Torture Princess: Fremd Torturchen, Vol. 1

By Keishi Ayasato and Saki Ukai. Released in Japan as “Isekai Goumon Hime” by Media Factory. Released in North America Yen Press. Translated by Nathaniel Hiroshi Thrasher.

I do try not to be glib in my reviews too often, but I will admit it was tempting to have my entire review of this volume be “Loved the princess, hated the torture”. Honestly, it was a surprise to many people that I started this at all, given my wariness of overly dark and bloody titles. But I was on one of my “read the first volume of everything” kicks, so I worked my way through it. It was difficult at times, I will admit. The torture is no lie, and this isn’t even the pointless “torture them to get information” that you see in other, more annoying works. This is torture for the sake of gore, torture porn. Fortunately, the book also has three very distinct, likeable leads with expressive character voices and interesting through processes. I liked the way they went, and I want to see more of them. That said, it’s hard not to read this and think “the author wanted to write pages of torture description, so wrote a book around it”.

Kaito is a young man who has suffered at the hands of his abusive father his entire life, and finally is killed by said father. However, he ends up being transported to the land of the Torture Princess, Elisabeth Le Fanu. She brought him there to be her servant, and help (or at least watch) as she defeats thirteen demons and the people who have sold their souls to said demons. The demons enjoy torture and despair, and (seemingly) so does Elisabeth, so there’s an awful lot of it going on, and for a while the somewhat stoic Kaito is simply going with the flow. After a while, they also gain a robot maid, Hina (OK, a ball-jointed doll who is sentient maid, but for all intends and purposes she functions as a robot maid) with a devotion to Kaito that borders on the obsessive… well, OK, has moved into the obsessive and set up a knickknack shop there. Can they stop those contracted with demons from torturing innocents? Well, no. But they can at least punish them after the fact.

I will admit, I found Elisabeth, Kaito and Hina a lot of fun. Despite her name, Elisabeth is not a vampire, but she shares some of the same character traits, and the relationship between her and Kaito reminded me at times of Shinobu and Araragi from the Monogatari series. Kaito is snarky but not too much so, and most of this first book is seeing him regain a desire to actually find happiness and a purpose in life. And cliched as Hina is, she’s also hilarious and fun… and also provides the heart of the book, right near the end. It’s a good solid basis for a series. That said, dear sweet merciful Christ, after a while you will start flipping pages as you read about people lying in various bits, or having limbs chopped off, or being staked by demon crows, or… it almost went beyond exhausting to boring. It fits the florid Elisabeth’s Grand Guignol style, but that does mean that this is a book I can recommend only to the strong of stomach.

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