Aftermath of a confession in My Friend’s Little Sister Has It In for Me! volume 2

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As appealing as I found the initial setup for My Friend’s Little Sister Has It In for Me! — something which I talked about when discussing the first volume — I was curious as to whether or not it would be able to go the distance. After all, while “cute little sister who isn’t actually that younger than the protagonist teases the protagonist in an obviously flirtatious way” is a solid concept, it’s not enough to spawn multiple volumes of light novel without something more to it.

Fortunately, over the course of the first volume, it became apparent that My Friend’s Little Sister Has It In for Me! is much more than just a story about a girl teasing a boy. In fact, that side of the story is relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things; instead, My Friend’s Little Sister Has It In for Me! is a tale of a group of creatives struggling to accept and express themselves when all of them are stuck in less than ideal circumstances.

The protagonist of My Friend’s Little Sister Has It In for Me!, Akiteru, has taken it upon himself to form the “05th Floor Alliance”, a collective of these creatives, and, in the first volume, seized upon an opportunity to get all of the Alliance members a job at his uncle’s media conglomerate, Honeyplace Works. Trouble is, their employment is contingent on Akiteru successfully posing as his cousin Mashiro’s boyfriend until they graduate; she had some difficulty at her previous school, and thus her father — Aki’s uncle — believes that this is the best means of keeping her out of trouble.

Towards the end of the previous volume of My Friend’s Little Sister Has It In for Me!, a spanner was thrown in the works when Mashiro confessed to Aki for real. Under normal circumstances, this would be cause for celebration, but we are in far from normal circumstances here. Not only does Aki believe that intimate personal relationships are “inefficient” for achieving his vaguely defined goal of making the Alliance happy, but his uncle has also indicated that although he is posing as Mashiro’s boyfriend, if he actually touches her there will be hell to pay.

Alongside this, we, the reader, learned that Mashiro is actually the novelist Makigai Namako — who happens to be the mysterious scenario writer for the 05th Floor Alliance’s hit game Koyagi: When They Cry. Aki doesn’t know this, as we learned it in a cutaway “intermission” scene that wasn’t from his perspective — but it’s relevant to the plot of volume 2 of My Friend’s Little Sister Has It In for Me! in particular.

Mashiro has always been carrying a torch for Aki, you see, ever since they grew up together — and despite her coldness towards him in person (which is primarily a product of her embarrassment and discomfort at expressing herself) she is feeling particularly loved-up since reuniting with him, and especially determined to prove her love after he rejects her confession outright. He does so gently and considerately, yes, but it’s still unarguably a rejection.

All this, in turn, has a knock-on effect on “Makigai Namako’s” scripts for Koyagi, which suddenly become uncharacteristically sappy clichéd romances rather than the creepy horror thrillers they’ve traditionally been known for. Mashiro, keen to prove her love for Aki, is exploring her feelings and expressing them through her writing — even though this results in completely uncharacteristic work.

Naturally, we, as the readers of My Friend’s Little Sister Has It In for Me!, know exactly what Makigai Namako is acting so out of character, but Aki remains blissfully unaware of the true reason for it — and thus is unable to do anything about it aside from simply providing feedback as he always has done. It’s an interesting depiction of a creative struggle: when a creator finds something that inspires them, they want to explore it as much as possible, even if it’s inappropriate to do so in the context of the projects they’re working on. And it’s their editor, producer and director’s role to steer them back onto the right path.

Trouble is, as we’ve said, Aki doesn’t know the real reason for Makigai Namako’s curious change in character, and thus isn’t able to tackle the root cause of it. Aki also doesn’t want to upset Makigai Namako, because he’s a famous author, and, from Aki’s perspective, absolutely does not need to be working on Koyagi at all. Pushing him away too hard could leave the Alliance without a scenario writer. So what to do?

Fortunately, an opportunity presents itself when another of the Alliance members — Aki’s homeroom teacher Kageishi Sumire, who is also the illustrator Murasaki Shikibu-sensei — finds herself in a difficult situation. Up until now, she’s been acting as supervisor for the school drama club as a means of giving herself some free time; her prodigy sister Midori, who is still in school, has shown herself to be more than capable of keeping the drama club up and running without Sumire’s intervention, leaving Sumire free to spend time on her illustrations.

Only one problem: Midori may be organised, but she absolutely sucks at drama. And the principal has given Sumire an ultimatum: if the drama club fails to win an upcoming competition, it will be dissolved, and Sumire will be forced to take on the tennis club — something she will have to be much more actively involved with. This will obviously prevent her from working on her illustrations, and Murasaki Shikibu-sensei is already someone who has great difficulty in sticking to deadlines.

Sumire is a really interesting character throughout My Friend’s Little Sister Has It In for Me! because she’s a textbook example of the concept of “honne” and “tatemae” in Japanese culture, whereby an individual shows one face to society at large (their “tatemae”) and another in private (their “honne”). In Sumire’s case, these two things are extremely opposed to one another; her tatemae is the “Venomous Queen” of the school, whereby she’s extremely harsh on her students and highly demanding, while her honne is a lazy, borderline alcoholic but indisputably talented artist with strong (and very unashamed) shotacon tendencies.

The particularly intriguing thing about Sumire is that she achieves great things with both of her “faces”; her classes consistently get some of the best results in the school, while her illustrations are regarded as a particular highlight of Koyagi as a whole. One could argue that she displays distinct signs of stretching herself rather too thin — whenever she speaks to Aki in private, she appears very highly strung and stressed out — but later in the series, we learn that she’s actually feeling a strong sense of satisfaction from both parts of her life. We’ll talk more about that when we explore the subsequent volumes of My Friend’s Little Sister Has It In for Me!

For now, Sumire’s situation with the drama club in this volume of My Friend’s Little Sister Has It In for Me! presents Aki an ideal opportunity to achieve a few things. Firstly, he believes that Makigai Namako’s dodgy scenarios might work well for adaptation to a stage production — and secondly, he figures that by showing Makigai Namako those scenarios being performed, he might be able to convince him to go back to what he was doing before.

There’s another reason why Aki willingly signs up to help Sumire and the drama club, too: to provide Iroha, the titular My Friend’s Little Sister (who has it in for him), with an opportunity to express herself and demonstrate her talents in a way that isn’t going to cause problems for her.

Iroha, you see, is more than just an annoying little sister. She’s an immensely talented voice actress — and indeed actually plays every single part in Koyagi. No-one knows this but Aki, because Iroha is, unfortunately, stuck in a household that is extremely strict about not allowing its members access to any sort of popular media.

Should Iroha’s mother find out that she was pursuing the creative arts, things would go badly — or so both Aki and Iroha believe, anyway. Thus she has to keep her talents hidden, not only from the world, but also from the other members of the Alliance — given the loose lips of Murasaki Shikibu-sensei when she’s drunk, and the fact that Iroha’s brother Ozu is the programmer of Koyagi, both Aki and Iroha believe that it’s for the best that her identity is kept a secret.

This leaves Iroha with a certain amount of frustration, of course; as a creative who is only able to express herself either in private or in the presence of a few select individuals — Aki and the Alliance’s secret sound engineer — she sometimes finds herself feeling a little stifled. And this is, at least partly, why she spends so much of her time irritating Aki — and why Aki lets her, despite at the very least putting on a show of protesting about it. My Friend’s Little Sister Has It In for Me not because she’s an annoying little shit, it seems, but because she has genuine pent-up frustration that needs releasing.

Aki respects Iroha’s abilities enormously, and is saddened by the fact that she isn’t able to explore them openly. And thus he lets her get away with a lot of things. But he also figures that the drama club situation might provide an excellent opportunity for Iroha to spread her wings a bit; by disguising herself so that she isn’t recognisable (in a deliberately cartoonish, ridiculous manner) and then coaching the struggling wannabe actors, she’ll have a chance to at least reveal something of her real self to the world — and, indeed, things go very well as time passes.

As things tend to go in stories like this, though, disaster strikes at the last moment, and the members of the drama club set to take the stage aren’t able to make it to the final competition. Who could possibly take their place but their part-time director and their talented acting coach?

It’s a huge risk for Iroha in particular, since it will be the first time she has performed in public, and thus is at risk of revealing her “extracurricular activities” to her strict mother. But it’s also a prime opportunity for “Makigai Namako” to witness the truth of the stories “he’s” written, and to understand why they might not be the best fit for the project he’s been working on up until now.

And, not only that, strange things can happen to one’s feelings when under the spotlights of the stage. But that’s something we’ll have to come back to in a subsequent volume of My Friend’s Little Sister Has It In for Me!, for sure…

For now, the second volume of My Friend’s Little Sister Has It In for Me! demonstrates that author mikawaghost absolutely has what it takes to go the distance with this series. The volume features a satisfying, self-contained scenario in its own right, but also progresses the ongoing narratives of several key characters — notably Aki, Iroha and Sumire. It introduces several new characters, too, who will continue to put in occasional appearances in subsequent volumes — and on the whole does a great job of fleshing out the world in which this story is set.

As gimmicky as the title “My Friend’s Little Sister Has It In for Me!” might sound, this is a light novel series that actually has something worthwhile to say. One can only wonder if mikawaghost and illustrator tomari have faced similar challenges in their own careers — but it certainly has the feel of someone writing from personal experience at times.

So whether you’re coming to My Friend’s Little Sister Has It In for Me! for the little sister who has it in for you, or if you’re more interested in a tale of creative struggles, there’s a lot to like here. And things only continue to get more intriguing and complex from hereon!

My Friend’s Little Sister Has It In For Me! volume 2 is available in paperback and Kindle format now from Amazon. Alternative purchase options can be found on J-Novel Club’s website.

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Pete Davison
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