An Archdemon’s Dilemma: How to Love Your Elf Bride, Vol. 10

By Fuminori Teshima and COMTA. Released in Japan as “Maou no Ore ga Dorei Elf wo Yome ni Shitanda ga, Dou Medereba Ii?” by HJ Bunko. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Hikoki.

This has been such a relaxed, somewhat sweet series that it actually can be startling when bad things happen. For the most part, the bulk of this book involves building a giant bath at Zagan’s castle, which he doesn’t really care about, but the rest of his increasingly large cast of women staying with him want very much. There’s discussion of the different kinds of baths, lots of teasing of various people who are still not quite hooked up with anyone yet, and a huge fight between Zagan and Barbatos, taking out large chunks of the forest, that basically revolves around “is it OK to peep?”. (Zagan says no.) Even when we cut to the bad guys, things are seemingly a bit more calm, with the twin assassin girls being given pocket money and sent out to the city, whereupon they buy a giant parfait. Unfortunately, horrible things do still happen here, and there is actually a real plot burbling underneath.

It can be a bit difficult to figure out who the major evil that needs to be defeated is in this series. First of all, Zagan has ended up turning a lot of former enemies into his allies. Secondly, of the current evil forces group, the twins are actually very cute when they’re in downtime mode (which makes the fate of one of them all the more tragic), Shere Khan is essentially a non-entity here, and Bifrons, the closest thing we’ve had to a big bad to date, ends up helping Zagan at the end – sort of. He’s still plenty evil, as the leading archdemon will attest, but there seems to be something even more evil behind all this – perhaps related to Azazel. Speaking of the twins, the serious part of the book has them both realizing they’d sacrifice their life to protect the other one, and then getting in situations where this is required. It’s touching and also a bit horrifying.

Then there’s the flip side of all this, which is Zagan and company. He’s still trying to figure out his own past, and there are several new revelations here about his childhood with Stella and Marc. Indeed, one of Archdemon’s Dilemma’s conceits is that everyone has connections to each other person in the series that they either don’t know or forgot about – ranging from serious (Marc’s identity in the church) to somewhat comical (where Chastille learned how to be such a good swordswoman at such a young age). Zagan and Nephy, fortunately, just get to be a cute little couple, again not actually achieving a romantic breakthrough just yet but this time around they manage to have a bath together with washing of the backs, which is nice. Certainly they’re miles ahead of the other not-quite-couples in this book.

So yes, this is mostly sweet and fun, but be warned it gets quite dark about 3/4 of the way through. Still a solid entry in the series, though.

An Archdemon’s Dilemma: How to Love Your Elf Bride, Vol. 9

By Fuminori Teshima and COMTA. Released in Japan as “Maou no Ore ga Dorei Elf wo Yome ni Shitanda ga, Dou Medereba Ii?” by HJ Bunko. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Hikoki.

As this series has gone on and become a reasonable success, the author has sensibly decided to widen its brief. As such, the “will they actually do anything?” parts get smaller and less relevant as time goes on. This is not to say that they’re absent, however, and we do get possibly the funniest moment in this volume when Zagan thinks that he and Nephy are literally cursed to never get closer to each other rather than, as everyone else around them can see, just being two socially awkward dorks in love. Still, at least the two of them share a honeymoon suite. That’s progress? And they sleep in each other’s arms, and call each other (as they are under cover) as “honey” and “dear”. But yeah, that’s all you’re going to get. Honestly, even Chastille and Barbatos make more progress in this book than Zagan and Nephy, who are adorable but really should grow up the teensiest bit. That said, they’re ahead of Shax, Mr. “I had your underwear in my pocket for a reason”.

The main thrust of the plot sees everyone converging on the Holy City for various reasons. That’s where Azazel’s Staff is, which is highly important to every single faction in the series. So we get the Angelic Knights, who don’t know much about it but know it should not fall into the wrong hands; Bifrons and Shere Khan, who have sent two minions to destroy the holy treasure room to get it; and Zagan and Nephy, who are actually there to try to find Orias, who might be able to help her cure Kuroka’s blindness, but end up looking for the staff as well. As you might imagine, there’s a lot of fighting towards the end of the book, mostly involving everyone attacking Zagan and his mopping the floor with them. That said, in the final battle against one of the stronger Angelic Knights, he has to use martial arts, rather than sorcery, to win. He regards this as a loss. Everyone else thinks he’s simply ridiculously overpowered.

It is amusing to see how many of the characters are leading double lives. There’s a traitor among the Angelic Knights, and you might briefly be worried for Chastille, but everyone agrees her alliance with Zagan is far too open and honest; she’s not tricky enough to be the real traitor. Then there’s Michael, who is secretly an Archdemon, but is also not the actual traitor. We also continue to get more insight on Alshiera, who continues to stay true to the course of “blond underage vampire mistress” in modern Japanese works, i.e. she’s pretending to be an irredeemable bad guy but really fits the caring mentor role better. And props to Foll, who is growing powerful enough to take on Bifrons and deal him actual damage. Our little dragon girl is growing up.

We’ve now caught up with Japan, as the 10th volume came out there two weeks ago, so it might be a bit till we get it here. Till then, though, this is a good, solid entry in the series, provided you don’t care that Zagan and Nephy are the most awkward couple ever – still.

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 rising 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.