Last Game Volume 4: Rich People Problems



Last Game is the type of shoujo that makes me wish more of the stereotypical series were like it. The melodrama, the light-hearted humor, the incredibly comfortable characters. It captures plenty of what other series attempt to do, but is able to present it in a package that isn’t near as grating as other series make it out to be. We’re now four volumes into the series, and that sentiment still stands strong, wonderfully displayed within the contents of this volume.

I think the biggest and most shining example of that is our time spent with Souma. Between last volume and this volume, it’s made clear to the reader that he has feelings for Kujou. However, the representation of those feelings, how they’re shown from the perspective of the viewer, and Souma’s character make the revelation feel so much better than saying “we now have a love triangle”. And a lot of that is owed to the relationship between Souma and Yanagi. The pair have historically butted heads as Souma antagonizes Yanagi, but with the fancy party that Souma was brought along to, that teasing begins to take on a new light. We begin to catch a bit of Souma’s true personality and his struggles as a person, and it plays really well against the backdrop of “perfect” Naoto Yanagi. It shows just how much Souma forces himself to compare to others, and how much of his life has been spent in the shade created by another person.

To that end, his backstory that he lets slip during a drunken evening with friends exemplifies that struggle, and the complex created when he was a younger boy. He’s already got it rough being from the sticks but living in Tokyo, but ghosts from his past like that add another layer of weight to his character, and frame his boorish behavior of earlier volumes. All he was doing before was chasing the things that he could never have: popularity, girls, notoriety, but Yanagi serves as a great counter that selfish nature. Souma can’t compete with Yanagi, and while stuck in the shadow of yet another insurmountable presence, he begins to understand the value of what he ignored. He begins to understand that he was chasing the superficial struggles that emerged when he was younger, and that true love and beauty eluded him while he chased illusions. Part of that is Kujou, but a great deal of that comes from his spats with Yanagi. The boy could have anything in the world that he ever desired, he could turn someone’s world upside down with a snap of his fingers, and yet he chose Kujou? That genuine decision, and his resoluteness in pursuing it have fundamentally changed Souma as a character, and it’s set him up beautifully for the next volume.

Speaking of that, the melodrama Last Game makes use of is surprisingly subtle, but it plays a very important role. Of course, there’s the bit of a spat between Souma and Yanagi this volume that resolves with them becoming better friends and Souma understanding both himself and Yanagi better, but the drama I want to talk about is a girl: and it’s not Kujou.

At the beginning of this volume, Yanagi had someone spill on his suit at a party. It was a very inconsequential moment that just served to tee up a bit of humor for the reader, but Shinobu uses that as an opportunity to open a whole other can of worms: a romance plot. It’s the kind of thing that seems comically excessive when within the framework of a “regular” person, but this Naoto Yanagi we’re talking about, a living and breathing Richie Rich. Shinobu’s able to use that to her advantage to set up a bit of a honey trap with the character that spilled on his suit earlier. It’s cunning, effective, and has wide-reaching consequences.

First of all, it serves to drive a stake between Kujou and Yanagi, as the girl has already expressed her interest in making a move on the mini-millionaire. Similarly, it forces Kujou to face her own feelings, as the girl directly asks Kujou whether she has a crush on Yanagi. And then lastly, Souma himself expressed how cute she was. These three things all come from a single character, and will 100% stoke the narrative fire of Last Game through volume 5. Personally speaking, I think the conclusion I’m most interested in following this plot line is Souma’s. Even after realizing his feelings for Kujou, and the struggles he faces due to how he views the world, he’s found himself sucked right in here, and I think that won’t play out well for him. Once again, it’s going to burn him and leave him hurting, but I think it’ll be a strong turning point for his character, largely due to Yanagi’s awareness of the situation.

Yeah, I said that. Yanagi already knows this is a honey trap. Kudos to Shinobu for not making Yanagi a total lost cause. It puts a new spin on the situation for readers, as the pressure is on Kujou and Souma instead. Yes, Yanagi will still see his own share of development from it, but the real focus here is Kujou and Souma, which I think is a really bold decision, but one that I love.

Last Game may be about Kujou and Yanagi getting together, but that’s the end goal. Considering that, Shinobu continues to do a great job of extracting the most value out of characters like Kujou and Souma, as they grow and develop through their various interactions and challenges. It’s a little funny to say as Souma is very much not the one meant to end up with Kujou, but I find it incredibly refreshing to see challenges and development focused on someone other than the lead character, especially in this example. When you have everything, and you’re doing so much right, it’s hard to find a reason to root for your improvement or anything else you might do.

So, all of that said, Last Game continues to be a very rewarding and enjoyable read. Shinobu’s work is refreshing, but puts in overtime to make sure that it sticks close to a lot of what readers perceive as the “core” of a shoujo romance series. I also really love Seven Seas’ inclusion of all of Shinobu’s short stories with each volume. Really, I don’t have anything to say other than if you like a bit of a juicy and dramatic romance, Last Game is sure to satisfy you.

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