Banished from the Hero’s Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside, Vol. 8

By Zappon and Yasumo. Released in Japan as “Shin no Nakama ja Nai to Yuusha no Party wo Oidasaretanode, Henkyou de Slow Life Surukoto ni Shimashita” by Kadokawa Sneaker Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Dale DeLucia.

The main thrust of this series is supposed to be the quiet life, but of course we also need to kickstart the next arc, which is basically “the new hero is broken”, and so this volume tries to have it both ways, with half the book being Red, Rit and Ruti on vacation doing things like making curry for the first time, or doing emergency appendectomies. The other half shows us the new hero’s party, and his arrival in Zoltan and interaction with the cast that remain in that sleepy town. Unfortunately, this created the main issue I have with this book, which is that the dissonance between the two plotlines is too great. I was unable to enjoy Red’s mountain vacation because I kept waiting for the evil things to start happening, and it put me on edge in a way I was not particularly fond of. Slow Life is there to be enjoyed, after all.

The start of the book is definitely in Slow Life mode, as Danan has recovered from his injuries and wants to celebrate by fighting Red in a spar, mostly to make sure Red hasn’t lost his edge by retiring to this backwater town. While this is happening, the Hero’s Party advances towards Zoltan, and we get a good look at Van, the new Hero. One gets the sense that The Gods were a bit annoyed with Ruti’s pesky ethics and morals, as Van does not have any of those. Hero is a job, and his only goal. Saving people is not part of that goal, nor is even being nice to them. Their job, according to him, is to battle the demon lord and die. And, in Zoltan, he finds an entire town full of people who don’t want anything to do with the battle against the demon lord. Uh-oh.

There was an interesting prologue to this book, showing the villain of the previous arc, Leonor, being shown the future that “should” have been, where she feels remorse at the end. (Said future also has Gideon being dead, and I get the sense that is what God wants more than anything else.) Leonor’s reaction is to basically say “fuck your redemption” and refuse to repent for anything. I respected that. But yes, “we have to kill God” definitely looks like it’s going to be the endgame of the series at the rate we’re going. Van is frankly terrifying and difficult to read, he makes your skin crawl. On the bright side, I continue to enjoy the author making Mister Crawly Wawly a genuine supporting character in this book, getting his own dynamic entrances and moments where he saves the day. In any other series he would be the adorable spider mascot there to show Tisse is a bit weird, here he helps humanize Tisse, who’s still probably my favorite character.

I would love to see more relaxed slow life stuff next time, but that’s not going to happen. Van vs. Ruti, coming soon. I just hope I can plow through it.

The Executioner and Her Way of Life: A Casket of Salt

By Mato Sato and nilitsu. Released in Japan as “Shokei Shoujo no Virgin Road” by GA Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jenny McKeon.

You will pardon me if I am just a bit exhausted after reading this volume of the series. It consists entirely of payoff, which makes the plot more interesting, but also means that we don’t really get to relax and take in anything. And, frankly, we’re still inhibited by the actual writing. The anime was quite successful when it was released, and I think it showed off that the ideas and concepts in this series work best when they’re taken away from the author’s control. This book is a slog, no mistaking it, and while I realize some of that is simply because the events in it are unrelentingly grim that’s not the only reason. It doesn’t help that I get the feeling this series was supposed to end with this book (and Flare’s plan), but the upcoming anime had the publisher tell the author “we need to extend the series, can you make everything worse instead?”.

This book is about the battle between Menou/Akari and Flare, and it does not need supporting characters getting in the way, so Ashuna quickly departs (after confirming what we all knew already, that it’s Momo she’s really into). As for Momo herself, she falls for a fairly obvious trap and spends most of the book in a literal cage. This is not to say that Menou and Akari are getting all the cool and awesome things to do, though Menou does pretty well. Unfortunately, the new character from last volume has shown up, and she is absolutely the new antagonist and wants to let you know it by removing Akari from the board. The one thing that Menou has been trying to avoid this entire time has now happened, and what’s worse, she’s not a wanted traitor. Can she possibly find a way to set things right?

It’s hard to talk about this book without spoiling everything (as you can see by that awkward paragraph above), but I do want to say that a lot of the ideas and themes here are really good. We finally get revelations about Menou’s past, as well as Akari’s past, and they fit thematically. Everything about the Pandaemonium subplot was fantastic, and almost made me have an emotion. That’s probably the part of the series I look forward to seeing most in the next book. There’s generational stuff here, as we see the relationship back in the day between Flare and one of her isekai’d victims was similar to Menou and Akari’s. An anime of this would probably kill. It’s just… it all feels so flat on the page. I kept checking to see how long it had to go. The author’s writing has no style, no pep, no verve.

There’s enough here for me to grudgingly continue, if only to see if Ashuna can actually do something next time. But for the average reader wanting to see what comes next, I recommend waiting for a Season 2 of the anime.

Rascal Does Not Dream of a Lost Singer

By Hajime Kamoshida and Keji Mizoguchi. Released in Japan as “Seishun Buta Yarou wa Mayoeru Singer no Yume wo Minai” by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Andrew Cunningham.

As we hit double digit volumes for this series, and we start what is basically “Rascal: The College Years”, it’s probably a good time to ask ourselves what we really want out of the series. Let’s face it, I’d be perfectly happy just watching Sakuta interact with the rest of the cast, no plot or dangerous supernatural phenomenon needed. Add in 40-50 pages of descriptions of subway stations, which is about the average with this series, and you could say that we don’t NEED the main premise of the series anymore. The main cast, for the most part, has accepted their past and trauma, and made a good effort at moving on. Sakuta and Mai are adults in college, and even Kaede will probably be graduating soon. There’s no NEED for what has been termed “Adolescence Syndrome”. And so, until the last page of the book, I assumed that this was the point of this volume. That the problems Uzuki had were totally normal.

You can sum up the plot of this volume as follows: “What measure is a non-airhead?”. Sakuta and Mai are now at college, and living the blissful couple life (well, except they barely see each other due to her job). He’s also tutoring two students from his old high school at a cram school, and hasn’t had to worry about any supernatural phenomenon in a year and a half. Uzuki and Nodoka, from Sweet Bullet, are also there, and Uzuki is in a lot of Sakuta’s classes, as they share a major. Uzuki is, of course, her usual lovable ditz self, and seems to get along with everyone in the class. “Seems” being the operative word. Because one day, Uzuki shows up at class, and something is… off. She’s making efforts to fit in more. She’s picking up social cues. What the hell is going on? This is so unlike her!

There’s actually a whole new mini-cast introduced here, which no doubt will get more of a look-in in future volumes. We meet Miori, who honestly seems to be Rule 63 Sakuta a lot of the time, and her obvious attempts to insert herself into his life. Ikumi, who we briefly saw in the last book, is briefly seen again, and Sakuta is still vaguely uncomfortable around her. There’s the cram school kids. I feel the author is apologizing for a lot of the old cast only making token appearances, but such is life. As for Uzuki and her issues, I thought it was very well handled and sometimes very sad, and the climax of the book was excellent. The actual resolution, though, feels not QUITE as happy as I’d have liked… especially given the OTHER new character we see at the end, who implies that this really WAS supernatural, not just Uzuki suddenly maturing. Enter Touko Kirishima.

No, it’s Touko, not Touka, this is not becoming a Tokyo Ghoul crossover. Exactly what it’s becoming is still undecided. But I will admit feeling unsatisfied that the catalyst for Uzuki’s issues was actually a third party. I will have to content myself with the fact that the conflict and resolution of it was all Uzuki, and she did very well.