This was really hard to score. The story was good and, individually, the characters were interesting and quite likeable, but I had two major issues with it that made it difficult to determine if I liked the story as a whole.
My first issue is with Arata; he never fully explained his hesitation to Shoutarou. In a sense, it wouldn’t have mattered much to Shoutarou because he was going to love and want to be with Arata no matter what, but if Arata had explained what he witnessed with his senpai in the past and how he didn’t want either one of them to have to face anything like that, and if he did more than yell about how it would ruin their friendship, I think Shoutarou would have tried to curb his impulses, particularly in public. Though that doesn’t excuse Shoutarou from doing something that Arata didn’t want. Shoutarou seems easygoing and a little dense, but he was aware enough of Arata’s hesitation not to call him out even though he knew Arata had been eavesdropping for some time. For Shoutarou, it was all basic math, but for Arata, it was like nuclear physics–one false move and BOOM! it’s the end of the world. Shoutarou was all smiles, but I can’t imagine that he wasn’t hurt by Arata’s constant rejections and refusals. These things aside, I’m glad that rather than Shoutarou wearing him down with that sunshiney buoyancy of his, Arata was able to come to terms with things in his own way and move past some of the lesser factors and own up to the core reasons for his wavering.
The second issue I had was with Sawa; by the end he still hadn’t fully come to terms with Arata and Shoutarou’s relationship (though I liked the way Hase exposed him); that’s good because if everything could be accepted so easily, there’d be no conflict. However, he blatantly avoided Shoutarou and he was beyond rude to Arata, so him laughing it off and calling them stupid on the roof just didn’t seem like any kind of apology to me. Hase saw and understood the truth behind Sawa’s reaction, but the reconciliation between the other three was just glossed over and left me wanting. To me, their friendship is still broken.
So, it’s good, but I’m troubled. And not that it would make up for the missing pieces, but I would love to see more of Hase and Sawa’s encounters. Right on up to when it blossoms into a full blown romance.
10.30.16 Update: The team that produced this volume recently posted that the part that I considered Sawa being “beyond rude to Arata” may not have been Sawa’s words at all, but rather a brief flashback for Arata. That discrepancy definitely changes my opinion of the story. While I still think that Sawa laughing things off on the rooftop fails as an apology, I don’t think the lack is a grave as I once did.