From the back cover:
Junpei has promised to protect Tsukushi and always be there for her. His promise comes just in time, since Tsukushi has been given another of the infamous “red slips,” the mark of someone targeted for abuse. Meanwhile, Akira and Soujirou are desperately looking for Tsukasa, who has been gone for days. It turns out that Junpei harbors a terrible grudge against Tsukasa and is using Tsukushi as bait to get him! This has shockingly violent results. Later, Tsukushi gets dressed up and attends Tsukasa’s birthday party. Little does she realize the implications that attendance has!
Um, thanks for ruining any surprise anyone might’ve had regarding Junpei’s intentions, back cover blurb!
Anyways, the most important thing to come out of Junpei and his grudge is that Tsukasa submits to a beating from several guys he could’ve handily defeated because to fight back would’ve put Tsukushi in jeopardy. I love that when he arrives, she tearfully cries, “Why did you come?!” and he advises her to keep her eyes shut so she won’t have to witness the beating.
There follows a chapter that must’ve been a lot of fun to read in its serialized form. Tsukushi has a dream that Tsukasa has died from his injuries, and the next few pages seem to support this notion, with the F4 pretending to grieve, et cetera. She’s furious at the jest, of course, but it leads into another sweet scene between the two leads. Then the other members of the F4 try to convince Tsukushi again to give him a chance as a boyfriend, but she blurts out something derogatory and flees.
The effort to flesh out Akira and Soujirou continues, as well. When Tsukushi is invited to Tsukasa’s birthday party and is freaking out about possibly being introduced to his scary mother as his fiancée, Soujirou points out that sons of rich families are never allowed to marry a girl of their own choosing, so she should just relax because there’s no chance she’d ever be able to marry Tsukasa anyway. I thought that was a neat, kind of subtle way to place a new obstacle in the path of their relationship. And then, of course, Tsukasa’s mom becomes the physical embodiment of said obstacle.
These middle volumes are showing quite a consistent level of quality. Gone are the things like basketball showdowns and I hope they never return. We’re also heading into what was the final arc of the anime, so soon I’ll be into material that I’m completely unspoiled on.
My final thought comes in the form of a favorite quote. Tsukasa has, once again, gotten himself fired up over something at the drop of a hat, and one of the other F4 (possibly Akira) quips, “I wish my water heater worked like him.” Hee. So do I.