Ghost Hunt 5 by Fuyumi Ono and Shiho Inada: A-

From the back cover:
The students of Ryokuryou High School think they’ve been playing a fun new game called Orikiri. They have no idea that it’s actually a wicked spell conjuring up evil spirits that intend to kill their sensei! Even more troubling is that with each passing minute, the strongest spirit eerily devours the other apparitions and grows ever more destructive. Since the spirit can’t be stopped, there’s only one way to save the sensei: turn the curse around onto the students who initiated it! Mai and Naru clash mightily on this case, as Shibuya Psychic Research must choose between the sensei and the students… And time’s running out!

This volume was the conclusion to the case from the previous volume. Although I never thought this story was particularly exciting or substantially different from their other high school cases, I still enjoyed this volume because of what was done with the characters.

For one thing, the solution to this case was much more of a group effort than has happened before. For the second time, Mai was able to provide a vital clue that led Naru to a realization, which in turn led Lin-san to come up with a method for dealing with the problem. Mai’s own growing abilities figured in more, and she, in general, kept her head when she found herself in more menacing situations as a result.

The best part, however, was the argument between Naru and Mai over whether it was right to deflect the curse back upon the students who had unwittingly cast it, when the alternative would be to allow the thoroughly unlikable teacher who was its intended victim to bear the full weight of it alone. Both had valid points, and I loved Naru’s remark after Mai told him she hated everything he stood for: “It is an honor to be despised by fools.” Oooh.

The one unfortunate side effect of this argument was a rare out-of-character “too stupid to live” moment for Mai, in which she decided to try to exorcise a bunch of powerful spirits by herself. I liked the aftermath—the other (non-Naru and Lin) members of the team realizing how upset she was and comforting her—but I didn’t like seeing her behave so irrationally.

Later, the apology scene was also pretty awesome, with Naru informing Mai that her problem is that she gives up on others too easily. I really love the relationship between these two. More and more, I think an eventual romance is plausible, but I love how slowly things are building. (It occurs to me that their dynamic is slightly similar to Ren and Kyoko from Skip Beat!.) Too, I love that Mai’s complete focus these past two volumes has been on her job; she hasn’t been sitting around mooning over him at all. Now that is the Mai I like. Let’s leave the silly heroines needing rescue to Matsuro Hino, shall we?

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