An Archdemon’s Dilemma: How to Love Your Elf Bride, Vol. 4

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

De-aging characters is an old and honored narrative tradition, usually used to show how characters who are currently emotionally broken/closed off were adorable little sweeties when they were kids. And that’s exactly what happens here, as during a visit to her abandoned hometown, Nephy runs afoul of a mystery villain and is turned back into a five-year-old girl. Much of this is played for comedy, as you might expect – Nephy as a child is “adowable”, and when you combine the effect with Foll as a “big sister” and Gremory, who has shown that she can not only turn into a young woman but also a little kid, the “cuteness” factor is overwhelming, especially to Zagan. That said, there’s a serious point being made here: Nephy was once a sweet and optimistic child, and years of abuse at the hands of everyone she knew made her emotionally dead. It’s why Zagan ends up wanting to burn the entire town to the ground as a sort of belated revenge.

The main cast continues to increase. Nephteros returning is not really a surprise, but we also see Gremory and Kimaris, the two most visible sorcerers from the previous book, stick around. Nephteros is mostly there to be a grumpy tsundere, which she excels at. It does make you wonder about Chastille, whose role that was originally supposed to be but it quickly went off the rails when the author realized that he just liked her freaking out and crying all the time. That said, the author has realized this and actively points it out in this book, where Zagan sees Chastille “on the job”, so to speak, and she’s revealed to be quite competent and analytical. This is mostly used for comedy, with Zagan repeatedly asking why she can’t just be like that all the time, but is a semi-serious attempt to do something with her. There’s also one or two hints of ship tease with her and Barbatos, which might end up going somewhere, because lord knows she’s not getting anywhere with Zagan.

Elf Bride is not meant to be a harem book, I think, despite the increasing number of women in the cast. Age4 regression or no (and thankfully Nephy is treated purely as a little girl when she is a little girl), Zagan and Nephy are both over the moon for each other, and the only thing holding them back has been their awkward personalities. Seeing what Nephy had to go through as a child has galvanized Zagan, though, and the two finally confess to each other in a scene that would be the most heartwarming in the book if it weren’t for the rest of the cast watching and undercutting it. As to whether this will lead to them going any further romance-wise in future books… I doubt it, somehow. This kind of series runs on adorable.

The cliffhanger implies that next volume will focus once more on Nephy’s dark twin, who’s rapidly coming to be a second protagonist, possibly as she has a more varied emotional response than our favorite repressed elf. I look forward to seeing what happens.

An Archdemon’s Dilemma: How to Love Your Elf Bride, Vol. 3

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

This volume does a much better job than the previous two books at actually having tension during the fights – Zagan actually has to work hard once or twice, which shows you how dangerous things are. Of course, he brought things on himself by walking into what was clearly a trap – something he knew, and which everyone else in his party pointed out, and yet they did it anyway. Our heroes are invited to a luxury boat for a party – something that everyone except Chastille knows does not mean a REAL party – and while there run afoul of another archdemon and his dark elf, who is a carbon copy of Nephy except she’s dark-skinned and supposedly evil. In amongst this we have Zagan and Nephy continuing to be utterly adorable together, and they are getting a little better at reading each other’s feelings. And for those of you who like “an elf’s ears are an arousal point”, you’ll love this one too.

I will admit to surprise that most of the book takes place on the fantasy equivalent of a luxury liner, but why not? Zagan and party go there to see if he can get more knowledge, something that he says is obviously what all sorcerers and archdemons should be doing. Alas, things go south almost immediately and he is forced, along with the rest of the boat, to do battle with a toxic back sludge that is the dregs of a former demon lord who was killed near the lake they’re on. I had wondered if this was going to lead to a demon lord revival, but we aren’t quite there yet. There is quite a bit of interesting worldbuilding in this book, as we get more insight into the different types of fantasy races we have here, and why Nephy was so mistreated by her home village.

There’s also a fair bit of humor, some of which works and some of which I was less thrilled by. Chastille works best when she can balance out the lovesick young girl with the kickass swordswoman, and it’s unfortunately mostly all lovesick this time round, with much narrative mocking of her being a crybaby. This mostly annoyed me, though it did set up a very amusing gag later on with Nephteros. Speaking of Nephteros, I expect to see her again. The ‘dark mirror’ character has been done before, and I was relatively pleased that this wasn’t a clone or duplicate of Nephy but merely someone who looks almost exactly alike. She also carries the ‘I love my master but am horrified to realize he only sees me as a tool’ subplot extremely well. And she also gets the funniest moment in the book, in the final pages, where Zagan not only gets his revenge but weaponizes his revenge and gives it to Nephteros to use as she sees fit.

Basically, this is still a fun and sweet series, and the backstory is getting more intriguing. Less whining from Chastille next time, please? Also, liked the siren chanteuse who also turned out to be a cheerleader.

An Archdemon’s Dilemma: How to Love Your Elf Bride, Vol. 2

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

The color illustrations of most light novels tend to spoil, and a lot of readers who hate spoilers know that they should avoid them before reading the book. That said, even if you looked at the color pages for the second volume of Archdemon’s Dilemma, you can’t have been TOO surprised. Having used Vol. 1 to set up the premise of adorable ‘villain’ and his even more adorable ‘slave’, with them essentially being a married couple, the fact that they gain an adopted daughter is not exactly a surprise if you’ve read any sort of manga or light novels. Seeing Chastille dressed up as a maid might be more of a surprise, but given what happened to her in Book 1, and the fact that this volume begins with her execution being discussed, it’s not hard to connect the dots either. Archdemon’s Dilemma is trying to balance out the cute found family stuff with the badass archdemon stuff, and so far… well, so far it’s a bit overbalanced on one side, I will admit.

Speaking of Chastille, I hadn’t mentioned her at all in the last review, probably as she very nicely filled the ‘other girl who likes him but isn’t going to get anywhere’ slot. That said, Zagan was impressed with her power, and I appreciated the fact that although she spends most of this book either at the peril of the Church, an Archangel who has supposedly arrived to kill her, or a dragon girl with a grudge against Archangels who keeps pranking her, she eventually does get over her deep depression and manage to take up her sword again – and once she does, she manages to kick ass. (It was also nice to see that it was Nephy, not Zagan, who was the one to talk her out of her funk.) I’m not sure how well she’s going to do at trying to get the angels and demons to talk to each other, but I’m rooting for her, despite her basically being Emilia from The Devil Is a Part-Timer! with a few serial numbers filed off.

As for Zagan, there are a few moments in the book where we get him and Nephy being adorable together (helped along by the illustrations, which do a much better job than the text of conveying his emotional awkwardness), but I wish there were more of them, as most of the rest of this book is devoted to showing off how super-ungodly powerful Zagan is. He’s still saying the wrong thing most of the time, but the things he says are designed to make him sound cool and brooding, and there’s not enough of his inner self NOT being cool and brooding. In other words, he feels too much like an OP protagonist. Things aren’t helped by the fact that the final battle sees Nephy staying behind at the castle like a dutiful wife, waiting up and preparing his dinner. Nephy helps make Zagan more down to earth.

Still, overall it was a good book, provided you don’t mind the battles being a bit boring because Zagan is always in control. And we even get a butler at the end, who I’ve decided I will call Sebastian. As with most fantasy light novels, recommended for those who like these sorts of books.