Emma, Vol. 4

By Kaoru Mori. Released in Japan in two separate volumes by Enterbrain, serialized in the magazine Comic Beam. Released in North America by Yen Press.

After the last omnibus proved to be quite depressing at times, it’s a relief to see that this new one contains a happy ending, of sorts. Given this is still an interclass relationship in Victorian England, of course, the definition of happy is a lot more repressed than you’d expect, but it works. I was somewhat relieved to see that Emma’s arranged abduction by Big Daddy Campbell was less ‘let’s have her murdered’ and more ‘let’s dump her far away from London and remind her she is merely a working-class girl’, something which Emma sadly takes to heart. Luckily, after a thorough search of all of England (the coincidences fly thick and fast in this volume, but I suspect Mori is well aware of how ridiculous it is – it feels Dickensian), William and Emma are reunited, he managed to break off his engagement to Eleanor (and also his family’s upward mobility, though hopefully that’s temporary), and Emma prepares to enter high society.


While things are mostly dramatic, there are moments of humor that serve to lighten the mood. Eleanor has been treated horribly by the narrative, and her emotional breakdown would be incredibly depressing were it not for the presence of Hakim’s identical triplet concubines doing their best “staaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaare” at her. And the scene of Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Molders, and Emma trying to sort out the many and varied rules of etiquette, some of which contradict each other, is pure gold. That said, William and Emma’s romance is played with the utmost seriousness, and seeing her decked out in fine fashion at the end of the main story is breathtaking. Mori can draw, and it’s still one of the best reasons to get her works.

Emma proper ends here, but there were three volumes of side stories which were collected as well, and the first of these is the second half of this omnibus. We get to see a young Kelly Stownar and her long-dead husband when they were young just-barely-getting-by newlyweds, trying to save up to see the Great Exhibition, in a very sweet and touching chapter. Eleanor, having been exiled to Brighton as a disgrace by her evil father (presumably she is a disgrace for now being good enough to keep William Jones’ attention despite his being – ugh – a merchant), gets to meet a young student who turns out to have been William’s underclassman at school, and they bond, although I am pleased to see it doesn’t seem to be a rebound relationship – indeed, Eleanor seems to want to emulate him more than romance him. I also liked the chapter devoted to Tasha, the clumsy maid who befriended Emma, and her huge family that she goes home to visit.

Emma is always best when it evokes mood and shows us gorgeous things, and there’s a lot of that in this omnibus. And, of course, if you like William and Emma’s romance, you will be pleased as well. More side-stories follow in the final omnibus, including, I understand, an actual wedding, though it does take place several years after the main plot.

Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon?, Vol. 5

By Fujino Omori and Suzuhito Yasuda. Released in Japan as “Dungeon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatte Iru Darou ka?” by Softbank Creative. Released in North America by Yen On.

Well, I suppose I asked for it. In the last few reviews of this series I kept mentioning how the mechanics of the series meant that Hestia, the supposed female lead, kept getting less screen time than everyone else. Now we have a book where she actually comes along on a dungeon crawl in order to rescue Bell, and it’s sadly fairly cliched. She can’t use godly powers in there, so she’s useless in the fighting. She spends much of the time post-rescue jealous of the fact that every girl in the entire series has fallen in love with Bell (though honestly, I think what Aiz is feeling is deep jealousy of Bell’s progress, but that doesn’t matter to Hestia), *and* she gets kidnapped and has to be rescued.


The others fare better. Bell too needs to be rescued, but that’s not really his fault, and he, Welf and Lilly show off their excellent teamwork here. (Lilly also shows a lot of jealousy, but she’s more cynical and sarcastic about it, and thus appeals more to Western readers.) Bell’s reputation is starting to precede him, and much of this volume is devoted to the fact that if you are an overpowered character in what is for all intents and purposes an RPG, you’re going to have players assuming you’re cheating, or getting help, or just plain old “who does he think he is?”. And so we see the return of some old bullies from Book 2, who decide to teach Bell a lesson – and by that I mean beat the crap out of him. The trouble is, Bell is just too good for that to work.

The big debut this volume is Hermes, who’s the standard trickster god type, also out to teach Bell a lesson: stop being so naive and realize that some humans are bad people. This lesson does not work, because Bell is Bell, and this isn’t Black Bullet. Hermes is amusing, and I love the fact that everyone just accepts that he’s something of an asshole – indeed, when we get the standard “whoops, Bell is peeking on the girls at the hot spring, lol” scene, literally everyone there knows this isn’t something Bell would do, and blame Hermes instead. I was ecstatic to see that. He also lets the cat out of the bag about Bell’s ancestry, but honestly I think everyone had guessed that by now anyway.

For those who enjoy battles, the one in the last third of the book is very epic, with a huge cast of characters all teaming up to take out a nightmarish monster. Lyu, one of the waitresses from our favorite pub, gets a tragic backstory and a serious chance to show off. In fact, I’d argue the series has more women kicking ass than men by a large margin – which is partly for the service, but it’s also simply nice to see. In the ‘odd’ department, we meet one of the Japanese gods and his all-Japanese human team, who do well but feel out of place in this land of Greek fantasy archetypes. On the whole, though, it’s another strong volume, though I hope Hestia can get over her jealousy soon. (Yes, I know.) Also, we’ve now caught up with the anime, so the next book should be new to viewers.

The Irregular at Magic High School: Enrollment Arc, Part 1

By Tsutomu Sato and Kana Ishida. Released in Japan as “Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei” by ASCII Mediaworks. Released in North America by Yen On.

Sometimes, when I review a new series, I come into it relatively unspoiled beyond a basic premise. And then there are times where the series is somewhat infamous, and so I’m spoiled no matter what I do. The Irregular at Magic High School, aka Mahouka, is one of the latter. It’s become somewhat infamous on the internet for its immense volume of technobabble, for its bizarre and skewed views of world politics, but most of all for its hero, who tends to get even more flak than Kirito for being perfect in every way. The term “Mary Sue” has been used to incorrectly in recent times that it’s become meaningless, and “Gary Stu” was never really anything more than a desperate attempt to try to not look sexist. That said, one has to admit: Tatsuya’s pretty cool.


The basic premise is that our hero and his adoring sister (more on that later) go to a school for magic users. Miyuki is a magic prodigy. Tatsuya, while brilliant in every other way, does not have much in the way of actual magic power in him. As a result, which she’s handpicked for the student council and the freshman representative, he’s placed in Course 2 with the other students who have skills but not actual power behind them. And, this being a typical high school with typical teenagers, that means there’s a lot of bullying and prejudice against Course 2 students. Tatsuya, though, is not going to let a little thing like magic power stop him from using his analytic abilities and natural-born intelligence to be the best. Oh, and his martial arts. So he’s scouted by the discipline committee in order to help keep peace on the campus.

Tatsuya, thank goodness, is not your typical schlub light novel narrator. He’s somewhat stoic and emotionally stunted, and frequently has difficulty grasping the basic concept of people actually wanting to be friends with him – I suspect his past is filled with bad things. We already know he’s estranged from his parents. Luckily, he has a close relationship with his sister – too close, possibly, for many readers. There is a whole load of incestuous subtext in this first book, and it’s not all on Miyuki’s end, though she’s the largest supplier. This plot point, plus the fact that Tatsuya sometimes bends the narrative his way like he’s the star of a Dark!Grey!Independent Harry Potter fic, means the book can be hard to take. Oh, and the technobabble is just as bad as people said it would be.

There are some bright spots. Tatsuya’s narration can be quite amusing, and helps to define his character in much the same way that Kyon’s defines his – I wonder how much of his inner monologue was left in the anime. Mayumi, meanwhile, is a delight – my favorite character so far, a classic student council president type who knows she’s that type and plays it to the hilt. Tatsuya’s frank description of her as “evil” is hilarious but not inaccurate. In general, though, I think this series is one for those with a high tolerance for heroes who can do everything without breaking a sweat, and who don’t mind that the younger sister has an obvious crush on her brother. Yes, that does sound a bit like Sword Art Online as well, but multiply both of those factors by two in this case.