Tomozaki” character is played by the perpetually cool Mizusawa, someone whom Tomozaki has always aspired to be more like, and the “Kikuchi” character is played by the stubborn but newly beloved Tama-chan.

This casting makes perfect sense, because Hinami is, of course, absolutely at home on stage as Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki’s resident “perfect heroine” — but neither Tomozaki nor Kikuchi have the confidence to get up there and perform. Mizusawa is a great pick, because Tomozaki sees him as an ideal — and Kikuchi also sees Tomozaki as an ideal, so there’s a nice parallel going on there. And Tama-chan is also an excellent choice, since besides her also being a short, cute girl like Kikuchi, she’s also had her own struggles at integrating into social situations — albeit for different reasons to Kikuchi.

As Kikuchi becomes more involved in directing the play and developing her own confidence, we start to see her changing somewhat — and people other than Tomozaki start to notice, too. It’s not entirely a change for the better, either, but since everyone knows Kikuchi is a bit of a frightened faun at the best of times, no-one likes to bring it up to her directly. Tomozaki, of course, hears about it and ends up having to determine what she’s up to.

This gives the pair of them the opportunity to have a discussion that is a variation on Tomozaki’s theory of enjoying life from either a “player’s” or “character’s” perspective. Kikuchi looks at it a little differently; instead, she looks at things in terms of “characters” and “authors”, with herself firmly in the latter category. This allows her to detach herself from what’s going on and, in theory, look at things somewhat more objectively — but Tomozaki suspects that she’s not being entirely true to herself like this.

Alongside all this, there is, of course, the matter of Tomozaki’s comedy routine with Mimimi — and in order to get that rolling in the first place, the pair of them need to get over the awkwardness between them. Thankfully, the pair of them are mature enough to recognise that they’re both being rather silly, and that an unanswered love confession shouldn’t mean their friendship has to immediately change. If anything, it brings the pair of them closer together — not in a romantic way, but in the sense that they both feel like they can be honest with one another.

This leads to their eventual comedy routine being primarily ad-libbed, and being based on their real-life interactions with one another. Mimimi is a natural comedian, after all, and Tomozaki was born for the straight man role. They complement one another perfectly, and despite a severe case of stage fright when the final performance rolls around — emphasising why Tomozaki didn’t appear in the play — their routine ends up as a complete success.

But what of the big question? Who does Tomozaki end up with? Well, in some respects the outcome is kind of predictable — but the way we get there is anything but. For the benefit of those who are yet to read the volume, I’ll refrain from giving the specifics, but suffice to say it involves Tomozaki stepping well and truly out of what we might have previously assumed to be his comfort zone.

For the finale of Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki volume 7, we see an assertive, confident Tomozaki finally acknowledging rather than rejecting other people’s feelings on the grounds that he “doesn’t deserve them”.

We see him making a convincing argument for himself, firmly establishing, recognising and accepting his own feelings, and being able to turn those feelings into meaningful actions. Yaku’s well-crafted narrative keeps us guessing right up until the last moment — and, for sure, it’s an inspiring, moving moment to see how far Tomozaki has come — but ultimately there can be only one.

And it’s hard not to feel a genuine sense of bittersweetness at the eventual conclusion of it all; out of two girls who very clearly have strong feelings for Tomozaki, one of them has to be “left behind” while the other gets to deepen her relationship with him in a way the other will only be able to dream of.

It’s hard not to feel bad for the one left behind — but it’s also testament to the strength of their existing relationship that everyone involved is able to recognise and accept one another’s feelings without hurting one another. It’s a seemingly ideal outcome — though the long-term impact of everything that goes on remains to be seen.

We’ll just have to wait and see what happens next, though — at the time of writing, volume 8 of Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki is yet to be released in English. When April 19, 2022 rolls around though, you can be sure that we’ll be there to see how things proceed!

Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki volume 7 is available in paperback and Kindle format on Amazon.

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