The choral competition is just around the corner, but things in Maria’s class have never been more chaotic. To help Hana Ibuki, Maria has agreed to sit out of the class’s rehearsals and rehearse on her own. Hana wants to be liked, just like she does, and so Maria agrees to help her look good in front of the class. She finds Ayu Nakamura fretting over her appearance in the bathroom, and gives the girl some advice on simply being herself. Spurred on by Maria’s words, Ayu confesses her feelings to Yusuke in front of the entire class. Her emotions come pouring out before she can stop them, but as Hana tries to interfere, Yusuke steps in before things get out of hand and takes Ayu to the roof for a chat. Maria overhears their conversation, and a very flustered Ayu drags her back to class. She apologizes as planned, and Hana welcomes her back in, but it doesn’t sit right with their classmates. Particularly Ayu, who makes her thoughts on the situation clear, prompting Hana to abandon all pretenses and leave the classroom. With the cameras rolling, the class’s teacher nearly makes a fatal error, but is later overheard talking to the variety show’s director about editing the footage to show the class in the best light. In protest, the entire class decides to boycott the choral competition. Realizing how angry and frustrated her friends are, Maria takes them out for a snack, where she receives quite the surprise from Shin that leaves her brain slightly addled. Maria manages to convince her classmates to at least show up for the choral competition, and she’s backed by a very ill Shin. While she waits with Shin in the nurse’s office, Maria tells him the story of her friend from St. Katria, the one who told her she taints everyone around her, and confesses that she is trying to change so she can have friends around her. The day of the competition arrives, and the class is finally standing together, all except Hana Ibuki who has been shut out. Feeling responsible, Maria seeks Hana out and pulls the entire class back together just in time for their performance. Unfortunately, their teacher is determined to make Maria look bad, and as his actions begin to tear the class apart, Maria makes one final effort to make everyone stand together.
Things are really looking up for Maria now. Despite all her protestations that she taints people, and that she isn’t capable of bringing people together, she does a remarkable job of doing just that. She nearly single-handedly holds the class together, a class that once unanimously despised her. It’s nice to see her finally getting through to the people around her and making friends. Her circle is growing. First Shin and Yusuke, then Tomoyo, and now Ayu. Each one accepting her for who she is. Particularly Shin, who continually reminds her that she is affecting and changing the people around her. That they have become more open and honest with themselves thanks to her. And speaking of Shin, sweet, awkward Shin; he’s becoming the central love interest in the story. In fact, Yusuke really gets pushed aside this volume in terms of the bubbling love triangle, though it’s clear he’s noticed something is going on between Shin and Maria. Maria is finding herself hopelessly drawn to Shin for reasons she can’t quite explain, other than she values his support and opinions. He’s really getting into her head, as evidenced by her accidental donning of the fancy pair of shoes Shin bought for her. This volumes feels like a turning point in the series, although I’m sure something will set things back, as it’s only the fourth of thirteen volumes. Even so, it’s great to see the class finally rallying around Maria rather than ostracizing and bullying her. They finally believed in and trusted her, which is all she’s ever really wanted. The question is, will it last.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.