Altina the Sword Princess, Vol. 14

By Yukiya Murasaki and himesuz. Released in Japan as “Haken no Kouki Altina” by Famitsu Bunko. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Roy Nukia.

Nothing annoys English-speaking fans quite so much as a series they’re enjoying being unfinished in Japan, and their usual logic is to blame the publisher for not being told that it wasn’t going to continue. This is, of course, nonsense. In regards to this particular series, it was very popular in Japan, its 14th volume had come out only 10 months earlier, and the author was also riding another hit with the How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord series. It looked like a great license, and it is. I’ve enjoyed this series a great deal. It’s fun, has great military strategy and battle scenes, likeable leads with a tinge of romance to them (but not too much), and each volume is pretty short, which, trust me, is a plus for me these days. Unfortunately, Both the American and Japanese publishers are still at the mercy of one thing: the author actually writing more of the book. And it’s been almost four years since the last volume. Hope it doesn’t have a nasty cliffhanger… oops.

We pick up where we left off last time, with Altina and Regis going to war against Spain (or rather Hispania). For the most part, things have been going fairly well, even though both Regis and Altina have had to deal with the fact that they can’t do battles with no fatalities anymore. Indeed, they even have the spare time to debate the nature of Altina’s pacifism, and how, while Regis supports her ideals, he realizes that they are, in fact, idealistic, and no not take into account human nature. That said, he has a bigger problem, as it turns out Hispania has its own eccentric strategist, and she’s just as good if not better than Regis – and seems to lack his moral scruples. With our heroes on the verge of victory, will the price they pay be the life of their chief strategist?

The mental battle between Regis and Mariam, Hispania’s secret strategist, is the best reason to read this book. It’s not the first time we’ve seen Regis pressured and doubting himself, but it has more impact now that he and Altina have come so far. He almost calls off his plan, except that his soldiers have already enacted it – and, fortunately for him, it works really well. Unfortunately, as I said, Mariam is every bit his equal. And I mean that in both strategy and being a weirdo. Not her muteness, of course, though I admire her writing speed. No, I mean that she doesn’t really care if her nightgown is riding up, or whether people think of her as a noble lady, or even whether she commits treason on paper. She’s the distaff Regis in every way except for the final few pages, where she does something that Regis wouldn’t have. I’d say it played on the religious fervor of the Hispanians… but that didn’t really seem to be a factor for the strategists.

And yeah, that’s a nasty cliffhanger, as this book came out in September 2018, and there haven’t been any more since. You could blame the even more popular How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord… but that last had a volume a year ago. When you read a writer’s story, you have to depend on the writer to write it. Let’s hope he gets back to it soon.

Adachi and Shimamura, Vol. 9

By Hitoma Iruma and Non. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Molly Lee.

The self-improvement of Shimamura continues in this volume, following up from the last one. We see Shimamura reflecting on her past self and her tendency to deliberately forget about everyone around her, o the point where it’s an active choice. But now she has Adachi in her life and as her girlfriend. The trouble is, as Adachi points out to her here, she’s very hard to read. Shimamura tends to have one mode, which is “whatever”, and when you are a stressed and insecure young lesbian like Adachi, that just makes you think that the relationship is entirely one-sided. And credit to Shimamura, she really tries hard here, even using the word love to show Adachi how serious she is. Admittedly their relationship has not really progressed beyond holding hands, but given the two participants and their emotional ages that’s not only unsurprising but likely a good thing. I hope future books will show us Adachi’s self-improvement as well. As for Yashiro… she is perpetually the same.

After Shimamura tells a curious Yashiro about her junior high years of rebellion (which consisted of skipping class and not much else), we get the meat of the first half of the book, which is telling us a bit about Hino and Nagafuji’s childhood. This comes up because Hino’s father, who is not the best at communicating, tells her she isn’t important to the family legacy. Hino, who is thirteen in this flashback, does not really take this well (though, as is fairly typical with this author’s works, a lot of the emotional turmoil is left for the reader to fill in themselves) and decides to run away from home. After getting permission. And also taking her maid. And Nagafuji. The second half of the book is Christmas, and shows us an adorable date between our lead couple, Adachi breaking out the Chinese-style dress again, and Christmas dinner at the Shimamuras with a surprise guest, which may carry over into the next book.

This is the final volume with illustrations by Non, who I believe had been ill, and the illustrations are mostly ones used from other promotional materials – there are no interior ones. Which is a shame, but also allows us to see the pasts of most of the main cast without having to see them attempted as “3 years younger”. The Hino and Nagafuji stuff was good, though Hino’s narration works far better (and is far longer) than Nagafuji’s. It’s also implied that her parents have a marriage of convenience and that her mother and head maid are childhood friends with benefits. It’s heavily implied this is what Hino could have with Nagafuji too, though the idea of Nagafuji as a maid is horrifying. The other interesting part of the book is the relationship between the two moms. Mrs. Adachi reads very much like her daughter only cynical and bitter, and Shimamura likewise has her daughter’s “well, whatever” mood only extroverted to the nth degree. It’s kind of fun.

This wasn’t terrific, but is at least solid, even if it read a bit like a short story collection at times. The best parts were Shimamura’s forwardness. We’ll see if she can keep that up.

Suppose a Kid from the Last Dungeon Boonies Moved to a Starter Town, Vol. 9

By Toshio Satou and Nao Watanuki. Released in Japan as “Tatoeba Last Dungeon Mae no Mura no Shonen ga Joban no Machi de Kurasu Youna Monogatari” by GA Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Andrew Cunningham.

Last time I mentioned that the series had an actual plot in among all the comedy, and we still see some of that here as well. But its never going to get in the way of the comedy itself, and honestly is likely never going to be the main part of the book unless the series finally comes to an end. As for the actual plot of this book… why, it’s a school festival with a maid cafe, of course. Honestly, I feel that a lot of these books can be summed up by the author flicking through TV channels, landing on some random anime, going “A ha, that’s it!” and moving back to the computer. The fact that the book even tries to justify it only makes it funnier. Add to this a master thief who has reckoned without our dumbass heroes and a king who can’t convince anyone he’s been kidnapped, and there’s no worries on the laugh front.

So yes, a maid cafe. Well, theoretically a maid/butler cafe, but the butler uniforms are stolen for no real reason other than to stick Lloyd and Allan in maid outfits. The idea is mostly Riho’s, thinking she can get some cash for once (which is true, but don’t expect it to stick). The king, meanwhile, wants to put out a huge statue that supposedly grants good fortune to couples who stand next to it. There’s just one problem: the statue’s creator really really does not want it to be shown off, and will happily steal the whole thing to prevent that happening. Oh yes, and there’s a master thief around, though whether he is connected to the missing statue is neither here nor there. What this all amounts to is a lot of school festival schtick and a lot of Lloyd going on not-dates with his two most aggressive girls.

In the two volumes before this, we saw Lloyd get actual character development that stuck, as he has started to realize, if not that he is stronger than everyone else in the world, art least that he IS strong. What’s more, he’s finally showing off that strength in front of people who are NOT the main cast, which means that credit for saving the day, for once, does not go to Allan. Who, frankly, has enough to deal with, given his wife ends up returning and working for the military. Lloyd, meanwhile, is starting to think about his future, not realizing that everyone else already has it planned out for him: military PR, military intelligence, military security, or hell, just marry into royalty. (Marie’s not in the book much at all, but still tends to be top girl by default whenever she’s around, and at least the King now knows who she’s crushing on.)

This is deeply sill, but in a good way, and I look forward to the plot of the next book, which will no doubt be inspired by a refrigerator magnet the author saw the other day.