Outbreak Company, Vol. 5

By Ichiro Sakaki and Yuugen. Released in Japan by Kodansha. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Kevin Steinbach.

Every volume of Outbreak Company seems to begin trying its best to irritate me, I swear. It’s as if the creator has to present his bonafides before he gets into the meat of what he actually wants to do. Hence we begin with Shinichi, who has just been kidnapped by this world’s equivalent of Saudi Arabia or something similar, going on and on about moe fetishes for a bit, followed by his summarizing the entire plot for those readers who may have wanted to start with Book 5. That said, this book does show us, even more than usual, that Shinichi is very fond of these fetishes AS FICTION, and when they’re given to him in real life he is reasonably creeped out by them. And given that the entire premise of this book is basically “Shinichi has done the Eldant Empire so much good and now the entire female cast (who either love him or are at least good friends with him” proceed to rescue him:”, the reminder is needed. Shinichi is a model otaku – he can separate fiction and reality.

Myusel gets her second cover, and also pretty much separates herself from the harem pack here. We get a large chunk of the book narrated by her (out of necessity, as Shinichi’s been kidnapped), and her love and devotion to Shinichi is really impressive. As is her use of automatic weapons towards the climax, which given it gets two interstitial pieces of art may have been the excuse for the plot. At this point, if she’s not Best Girl by the end of the series I’ll be very surprised. Elvia too gets a lot to do here, given that it’s her country who has kidnapped Shinichi – we get to meet her sisters, and see how the family dynamic is. It honestly looks like it’s a good thing that Elvia was captured and stayed with the main cast. That said, it was rather startling how much she was treated as ‘evil spy’ at the start of the book given that she’s pretty much lazed around drawing and occasionally firing off soccer balls. No one forgets how she first arrived.

The plot itself is quite interesting. We’ve seen for the first four or so books Shinichi dealing with a very unequal world, where humans are the ‘norm’ and elves, dwarves, beastmen etc. are considered less than human. The core of the series has been showing that this is a bad thing. Now, however, we see Elvia’s country, whose king has set things up so that everything is equal – by force. People eat the same things, work the same jobs, are married in mass ceremonies to whoever the King picks out for them… it’s pretty damn appalling. Shinichi is supposedly kidnapped so that he can write something that will make the population of Bahairam love their king the way the magical girl movie made everyone love Petralka, and after wracking his brain and avoiding the obvious, he finally gives in. He can’t do it. Equality is important, but not at the cost of individuality.

Of course, all this may have been planned all along, and we see at the end that Shinichi’s idea of fixing things may be the smartest. Overall, though, this was a very good entry in the Outbreak Company series, and should appeal to those who enjoy it and don’t mind Shinichi occasionally leaping off of otaku cliffs.

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