The Ideal Woman competition proposed by Megumi’s self-appointed rival, Keiko, continues into volume fourteen. Megumi and Genzo, who have been partnered up for the contest, begin the volume by finishing off a random thug who’d threatened them, and successfully make it to the inn that serves as their goal for the day. After a random chapter in which Keiko and Megumi attempt to scare each other in their supposedly haunted rooms, the competition resumes the next day with a hike through the woods.
Unfortunately, the thugs return and most of the rest of the volume and some of the next is spent on our heroes running around the woods and showing up just in time to protect their friends and thwart the baddies’ plans. I am beyond tired of this kind of plotting and just about equally tired of complaining about it. There are a couple of redeeming things about this arc, however.
First, Hitomoji is paired with Megumi’s best friend, Miki, and seems increasingly intrigued by her. Miki is lady-like, something Hitomoji prizes, but also smart and brave. I think they’d make a great couple. More significantly, when Megumi is captured by the bad guys, Miki gets so upset that it makes her say some odd things about the curse and how Meg was before. It’s a neat twist that I hope proves essential in the conclusion of the series; for now, Miki has forgotten that she ever said anything strange, leaving Hitomoji to try to puzzle things out for himself.
Secondly, Meg and Genzo share what is one of the nicest moments between them yet. Earlier, Genzo barged through a steel door to save Meg from her captors—upon whom she had already inflicted much damage—and now they’re back at the inn, where she approaches him with a first aid kit and an offer to patch him up.
Genzo: If you were a man, you’d be cooler than me. You don’t back down and no one can touch you. I’m almost… jealous.
Meg: I knew you’d come. That’s why I wasn’t scared.
That’s a line that couldn’t be pulled off by just any heroine. Here, instead of coming across as dependent and awed by her masculine protector, it’s clear that Meg is referring to a respect between equals. Even better, Genzo gets it. He won’t try to protect her from situations that he has deemed dangerous, but he’ll have her back, just like he would for a male buddy. Nice.
After a disappointing fizzle to the Ideal Woman competition (the chief contestants both forfeit), Megumi turns sixteen, which prompts her parents, now that she can legally marry, to introduce her to a bunch of eligible guys. She ends up going on a date with one of them—causing Genzo and Ichijo to bemoan their lack of adulthood—but thankfully it doesn’t seem like something that’s going to continue for very long. It’s okay to spend a couple of chapters on how charmed by this guy Megumi is not, but any longer and I’d be bored to pieces.
In the end, these two volumes are an improvement from the few before them and, while I don’t anticipate much of anything new in the final five volumes (prediction: there will be thugs!), I’m still looking forward to seeing how it all ends.