Monkey High! 2 by Shouko Akira: A-

From the back cover:
Haruna and Macharu head off to the amusement park for their official first date! But how romantic is the date going to turn out with scary roller coasters, guys hitting on Haruna, and even rowdy classmates popping up?

Considering that my two complaints about volume one were its clichéd events and annoying supporting characters, this back cover blurb didn’t do much to entice me. Thankfully, the contents were better than described.

I continue to like the main characters and the contrast between them. Macharu is all spazzy, hyper, and enthusiastic while Haruna is beautiful and “cool.” It’s so nice to have a shoujo heroine who’s smart and reserved! The pain of her broken home life weighs on Haruna, and we see more evidence of that in this volume, so it’s nice to see her laugh in Macharu’s presence. She really needs someone like him, and this is the reason why she ultimately keeps some of her problems from him, to avoid damaging his carefree outlook.

The overall plots of these chapters are pretty silly—an amusement park date, the gang participating in a big quiz show, et cetera—but there are plenty of good character moments sprinkled throughout. There’s also a really cute bonus story about Macharu’s little sister, Misato. Usually the bonus stories included in manga don’t do much for me; this is probably the best one I’ve read in some time.

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