Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Now that Kyutaro knows for sure that Fumi is Fuyu, his lost love of years ago, he will do anything to make sure that she's safe. But the Bug Handlers want Fumi isolated and bullied again, and they are just as ruthless as Kyutaro when it comes to getting what they want for Fumi. Lives aren't the only thing at stake as QQ Sweeper heads into its climax.
This is the final volume of QQ Sweeper, and that's a mixed thing. On the one hand, there's something wonderful about a series so short you can read it in its entirety in one sitting. On the other, this particular series doesn't end, but rather finishes the storyline before Motomi restarted it under a different name, Queen's Quality. Because that “sequel” isn't yet available in English, this is not the most satisfying of finales.
In fact, this isn't really a finale at all, more of a big “to be continued” in terms of plot resolution. By the end of the volume, Fumi and Kyutaro haven't really made progress in their relationship, she still harbors all of her old insecurities (albeit with the knowledge she needs to combat them going forward), and while we do know the truth about who Fumi is, we don't know what that really means beyond its most basic definition, along with an interesting historical implication that the famed Himiko of almost-legend was likely cut from the same cloth. (This is garnered from image rather than text, making it even more intriguing and open to interpretation.) To put it another way, when you finish this final volume of QQ Sweeper, it feels like the story is just getting started, and that's a little unsatisfying.
The positive here is that Motomi is a good enough author to make the rest of the volume worth it. In the previous volume, Fumi's classmate Kaori falls under the control of the Bug Handler who has been behind Fumi's troubles at previous schools (or at least works for the organization who has), although that hold is really clarified in this book. The result is that Fumi once again becomes the victim of harsh bullying, egged on by the popular “psychic” (Bug Handler)'s words at an impromptu goukon. When Fumi stands up for herself by appearing to not notice the cruelty around her, the bullying shifts to Kaori for her “betrayal” of her friend (again orchestrated by outside forces), showing the vicious power dynamic of high school social cliques with as deft a hand as any. While the more supernatural elements are at the core of the volume, the social dynamics are arguably its heart, showing us how accustomed Fumi has become to poor treatment from her classmates and the inner strength that she can draw upon in the coming chapters.
If you were the Fumi character in your high school days (or currently are), there's a familiarity to these chapters that can really sting. Fumi's self-possession when she simply drapes a large handkerchief over her graffiti-covered desk is stunning, but it also carries with it the understanding that she's learned to keep such a large cloth with her at all times, because this is a situation that might occur. Suddenly her need to find “prince charming” becomes not a cute shoujo affectation, but a search for a savior, someone who could make sure that this never happens again. When we see her two female friends in class try to stick up for her with few results, followed by Kyutaro's more effective defense, this understanding solidifies. Is it an outdated model of damsel in distress syndrome? Yes, but it also represents the dream of the lonely, picked-on child who is simply looking for someone, anyone, to come to her aid. “Prince Charming” is code for that white knight figure, and events at the end of the volume bring Fumi to a place where she can begin to realize that she can be her own savior – she just needs someone to teach her how.
The shift in Kaori from bully to victim is also an interesting one, as it acknowledges the poisonous social structure high schools can have while also reminding us that Kaori isn't just an unmitigated horror show of a human being. She's got her own issues, and Fumi and Kyutaro are more secure people because they can understand that and not heap the blame on her. Of course, they are helped by the whole scenario of the manga: that bugs infest people with negative emotions and cause them to behave badly. It's interesting that these emotions are more often self-deprecatory than not; depression rather than burning rage at the rest of the world. This makes QQ Sweeper (and let's hope Queen's Quality) stand out in its supernatural shoujo genre – it uses humanity as its base. This is more commonly seen in magical girl stories, but Motomi has made it her own here without being preachy.
Motomi's art has evolved since Dengeki Daisy, her previous work, so everything looks just a little bit sharper. There's also more skill in her use of black and white (Fumi's hair is a good example) and a wider variety of character designs. Pages are very busy, and if you don't like bugs with wings (think wasps), parts of this will be difficult to look at. On the whole, however, this is a well-written, well-drawn volume, and if it doesn't manage to fully satisfy in terms of ending the storyline, we'll just have to take comfort in knowing that there's more and hope for a licensing announcement in the near future.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : A-
+ Good emotional nuances, art has refined over time, depiction of bullying dynamic works well
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