Yusuke has a difficult choice to make between his girlfriend and the friend he actually has feelings for. Will he be able to start again, or will this experience finally break him?
Yusuke started dating Yamaguchi after seeing how nice she was, but that didn’t resolve the doubt in his mind as he started to slowly realized that he likes his friend Makino. This is made even tougher by Yamaguchi moving in, and at this point it doesn’t seem like Yusuke can resolve all his problems without hurting the people close to him. As Yusuke’s feelings slowly start to become more and more oppressive, he and Makino accidentally end up on the floor of his apartment after he picks her up from work as usual, but things might be about to fall apart when Yamaguchi stumbles in on them in that state.
Forget Me Not’s strength so far as a series has been the nuanced way it has used Yusuke’s romantic mishaps to explore different aspects of the romantic experience, and this volume continues this compelling approach in a strong way in depicting the back-half of Yusuke’s time with Makino and Yamaguchi. The signs of another impending heartbreak for Yusuke were telegraphed fairly clearly in the previous volume following a mostly happy stretch for our protagonist with an ominous cliffhanger leading into this volume as Yamaguchi finds Makino and Yusuke in a compromising position, but once again I was blown away with how deftly this scenario was used to depict the emotions of these characters in a compelling way. I was prepared to see a particularly brutal scene here, but instead what we got was a much more nuanced scene as Yamaguchi and Yusuke confront each other in a way that felt completely true to character as she let him mostly off the hook.
Yamaguchi has been one of the most unexpectedly compelling characters in this series because of the way that her backstory was shown to explain the lengths she goes to please Yusuke, and her reaction to finding Yusuke and Makino felt completely true to her character in the most painful way possible. We see her first trying to avert her eyes from the truth before offering to make Yusuke dinner, and I felt that this was well linked into the way her personality with regard to her relationship with her parents was developed in the previous volume to explain her actions. Appropriately, this isn’t lost on Yusuke either as he immediately feels guilty and ends their relationship. The scene that follows is incredibly well done as Yamaguchi’s emotions then come through to call Yusuke out on pitying her before leaving, again building upon the backstory we previously saw developed in a way that made complete sense. The most affective part of this scene was a sequence of really well-drawn panels immediately following showing her trying to make sense of what happened overlaid with Yusuke thinking about how considerate she was to him in comparison to his behaviour, and at this point we really see the emotional impact as Yusuke generally hates himself while Yamaguchi tries to figure out what went wrong. This volume could have opened up with a cliche scene of Yamaguchi screaming at Yusuke for being caught with another girl, but instead this scene really demonstrated the emotional nuance which makes Forget Me Not so compelling in having the characters act in ways that feel like the natural product of their personalities.
The next stretch of the volume generally depicts the immediate fallout of Yusuke and Yamaguchi’s break-up as Yusuke raced to figure out what his feelings towards Makino are. This is strongly portrayed because we really see Yusuke’s unhealthy emotional state here - he feels terrible about how he treated Yamaguchi and is probably in no state to pursue another relationship, but feels somewhat locked in to make something of how poorly his previously relationship ended by at least trying to convey how he feels to Makino. His mental state isn’t helped either by the rumours swirling around him from the rest of his classmates generally, making it fairly clear as he pursues Makino that the foundation for their relationship is pretty skewed to start. I enjoyed that this volume continued to avoid painting Yusuke as a total jerk because we really see his struggle to try and make the most sense out of his emotions and do the right thing, and we see these strong points as he tries rather valiantly (or pathetically depending how you look at it) to win her over by continuing to help her out.
The main thing that makes Yusuke such an interesting protagonist for this series is the way that his effort to do the right thing is overlaid with his flawed nature, and the way that this series uses his mistakes to explore the romantic experience in new angles. Makino finally agrees to acknowledge her feelings and begins dating Yusuke, and the rest of the volume depicts their attempts to make this relationship work for the two of them. This becomes a fascinating character study because we see immediately that their relationship isn’t particularly healthy because it immediately becomes premised upon Yusuke helping Makino with her overwhelming bevy of jobs, leaving them almost no time to actually spend together as a couple. What makes this depiction particularly heartbreaking and affective is that Yusuke acknowledges this to a big extent, but struggles onward to try to make it work anyways. I really liked how again we see Yusuke being driven by trying to make the best out of the sunk-cost of his relationship with Yamaguchi, and this subtext was used to show Yusuke slowly feeling conflicted as the pressure builds up on him between wanting an actual relationship with Makino and trying to be a type of martyr for her. This is process of seeing Yusuke slowly break is wonderfully done as yet another example of a relationship come undone in a realistic way because of the emotional and actual gulf between Yusuke and his partner.
The end of this volume wraps everything together with a flashback scene that reveals more of Yusuke’s emotional baggage from the break-up of his parents as a child. This scene shows how Yusuke’s father broke his mother’s heart as she waited for him endlessly and gave him second chances. Although this segment was heartbreaking purely because of how sad it was to see Yusuke’s mom’s emotional change depicted, what made this even better was the way it linked the end of Yusuke’s relationship with Yamaguchi and the end of his relationship with Makino together in a meaningful way for both us and Yusuke to consider. In this moment, we really see how Yusuke fully grasps the emotional extent of his failed relationships - he appreciates how he hurt Yamaguchi because of the way his father hurt his mother, and he understands his own hurt in turn on a deeper level because he saw how his mother broke much as he did in trying to make his failed relationship with Makino work. This scene illustrated strongly how Yusuke fell on both sides in each of these relationships, and I thought this was the perfect way to wrap up this volume in hammering home the emotional takeaway from each of his relationships.
I continue to be really impressed by the way that Forget Me Not shows Yusuke’s process of attempting to cope with his relationships failing in a way that conveys the full extent of the emotions involved on both parties, and this volume was an incredibly strong continuation of his story. The art continues to be very strong (how about that cover!) in depicting the underlying emotions of these characters in a number of perfectly drawn facial expression that really get across the full extent of the emotional range being shown. Although this story is largely a big-train wreck for Yusuke’s heart it makes for a seriously compelling and multi-faceted look at the romantic experience that you shouldn’t be missing.
Forget Me Not Vol. 4 was translated by Ko Ransom and published by Kodansha Comics USA on September 20th, 2016. Authored by Nao Emoto based on the original story by Mag Hsu, the series originally ran in Kodansha’s Monthly Shonen Magazine.
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