The time has come to see if the sequel to the first volume of HakoMari, everybody’s favorite twisting-and-turning loop-mono, is any good. You might have been speculating about what it could be like. I sure did and now that I’ve gotten through its 180 pages, I know.
It’s been a few weeks since dull highschooler Hoshino Kazuki and his cool not-girlfriend, Otonashi Maria broke out of the time loop they christened The Rejecting Classroom (Kyozetsu Suru Kyoushitsu). At school, around some familiar characters and some new ones, Kazuki realizes that he has holes in memory – he suddenly “wakes up” without any recollection of the previous hour. If that wasn’t bad enough, when he does, it seems as if everybody around hates him. It must be the work of a Box user! What if he falls out of Maria’s favor as well? Some despicable person seems to be taking control of Kazuki’s body and using his power over the poor dude to make his life miserable. And so begins another story of Kazuki and Maria trying to solve the mystery of what’s happening and struggling to do something about it.
Turns out that Kazuki is losing control hour after hour – literally. Everyday, three hours from each day get subtracted from his conscious life and given to the other him. After a week, Kazuki will disappear, replaced by someone else within his body – the duo of protagonists has to operate under a time limit. Hence the name his predicament is referred to in the novel – The Week in the Mud (Doro no Naka no Isshuukan). Although being stuck in a time loop was rather soul-draining, at least Kazuki’s life wasn’t directly endangered. Is the assailant literally inside Kazuki or outside? What’s his (her?) name? What does he know, what can he do? What if more than one person is responsible for this supernatural mess? What’s the culprit’s goal? Is he after Kazuki or rather, Maria? And finally, what can be done about it? All those questions will be answered, but not before the heroes overcome a long and winded road to get there. Hakomari v2 is a sinusoid – a sequence of hills, when it seems like the heroes are winning, and valleys, when you’re convinced they were outwitted by the superior opponent and chased into a corner with no way out. Kazuki’s (and the reader’s) conviction on what the true identity of the enemy Box user is will change several times throughout the novel. Not to mention the other facts related to the mystery. You will be put through a rollercoaster of a story, of the “No, Light. It’s me who’s standing behind YOU!” kind. And in the end, the true mastermind behind the whole mess will show up. You can probably guess who it is, if you’ve read the first volume. He’ll say that Kazuki never was in any real danger, since he was only joking around a bit. The destroyed life of the Box user he sent to attack the pair of protags was a joke to him as well…
So, the second volume is not a loop-mono at all. It still is something similar, though – a supernatural mystery novel revolving around a theft. Of an identity. It’s not a bad piece of deductive storytelling at all, but it comes off as bland when compared to its grand predecessor. It makes me think that maybe Mikage Eiji would have done something good if he made the novel completely unrelated to the HakoMari brand. I have to admit it felt rather tedious when nothing outrageous was happening – it impresses you when it has a reveal to make, but also makes you realize how tiresome its “pile-up of shocking truths” formula is when little happens. Why I felt the first volume was fine when doing it while this one wasn’t? I dunno, it might be only a subjective impression. Oh well. Read it, I guess.