Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers, Vol. 1

By Ishio Yamagata and Miyagi. Released in Japan by Shueisha. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Jennifer Ward.

(contains mild spoilers for the end of the novel, meaning I don’t use the guilty party’s name but still make it obvious who they are)

For a book that is supposed to be about the gathering of six warriors to traverse the country and defeat the evil demon lord, there’s surprisingly little fighting of demonic creatures in this first volume of Rokka (which is the one that was adapted into an anime). The reason for that is fairly simple; there’s actually seven brave warriors who show up, and thus one of them is a fake. What follows is pure mystery, as we spend time gathering clues, suspecting other people, and watching our hero get the ever-loving crap beaten out of him by the rest of the cast. Fortunately, as he tells us constantly, he’s the Strongest Man In The world, so he can take it. All of this, plus the series’ rather abstract art, makes it a nice change of pace in the ‘swords and dragons’ novels we’ve seen so much of in light novels lately.

Adlet is the aforementioned Strongest Man, and is very much your prototypical shonen manga protagonist, being filled with confidence, pluck and a burgeoning optimism. He is joined by an eccentric princess and her sullen bodyguard; a cheerful yet immoral child who can control Earth (think Toph but slightly evil); a serious-minded priestess; a big, seemingly goofy cat-eared assassin; and the girl on the cover, Fremy, who is stoic and suffering and also half-fiend, which makes her everyone’s natural suspect as the seventh evil Brave. She isn’t, of course, but she is a bundle of complexes, and seeing her and the eternally perky Adlet banter and flirt is one of the high points of this book. The action is also well-told, showing off everyone’s abilities and superhuman strength and endurance, though honestly Adlet’s endurance stretches disbelief a bit by the end.

If there’s a flaw in the book it’s the actual mystery itself. It wasn’t too obvious, at least not for me, but I don’t think we had enough development of the character for it to really make an impact, especially given that the character is supposed to be somewhat schizophrenic to begin with. (Actually, the ‘I am a gadfly with no real sense of how to actually behave’ made them my favorite character for a bit, though it goes away when everyone has to act seriously and track down the mole.) It’s unclear whether we’ll see them again, and the cliffhanger is very much a “The End… OR IS IT?” situation, as we get ANOTHER Brave showing up late meaning there’s ANOTHER mole among them. That promises to be the main plot of book 2.

But overall I enjoyed myself reading it, though at times the back and forth betrayal accusations can get to be a bit much. It’s a serious book, but not as dour as some other light novels in this genre; you don’t get the sense that their lives will be terrible forever, even though they’re going to battle the Evil God. If you enjoy light novel fantasies, especially ones that aren’t ‘sent from another world’ sorts, this should meet your expectations.

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