Invaders of the Rokujouma!?, Vol. 43

By Takehaya and Poco. Released in Japan as “Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!?” by HJ Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Warnis.

(This talks about the book’s surprise ending, but after the picture.)

If you’re still following a series 45 novels in (counting the two .5 volumes, as always), you’d better have some pretty damn good reasons. Especially given that they’re light novels, which, even with a smaller page count than a lot of other series, simply are not going to be read as fast as a manga would be. And there’s lots of places this story could have ended already. Where the anime did. Right before the arrival of Clan. The 29th volume, which even had a “final volume” style cover. But it’s still ongoing, and I still really enjoy every volume of it, because the writer does things I enjoy well. There’s a ton of likeable, distinct characters, who I mostly don’t have to look at a wiki to remember who they are. (Sorry, Darkness Rainbow, I still only know half of you by name.) There’s some good romance. There’s fantastic action sequences, which take up the 2nd half of this volume. And, yes, still the occasional shocking twist.

We pick up right where we left off. Ralgwin is being held prisoner in a hospital while he heals up from his near-fatal injuries. Fasta is still determined to rescue him, and while everyone sympathizes with her, they actually have to try to stop her doing that. More worryingly, Grevanas and the Gray Knight also are thinking of rescuing him – Grevanas so he can use Ralgwin’s body to resurrect Maxfern, and the Gray Knight for his usual “I’m not evil Koutarou from an alternate universe, I promise” reasons. Every single ally is gathered to help move Ralgwin to a more secure prison to await trials. Heck, even Fasta has brought along allies to help her, allies we really had not expected. Our heroes are stronger now, they can surely take on anything that the bad guys can dish out. Right?

Here’s where those spoilers are. I don’t think the Rokujouma?! series has ever ended an arc quite as viciously as this. This is a full on “the bad guys win” ending, I was surprised, as while I saw that Ralgwin had been captured by the enemy, I was expecting it to swing into another search and rescue arc. But honestly, we had a huge battle in this book, and following it up with one in the next book might risk repeating. (The author has straight up said to expect a short story volume next time, so that will be fun.) But we’ve spent so many volumes humanizing our villains. Hell, we were rooting hard for Fasta to succeed. We brought back Elexis and Maya after like 15 volumes for a surprise visit, and they’re more likeable as well. The villains have their own sensible motivations, and they can also fall in love. So to see the cartoon villain get his wish and parade around a resurrected Maxfern (who is a bit less of a cartoon villain, but only just) really, really feels like the book is punching you in the face.

Even the “Corona Convention” is downbeat this time around. An excellent volume of the series, but it hurts.

Invaders of the Rokujouma!?, Vol. 42

By Takehaya and Poco. Released in Japan as “Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!?” by HJ Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Warnis.

One of the strengths of the Rokujouma series has been the attention paid to its major antagonists. Even from the start, the villains got opportunities to show us their point of view, be sympathetic in some way, shape or form, or at least show why people trust them despite their being Obviously Evil. That stays true to the present books, as Ralgwin, despite being one of the main bad guys, is a Good Boss, cares about his underlings, and even fires one of his strongest supporters just so that she’ll be away from the bad stuff when it happens. Unfortunately, the bad stuff is absolutely going to happen, mostly as evil scientist (boo) has refined his living corpse makers so that he can resurrect the dead better (and thus use Ralgwin as a spare body for his ancestor), and the Grey Knight, who is “Koutarou but evil”, is still trying to kill Sanae, and presumably will get his inevitable redemption saved for near the end of the series. Assuming this series ever ends.

The format is the same as the last book: half a book of cute stories and buildup, and half a book of battles and payoff. Kenji ad Koutarou brought baseball equipment along, and now Koutarou and Shizuka can flirt… erm, I mean, practice to see if they can use the equipment with their powers. Koutarou then tries to figure out how to spend the giant pile of money he has without being too influential towards one side or another. Everyone then goes to inspect the new Blue Knight ship, which of course looks exactly like a giant robot, complete with detachable parts, because this series is still very teenage boy even as its readers age into their 40s. And then Ralgwin makes one last, desperate attempt to kill Koutarou once and for all, but has reckoned without a defector in his ranks.

The Yurika watch will be brief this review, as she’s barely in the book, except for one scene where she starts to think out loud that Koutarou looks like an Emperor/King until a terrifying glare from Elfaria shuts her up. Clearly Elfaria’s agenda involves much greater things for Koutarou than just “go back to Earth and live in my 6-tatami room”. The big deal here, though, is Fasta’s defection. The sniper has been a major thorn in our heroes’ side for a while now, but after being sent away by Ralgwin so that she’s not quietly killed while trying to save him, she decides to up her game by betraying him in order to save him later, after he’s arrested and imprisoned. It’s a bold move, and I was surprised that it actually worked, but I guess Ralgwin also saw the writing on the wall, putting everything into one last ‘kill Koutarou” attempt – which fails. I also liked that the girls were content to let her escape and try to rescue Ralgwin after his capture – everything they’ve done since about Book 9 or so has basically been “all for love”, so they can understand the feeling.

Good fights, amusing jokes, some incremental plot development. Everything you’d want in a Rokujouma book.

Invaders of the Rokujouma!?, Vol. 41

By Takehaya and Poco. Released in Japan as “Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!?” by HJ Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Warnis.

No short stories this time around, we’re heading to Forthorthe and things are about to get serious. The start of this series, forty-odd books ago, was very much a slice-of-life comedy, with the aliens, magical girls, and underground girls essentially acting as wacky neighbors in a high school romcom. Clan’s arrival, and Koutarou’s subsequent trip back in time, started to kick that in the head. And now here we are, with the back half of this volume featuring a thoughtless disaster on the part of the villains turned into an even more nightmarish disaster by the most unhinged villain, and you get things like living corpses (I’d call them zombies, but they run very fast, so that might give you the wrong idea) in the remains of a burning factory being weaponized and turned on a nearby city and you realize that this has actually gotten pretty dark, hasn’t it? Fortunately, the first half, which involves introducing cool new tech to the masses, is more relaxing.

Our heroes are now back in Forthorthe, and the big question on everyone’s mind is: who is the Blue Knight going to marry? Sadly, for reporters, the Blue Knight is still running away from that question, so there’s no real progress there. There is much more success in introducing a personal force field that can, among many other things, act as replacement limbs for disabled people as demonstrated by Nana doing various gymnastic maneuvers with just a force field for support. Koutarou thought that would be it, however, many other companies, including the military, quickly realize the other uses this sort of tech could provide, and now he’s even richer, to his quiet despair. There’s no time to enjoy it, though: they’ve found one of Ralgwin’s bases, and it’s time to play catch that villain!

As hinted in the first paragraph, catch that villain does not go very well. Rokujouma!? has gotten more serious as the books have gone on, even including a war, but I don’t think we’ve really taken as much time to appreciate the loss of lives as we did here. Now, these are all factory workers we’ve never met before, so it’s not like the author is killing one of the main characters, but the fury at how this came to be from our heroes is very well done. Meanwhile, on Yurika Watch, she gets to do cool things, and her running gag of “magical girl uses evil powers” is still funny, but this is Ruth’s book to shine,. as the author admits that if he’s going to have a balanced harem series he has to work hard to maintain that balance, and Ruth, mostly, rarely gets to fight at the front line. That gets fixed here, and shows off her awesome analytical skills (and love for Koutarou) in a fantastic manner.

Sadly, the villains get away, but I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of them. Till then, enjoy a more serious volume than usual.