Saturday, December 24, 2011

Arisa 5 by Natsumi Ando

Tsubasa is on the trip with the rest of Arisa's class when she realizes that one of the girls on the trip, Shizuka Mochizuki, has a serious hate on for Arisa. She is in a wheelchair, and deliberately shows Tsubasa that she has three of the cellphones that once belonged to fellow classmates who could petition the "King". And that includes Midori, Arisa's former boyfriend, who Tsubasa broke up with when he realized she was spending more time with Manabe, who he feels Arisa prefers to him. His cellphone was stolen, the King not wanting "King Time" to end if not everyone made a wish, and Midori didn't want to make a wish at all.

But Shizuka makes it appear that "Arisa" attacked her, and for some reason, Manabe seems to be helping Shizuka rather than Tsubasa now, which makes it appear that he betrayed her. Arisa follows Shizuka's bags to her room, and tries to search it for the cellphones, only to be caught in the act by Shizuka herself. To punish Arisa, Shizuka, when she gets the number of one of her phones, meaning her wish would be granted, asks for something precious to be taken away from Arisa. She then throws the phone out the window to prevent Tsubasa from grabbing it, and Tsubasa falls out the window, and sees Midori's scarf hung up in a tree in the forest.

Now thinking that the King is going to harm Midori, and realizing that neither he nor Manabe have returned, she goes in search of them, falls down a hill and hurts her head, knocking herself out. Later, when Manabe and Midori return from their failed hike to the next shrine (it started snowing, which made them turn back, and Midori lost his scarf somewhere on the way), it's time to eat, but they can't eat until everyone is there, and Arisa is gone.

This makes everyone angry, assuming Arisa has gone off alone to do her own thing, but Manabe decides to go after her and try to find her. As Arisa lies in the forest, cold and wet, she dreams of her sister, looking sad. She assumes this means that Arisa doesn't want her to interfere, but when Manabe finds her, he tells her that Arisa is just frightened for her. However, he falls as well, hurting his leg, and Tsubasa has to wrap his ankle, but he can't walk. And she is completely wet and cold, and burning up with fever.

Somehow, with Manabe carrying her, they make it back to the inn, where all the students assume they were gone because they were spending time togethe, and their anger at Arisa grows. Shizuka is delighted- the King has taken away something precious from Arisa after all- her reputation as a "good girl". But Tsubasa says that isn't important at all- there are plenty of more important things in life, like her friends and family. Shizuka is upset that Arisa isn't upset at losing her pristine reputation, and she still wants her revenge on Arisa, who she believes took her legs away from her.

When they go off to warm up, Tsubasa asks Manabe about Shizuka, and he tells her the story. They met when Manabe was the son of a doctor, and Shizuka was the daughter of a patient there. Shizuka saw he was playing alone and made friends with him, and they played together every day- until her father died. She was adopted by two distant aunts, who viewed having her as a nuisance. Manabe overheard what the aunts said, and yelled at them about not being fair to Shizuka, and that he would always be on her side.

When they met in school years later, Shizuka viewed excellence in school as an indicator of her usefulness. But Arisa kept beating her in the scores on tests, and she soon became obsessed with "beating" Arisa, to the point where she made Manabe copy Arisa's notes from class so Shizuka could study what Arisa was studying. But even that didn't help, and she came up with the idea to steal something and pin the blame on Arisa, to discredit her, but Manabe wouldn't stoop to that and started to pull away from Shizuka.

This made Shizuka think that Arisa had somehow stolen Manabe's friendship with her, and she started to really hate Arisa. But when Shizuka was the first person to claim she didn't need "help" from the King, the rest of the class turned on her and started tormenting her. She tried to text Manabe for help, but he was used to her texting him about framing Arisa and stealing her notebook, so he tuned her out and deleted her text- just before she jumped off the roof of the school. Now, she may never walk again and she considers Arisa the source of all her problems. But Manabe feels guilty for ignoring and deleting that text to spend time talking with Arisa, and so he felt duty-bound to help Shizuka.

Tsubasa actually understands what Shizuka is going through, but is determined to get the cellphones. So after class she transforms herself back into herself, Tsubasa, and follows Shizuka home. But when she helps Shizuka deal with a bunch of teenage boys blocking the handicapped facilities, she finds out that Shizuka has no problem with Tsubasa at all... she even likes Tsubasa. But can Tsubasa use her real self to get close to Shizuka, or will getting too close to the avowed enemy of her sister have consequences that Tsubasa couldn't forsee? And who is the current "King" and why does he hate Arisa/Tsubasa so much?

I really loved this volume. You know, I felt bad for Shizuka- she set herself up for a bad outcome in so many ways, like deciding that High grades in school were the only way to prove she had some worth. But then she upped the ante with not just having to be good, but to be the best at the school. When she realized that Arisa had that position and couldn't easily be beaten, she turned eliminating Arisa into an obsession, especially when she realized that Arisa didn't necessarily care about being the best. And it all spiralled down from there. But still, I could sympathize with her, even empathize, a little.

But then she went right over the edge, and while I sympathized a little, it was only possible to see how Shizuka keeps setting herself up for bad ends. The "King" is using her, and badly, and turning her into more of a bad person as she goes. I know it's a bit clich├ęd, but it was like turning to the dark side and about letting your anger and hatred rule you. A lot of the subtext between Shizuka and the King is like when the Emperor tries to get Luke Skywalker to turn to the Dark Side in "Return of the Jedi". But instead of forgoing that, Shizuka steps to the tune gladly.

I am finding this series more and more intriguing, if painful to read. I still am not exactly sure what the King is getting out of all of this, except maybe the jollies at getting people to jump through his hoops. Why, I have no clue. We're not even sure who the King really is yet... But I will keep reading this series to try and figure it out. Recommended.

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