Excellent, excellent chapter.
Before we jump to any conclusions, let's take a look at the sequence of events.
- Yakumo walks back after the Cultural Festival Play, where she fought with Eri.
"Hey Iori, do you think that Sawachika-sempai loves Harima-san? But she's always harsh around Harima-san, and it's not like we have a special relationship. It's fine like this, right?
Yakumo suspects that Eri likes Harima. She recognizes that if Eri does love Harima, then she would have caused Eri a lot of suffering over the past little while. However, she dismisses the thought, rationalizing that Eri probably doesn't love Harima. The words "It's fine like this, right?" are a means by which Yakumo justifies her actions to herself.
- Yakumo denies having feelings for Harima. This could mean one of two things - either she really doesn't like him, or she likes him and she's hiding it.
- Yakumo becomes aware of the fact that Eri and Harima may be getting closer, and she actively takes steps to prevent the two dolls from being placed together. This means one of two things - either she doesn't want Eri to end up with Harima because she's jealous (ie. wants him for herself), or she doesn't want Eri to end up with Harima because she wants to see Harima paired up with someone else.
Note her words in Ch. 206, p.7,8
"He's not the type of person who would change his mind."
"He's not so careless as to fall for someone just like that."
And when asked about whether she's been confessed to, she says "no" with a smile - to show that she's pleased about the fact that he hasn't gone after her - pleased with the fact that he is living up to that ideal.
, she places the Harima doll and the Tenma doll together on her own. This indicates that her desire to see Harima and Eri separated had nothing to do with jealousy - it's simply because she wanted him to end up with her sister. It makes no sense for Yakumo to want to end up with Harima and then to actively
try to set him up with someone else.
In Ch. 207
, Yakumo sets her plan in action by having Tenma write manga with Harima. That was the same plan that set up for the climax in Ch. 212.
Now, let's take a look at this chapter. Since Ch. 212, we've seen no signs of remorse from Yakumo, despite her sister's pleading. The trigger that actually makes her recognize her wrongdoing is Harima's explanation in p.5. Eri's plan to make Harima choose clearly establishes Eri's feelings regarding Harima. With that, Yakumo's lingering doubt in b29 has finally been confirmed.
Note the side caption on that page: "Yakumo, can't go back now."
Now that Yakumo knows
about Eri's feelings for Harima, she can't go back to the old way of thinking in b29. She now knows for sure the full extent of what she's done in the past - there's no turning back.
Now look carefully at the words on p.9: "I know Sawachika-sempai is in love with Harima, and it hurts me inside so badly."
This is not
the same as: "I know Sawachika-sempai and Harima-san are in love with each other, and it hurts me inside so badly."
Yakumo isn't sad because Harima is being taken away from her by Eri. Rather, the sudden realization that she has in this chapter about Eri's feelings for Harima are the cause of her feelings of guilt.
"I've buried so many things inside of me, and it's all building up. I'm becoming a terrible person."
What has she buried? Feelings? No, because having feelings for Harima wouldn't make her a terrible person. What else could you bury and have build up, making you feel like a terrible person?
Guilt that she's held inside since b29. All throughout the manga, she's constantly interfered with Eri's relationship with Harima. She undid Eri's sewed gift to Harima. She interfered in Eri's play. She constantly pushed Tenma to be with Harima, knowing that Tenma wasn't interested. All this she did unknowingly, but with a lurking doubt deep down that she may be hurting Eri.
: Yakumo tells us why she slapped Eri - it was entirely for the sake of her sister. But why does she add "That's what I thought when I slapped her, but... I was wrong."? The only thing that has changed since then is that Yakumo now knows Eri's feelings. She now knows the conflict that was going through Eri's head - she now knows that Eri really loves Harima.
Note that she confirms that the phone call in Ch.211 had nothing to do with the slap. Therefore, there is no jealousy towards Eri involved here.
Remember how I was talking about the idea of Yakumo redeeming herself? This is the very first step. It's now her responsibility to make amends with Eri. With this chapter, she can no longer be used as a plot device used to interfere with Flag - she's a full character in her own right.
I find some of the earlier remarks to be somewhat bizarre. Here we have a character who has just admitted to having a lot of guilt because of constantly hurting someone else (unintentionally, of course) over a period of months, and the first thing on some people's minds is: "Yeah! Does this mean she'll step in and interfere some more?" As p.5's side comment notes, there's no turning back now. Now that she knows that Eri loves Harima, she cannot interfere with a good conscience. It would undo everything that elevated her character in this chapter.
I've waited a really long time for this. It's kind of cathartic, really - she's been a real thorn in Eri's side for the past 100 chapters or so. It's a relief to see her finally 'fess up to everything that she's done - it shows, that despite all the trouble she's caused, she still was acting with good intentions. With a little luck, she may even make for a valuable ally for Flag. You know, I wonder... could this be that inroad into the manga writing thing that we've been looking for?
On another note, I really liked the conversation on the last page. It's good to see Akira talking a bit more freely: "Do you have
to give up love and friends to be a devil woman?" Eri has this habit of deliberately building walls around herself. Flag still has a lot of work to do.