The Do-Over Damsel Conquers the Dragon Emperor, Vol. 3

By Sasara Nagase and Mitsuya Fuji. Released in Japan as “Yarinaoshi Reijō wa Ryūtei Heika o Kōryaku-chū” by Kadokawa Beans Bunko. Released in North America by Cross Infinite World. Translated by piyo.

When I was younger and more emo, I would sometimes write things that I knew people would hate just because I wanted to amuse myself watching their reaction. Not my finest moment, let me tell you. Sarasa Nagase is not quite that bad, but there’s a sense when reading this series that she knows that no one wants to deal with the fact that Jill is 11 years old (10 in the first two volumes). the characters in the book are disgusted by it. Judging by the afterword, the readers are not very happy with it either. So of course, it is ground in our faces throughout this book how these two are over the moon for each other but Jill is so, so underage. It’s a shame, because otherwise this would be a terrific LN series to recommend, especially if you like kickass women, because Jill does kick ass. But any time you have to say “she’s not 11 technically”, that’s not great, Ryan.

Having won over two of his family, Hadis is still dealing with the fallout of everything else that happened in the second book. Everyone just seems to default hate him, and he can’t introduce Jill as the Dragon Consort because it will come out that she’s from Kratos and cause even more uproar. Into this mess wander more family members: Natalie, the second princess, who has low self-esteem but is otherwise the most normal and put-together of the royals; Frida, the young third princess, who is shy but also very good at magic; and, most importantly, Vissel, Hadis’ older brother, and one of the few people that he trusts. Which makes it a shame that, as Jill knows from her prior life, Vissel will be the big betrayal that leads to Hadis finally snapping. How’s Jill going to solve THIS mess?

To be honest, mostly by hitting things. The villainess books as a genre run the spectrum of different types of heroines, some of them crafty and long-term planner sorts, some of them massive improvisers, and some who rely on their large pool of allies. And then there’s Jill, who has never mean a problem she cannot beat the shit out of. She is definitely on the “dumb muscle” side of the equation, which is sometimes a problem, but honestly, “straightforward talk and occasional violence” genuinely seems to be the way to go in this case. She also claims that she’s absolutely terrible at romantic things, and so is Hadis, but the two of them make up for any conscious effort by pure subconscious effort – they don’t so much flirt as scream their passion at each other at massive volume. Which is adorable, of course, but… again, Jill is 11.

There’s several more books in the series out in Japan, but after three in a row over the last six months, which is highly unusual for Cross Infinite World, it appears we’re taking a break before the next one. If you can get over its biggest hurdle – and I don’t blame you if you can’t – this is worth reading purely for Jill’s force of personality.

The Do-Over Damsel Conquers the Dragon Emperor, Vol. 2

By Sasara Nagase and Mitsuya Fuji. Released in Japan as “Yarinaoshi Reijō wa Ryūtei Heika o Kōryaku-chū” by Kadokawa Beans Bunko. Released in North America by Cross Infinite World. Translated by piyo.

When I reviewed the first volume I mentioned that Cross Infinite World was putting it out a lot faster than they normally do their series, and the reason for that became apparent shortly after the release of the first volume over here: it’s getting an anime. It’s a good choice: I’m the Villainess, So I’m Taming the Final Boss got a decent if not dazzling anime as well, and the audience for the two series is exactly the same. Not just because of the author, but the same basic themes are here as well. iris may be a Villainess reincarnated into a game, and Jill a young woman who travels back in time to fix her past mistakes, but as protagonists they’re both doing the exact same thing: improvising and being badass as the universe does its best to kill them over and over and over again. And in this second book we get another think it has in common with Final Boss: for every Villainess there’s a Heroine, and heroines in these series tend to be evil.

Hadis and Jill are on their way to the capital to meet the rest of his family. Sadly, on arriving there, he’s attacked, accused of being a fake, and his magic and Jill’s is sealed. Hadis is mostly fine with this, and tries to make the series into a Slow Life book, gardening and cooking delicious meals. Jill is not particularly happy with his, so she and Zeke (half of her bodyguard duo) go into a nearby town so that she can join the Dragon Knights and gain intel. Easier said than done – she’s got the combat skills, even without magic, but the reaction of dragons to her means that she’ relegated to squire duties – which also means getting bullied. We also meet Hadis’ siblings, who turn out to not be as bad as she thought… at first.

Reading this book can be a struggle. Not because it’s bad, I really enjoyed it, but because Jill’s life is such a high wire act that at any moment you expect her to die and for this to become a Re: Zero sort of time loop story. Things are not helped by the introduction of Princess Faris, Gerald’s younger sister. In the first book she had merely been one half of the “ew” part of the story, as we knew Gerald was sleeping with her and that she was frail but not much else. Here we see her younger self, who turns out to be doing much the same thing Jill is – and for many of the same reasons. Alas, this makes them mortal enemies, and the two pretty much hate each other on sight by the end of the book. Final Boss also had its “heroine” antagonist, but Faris looks to be a lot nastier than Lilia ever was.

This really is “if you like Final Boss, it’s more of the same”. But that’s good, as it means it’s just as addictive. Roll on Volume 3.

The Do-Over Damsel Conquers the Dragon Emperor, Vol. 1

By Sasara Nagase and Mitsuya Fuji. Released in Japan as “Yarinaoshi Reijō wa Ryūtei Heika o Kōryaku-chū” by Kadokawa Beans Bunko. Released in North America by Cross Infinite World. Translated by Jenny Murphy.

This has really become the year of Sarasa Nagase. Last month J-Novel Club released one of her earlier one-shots, The Disowned Queen’s Consulting Detective Agency. One of her two biggest hits, I’m the Villainess, So I’m Taming the Final Boss, just had a semi-successful anime, and is being released by Yen Press. And now we get her other big hit, whose webnovel is just as long as Final Boss. The two series are somewhat similar. While the first one is a take on the basic Villainess book, where our heroine has knowledge of a game and discovers she’s the antagonist, this one is what’s called in Japan a “Yarinaoshi” genre, which we in the West call a “Peggy Sue”, after the 1980s movie Peggy Sue Got Married. Our heroine is killed and finds herself going back in time to try to get things right this time. That said, both Final Boss and Do-Over Damsel have one big thing that’s exactly the same: their heroines are both completely bananas.

Jill Cervel is fleeing for her life, having been betrayed and wrongfully accused by her fiance. (Try to contain your shock.) Cornered, she leaps off a tall castle wall to her certain death… and wakes up back at the age of ten years old, right when she’s about to get engaged to the fiance that murders her. And said fiance really, really wants to get engaged to her. To avoid this, she grabs the guy behind her without looking and says that she’s already pledged herself to this guy. Of course, this guy happens to be Hadis Teos Race, emperor of the Rave empire, a gorgeous young man who IMMEDIATELY accepts Jill’s proposal and whisks her away to his country. Has she gone from the frying pan into the fire?

I mostly loved this, so let’s start with a few caveats. Jill is ten here, regardless of her mental age, and spends a great deal of the book worrying that her new lover is into little girls. This is not helped by the plot, which requires him to take someone under 14 as a bride (not for sex reasons, I promise). The other caveat is the reason that her fiancee is out to murder her, which is that he is sleeping with his younger sister and she just discovered this. Frankly, Gerald is one of those “so evil it’s laughable” guys we often find in light novels, and so it’s no surprise that he’s the worst. Hadis is the biggest surprise, as I expected him to be similar to Claude from Final Boss and he is very much not. He’s kind of a mess. As for Jill, she is a hoot, she’s overpowered as hell, and she’s trying her best to not die even when the universe really, really wants her to die. The author’s heroines are always the main reason to get the book, and this is no exception.

Cross Infinite World is fast-tracking this one a bit more than their usual schedule (possibly as it’s more than 2 volumes long), so we’ll get the 2nd book in about 3 months. If you like reset novels, or strong heroines, or “eccentric” lead characters, this is a great choice.