Invaders of the Rokujouma!?, Vol. 44

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.

It has to be said, Rokujouma!? is a very methodical series. We’ve gotten so used to seeing series derived from webnovels where the author is clearly making up each chapter… and sometimes each page… as they go along. So it’s refreshing seeing a series that really feels plotted down to its bones. I suspect the author has outlines and spreadsheets up the wazoo to keep track of all this. A “Pantser” they are not. And sometimes this can be a drawback. There are a few conversations in this short story volume between the heroines where you sort of want one of them to snap and turn evil just for the variety – everyone is polite, pragmatic, and thinks things through – even Theia, who gives the appearance of being impulsive. On the other hand, given what happened in Volume 43, I’m honestly OK with everyone being pleasant and casually discussing their polycule. It’s a lot less sad and downbeat than what I expect the start of the 45th volume will be like.

As with previous short story volumes, this consists of three short stories from HJ Bunko’s online website and a longer story at the end. In the first story, Elfaria, Theia, Ruth, and Ceileshu are ordered to take a day off after the civil war (and despite Ceileshu’s guilt about her part in said civil war), and play various board games from Japan (the Game of Life, etc.). In the second story, with Maki unavailable, Harumi and Shizuka are chosen to try to teach our resident Power Ranger knockoffs how to fight against someone who has magic. In the third story Kotori and Kiriha meet with the student council to discuss how the alien transfer students are fitting in, and then discuss Koutarou’s childhood. In the story written for the book, we see Koutarou going out on dates with all nine of his current polycule… and it becomes clear that it’s going to be expanding to more than nine.

It’s been about fifteen books since the first supposed “ending” of this series, which pretty much cemented that the nine main heroines were all quite friendly with each other and would be happy to share Koutarou in a polyamorous relationship whenever he got over his hangups. He’s mostly done that now, at least in terms of no longer thinking “if I admit I love someone they will die”, but he still feels that choosing just one girl will destroy everything. And, well, he’s not wrong. The second half of this book goes into great detail about how his marriage is now a political decision, and there is no way that he will be allowed to NOT marry someone from Forthorthe. Which… could be Theia. Or Clan. But it could also be Elfaria, who is single, the Empress, still young (for an alien race), and in love with Koutarou, something she is reluctant to admit in front of her daughter. The one thing that none of the heroines are allowed to do in Rokujouma!? is bury their feelings of love. And that’s true if you’re the Empress, or if you’re a god in disguise, or even if you’re the little sister of his best friend, who is starting to realize that maybe he isn’t just a “big brother”.

Of course, that assumes they all survive the next book. The author promises it’s back to the main plot next time. Till then, enjoy a staid and somewhat boring but also warm and comforting light novel volume.

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.