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.

Can Someone Please Explain What’s Going On?! ~A Sign-on-the-Line Wedding Story~, Vol. 6

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 Emily Hemphill.

The previous five books in this series have all had me writing fairly positive reviews, but they’ve all had me turn around like Lieutenant Columbo and say “there’s just one thing that bugs me”. The constant focus on Viola being thin is telling. The use of the word “fatso” in a previous book. The fact that this book is very much on the side of the rich nobles doing whatever they want – even to other countries. Everyone keeping things from Viola “for her own good”. And it all comes to a head here, in the final book in the series. Except it’s not the final book – there are three more, which seem to be of the “side story” variety. But the author talks about how the books end here, and the tacked-on epilogue almost reads like a cancellation. Not that I’d blame the editors. Viola is still a wonderful character, but this book in particular belongs in the pit of shame.

Most of the main dilemmas of the series have now been resolved, with the possible exception of Viola’s superhuman inability to realize that she is loved and cherished by all around her. That will be fixed with this book, which sees the arrival of The Crown Prince and Princess of Aurantia. A country bordering their own, they’re here looking for husbands and wives, and have their hearts set on Viola and Cersis – despite the fact that Viola and Cersis are already married! Unfortunately, they’re also sort of cartoonishly evil. It’s up to Viola’s newly mastered martial arts skills and 100-meter dash abilities to try and save herself from a nasty kidnapping and a definite international incident. Once she does this… perhaps a re-wedding is in order?

So let me get this out of the way. Both of Aurantia’s royalty (also darker-skinned, but I won’t even go into that) are described negatively by Viola and everyone around her. The prince seemingly looks like a linebacker, being described as “burly” and “2 1/2 times as wide as Mr. Fisalis”. Funny, in the illustrations he looks as handsome as all the other men. This does not apply to the princess, who is called “fat”, “plump”, etc. and mocked and belittled by all Viola’s noble friends through the entire book. It’s really grating, and I’d also like to remind readers that just because a character is bad does not mean we get to start in on fat shaming them. They really are pathetic villains, and I will admit it was fun to see slim Viola shoulder throw the Crown Prince, but it still irked me. Also irking me was the constant “we’ll keep this a secret from Viola”, either due to not wanting to worry her, or wanting to surprise her, or just to tease her. I mean, literally in this book we see that not telling Viola leads to bad things in their relationship, and yet everything is STILL kept from her. Viola herself is still the best part of the book, but even she grated on me when all her friends were attacking the royal visitors in their best “catty” way and all Viola could do was inwardly say “Eek, girls are scary!”.

The book ends with Cersis and Viola having a “second wedding” now that Viola has finally admitted she is no longer a wife in name only. Then, to my great surprise, we jump forward several years for a quick epilogue, which shows Viola’s child (and another on the way) and reads very much like a Jump series that got cancelled at 3 volumes. If this were the final volume, I’d think it was the publisher’s doing, but there’s definitely more coming, so it just reads as super abrupt. I admit I will be reading the next book in the series – I like Viola’s inner narrator – but boy howdy, this book took everything wrong with previous books and put it together in one big cocktail. Recommended for those who love to see rich white men winning the day.

Can Someone Please Explain What’s Going On?! ~A Sign-on-the-Line Wedding Story~, Vol. 5

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 Emily Hemphill.

For all those whose favorite part of this series is the disconnect between Viola’s opinion of herself and what everyone else thinks of her, I have delightful news: this book is entirely about that. Indeed, at this point I think the most interesting – and impressive – part of the book is how no one is really sitting Viola down and explaining anything to her. They’re content to merely praise her, let it flow in one ear and out the other, and watch as she slowly (very slowly) figures things out. Now, part of this is that the writer doesn’t want her to suddenly wise up, as that means the series would almost be over. But it also shows that it’s Viola who needs to make the change and realize that she really is a gorgeous, trendy person. This also applies to her marriage – Cercis continues to be content – mostly – in waiting patiently for her to recognize his feelings. She’s still not there yet.

The book begins still on their belated honeymoon, and the most important thing that happens is when they tour the Fisalis mines and Viola takes a liking to the sapphires that have been left behind (because the miners are after the rarer rubies). Cersis decides to make these sapphires – which he renames Viola Sapphires – the hot new thing, and to have her show off how gorgeous they are. Of course, this also means she finally has to go out to parties again, so sadly very little puttering around in her maid outfit in this book. That said, as the book goes on, Viola slowly realizes that fashion and tastes have changed since she was last at an event – and everyone is now following HER. Even the blond ojou, who’d dropped her princess curls and upped her tsundere. Viola also now seems to get that Cersis really does love her. As for her own feelings… work in progress.

There’s a lot of good humor in this book. Some of it is overt, such as everything about the sapphires and Viola’s embarrassment, or Viola, after her near kidnapping in the last book, learning self-defense (and finding her maids all have daggers strapped to their thighs, which she calls sexy). Some of it is more subtle, mostly as Viola’s constant self-deprecation has become both amusing and annoying. Again, all Viola sees when she looks at herself is plain, flat-chested, and gawky, but she fails to realize that she’s basically Twiggy, setting the trend that everyone else has started to follow. Her bafflement at seeing all the other young women at the parties wearing simple hairdos and dresses is really funny. That said… I really hope we are reaching the end of Viola’s endearing bafflement soon. There is only so long you can string this out. I realize that we may never see her have a good opinion about her looks, but maybe we could at least get her to fall in love a bit? (I’d wonder if she’s ace, but this is not that kind of series.)

Despite a bit of frustration, this is a strong volume in a series that runs on light froth, and for those who want to see Viola walking arounnd looking stunning, it’s a must read.