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.

An Archdemon’s Dilemma: How to Love Your Elf Bride, Vol. 5

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

Given that An Archdemon’s Dilemma rarely has threats to its titular Archdemon that actually go anywhere (once again he’s the strongest one in the entire area, and is only greviously wounded once by his own choice), it makes sense that the series runs on putting loved ones in peril. Though it can take a lot to make Zagan actually admit to caring about people, he absolutely does, and therefore when Nephteros is once again sought after by the series’ major villain, he’s there to help her. Thankfully, he’s not really there to save her, as he generally rescues people based on power level. Innocents, such as the young fox girl who is possessed by black sludge, he is perfectly content to save entirely. Nephteros, who can get out of her own troubles once she gets over her identity issues, just needs a helping hand. And Chastille, who Zagan very much frames as “not a love interest”, has to fend for herself. Luckily, the author seems to finally let her do this.

I’ve talked before about how Chastille seemed like she was going to be the tsundere secondary love interest but then the author realized how much he loved seeing her flailing around and crying. Last time we saw that her ‘work’ and ‘rest’ phases are almost two different people. And here the two seem to combine, as she seems to have finally accepted in her heart that she loves Zagan but he doesn’t love her back… and moreover, she doesn’t want him to, as this would ruin things with Nephy. This actually allows her a stronger bond with Nephteros, who also is drawn to Zagan and Nephy but can’t really be with them. Zagan may say that she’s a sister to Nephy, but for once we get someone deciding NOT to live at Zagan’s castle of increasing population. Nephteros needs to cultivate her own story, as does Chastille.

Speaking of love stories, the biggest new character introduced this time around is Kuroka, a blind priestess with a grudge against a) sorcerers and b) Chastille. With her we get to examine the ‘driven by revenge’ trope, though I admit it was a bit too on the nose to have Zagan literally spell it out for the reader. Fortunately, aside from the revenge she’s a perfectly nice person. Also fortunately, the revenge she was seeking turns out to be unnecessary to begin with. There are hints of the ongoing plot here, as there seems to be a thirteenth sacred sword, and the corruption in the Church is still a larger problem even without assassination attempts on Chastille every book or so. As for the titular couple, well, they’re still awkward – by the end of the novel, Zagan has finally asked Nephy on a date, but that’s as far as we get. Unless you count the muffler scene, which was adorable.

I’m not sure I can point to one thing and say “this is why I enjoy the series so much”, but enjoy it I do. I was particularly pleased with Chastille this volume, who did not have one extended nervous breakdown. And it’s always nice to remind myself sometimes that Zagan is NOT an isekai protagonist, but just a poverty-stricken fantasy lad who got really, really powerful. Fun stuff.

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.