Outbreak Company, Vol. 18

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

(This review discusses the ending of the series, so spoilers abound.)

OK, I’ve calmed down now. When I first finished this volume, the final one in the Outbreak Company series (let’s leave Gaiden aside for the moment), I was a little upset. The book ended up going in a couple of unexpected directions that threw me for a loop, which the author seems to specialize in – Bluesteel Blasphemer did the same thing. Unlike Bluesteel Blasphemer, I was able to finish this series and do recommend it, though I’m tempted to tell people to simply skip the epilogue. In the end, this book is a political one, and who Shinichi chooses (which is pretty obvious by now anyway) takes a backseat to the hyperspace tunnels, the damage they’re doing to Japan, and the fact that closing them has become complicated by the presence of the US Navy and Marines, who are looking at a fantasy world with technology beyond anything they have and getting very sinister ideas.

The J-Novel Club Forums discuss the novels as they come out, and there was some discussion of how realistically the United States military was in this book, which seems to portray them most of the time as arrogant, cartoon bad guys. The folks who said “nope, no issues, it’s 100% realistic” in the comments were in fact ex-military, so there you go, then. They quickly decide to make the most of being in Eldasnt by taking over everything, threatening Shinichi repeatedly (as he and Theresa can control the Dragon’s Den) to give them power, and then going so far as to become “advisors” to a terrorist group that kidnaps Patralka and holds her hostage, meaning the series is ending much the same way it begun. That said, in these modern times, Americans being power-mad psychos is not something all too surprising, though the treatment of Theresa, who is murdered repeatedly to keep her down, is disturbing and creepy.

In the end, things are taken care of, and we end up where we’ve been for a couple of books now: are the main cast returning to Japan or staying in Eldant, and who is Shinichi in love with? The answer to Question 2 is obvious, as if the cover didn’t already tell you, but suffice to say getting him to say the words is like pulling teeth. As for their decision to stay or go, it’s not what I’d heard (showing to never trust spoilers on the Internet), but it fits the series pretty well, and leads to a nice, sweet, relatively happy ending… until you get to the epilogue, showing a future Japan is a dystopia where BL doujinshi is punishable by death. (It’s also a Japan that’s been essentially taken over by China with the US’s help, which… let’s not go there.) I suppose it’s meant to show that the struggle for otaku lifestyle will always go on no matter where or when, and also that our heroes will be there to be on the side of the otaku, but it really did not work for me. I’d have preferred the next-gen that the author rejected (as he says in the afterword).

That said, me liking certain things and really disliking other things is par for the course for Outbreak Company, a series that has always worn its heart on its sleeve, sometimes to a truly horrifying degree. I wish Shinichi and Myusel luck, and feel bad for Petralka, who (as the author admits) just wasn’t in a role that allowed her to do a lot.

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