Outbreak Company: Gaiden

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 book feels like an apology, frankly. I was very grumpy with the final volume of the series, and judging by some of the reviews I saw on Amazon Japan, fans of the series there were also unhappy. So now we get the “Gaiden”, or “Side Story”, volume of the series, the actual final volume, and it feels like it’s giving fans what they wanted all along. Well, at least the first half is. The second half of the series is there to highlight Minori, who has always been the least developed character in the series (insert joke about her breast size here), but this final chapter allows us to see a BIT more into her inner psyche and how she really feels about things. Unfortunately, it’s still Outbreak Company, and she’s still Minori, so in the end the plot cannot quiet thread the serious needle and goes back to its running gag. But it tried. The first half of the book does a better job, and uses “fantasy world” as a way to resolve the love interests.

After the events of the final volume (minus the epilogue, which is thankfully ignored), Shinichi returns to the castle… to find Petralka announcing that she’s marrying him, and the wedding will be as soon as possible. Given that he struggled to make a choice and chose Myusel, he’s a little pole-axed by this. The nobility doesn’t like it either… and might also be the reason Petralka is pushing things. After this, we see the secondary pairing, as Hikaru very publicly confesses to Elvia… who still loves Shinichi, and is not really sure how romance works to begin with. A lot of awkwardness follows. Finally, a suitor arrives to marry Garius whether he likes it or not, despite his sexual preferences. Can he find a replacement? And what are BL lover Minori’s thoughts on all this?

Gonna be honest, even though I felt the book was trying to “fix” the last book, it only partly succeeds. The first chapter works best, being Shinichi focused, and with a good intrigue sideplot. I don’t mind the polycule resolution, and obviously the three of them don’t mind it either, though that’s more because we’ve seen it a LOT more in recent light novels. The Hikaru and Elvia story is hampered (as is the Minori story) by multiple narrators, and it’s not always clear who’s meant to be our POV until several paragraphs in. It also feels a bit too quickly resolved. As for the Minori story, as with a number of stories focusing on her in this series, it looks like it’s going to finally be serious and sober, and then heads down into BL alley again. Which is fine, it’s her gag. It just felt a bit too jokey for me. And the treatment of trans and gay issues is… attempted, I will grant you.

So a side story that’s highly variable, which I’m OK with because it’s a side story. A must read for Petralka fans, but for the rest of us it’s another reminder that this series was excellent and annoying in just about equal measure.

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