When last we visited this series, I thought the idea was interesting, but the execution uninspiring. Seimu Yoshizaki seems to have been saving up the inspiration for volume two.
This series is part of what seems like a mini-genre of redemption through the perfect example of X. A character with a problem is introduced. Then fate puts just exactly the X they need before them, and their life is renewed. In Bartender, X is the perfect cocktail. Sometimes in Aria it is the perfect encounter with Venice.
Here, X is the perfect manga series for the moment.
Sometimes the manga series is something fondly remembered from childhood, sometimes it’s a new series with a story that makes the character see their own situation in a new way, sometimes it’s just … manga and their relationship to it.
The stories in the first volume missed the mark with me, but the stories in this volume work. Partly, the formula is broken up with a bit of the fantastic and a bit of slapstick, partly, the stage moves outside the bookshop into the world. The first story is pretty much true-to-form, but the second is a parody origin-story of one of the recurring characters. The third story is a touching tale about a bar hostess who finds herself caring for a little girl — a girl who insists upon being read to from “books with windows”. In yet another story a local tough learns to celebrate his love of a shoujo manga series he encountered as a child.
We get a bit more character development of the main characters Natsuki and Naoaki and their non-romance. Natsuki gets reconciled to life as assistant manager of the bookshop by seeing the support of the community of odd-balls that’s grown up among the customers.
The first volume left me cold. This volume makes me eager for more.