Outbreak Company, Vol. 17

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

One thing that has always remained reliably on brand about this series is how all in it goes on its otaku evangelism. The author is clearly just as bad if not worse than his lead character, and it shows, as the books are littered with references to anime, manga, books, films, games, etc. And what’s more, this is shown in a (mostly) very positive light, with people who would otherwise be indifferent to if not hate each other bonding over their shared obsessions. This particular volume seems to really lay the references on thick – it trusts that readers will not only know what Area 88 is, but also buy into the extended Star Wars riff that comes at the climax of the book. It even affects the plot, as the Americans who show up in Eldant towards the end are somewhat stunned to see the princess swearing at them, as she’s quoting the cliched stock American from Japanese media. That said, the guys who show up in Eldant very much DO feel like stock characters – Outbreak Company is not only a huge fan of cliches, it’s also a client.

We pick up where the last book left off, after a brief prologue from the POV of Shinichi’s family showing how things are going back in Japan. Not well. The hyperspace tunnel is starting to really go to pieces, which is leading to lots of natural disasters. As such, Japan has decided to punt, and tells Shinichi and company they’re pulling out of Eldant in five days. Needless to say, the cast are varying levels of upset by this – Minori is pretty cool with just going back, Hikaru suddenly realizes his own feelings for someone else in the cast, and of course Shinichi is still waffling about what love really is and if he’s in it with anyone. If he stays behind, lacking any ability to either import or create anime and manga, isn’t he just useless? If he takes a girl back with him to Japan, won’t they just be captured and experimented on? And then suddenly the USS Nimitz appears on top of a forest in rival nation Bahairam, and everything gets blown to hell.

As is typical of this series, Shinichi can be thick or clever when the situation demands it, as with his being unable to understand why Petralka seems to be OK with him leaving forever, missing the subtleties of her response as well as her own true feelings. We’ve still got one volume to go, and it’s possible that he won’t pick anyone, but I’d still lay odds on Myusel, who also has a bit of a love revelation in this book. As for the subplot, it’s basically pure action movie – the book makes many references to the 1980 movie The Final Countdown, as our heroes have to infiltrate Bahairam – again – and try to stop the war breaking out between their country, already upset about losing the Dragons Den, and some very jumpy naval officers. Can Shinichi talk everyone down? Can they figure out how to return a battle carrier to its proper place in the world? And can we actually get anyone to confess their love at all without being under the influence?

The next volume is the last, though there’s also a short story collection that I’m not sure is licensed. Fans of the series should enjoy it, though I suspect, like me, they’re happy it’s finally drawing to a close.

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