Justin: We’re onto Year 2 for Yuki, Naruse, and the rest of the Ryuhoku basketball team, and that means some big changes. The past seniors have graduated, some first-years need some training, and Yuki’s love-hate relationship with Naruse has the slider on 75% hate, 25% love. Well, ok, 75% might be too high and the 25% part consists of Yuki wishing she could’ve fallen for someone else, but instead it’s to a dude who’s pushy and aloof. That said, she’s doing her best to move on from her only reason for joining the basketball team by continuing to manage the players, and she even goes out of her way to practice shooting to help teach the freshmen. She also believes that as long as Naruse is around, things will at least be fine.
Well, that was until they got decimated in a practice game.
Not just lost — they didn’t even keep in close. And in Cheeky Brat volume 2, the structure that was put in place crumbles as not only does Yuki realize she has to drastically revise how the team’s being trained, but of Naruse’s commitment to basketball. It stands in stark contrast to Shizuka Hakadama, whom Yuki originally knew as someone who lent a helping hand in getting her to shoot with form, but then soon learns he’s one of the star players on the team that eventually destroys them…and also knows Naruse. Hakadama is driven to play the sport, but as he learned growing up as a kid, Naruse is, well, not. He’s a bit whimsical in that regard, but the only one who knew that Naruse wasn’t quite so driven for basketball was Hakadama, and that manifested in the practice game.
This part was the most interesting out of everything in volume 2 — while the basketball action is still limited to just showing players and the scoreboard, how both Yuki and Naruse act following this was worth reading for me. Both end up, in their own ways, questioning how to move forward, and since we know Naruse’s already awkward and even does something totally weird after this game, Yuki begins wondering how she should be evaluating Naruse in general. She definitely still maintains being pissed though.
The relationship still feels a bit one-sided, as in one part Naruse tries to make sure Yuki starts being aware of the first-year players she’s helping, only for Yuki to remind him and essentially the audience that his pushiness has driven the manga so far. It was however nice to delve a bit into Naruse’s mindset in this volume, and I’m curious how things will heat up between the two in a manner that actually makes this relationship work.
Justin’s rating: 3.5 out of 5
Krystallina: Yuki loves Naruse. She’s barely come to a point where she can admit that to herself, so she’s definitely not at the point to tell the guy in question that!
But between her own reactions and Naruse’s confidence, her feelings aren’t much of a secret or surprise…
Cheeky Brat volume 2 heralds the start of a new school year. But don’t get your hopes up if you wanted to see some new and important characters being added to the team. Rather, the biggest new cast member for the series is from a rival team — someone who has a connection to Naruse and coincidentally meets Yuki.
My first thoughts about Hakamada were that I want to see a spin-off starring him. Then I remembered this series goes on for a long time, and so I’m really hoping the author treats him well. Hakamada serves as a perfect foil for Naruse. While they both attended the same basketball club, grew tall, and are the current stars of their team, Hakamada is super nervous around girls. That doesn’t mean he’s rude to them or avoids them at all costs; in fact, he even volunteers to help Yuki get her ball despite being a total stranger. But even accidentally touching Yuki causes him to run off in adorable embarrassment. That’s the total opposite of Naruse who has groped Yuki with a straight face.
But rather than tension over Yuki, this volume is more about tension over basketball. Ryuhoku quickly learns “leave it to Naruse” can’t be their whole strategy as Hakamada shows off his skill and dedication to the sport. As a result, there’s a lot of friction post-game as Naruse starts skipping practice. Yuki is torn between wanting to believe in Naruse that he’ll return to the team (and his promise to her) and forgetting about him, that he never takes anything seriously anyway. It’s during this time she again meets Hakamada one-on-one.
I do not want to see Hakamada pining after Yuki for a good portion (or all) of the series, but that’s just my bias talking. In terms of the story, it doesn’t feel like the author has established her long-term plan for the manga just yet. The other players of Ryuhoku still have vague characterizations (all I know is glasses guy and two-tone hair guy), and Inter-high is just about to start. But hey, this is a romcom rather than a sports manga, right? But as for the romance, the only reason Yuki and Naruse aren’t an official couple is because of Yuki’s stubbornness. There’s really nothing to overcome besides her own mouth.
But that’s not really this volume’s fault since Yuki had already liked Naruse in volume 1. In fact, this volume is better since it only has to go from “like” to “love” rather than “dislike/annoying” to “crush” like before. Naruse also comes across as less annoying, but it’s Hakamada who stole my heart in Cheeky Brat so far. So while I’m still not seeing the series’ enduring popularity, volume 2 was more enjoyable to me.
Krystallina’s rating: 3.5 out of 5