The Apothecary Diaries, Vol. 9

By Natsu Hyuuga and Touko Shino. Released in Japan as “Kusuriya no Hitorigoto” by Hero Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Kevin Steinbach.

I may not mention it often in these reviews, possibly as I’m distracted by all the crime solving, political dealings, and Maomao slowly learning that she can rely on others for things, but The Apothecary Diaries can also be a comedy, and it has some very, very good jokes. This is possibly the funniest volume of all, featuring a new character (we’d seen her a bit before, but she’s in full flower here) who is here solely to be hilarious, and it works. Honestly, some of the humor is fourth wall breaking to an extent, be it Chue pulling little flags of the nations out of her sleeves (I hope we see some doves or rabbits next book) or En’en pulling out fans with “:Go for it, Yao!” written on them to cheer her on when she’s trying to earnestly get her point across. Unfortunately for Yao and En’en, we may not see them for a volume or two, as The Apothecary Diaries is going on a world tour.

After the stunning events of the last volume, Maomao is now being forced to learn surgery on the fly in order to tend to Jinshi’s brand and make sure that it doesn’t get infected. This will require more knowledge than she has, so she’s forced to go to her adopted father, who presents her with an impossible problem to solve… well, it would be impossible for Maomao by herself, as she doesn’t care about things that don’t interest her, but with Yao and En’en also there, she’s able to discover it (and learn more about Luomen’s somewhat tragic past). Now she’s learning how to be a surgeon the hard way, especially since women aren’t allowed to be surgeons, but everyone is politely ignoring it given who her father is, who her adopted father is, and who her not-yet-lover is. All of this is to prepare for a sea voyage, as Jinshi is being sent to the West to see what’s going on with Gyokuyou’s older brother.

It has to be said, a lot of the appeal of this series is “weak-willed men are led around by the nose of strong women”, and if you like that, this is also the volume for you. Basen’s older brother Baryou is so ill and apathetic that Chue basically has to “do all the work” in order to get a child (and she’s being asked for a second one, so asks Maomao not to bother her at night). As for Jinshi, he and Maomao are sort of being cagey around each other after the last book, and it lasts until the end of this one, when Maomao finally snaps and tells Jinshi that if he’s going to be so manipulative that he brands himself to get her to stay with him, the least he can do is actually manipulate her properly, rather than being half-assed about it. Jinshi’s response to this is that he wants her to slap him, which is a bit too masochistic for my tastes, but certainly fits his character.

I didn’t even get to talk about Yao, who is fantastic in this book, though I fear she’s going to be a lot less happy because she lacks Maomao’s connections. In any case, this is a good read, especially if you’re waiting for the anime to debut later this week.

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