My Alcoholic Escape from Reality

By Nagata Kabi. Released in Japan as “Genjitsu Touhi Shitetara Boroboro ni Natta Hanashi ” by East Press, serialized in Matogrosso. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Jocelyne Allen. Adapted by Lianne Sentar.

If you have read the previous volumes of Nagata Kabi’s biographical examination of her past struggles, seeing the title and the cover art for this new book probably makes you think “Oh no.” But yes, once again life is not as simple as it seems, and recovery can be a path you walk on that might just lead you to a different wrong path. After dealing with mental and emotional struggles in My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness and My Solo Exchange Diary, and resolving to stop writing memoir-style manga (as she worries it makes her family and friends upset, which it does to an extent), a combination of adjusting to a lot of new medication and a lack of inspiration for fictional manga ideas have led her to stop by the ten bars that are between her house and the nearest station. The result? After intense stomach pain, she goes to the hospital to find she has acute pancreatitis – her reading is TEN TIMES what it should be. And so… she’s admitted to the hospital.

This takes place over a more compressed period of time than the previous volumes, focused very specifically on this point in her life. As you can imagine, a lot of it makes for uncomfortable reading, and going cold turkey on alcohol and fatty foods proves to be far more challenging than anyone can imagine. There’s also some excellent examination of medications and painkillers – the side effects that they can cause, the differences between them, and the depressing realization that some of these may need to be taken for the rest of her life. The hospital staff are very nice, but also seem to be nice in that “I am not personally involved with you” way, so it can come across ass a bit callous at times. There’s also a great discussion of alcoholism just before she’s discharged, as the doctor talking to her notes “Japanese people see alcohol as alcohol” – in other words, not as a drug, or something that could lead to alcoholism.

The other great part of this book is showing us Nagata Kabi’s determination to create new work, and how this can get so frustrating that, well, she can end up drinking herself into the hospital. Good things are happening to her – while there, she finds out that My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness won the Harvey Award – but this does not necessarily translate into ongoing creativity, as she has four partially completed projects with four different publishers, none of which are nearing completion. She’s also feeling tremendous guilt over how others are seeing her memoirs – not just her family, but a manga that she enjoys reading where the protagonist is told “don’t write about our life”. The trouble is… that’s what she excels at. A manga friend of hers urges her to stop pushing her brain to do things it doesn’t want to do and continue writing autobiographical memoirs. Even if it can be painful for all involved.

This is hopefully not the last we see from the author – a new memoir was just published in Japan three months ago. As with other books by this author, it can be difficult to read. But I enjoyed its look at struggling to accept that the body can crumble just as much as the mind can, and that recovery can be just as hard.

ROLL OVER AND DIE: I Will Fight for an Ordinary Life with My Love and Cursed Sword!, Vol. 3

By kiki and kinta. Released in Japan as “Omae Gotoki ga Maou ni Kateru to Omou na to Gachizei ni Yuusha Party wo Tsuihou Sareta node, Outo de Kimama ni Kurashitai” by GC Novels. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Jason Muell. Adapted by Brock Wassman.

If anyone had “zombie apocalypse” on your Roll Over and Die bingo card, well, congratulations. I can’t really be surprised, as not only is this series far more comfortable with being a horror book than a yuri book, but it’s several different types of horror book as well. That said, the undercurrent of the entire series is “we need to fix all this so we can live a peaceful happy life”, and, especially here, we are told that getting a peaceful and happy life does not mean sticking your head in the sand. Milkit has a quote that sums it up: “This world has no shortage of people willing to drag others down to make themselves feel superior and in control,” said Milkit. “The moment you accept that you can’t get away, you let them win.” This book is about not letting them win. Not that it’s a total victory, though…

Pictured on the cover are Gadhio, formerly of the Hero’s party, and his wife Tia. If he seems a bit less than happy, it’s because Tia’s been dead for the last six years. After Milkit gets kidnapped AGAIN, Flum discovers that the culprit is Milkit’s old master, the one who damaged her face and is in general one of the worst people in this book (and that’s saying something). Unfortunately, after Flum gets her brutal revenge and takes Milkit back, they discover that the dead are returning to life. Not just Milkit’s old master, either, but Gadhio’s wife and even Eterna’s adopted family have returned from the dead. They seem real… mostly? They’re being very friendly? But how much can this be trusted, especially since it seems to be part of a plot by the Church?

As with previous books in the series, this volume features a lot of body horror, brutal killings, and bad things happening to both good and bad people. There’s graphic descriptions of torture, and while there are fewer main characters dead than I had expected when I started, in the end surviving is about all our heroes really achieved. At the same time, of course, there are a few really sugary sweet yuri scenes sprinkled throughout (primarily Flum and Milkit, though there’s also some suggestive stuff between Ink and Eterna which I am far less comfortable with.) Milkit here decides that what she’s feeling for Flum is definitely love. Flum likely feels the same, but both of them are too shy, and possibly a bit too broken, to have it be much more than “we just want to be at each other’s side”. That said, I am appreciative of these scenes, as without them this book would be too dark to even read at all.

The Hero’s Party was also in this book, and things appear to be going very badly for them, as two are evil and two are likely going to be forced into evil. The next book in the series has Cyril on the cover, so I suspect we may see even more of them next time. Till then, this is still well-written and compelling, but save it for when you have a strong stomach.

Invaders of the Rokujouma!?, Vol. 36

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

I’ve mentioned this a few times before, but Rokujouma frequently has to walk a bit of a high wire, especially in the books that take place after the “ending” we saw in Vol. 29. The author still clearly wants to write more and more stories, and does not want to wrap things up quickly. At the same time, one of the joys of this series has been seeing the characters gradually grow and mature, and as such we don’t want to see them all static either. This new volume is particularly good at keeping that balance, especially for our two resident magical girls, Maki and Yurika. Maki’s past, both as an orphan sold into slavery and as a member of Darkness Rainbow, still tends to guide her actions. Meanwhile, Yurika’s self-pity sometimes verges into self-loathing, so much so that she can’t honestly see how impressed everyone is with her. The best way to resolve both of these things is to head off to Folsaria, Maki’s homeland. And who knows, maybe we can tie into the other ongoing plot while we’re at it.

We pick up where we left off, as Ralgwin has gotten away, though he does not seem to be starting anything major from somewhere else. This allows them to focus on Maki, who has been invited to join Rainbow Heart after recommendations from both Nana and Yurika. Maki certainly has the magic for it… and she’s got the “heart” as well. But can she really become one of the good magical girls after being a literal terrorist just a year or so ago? She gets a provisional task she must complete: investigate the disappearance of several men from a part of the city. This leads her not only to the home where she was born (now a ruined building), but also to a graveyard containing something that’s a lot bigger than just missing people. Can Maki rally together with all of her friends and family and save Folsaria from a hideous disaster?

I was talking about balancing character development with a certain static point, and something in the narrative really showed that off to me: when they arrive at Rainbow Heart headquarters, Yurika is given a letter explaining that all of her debt has finally been paid. Folsaria is a magical land, and Yurika should have been getting a salary, particularly given how much nof a prodigy she was. But apparently she destroyed a factory when her magic went out of control… and it was on her own time, not during work. So her wages were garnished forever to pay for it. Yurika, however, is not delighted by this at all. She fears that if she’s no longer a freeloader Koutarou will abandon her. What surprised me is that there’s no snapback at the end of the book. I was sure Yurika would end up reincurring a large debt. But no. And she’s even able to continue living frugally (so far). It’s really impressive, both for her and the author, not to fall into old habits.

Apologies to Maki, as I spent most of her book talking about Yurika. But Maki is awesome here too, gets to resolve many conflicted feelings, and becomes a real heroine at last, with a paycheck and everything. Unfortunately… the villains kinda win here. We’ll see what happens next, I guess.