I am not entirely sure if my memory is correct.
Said memory suggests to me that, so far, the narrator (arguably Hata himself) has avoided criticising any of the major characters. There were times it openly praised some characters – e.g. on Hinagiku’s intelligence in Ch. 333 – but there seems to be no precedents where the narrator criticised the characters this openly. It might tease them or make fun of them, but it has never used such a negative word as “selfish” on them.
That is, until now.
Even as a “Ruka basher” – some people certainly think that I am one – I have never thought of Ruka as “selfish”, let alone “overwhelming selfishness”. Yet the narrator describes Ruka with “overwhelming selfishness” twice in this single chapter – not only once, but twice. As such, l think it would be quite safe to agree that Ruka is being selfish. Nothing beats official statements, after all…
That said, I think it is a harsh statement on Ruka. Not every idol steps on the stage for noble reasons – e.g. to entertain people or to share their talents to the world. Some of them go for fame, while some of them go for money. Now, nobody would say that working for fame or money is “overwhelming selfishness”, so why on earth would working for the attention of a boy she loves is “overwhelming selfishness”?
Yes, Ruka no longer has the “correct” attitude about her job as an idol. Her willingness to retire (at the age of 16…) clearly suggests that being an idol is no longer her dream – or, even worse, it might never has been her dream in the first place. But then, her decision to step on the stage once again in order to charm Hayate cannot be said to be completely wrong. The entertainment business is about charming people, so what is wrong with charming a specific person?
On a side note: unless my comprehension is so wrong, I tend to think that the narrator is suggesting that Nagi is as selfish as Ruka. That I do agree, although I have absolutely no idea why the narrator mentions Nagi at all. Is it that keen on bashing the two main heroines of the current Mangaka age?
In that case, we would have two girls of “overwhelming selfishness” fighting for the love of Hayate, while the outcome is pretty much predetermined. Oh well…
Speaking of girls’ fight, the “battlefield” between Ruka and Izumi has been “resolved” effortlessly, with the interruption from Atsumari, Miki and Risa (through the glasses) and finally Kotetsu. The latter three, together with Izumi herself, would be helping Wataru with his store. In this case Ayumu would have no need to rush back to work – in fact, it seems that there is no need for her to report duty at all.
One interesting thing is that it seems that Hayate has no problem with voice recognition after all. The mystery here is that he could recognise the voices of Miki and Risa through the glasses, but then he failed to figure out Hinagiku was Silver Red back in Athens. His stupidity is specially reserved for Hinagiku, isn’t it?
We might start to think that CTMEOY and Cuties could be canon. After all, a Las Vegas concert in September has been planned in this chapter, was animated in CTMEOY and was mentioned (along with the concert DVD) in Cuties. Before this chapter we only have evidence from the anime which claims that they are canon, but now we finally have evidence from the manga which claims that the anime are canon.
Even as a complete outsider of the business, I have been thinking that the operation led by Atsumari has been utterly ridiculous. How on earth, for instance, would the idol only be notified of a major event one day before? Even if the idol is in peak condition – enough sleep, no alcohol, not ill – she would need time to rehearse, or at the very least to memorize all the lyrics she is going to sing!
This is why I am quite relieved that there is at least rehearsal in this chapter. Even for a manga branded “this is the kind of manga you are reading”, I still expect a little bit of common sense, and a little bit of morality…
At this point, I couldn’t shake the strange idea that Ruka might want to do only the mini-concert, not that one in Las Vegas. After all, her prime motive to perform on stage is to get Hayate to fall in love with her. If she could manage that by the mini-concert, then she could have the best of both worlds: she could win Hayate’s heart during the mini-concert, and then announce her retirement. Well, of course we know from CTMEOY that she wouldn’t do this, but… just saying.
Ruka is such a model professional in stage performance that the 2-week (?) blank period looks like nothing at all. In fact, with a prolonged period of rest and healthy meals cooked by Hayate, it seems to me that she looks better than during that first concert – although, frankly, there can be no way to get any worse than that one…
Of course, this is a great chance for Ruka to attract Hayate “again”. The question, of course, is whether Ruka has managed to attract Hayate in a romantic way in the very beginning. Do note that this is not the first time Hayate finds a girl attractive: Maria, Hinagiku and (most importantly) Athena are the precedents. Yet so far Hayate has not developed romantic relationships with Maria and Hinagiku, and actually broke up with Athena. So it doesn’t mean anything for Ruka even if Hayate finds (or found) her attractive.
Maybe Hayate won’t be able to marry the girls he finds attractive. He has been assigned to Nagi, after all.
In fact, it doesn’t seem like Hayate is romantically attracted to Ruka – not this time, at least. Instead of falling head over heels for Ruka, Hayate asks her whether she actually plans on retiring. After all, she has put in too much efforts for such great results. It would be a huge waste for her not to make full use of her skills, and a huge loss to her fans if she is not showing her attractiveness any more.
From this perspective, maybe Hayate has been attracted by Ruka after all. The loss to the fans would also be the loss to Hayate, and he certainly isn’t willing to let that happen. As such, we might see him trying to persuade Ruka to stay in the idol business, which – as we have mentioned before – isn’t her dream any more.
So, all in all, Ruka has successfully attracted Hayate with her stage performance. It is just that it isn’t in the way she prefers.