Invaders of the Rokujouma!?, Vol. 42

By Takehaya and Poco. Released in Japan as “Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!?” by HJ Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Warnis.

One of the strengths of the Rokujouma series has been the attention paid to its major antagonists. Even from the start, the villains got opportunities to show us their point of view, be sympathetic in some way, shape or form, or at least show why people trust them despite their being Obviously Evil. That stays true to the present books, as Ralgwin, despite being one of the main bad guys, is a Good Boss, cares about his underlings, and even fires one of his strongest supporters just so that she’ll be away from the bad stuff when it happens. Unfortunately, the bad stuff is absolutely going to happen, mostly as evil scientist (boo) has refined his living corpse makers so that he can resurrect the dead better (and thus use Ralgwin as a spare body for his ancestor), and the Grey Knight, who is “Koutarou but evil”, is still trying to kill Sanae, and presumably will get his inevitable redemption saved for near the end of the series. Assuming this series ever ends.

The format is the same as the last book: half a book of cute stories and buildup, and half a book of battles and payoff. Kenji ad Koutarou brought baseball equipment along, and now Koutarou and Shizuka can flirt… erm, I mean, practice to see if they can use the equipment with their powers. Koutarou then tries to figure out how to spend the giant pile of money he has without being too influential towards one side or another. Everyone then goes to inspect the new Blue Knight ship, which of course looks exactly like a giant robot, complete with detachable parts, because this series is still very teenage boy even as its readers age into their 40s. And then Ralgwin makes one last, desperate attempt to kill Koutarou once and for all, but has reckoned without a defector in his ranks.

The Yurika watch will be brief this review, as she’s barely in the book, except for one scene where she starts to think out loud that Koutarou looks like an Emperor/King until a terrifying glare from Elfaria shuts her up. Clearly Elfaria’s agenda involves much greater things for Koutarou than just “go back to Earth and live in my 6-tatami room”. The big deal here, though, is Fasta’s defection. The sniper has been a major thorn in our heroes’ side for a while now, but after being sent away by Ralgwin so that she’s not quietly killed while trying to save him, she decides to up her game by betraying him in order to save him later, after he’s arrested and imprisoned. It’s a bold move, and I was surprised that it actually worked, but I guess Ralgwin also saw the writing on the wall, putting everything into one last ‘kill Koutarou” attempt – which fails. I also liked that the girls were content to let her escape and try to rescue Ralgwin after his capture – everything they’ve done since about Book 9 or so has basically been “all for love”, so they can understand the feeling.

Good fights, amusing jokes, some incremental plot development. Everything you’d want in a Rokujouma book.

Earl and Fairy: A Gentle Proposal

By Mizue Tani and Asako Takaboshi. Released in Japan as “Hakushaku to Yōsei” by Shueisha Cobalt Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Alexandra Owen-Burns.

If you’re looking at that subtitle and thinking to yourself “Oh good, we’re going to move past the shoujo “bad boyfriend but so hot” tropes and have them get together, I have some very bad news for you. This series is 3 volumes into a 33-volume run (in Japan, I’m not expecting miracles from JN-C), and the closest you’re going to get in this volume is Lydia saying she will “think about” falling in love with Edgar. And honestly, it would be far too fast right now, given where the characters are. This is an old series that came out back in the day when you could greenlight something long, so the development is slow and languorous. Edgar is still trying to figure out where to prioritize getting revenge for everything that’s happened to him and what he feels for Lydia. Lydia, meanwhile, cannot fathom ANYONE being interested in her, and still regards everything Edgar says as false. Which is not 100% true – but is not quite a lie either.

Edgar and Lydia’s back and forth, will-they-won’t-they is soon joined by a new inhabitant of Edgar’s house: Paul, an artist who Edgar has decided to give a bit of patronage to. They seem to have a past history, which is very interesting given Edgar’s past. Indeed, Paul is not even sure if this is the same boy, given that the last he’d heard the boy and his entire family were all dead. There’s also a fairy with a moonstone ring, trying to get Edgar to accept it so that he can be married to the Queen of the Fairies. Unfortunately, the ring has been stolen by a kelpie, who has known Lydia a long time and wants to use the ring to have HER return with him to Fairyland forever. As for Lydia, she mostly just wishes everyone would go away and let her get on with her work.

The frustration is the point, of course. At many points in this volume you want to strangle both Edgar and Lydia. Crucially, it’s rarely at the same time. Edgar ends up coming across much better when he stops pressing so hard, but he simply can’t find it in hiself to keep that up, and when he presses too hard he comes across as a bit scary. Lydia is already a girl who rarely dealt with real humans as a kid, and the one party she went to had the classic “boy who likes her pretends he asked her as a joke because it’s too embarrassing” plotline, and it’s twisted her entire viewpoint of herself. (The red hair doesn’t help – remember, redheads are still abused in this period.) But when push comes to shove, they will both sacrifice themselves to save the other, and that’s what really matters.

I don’t think it will take 30 more volumes to get a confession, but I suspect we’ll have the status quo for a bit. If you like old-school shoujo with good worldbuilding, this is perfect.

My Magical Career at Court: Living the Dream After My Nightmare Boss Fired Me from the Mages’ Guild!, Vol. 1

By Shusui Hazuki and necomi. Released in Japan as “Black Madōgushi Guild o Tsuihō Sareta Watashi, Ōkyū Majutsushi to Shite Hirowareru: White na Kyūtei de, Shiawase na Shinseikatsu o Hajimemasu! ” by SQEX Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Mari Koch.

As we have seen a large increase in the number of light novels written for women over the last few years, we have also seen that a great deal of them tend to involve an overworked, exhausted office lady escaping the terrible job she has by getting summoned to another world, or rescued by an improbable coincidence, or even simply dying and being reborn elsewhere. The original Japanese title of this book references “black companies”, the workplaces that violate labor standards but are nevertheless there for people who desperately need jobs. That said, I’m not sure we’ve seen a power fantasy quite as blatant as the one in My Magical Career at Court, whose entire plot revolves around our underappreciated heroine getting fired by her mean bosses and then ending up with the perfect job, where she impresses literally everyone around her by being outstanding. It is a cry of freedom from the heart. Or rather, from the page.

The book starts in the first paragraph with the words “you’re fired”. Noelle lives in a backwater town, trying to live her life as a mage, even in a job she’s not really suited for, because she loves magic. Sadly, her boss doesn’t really care – and is, in fact, so sadistic that he makes sure she can never get a job in the town that uses magic. Fortunately for her, she runs into Luke, her old friend and hated rival from magical school, where the two of them were constantly competing for the top spot. He’s now working for the royal court, and is delighted that he can offer her a job. As she moves to the capital and starts her new job, she is stunned at every turn by now nice everyone is, how she gets real time off and normal work hours, and how expectations for her are not ludicrous. That said… what she gives them *is* ludicrous. She’s a bit OP.

Other folks have compared this to The Sorcerer’s Receptionist a bit, and I get it, but Noelle doesn’t seem to be all that similar to Nanalie except in the fact that they both have a boyfriend/rival figure. Indeed, how much you like this book may depend on how much you can tolerate Noelle being another one of THOSE heroines, so beaten down by life that any sign of obvious affection is completely missed, and folks trying to praise her gets constantly brushed off. It’s Japanese modesty taken to an aggravating degree. That said, overall I found her a lot of fun. I was surprised at the subplot, where we see what happens to the “bad guild” after she leaves. I’m so used to the sorts of stories where everyone is so evil they’re disgraced and end up dying a coward’s death, but no… the end goal of this story is that the old bosses see what Noelle is really like and regret that they let her go so easily. That’s it. In the end, this really is an office lady revenge story, it’s just the revenge is “I am happy now, ha ha ha”.

This has a second volume, which I will check out, but also feels pretty complete in one book, despite the romantic subplot slamming against Noelle’s heroic self-deprecation. Recommended for those in a bad job who like to fantasize.