Can Someone Please Explain What’s Going On?! ~The Contract Couple’s Happily Ever After~, Vol. 9

By Tsuredurebana and Rin Hagiwara. Released in Japan as “Dareka Kono Joukyou wo Setsumei Shite Kudasai! ~Keiyaku Kara Hajimaru Wedding~” by ArianRose. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Tara Quinn.

And so we finally get to the end of this series, with six main volumes and three After Story volumes. This is the last of the After Stories and has the least amount happening, as there’s not even a crisis to solve this time, like the mystery from the previous book. This volume has two main plotlines: 1) finish telling Lettie the story of how she was born, which this time does actually involve her birth, and 2) celebrate the kingdom’s founding day, which sounds remarkably like Christmas but is done at the height of cherry blossom season. Mostly what this volume shows off is how comfortable and happy everyone is now, and that all of the conflict and drama from earlier books has been dealt with. The only remaining issue is Viola’s constant self-image issues, which I know the author thinks of as a cute running gag but never fails to irritate me – and everyone else in the household too, judging by their reaction to her worry that Lettie will inherit her looks.

As noted, the first half of the book shows the days leading up to Viola giving birth and the weeks after it. This includes some false labor brought on by insisting on weeding while nearly due to give birth, and also a relatively quick and easy labor – much to Viola’s surprise, as from her perspective she thought it took forever. Lettie is surrounded by adoring family and servants, so the question is how is she not going to grow up spoiled, really. Viola will help there, I expect. The second chunk of the book has the mansion preparing for Flur Day, the aforementioned Christmas equivalent. A strong windstorm may put paid to some of the festivities, but otherwise there’s a relative lack of anything going on here – the main drama stems from everyone trying to get out of hearing the King’s speech again so that they can get to the truly important thing a week later – Lettie’s first birthday.

There is still the occasional reminder that there is ever present danger in this world – Viola is given a number of mazes to memorize and complete, and only after she’s done so does she realize that they’re a layout of the mansion and the royal palace, complete with secret passages and hidey-holes, if she ever needs to escape like she has in previous books. But for the most part this is a victory lap, and it even ends the way a lot of these books do – with Viola discovering she is pregnant with her second child. As I’ve noted before, this continues to be a surprise to me as Viola has not, through all nine volumes, ever really shown any sexual desire towards her husband. Even when given an obvious opportunity, such as coming in to “get warm” after a nighttime cherry blossom viewing, all they do is have cocoa. It’s very pure.

So yes, this book is also a bit boring, but I’ll take that over the classist nonsense some of the main series did. In the end, this was a flawed but fun series, and I really hope one day it hits Viola that she’s gorgeous.

Can Someone Please Explain What’s Going On?! ~The Contract Couple’s Happily Ever After~, Vol. 8

By Tsuredurebana and Rin Hagiwara. Released in Japan as “Dareka Kono Joukyou wo Setsumei Shite Kudasai! ~Keiyaku Kara Hajimaru Wedding~” by ArianRose. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Tara Quinn.

At long last, one volume until its finale, I think this series has finally learned what is fun to read and what is not fun. This feels like a normal romance novel, and does not contain any of the numerous red flags that previous volumes were infamous for containing. The downside of this is that… well, the book’s a bit boring? That’s to be expected, honestly. The main story has wrapped up. There aren’t many side couples to pair up either, though we do see that Rohtas has, in fact, been in a relationship for some time… but it hasn’t gone further because Cersis keeps him so busy. In fact, the story itself is a flashback of sorts, as Cercis and Viola’s adorable daughter is asking how she was born. Readers may be wondering that as well, given that Viola frequently seems to think of Cercis as an afterthought, and I’m still rather surprised the marriage has even been consummated. Oh well.

Viola’s pregnancy is not the main thrust of this book, which instead deals with what happened just before. She and Cercis are going to a party held by her friend Verbana’s family, which turns out to be another in a string of “please marry my grumpy and willful daughter” parties. It goes about as well as the previous ones have – Verbana doesn’t want to be married right now, especially since her one true love is, in fact, married to Viola, and radiates this from her entire body. But still, they get to see her family’s new estate, have a lot of tea parties, and go to a lot of evening ballroom dances. Unfortunately, this leads to the back half of the plot – at some point between arriving at the estate and that evening’s dance, Viola’s huge sapphire has been swapped out for a fake! Now she and Cercis have to play detective to catch the criminal.

I am pleased that this volume is back to being entirely narrated by Viola’s so we get her amusing and skewed observations about everyone else. Sadly, this also includes her poor self-image, which really takes a starring role here. No matter what, no one can seem to convince Viola that she has the looks of a tall runway model – she’s always going to be the plain stringbean in her own mind. (The funniest part of the book is towards the end, when Viola is about six months pregnant, and she cheers about having “bazongas” at last.) She also does not seem to understand why all the other women of the kingdom flock to her and hang on her every word. Oh well, better that than the alternative. The mystery itself is basically a string of “which family desperately in need of cash would do this?”, but I am quite grateful that for once all the potential bad guys are in fact rich nobles. This is a rarity in a series that tends to praise rich nobility.

The next volume is the last, and will no doubt have Viola giving birth. Till then, it’s nice to see a volume of the series that does what I hoped it would and does not feature evil foreigners or “LOL GAY” jokes.

Can Someone Please Explain What’s Going On?! ~The Contract Couple’s Happily Ever After~, Vol. 7

By Tsuredurebana and Rin Hagiwara. Released in Japan as “Dareka Kono Joukyou wo Setsumei Shite Kudasai! ~Keiyaku Kara Hajimaru Wedding~” by ArianRose. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Tara Quinn.

It’s all change for this 7th volume of Can Someone Please Explain What’s Going On?!. As you can see, there’s a new subtitle (sorry that I can’t find the Japanese romanji equivalent) that basically is the equivalent of “After Story” – the main story has ended, our couple are living happily ever after, now what? There’s a new translator (the series’ third). And, most importantly there’s a new narrative focus, which means that sadly we don’t get much at all of Viola as the narrator here. Given that at the end of my last review, which kind of tore the series apart, I said that I would keep reading because I loved Viola’s narrative charm, that’s quite a blow. Thankfully, the series also seem s to have backed off on most of the other things that I disliked in the last volume. It’s a lot fluffier and sillier than previous volumes, but that’s not a bad thing in this case. These are “extra” stories, they don’t have to try hard.

Don’t let the cover fool you, our happy main couple and their child are definitely supporting players in this – indeed, the child only shows up in a side story, as most of this takes place only a short time after the previous volume. The actual protagonists are the couple behind them – this is the story of Corydalis, Cercis’ best friend and adjutant, and Stellaria, Viola’s replacement chief maid after her regular maid takes maternity leave. They fall in love. It’s really quite cute… mostly. (I’ll get to that.) Despite the occasional seeming obstacle, everyone approves of the two of them. Both are very mature. There is no need to worry about contract marriages or mistresses here. It would be somewhat dull were it not for the back half, which features a hostage situation and the World’s Dumbest Bandits.

There’s always a ‘but’ with this series. This time there’s no fat jokes, Viola is not kept in the dark, and we don’t have “yay, another victory for white rich people!’. But we do have the book’s running gag, which is that Cercis starts a rumor that Corydalis is avoiding getting married as he’s gay, and the rest of the book has, every 4-5 pages, Cory having to say “I’M NOT GAY!’ in anger as everyone around him laughs. It’s meant to be funny and teasing, but it just reads poorly in this day and age. Other than that, this was a good return to form. As I said, this couple can be defined by their down to earth feel, and we also get some nice observations from the two of them of the events in this book, particularly the first volume where Cercis is still very much all contract, no marriage.

So yes, I’ll read the next bunch of After Stories, which looks like they’ll do what I thought this one would – tell the story of how Lettie Cercis and Viola’s daughter, came to pass. Nice save, though I’m still watching you with a weathered eye.