An Archdemon’s Dilemma: How to Love Your Elf Bride, Vol. 8

By Fuminori Teshima and COMTA. Released in Japan by HJ Bunko. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Hikoki.

This series started out starring two people, but the cast has grown exponentially sine then. As such, it seems appropriate that this volume is fairly light on both Zagan and Nephy – in fact, it actually manages to work that into the plot, as Foll is planning a massive party for the not-Christmas holiday that is upon us and wants to surprise both of them. Zagan is completely in the dark about the holiday, but Nephy isn’t – in fact, she’s working part-time at a pub to get money for a present. As such, both are absent from the main plot itself till the end, though there’s many scenes with both of them, of course. The main plot focuses again on Kuroko, who is literally confronting her past – unfortunately, she has to confront it as a small kitten. She (accidentally) joins forces with another sorcerer, one who has a troubled past that is a lot closer to hers than she’s aware. And worst of all, due to a villain and also the nature of the holiday, the dead are riding up.

Also on the cover is Alshiera, the vampire who’s trying her best to get everyone to see her as someone not worth saving but doing a fairly terrible job of it – indeed, by the end Zagan has figured out the way to handle her best – it’s how to handle Nephy, and Chastille, and indeed literally everyone in the cast. Yes, be really nice to her until she cowers in embarrassment. She and Shax, the sorcerer that Kuroko befriends here, are both examples of the classic “can a former villain be redeemed” school of writing, and the answer is fairly firmly “yes” in both cases. Indeed, Shax is pretty much set up here as a love interest for Kuroko, complete with a father who now wants to kill him for daring to have his daughter take interest in him. Combining this with the somewhat sad and pathetic pairing of Chastille and Barbatos (who both have a long way to go), and you can see the author is definitely “pairing the spares” here.

The holiday during this book is Alshiere Imera, which (it’s hinted) is named after Alshiera, the vampire whose birthday it is. It’s an odd fusion of Christmas, Halloween and the Day of the Dead, which allows for the plot to happen (the zombies are created easily as it’s the one day per year when the line between here and the afterlife is so thin) but, let’s face it, is also an excuse to put Nephy and her friends in Santa outfits, even though Santa is never quite mentioned. Much as I mocked Chastille and Barbatos earlier, she and Zagan are not all that further along, though at least they have confessed. The present-giving scene is the sort of “so sweet it makes you sick” scene that people read this series for.

We are almost caught up with Japan on this series, as the next volume is the latest. Will it move the plot along/ Depends on what you’re calling the plot. In any case, this is a nice, solid volume of this sweet series.

An Archdemon’s Dilemma: How to Love Your Elf Bride, Vol. 7

By Fuminori Teshima and COMTA. Released in Japan by Hobby Japan. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Hikoki.

As the author indicates in the afterword, this series has gotten reasonably successful, to the point where they can now plan foreshadowing and deeper plots for future volumes. It also means that they can afford to have the cast simply hanging out on the beach for half the book as well. We get lots of swimsuit watching, everyone goes deep-sea fishing, there’s a barbecue, there’s yukatas, and everyone has lots of fun watching Chastille and Barbatos be the worst Ranma and Akane ripoff ever. Yes, it’s all fun and games till someone loses an eye… that someone being a mysterious man who has been going around killing archdemons (well, an archdemon) and has now decided he wants to go after Zagan using the strength of his mighty fists and the power of his mystical silver cursed eye giving him tons of mana. Unfortunately for him, Zagan has both of those to spare. Fortunately, there are a few additional twists and turns to help the story along its merry path.

Zagan’s past has always been given to us in dribs and drabs, but we get a lot more of it now than we did before, including mention of other kids on the streets he was living with in his pre-archdemon days (stories of which seem to reduce his entourage to tears). And I hate to spoil things, but if you’re surprised you haven’t read too many light novels; it turns out those same kids may now be getting involved with his life as adults! One is a older brother figure wearing glasses, so he has to be a Big Bad going down the road. The other is more of a spoiler I won’t give away, but I was very impressed with how the author handled it, making it obvious to the reader just before the actual revelation, in the best mystery tradition, though this isn’t much of a mystery. We also meet a new Archangel who helps us to understand that the relationship between the Church and the Archdemons is not nearly as cut and dry as some people think it is, and they also provide the best battle scene in the book.

Nephy and Zagan both mention in this volume how much they’ve changed since they first met, and it’s a good reminder that in Vol. 1 Zagan was stiff and sullen and inclined to brutally murdering bandits in front of young women just because he didn’t really think much of it, while Nephy was a death-seeking stoic who was an abuse survivor. It’s quite heartwarming to see how far they’ve come, even though they STILL have not gone on a cliched love-ydovey date the way that Zagan really wants, nor has their relationship advanced physically. Still, they’re way ahead of Chastille and Barbatos, who are trapped at the “embarrassment = love” stage of things, or Richard (assistant to Chastille) and Nephteros, in the “hopeless suitor” stage. They’re still the best couple to watch.

The final scene implies that future volumes may get darker. That said, I suspect they won’t get that dark. We know why readers want to read this series, and it can be summed up in one word: ‘D’awww!’.

An Archdemon’s Dilemma: How to Love Your Elf Bride, Vol. 6

By Fuminori Teshima and COMTA. Released in Japan by Hobby Japan. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Hikoki.

Come on, you weren’t really expecting a normal volume where Zagan and Nephy go on a cute little date, right? Especially after seeing that cover. No, here we get the inverse of two volumes ago. Foll wants to grow up faster (so that she can be more powerful and protect Zagan), so Gremory suggests using a spell much like the one she uses to swap ages. The trouble is, as Foll’s a dragon and thus magic resistant, Zagan has to help by pouring mana into it. This causes… bad things to happen. Now Foll’s a busty 18-year-old, Zagan’s a little kid, and Nephy is pissed… when she’s not snuggling her now adorable l’il fiance. Fortunately, unlike when this happened to Nephy, Zagan is still of sound mind and with the proper memories. Unfortunately, no one knows how to fix this. Maybe the inter-species conference under the sea will be able to help? And does this mean they really have to rely on airheaded Selphy?

There’s a lot of good stuff in here about having more than one side to a person. It’s not clear if the spell/curse on Foll and Zagan actually affects them mentally, but certainly Zagan is a lot more petulant in this body, possibly because everyone is trying to snuggle him as he’s such a cute kid. The lesson learned here, though, is that just because he can do everything himself doesn’t mean he should – and that his loved ones want to stand on equal footing with him, not stand behind him while he protects them. This applies to Foll, who pretty much knew that there are no quick and easy ways to grow up but gets the valuable lesson drilled into her anyway, as well as to Nephy, who is still attempting to figure out her place in this world when it’s not just her and Zagan. Amusing as it was to see her calm fury several times during the book, the most significant scene may have been her reuniting with Nephteros and figuring out how they’re going to speak to each other going forward.

It’s possible that I’m making this book seem more serious than it is. My mistake – it may be the funniest book in the series. With Zagan as a kid, he has to get a new outfit, and you know what that means – it’s dress-up doll time with Manuela. Zagan’s horrified reaction when he realizes that Manuela and Gremory have met and are friends already is hysterical… actually, as usual, any scene with Manuela is great, leaving aside her sexual harassment. Also, those scenes with angry Nephy really are great, as she has the standard “smiling calmly while the top half of her face is shadowed’ ojou-sama style anger. It fits her well. I also really liked Selphy here, who is normally very much the ditz, but also shows signs of understanding the other cast members and getting them to open up.

Slave chokers and molesting sales clerks aside, this remains an excellent and fun light novel read. And it’s not an isekai, for those that try to keep track of such things.