An Archdemon’s Dilemma: How to Love Your Elf Bride, Vol. 4

By Fuminori Teshima and COMTA. Released in Japan by Hobby Japan. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Hikoki.

De-aging characters is an old and honored narrative tradition, usually used to show how characters who are currently emotionally broken/closed off were adorable little sweeties when they were kids. And that’s exactly what happens here, as during a visit to her abandoned hometown, Nephy runs afoul of a mystery villain and is turned back into a five-year-old girl. Much of this is played for comedy, as you might expect – Nephy as a child is “adowable”, and when you combine the effect with Foll as a “big sister” and Gremory, who has shown that she can not only turn into a young woman but also a little kid, the “cuteness” factor is overwhelming, especially to Zagan. That said, there’s a serious point being made here: Nephy was once a sweet and optimistic child, and years of abuse at the hands of everyone she knew made her emotionally dead. It’s why Zagan ends up wanting to burn the entire town to the ground as a sort of belated revenge.

The main cast continues to increase. Nephteros returning is not really a surprise, but we also see Gremory and Kimaris, the two most visible sorcerers from the previous book, stick around. Nephteros is mostly there to be a grumpy tsundere, which she excels at. It does make you wonder about Chastille, whose role that was originally supposed to be but it quickly went off the rails when the author realized that he just liked her freaking out and crying all the time. That said, the author has realized this and actively points it out in this book, where Zagan sees Chastille “on the job”, so to speak, and she’s revealed to be quite competent and analytical. This is mostly used for comedy, with Zagan repeatedly asking why she can’t just be like that all the time, but is a semi-serious attempt to do something with her. There’s also one or two hints of ship tease with her and Barbatos, which might end up going somewhere, because lord knows she’s not getting anywhere with Zagan.

Elf Bride is not meant to be a harem book, I think, despite the increasing number of women in the cast. Age4 regression or no (and thankfully Nephy is treated purely as a little girl when she is a little girl), Zagan and Nephy are both over the moon for each other, and the only thing holding them back has been their awkward personalities. Seeing what Nephy had to go through as a child has galvanized Zagan, though, and the two finally confess to each other in a scene that would be the most heartwarming in the book if it weren’t for the rest of the cast watching and undercutting it. As to whether this will lead to them going any further romance-wise in future books… I doubt it, somehow. This kind of series runs on adorable.

The cliffhanger implies that next volume will focus once more on Nephy’s dark twin, who’s rapidly coming to be a second protagonist, possibly as she has a more varied emotional response than our favorite repressed elf. I look forward to seeing what happens.

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