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Things finally seem to be going better for Rise, now that she and Azusa have had their mock wedding and have been officially approved of and supported by Reiko Onitsuka, the student body president. However, it's clear that Akamaru still dislikes and distrusts Azusa. Nobunaga, a member of the student council, decides to use that fact to try to lure Akamaru to the dark side (i.e. the student council, which Akamaru has thus far resisted joining).
It all starts when Azusa comes down with a cold. Rise goes to his house and learns just how much he's been hiding from her and everyone else. His secrets soon land him in hot water at school, threaten to destroy his relationship with Rise, and add to Akamaru's list of reasons to want him gone.
This is the first volume in this series that I haven't disliked. Which isn't to say that I think this series has taken a turn for the better. It's still a dumpster fire of horrible people, a central "romance" I can't bring myself to root for, and world-building that is both shoddy and vile. But this volume allowed me to mentally recast Akamaru as Rise's true love interest as Azusa repeatedly shot himself in the foot. Again. Seriously, the guy is an idiot. He probably doesn't deserve whatever volume 4 has in store for him (anything called
can't possibly be good), but I wouldn't cry if he were banished from the school for good.
This is also the first volume in the series that hasn't included on-page or hinted-at sexual assault. The male student council members apparently have orgies while the study body president is away, so these high schoolers are still having a ridiculous amount of sex, but at least it looked to be consensual.
All right, back to Akamaru and Azusa. I'm still not sure why Akamaru seems to like Rise so much, but he was definitely pretty cute, saving the lunch Rise didn't get a chance to give Azusa, and eating his mushrooms when Rise commented on his picky eating habits. The more I grew to like Akamaru, the more of an inconsistent mess Azusa seemed. He'd act like a clueless but potentially adorable idiot one minute, and then become hard and cold the next. And considering what his private life turned out to be like, Jyoushioka High School's setup should have been a snap for him. I'm not sure the author thought that one through very well.
This is where my Gakuen Prince reading experience ends. From what I can tell, volume 3 was the last paper volume of this series to be printed. Digital versions of the later volumes are available, but I don't care enough for this series, or even just Akamaru, to want to buy them.
Considering that this volume ends on a fairly dark note, the extras are practically sugary sweet by comparison.
I had no idea how to rate this. It was relatively entertaining and didn't enrage or repulse me as much as parts of the previous volumes. 2.5 stars is probably overly generous, but it's what I'm going with.
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)