As much as Yusuke tries (or thinks he tries, as our dear unreliable narrator), he’s unable to make himself love Yamaguchi. Still obsessed with his feelings for Makino, he breaks up with Yamaguchi after he’s caught in a compromising position. Yamaguchi is, understandably, crushed, but she tells her friends (including Makino) that she’s okay, and to not let it affect their opinion of Yusuke. Of course, the rumours spread quickly anyway.
Emboldened by the break-up, Yusuke finally confesses to Makino, and the two begin dating. When the ugly truth of Makino’s desperate need for money finally comes out in the open, Yusuke wants to be a hero at first. But soon, he starts realizing that they spend no time together. They haven’t kissed, and rarely go out. He helps with her jobs, but that’s it. The breaking point is when an old friend invites Yusuke out, goading him to bring his girlfriend after he brags about how cute she is.
At the party, Yusuke is aware of how plain and shabby Makino looks compared to the other girls – at least in his mind. It only gets worse when Yamaguchi shows up, and all the men gush about both her looks and her manners. Meanwhile, he’s mortified as Makino continues to make one social faux pas after another.
This all culminates in disaster, and Yusuke is thrown into a deep depression. He starts missing classes while reminiscing about his childhood. When Yamaguchi sends their mutual friend to check on him, he gets dragged out to eat and talk at a local noodle shop – and runs into someone from a long, long time ago…
While Forget Me Not continues to be compelling, this was the first book where I found it incredibly difficult to like Yusuke. And really, that’s fine. He’s an unreliable narrator, for one thing. But he also highlights the very human nature of relationships.
In some cases – such as Yusuke’s mother and father – it’s easy to see one person as good and another as bad. However, so many of Yusuke’s relationships are about the little things that make people fall apart. Unrequited feelings. The difficulty of sharing someone else’s burden. Miscommunication. Uncertainty. At some points Yusuke is a cad, but it’s easy to understand what led him to it.
I love a good, clean “us against the world” love story, but Forget Me Not shows something important – that love in real life isn’t necessarily the romanticized love that shows up in so much media. Love isn’t always flowers and happy endings. Sometimes it’s facing the harsh reality that someone isn’t what you dreamed, or that the circumstances are just too difficult. Sometimes love isn’t enough. Sometimes what you thought was love isn’t really love at all.
What I’ve enjoyed most about this series actually has nothing to do with our main character, but his love interests. It’s common in series to leave failed love interests undeveloped or underdeveloped. You don’t usually learn much about the haphazard girlfriend/boyfriend that lasted a few weeks. In Forget Me Not, each character is fleshed out and made so real. As I read, I caught myself thinking about the character’s reactions as if I knew them personally. “Oh, Yamaguchi is lying – she’s trying to appear tough and independent here.”
As always, Forget Me Not still has beautiful artwork and is a joy to read. Despite all the monologues and the constant dialogue, it was a fast read this time, but a lot did happen. We’ve spent a long time in the Makino and Yamaguchi story, and it looks like volume 5 will finally move us forward.
Forget Me Not Volume 5 hits shelves on November 22nd!