Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 10

By Nozomu Mochitsuki and Gilse. Released in Japan as “Tearmoon Teikoku Monogatari” by TO Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Madeleine Willette.

This volume starts off with something we have rarely seen in this series: the actual beginning of a new story arc. For some reason or another, the author and publisher of this title are very bad at making climaxes in this series happen at the end of the volume itself, so we have the next book start with the climax instead or an epilogue chapter rather than the next arc. But here, at last, we start off with something new: Mia, Rafina, and company headed off to Equestria, there to meet up with the chiefs who make up that nomadic people. Or at least, they are until Mia and Rafina, our for a ride, are beset by bandits. The head of the bandits turns out to be the daughter of one of the tribe leader, and there’s a good reason that her people are reduced to this: a poor harvest means they’re hard up for food. Something that Mia understands all too well…

I’ve been complaining about the narrator for a while now, so it’s time I turned around and mentioned the points where I do appreciate it. The manga doesn’t really use a narrator, making Mia far more sympathetic, but the new anime adaptation (which so far is excellent) is definitely playing it up. It was a highlight of the early books, but grew a bit wearying as we began to see Mia genuinely growing as a person. Where it works best in this book is when it’s looking at everyone else’s thoughts – seeing Ludwig or Rafina staring at Mia talking about what is inevitably food, and thinking that this is the point when they realize that she’s not a great sage but a massive faker… and then they leap to a different conclusion to support their own love for Mia, and the narrator is disappointed once more. This is funny as hell.

Bel, as always, gets little to to in this volume, but for a change what she does get is fantastic. We haven’t paid quite as much attention to her past… which is to say, the Bad Future #3… in a while, but that does not mean that she isn’t constantly dwelling on it, especially given that her entire existence is something of a secret. But now she’s best friends with Citrina, and may finally be able to reach out and make promises without getting her hopes dashed by everyone promising to come back and then dying on her. (There is some mild subtext between her and Citrina, which I’m content to ignore, partly as they’re both 10 and partly as I’m sure it’s unintentional, but…) She also says she’s going to tell Citrina about her secrets when they get back to the Empire, which should be very interesting if it happens, and might be the start of a new arc.

But first we have to end this arc, which of course does not neatly wrap up here. Is Abel’s sister irredeemably evil? Can Mia possibly win a horse race riding a horse the narrator repeatedly compares to Mia herself? And did we just see the start of a Rafina x Malong ship? The next book is… for once, not that far away! Also, go watch the anime.

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