An Archdemon’s Dilemma: How to Love Your Elf Bride, Vol. 12

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.

Usually when I’m reading books that I’m going to be reviewing I try to come up with a theme for the review so that it doesn’t end up just being me babbling on for 500 words. (Sometimes I can’t, as longtime readers who have read my babble know.) With this volume of Archdemon’s Dilemma, watching everyone suddenly obsessed with birthdays, it was going to be about how this series tries to balance out the cute romance aspect of it with the much darker plot and backstory part, and how that can be difficult because it’s pretty clear the main audience – or at least me – are far more interested in the former. Seeing magic battles and having traitors get rewarded as they deserve is all very well and good, but where are the blushing idiots? That *was* the plan for the review. Then Richard and Nephteros had to pull a “your shirt” moment, and everything went to hell.

The fun part of the book is the fact that Zagan has the idea of a birthday party for Nephy, and this just spirals on until everyone wants to know everyone’s else’s birthday. This is both hilarious and tragic because half the characters are either orphans, constructs, or hundreds of years old, so have no experience with birthdays or parties. So you get a lot of randomly chosen days, and a lot of worrying about presents. The three “main” couples (Zagan and Nephy, Chastille and Barbatos, and Shax and Kuroka) all get a cute scene or two. As the book goes on, though, the cuteness takes a back seat to the darkness. Nephteros is dying and does NOT want to have the usual fix when a homunculus is dying. Dexia is on the run and desperately trying to resurrect her sister. And we have two bad guys from the past suddenly show up in the present… and they seem to know who Zagan is? Finally, Nephteros too finds out what it’s like to love someone. In the worst way possible.

I think we can all agree that Bifrons is the Big Bad of this series, and he’s at his absolute worst here. You know a villain is bad when they start quoting Izaya Orihara, and that’s what we get here, with Bifrons “I love humanity” amounting to the same thing – he loves seeing them suffer and struggle. The Nephteros and Richard scenes were very good, but I will knock the book off two points for reminding me of that scene with Willow and Tara in Buffy that I pretend never happened. There’s also an attempted rape, which I could also have done without. I did enjoy seeing a new love triangle form, especially when one of the points in it admits that she’s a lesbian, but I’m pretty sure that she’s going to be the one left out of it in the end, so oh well.

As the book went on and got more serious, it was very well written but not really what I read this series for. I suspect the next volume, whenever it comes out, will be rather dark, but I hope it finds the time to remember its core plot: dorks in love.

An Archdemon’s Dilemma: How to Love Your Elf Bride, Vol. 11

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 series is trying its hardest to keep a good balance between the light-hearted romantic comedy that the majority of its readers are here for and the increasingly dark backstory that is constantly threatening to become the front story as well. That continues in this book, which has an awful lot of Zagan and Nephy being incredibly blushy and goofy around each other, wearing each others clothes, being in each other’s dreams, and generally being the most adorable couple around that haven’t even gotten to first base yet. Contrasted with that is the increasingly doomed Alshiera, the plotting, sinister or otherwise, of the various other archdemons, and the continued horrors being piled upon Dexia and Aristella. Fortunately, with one or two exceptions, this remains very readable overall, even if you are only in it to see when these two lovebirds will finally get it on. (Spoiler: don’t hold your breath.)

The main plotline involves Lilith, who is a succubus that controls dreams. She’s able to give Zagan and Nephy a shared dream (that, oddly, shows them in a Japanese high school) and is also trying to rescue a boy who is stranded in a nightmare. He’s connected to Alshiera, who is still slowly dying from events in previous books, and is trying to show everyone that this is fine and that she’s content with it, ignoring the fact that there are others who are absolutely not content with it. To make matters worse, Zagan and friends may have found Azazel, who is also in Lilith’s dreamland, and is likyly going to kill Alshiera once and for all. And, perhaps worst of all, Foll is going around asking everyone what they think about love. Is there someone actually interested in her? Or is she just a normal girl? (Well, a normal powerful dragon girl).

Describing the plot is somewhat difficult, as you can tell from the preceding paragraph, but it holds together pretty well. One irritating negative is a new character is introduced, and there is some anti-trans humor about them, so be warned. Still sadly very popular in Japanese manga and light novels. Lilith is, for the most part, taken seriously, and proves to be pretty awesome when she tries. I especially liked Alshiera gently trying to push Lilith away and get her to accept Alshiera’s death, and Lilith basically saying “nope, fuck that, gonna save you”. Zagan is also awesome as always, though there is worrying evidence that he’s pushing himself too hard that may come up in future books. Oh yes, and Kuroka gets drunk and horny on catnip wine. Let’s ignore that.

The series seems content to meander along, both in its romantic plotlines and its more serious fantasy-based plots. And we’re caught up with Japan, meaning we’ll likely be waiting even longer for the next book. Still, if you enjoy archdemons and elfs being super cute together, and don’t mind the occasional tonal crash when the bad guys have a scene, this remains a good series to be reading.

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.