Combatants Will Be Dispatched!, Vol. 6

By Natsume Akimoto and Kakao Lanthanum. Released in Japan as “Sentouin, Hakenshimasu!” by Kadokawa Sneaker Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Noboru Akimoto.

Given this is a series about an evil organization, it’s not a surprise that there haven’t been very many heroes seen so far – at least not by the standard definition – and those we have seen have been quietly shuffled away as quickly as possible. Six and company are not battling against a heroic organization, they’re battling against the Demon Lord in order to gain control of this planet. And even that battle was taken care of last time. So it’s no surprise that we need something to fill the void, and it comes in the form of Adelie, a self-proclaimed Hero of Justice who has all of Amelia’s vim and vigor but none of her political savvy. She’s here to stir things up and set the table for the next arc, and she does a great job of it. Plus, for the second new character in a row, she doesn’t remind me immediately of someone from KonoSuba. The two series are gradually separating from each other.

The Demon Lord and her people have settled rather nicely into Six’s organization, as you can probably see by her presence on the cover. She continues to be the one person in the entire series that is sweet as pie and always means well. Even when she tries to remind herself she has to be evil now. Actually, Six’s group has sort of turned into a combination refugee camp and soup kitchen, and there’s not really a lot of evil points being acquired as we start the book. That said, though, there is someone who is going around causing chaos and ruining everything… and no, believe it or not, it’s not Snow either, as even Snow gets to have one or two moments of triumph in this book. No, it’s Adelheid Kruger, the Umbral Savior! She’s here to see how evil everyone in this Kingdom is, and she finds, well, Snow, who is happily taking bribe after bribe; Six and Alice, who are happy to throw anyone to the wolves for their own gain; and even Princess Tillis, who may seem to be trying to hold the kingdom together (she’s even doing her best to say Dick Festival now), but who may have the blackest heart of all…

This book is a lot of fun, even the ending battles. Everyone gets a chance to be cool and a chance to be incredibly dumb, which is the best reason to be reading this author. Rose shows that she cannot read the emotions of even the simplest minds; Grimm’s jealousy leads to more deaths and more curses,, and Snow is of course horrible all around. That said, Snow briefly turns into a real military soldier here when her entire life is on the line, and I loved the epilogue where it pointed out that, despite the bribery, she actually was being a very good governor and making sure everything ran smoothly. Combatants likes to look at the definition of what Good and Evil are and make people think harder about it.

That said, this is the last volume to date – despite the anime coming and going, there’s no sign of Vol. 7 over there. So it may be a while. Till then, this is a strong entry in a series where everyone is pretty scuzzy – but not TOO scuzzy.

Combatants Will Be Dispatched!, Vol. 5

By Natsume Akimoto and Kakao Lanthanum. Released in Japan as “Sentouin, Hakenshimasu!” by Kadokawa Sneaker Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Noboru Akimoto.

For some time now, the “evil” in this series’ evil organization has been somewhat questionable. At first it looked like it was just Six, who clearly was content with being a creepy asshole but drew the like at, know, actual evil things like rape and murder. As we’ve gone on, and found that the evil organization is in fact trying to save the planet Earth, more motives have been questioned. And now we find that the organization actually has a real HR policy – we’re told that the Combat agents can sexually harass to their heart’s content (it gets them evil points, after all) but that actual sexual assault is a punishable offense. You get the sense the author realized that they were going a bit too far. KonoSuba, by the same author, will also try to walk this very thin line. In the meantime, the organization is going to have to deal with the biggest threat it’s ever seen to date. The demon lord is dead and his daughter has taken over… and she’s a total sweetie pie.

Rose gets the cover, and is the “heroine of this volume”, but actually gets very little to do besides eat. The Demon Lord’s Domain wants to negotiate, so the group heads over there, and as noted above, finds they accidentally killed the demon lord in their last attack, leaving his daughter Viper in charge. The demon lord was a stubborn middle aged cuss. Viper is kind, gentle, and very apologetic. As such, the demons are actually surrendering – and asking for Six and company to find them a new place to live, as their territory is basically uninhabitable. There’s just one problem with this – the Kingdom of Grace is not content to let the demons simply go “our bad, sorry” and then move in next door. They want reparations. Can Alice negotiate their way to a settlement? Can Heine come to terms with her new job as a magical boiler room? And can six and Viper team up to take out those pesky Puzzle x Dragon games once and for all?

So yes, Viper’s presence in the cast really shakes things up, mostly as, unlike Princess Tillis, Grimm, Snow, or the other characters whose suffering is hilarious (and in Grimm and Snow’s case, brought upon themselves), being mean to Viper is like kicking a puppy. Indeed, the main worry is that she’s too naive and willing to do whatever anyone else wants – hence the mention of the HR guidelines. Honestly, she’s probably the first major character in this that I can’t think of an equivalent to in KonoSuba, the way that you can see Snow as Aqua + Darkness or Grimm as Wiz + Yunyun. Her friendship with Six is actually, dare I say it, rather sweet. Of course, this does not mean the author has suddenly forgotten that this is the Japanese equivalent of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is lots of terrible stuff here. But when said stuff hits too close to Viper, it just sort of drifts to a halt.

We’ve almost caught up with Japan, and the anime based on the series is out next month. So it’s a good time to read a new volume of the worst evil organization, and see how they deal with good.

Combatants Will Be Dispatched!, Vol. 4

By Natsume Akimoto and Kakao Lanthanum. Released in Japan as “Sentouin, Hakenshimasu!” by Kadokawa Sneaker Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Noboru Akimoto.

This is still very much your typical volume of Combatants Will Be Dispatched!, where everyone is terrible above and beyond the call of duty. But there are glimmers of the future here, a sign that perhaps the series is not simply destined to be “KonoSuba’s first, crappier draft”. A bit more attention is paid to the ongoing plot of the series itself, with a revelation that this is not simply Six and company scouting an alien planet for the lulz, it’s because Earth is genuinely going ecologically batshit and the evil organization is trying to find a new home for everyone. That said, it doesn’t have to be Six personally, and the other subplot that matters is that there are a bunch of evil overlords who want their boytoy back home with them and are fine with leaving the worldbuilding to someone else. For any other light novel protagonist this would be heaven on Earth, but Six is decidedly uninterested in a harem, content to stay on this world with Alice. Is he getting soft?

As you can see by the cover, this volume’s “Heroine” is Lilith, one of the three evil overlords Six works for. He specifically requested her because she’s the mad scientist, and that’s just what they need right now, if only to stop their bases getting blown up. Sadly, she’s just as useless as everyone else that is in this book, and she also has all the character flaws that go along with her archetype. She’s also grumpy as Six, while happy to banter with her and also happy to threaten to sexually assault her, is not all that into her. Even worse, Alice, her own creation, is going through a rebellious stage, being crankier than usual. While Lilith is there, they dig for water (triggering a slime monster), try to get the poop of a giant sparrow for fertilizer (triggering Snow’s greed at the shiny things in its next), summon an actual angel (which terrifies everyone but Alice, who insists she’s a cosplayer), and battle the Demon Lord’s armies again, just so Rose can ask him why they’re staying at her old holiday home.

As you can see, the goal of this series is still laughs first and foremost. Usually of the “dear lord” variety – there really is a lot of discussion of pee and poop here, and one scene showing how the kingdom uses orcs horrifies Six and Lilith so much that they’re almost ill (and we’re in hysterics). But as I said, the series is starting to get a hang of its characterization. Six’s problem is that, when you get right down to it, he’;s an asshole but he isn’t evil. And what’s more, everyone around him knows it. It’s only gotten worse since he’s arrived on this planet, but that doesn’t seem to bother him much. Being separated from Alice does, though – they aren’t a romantic couple (there really aren’t any in this series, mostly as Six is uninterested and everyone is terrible) but their bond and banter is still the best reason to read the series. They sound like best friends.

As always, this series is not for everyone. Stay away if puerile stuff makes you roll your eyes. But I think it’s finally hitting its groove, and I can actually read it without seeing what the author later ripped off for KonoSuba.