Suzumi - Yuu Watase Uuuugh, the needless love triangle is at its absolute worst in this volume. I might have been forgiving of it in the first two books, but by this point it's just not fun and distracting from the actually interesting plot going on.

First, there's Toya. Even ignoring the improbable rapid nature of their relationship, he's a grown adult. At the very least, he's mature and old enough to pass for a school doctor. Aya's sixteen. Knowing his backstory from later volumes doesn't make his conduct any less gross. To his credit, he does try to convince Aya that they're not a good match at the beginning of the volume, but it's pointless and forgotten by the next time they see each other. Everything about this relationship makes me uncomfortable, especially since Aya herself is still very immature. At least Toya's finally developing an actual personality as a result of all this shit.

Yuhi is hardly any better. Half the time he's the butt of a joke, and the other half of the time he's getting cockblocked by Toya. While I genuinely like him as a character, it's hard to root for him because he's so clearly the third wheel to Aya and Toya's romance. Even his own confession comes out of nowhere and seems to only exist to oppose Toya's growing relationship with Aya. So, in essence, Yuhi fans have to deal with Toya/Aya fanservice superseding their ship, and Toya fans have to deal with bad comedy and annoying jealousy. No one wins, Watase.

The only solace about all of this is that I know that it does improve from this point onward.

That said, there are very good things to say about the story. This volume takes the "monster of the week" formula established by typical magical girl stories and naturally twists it into something horrific. At this point, that should come as no surprise to this series. "Innocent girl turned into supernatural monster" is going to become a running theme, and Volume 3 milks the drama for all its worth. As a result of the mysterious C-genome project crafted by the Mikage corporation, both a young girl from Aya's school and Aya's new caretaker are adversely affected by the Mikage's mission to make their own celestial powers go haywire. These occurrences force Aya to grudgingly accept Ceres' presence, as the ancient celestial maiden is the only one with the power to set things right.

That said, things are still as dark as ever, even when Ceres emerges to save the day. Innocent people are hurt or killed in the crossfire, and Ceres' power has its limits-- it can't bring back the dead or save people who don't want to save themselves. It's been clear since the last volume that there's a sincere caring side to Ceres, and it's now properly on display for once. Like her namesake, she has a genuine motherly outlook towards celestial descendants, and it clearly bothers her when they can't be saved. As such, it's great to see her and Aya actually working together towards a common goal.

Finally, while the character was only introduced in order to explain the c-genome project, the storyline with the unstable celestial maiden student, Yuki, is quite moving. The power of friendship is not as powerful as fire, it would seem.

As I'm a sucker for character development, I can't bring myself to give this volume the two or three stars it deserves. Even when the romance is a major stumbling block, many of the events of this volume are key to developments later on. Almost everyone is fleshed out in some way or another, which only heightens the stakes when they're put in situations where they could easily die. As such, it's satisfying enough to warrant genuine praise.