The last thing I’d expect was for the Summer Volume to make me watch a clip from The Dark Knight Rises and hear that ridiculous, grating raspy voice and the surreal levels of Gary Stu idiocy being shoved in my face, but what can you do?
The Summer Volume/Natsu-hen is quite similar to the Spring one in terms of its mechanics, but I have to say that Erika is a much more engaging protagonist than Suou was. We’re now privy to Erika’s thoughts, and it’s fun seeing her referring to certain people disparagingly in her mind.
The Summer Volume tries its very best to avoid spoilers for the mini mysteries in the Spring Volume, but inevitably, they kinda had to mention the protagonist’s name. But other than that, Erika references past deduction games vaguely without giving anything away. Still, since it’s a direct sequel and picks up pretty much right after the end of the Spring Volume, it’s recommended that you play through that first, Even if I personally found the Spring Volume ridiculous and completely infuriating.
So we’re thrust in the thick of things as Erika watches Chidori (a professional singer and actor) perform the ballet version of The Sleeping Beauty on stage in the principal role of Aurora. Erika’s overcome with affection and admiration toward Chidori and the passion she conveys on stage. But at the same time, envy and frustration well up inside her as she considers her own inability to walk, much less dance.
The scene ends, and we return to the regular story mode (chronologically quite a bit before the aforementioned scene) where Erika does a brief recap and reintroduces certain characters (e.g. Suou, Mayuri, and Rikka). We learn that Suou, as expected, has been depressed and melancholy since Mayuri’s disappearance. Erika is a bit gruff and prickly, but it’s obvious she really cares about Suou. She doesn’t give two squats whether Mayuri’s at their school or not, but she knows Mayuri’s absence is causing her bibliophilic buddy considerable pain, so she gets angry at Mayuri on Suou’s behalf. Erika goes to the library to return a book Suou recommended (and also so she can check up on her).
And Erika sees Suou like this:
But as soon as Suou catches sight of Erika, she puts up a good front and greets her warmly. She even jokes a bit by recommending King Lear when Erika asks for a new rec that isn’t as depressing or tragic as the last rec.
Erika isn’t quite sure how to make her friend feel better, but you really get the sense that she’s looking out for Suou. But in typical prickly fashion, Erika corrects Suou when Suou tries to call her “Erika-san” until she relents and switches back to “Yaegaki-san”. It’s funny, because Erika basically refers to everyone by their family names (with no honorifics) in her mind. Even the nun gets this “going by family name” treatment. Everyone else calls her Dalia-sensei, but Erika alone (if I remember correctly) calls her Basukia(Basquiat)-kyouyu.
When Erika’s back in her dorm room, she faintly hears someone singing a cappella outside, and goes in search of the voice.
The clarity of the voice makes her think of Mayuri (I care so little about Mayuri that I kinda forgot she sang while Suou played the piano accompaniment in Spring, so maybe you needed a refresher too). She sees the girl singing, and in the reddish glow of the fading sun, for a moment Erika really thought the girl was Mayuri. But she realises it’s not, and when her wheelchair rolls over a twig, the girl notices her presence and immediately stops singing.
She accuses Erika of spying on her, and it kind of devolves from there between the two of them.
It seems like the story is divided up into chapters, with each chapter named after a Grimm fairy tale, which Erika narrates and is tied to the overarching story in some way. The first is The Frog Prince. Cue gratuitous German. (The Frog King; or Iron Henry//Der Froschkönig oder der eiserne Heinrich)
Erika says the story that follows isn’t as kind as the “happily ever after” in The Frog Prince… but rather, it’s about a frog who picks up the princess’ golden ball that fell into the spring after she promises to be the frog’s friend. But when the princess receives her ball, she runs off, leaving the pitiable frog behind who waits for the princess’ return. (Yeah, screw Mayuri. There are already way too many Shiori archetypes walking about.)
In any case, detailed summary over. But let’s see, the first mystery we’re required to solve this time is more engaging than “omg library books what do”. I don’t really want to spoil it, but I will say I did not manage to solve either part of the first mystery. I could solve pretty much all of the Spring mysteries, so I’m not sure if they just upped their game, if I’m not in good form, if I didn’t try hard enough, or if there simply weren’t enough hints. I personally thought it was vague enough that it was impossible to really narrow it down to one thing definitively… and a really random red herring was thrown in as well that was sort of handwaved away with a brief explanation. I may have considered a slightly more morbid resolution to the story (which I think still makes sense) but I guess it didn’t turn out that way.
Also, Erika says Chidori “looks like” Mayuri on more than one occasion… seriously, I keep getting Chidori mixed up with Suou in screenshots, not Mayuri. How can anyone mistake Chidori for Mayuri?
Also, the fact that Chidori is canonically “really good at singing” makes me cringe a little, because her seiyuu sounds really off-key in parts even with autotuning. (Granted, she had to sing a cappella, which is a lot harder, but I cringe.) And Sakura Ayane’s good with being a snarky little smart aleck, but she’s very bad at conveying dramatic lines (she overdoes it quite a bit in the first part of the prologue). Still, Chidori’s seiyuu is OODLES better than Mayuri’s, so I can’t complain too much. God, I don’t even know what went through their minds when they hired whatsherface for Mayuri.
The person whose reappearance made me the happiest was, of course, Yuzuriha’s. I really hope they don’t pair her up with Nerine, but I think that would be slightly inevitable. Sigh. UNLESS Suou finds happiness with Yuzuriha in the Fall Volume or something like that, but I feel like they wouldn’t go for that. And am I imagining things? But it feels like they’re hinting Yuzuriha will be the protagonist for Fall… If you listen to the voice sample, she starts talking about summery imagery before she goes, “Oh wait, is this Fall?” And changes the topic to autumn-y things like scary stories that Nerine likes to talk about. So I dunno. It may just be wishful thinking on my part.
Also, before I forget, I find this kind of amusing: Erika secretly admires her classmates’ bodies (with embarrassment), like admiring the delicate paleness of Chidori’s clavicles or her curves. It remains tasteful, but I thought it was kind of funny. Also, Chidori thinks Suou is gorgeous. And Chidori (though super prickly and socially incompetent) is totally under the thrall of Yuzuriha and Nerine. It’s fun seeing how awkward she is around the two of them.
Imma gonna post this now… I might write more later, I might not. And for those who are interested… it seems like if you don’t go down Chidori’s path you get this… … thing with the nun. I believe it would have to be one-sided for it to make sense (so it would, I’m guessing, be a failed route much like Rikka was with Suou). It’s kind of strange when Erika gets all nervous and embarrassed around Dalia Basquiat. I’m like ????