Invaders of the Rokujouma!?, Vol. 13

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

Much as the Rokujouma series in general has focused on life on Earth, and more specifically around Room 106, I’ve been starting to get a feeling that when the series does eventually end (and it’s showing a few signs it may soon in Japan, though we’re still long away from it here) it’s going to be having the cast emigrating to Forthorthe in some way, shape or form. Theia and Ruth’s plotline is simply too wrapped up in a world far away from here. We see that at the start of this book, where both of them go back to their planet to investigate her mother’s supposed illness, and the narrative kind of idles while everyone waits for them to get back. It takes a lot to shift these folks from where they want to be – next to Koutarou. That said, we’re also seeing that Theia and her mother are being set up to look like traitors by the bad guys, so a closer visit to modern Forthorthe is no doubt in the offing. For now, though, enjoy a volume that’s almost all battle.

Yes, Ruth’s evil ex-fiance is back, and bhe’s brought friends and a consuming desire to battle Koutarou. As such, once Theia and Ruth return with her mother the Empress (turns out the illness was a lie – no surprises there), our heroes are under attack from multiple fronts. This allows us to show off the varied skills of all the group while also showing that, unlike Koutarou, they are allowed to lose to superior numbers and firepower. Koutarou is an exceeption, but again this book takes the time to hammer home again and again that he’s using “borrowed power” from everyone. That said, what he does with all that power is purely him, even if he refuses to admit it. There are a few exceptions, of course. Harumi, newly awakened to the magic she has within her, as well as to the fact that she’s Alaia’s reincarnation (something only Clan and Theia’s mother seem to be figuring out), and suddenly she’s a huge powerhouse, though sadly this does push Yurika’s talents off to the side a bit.

And then there’s Shizuka. Now, given that the last few books have been trying their darndest to make Shizuka part of the main harem, despite the fact that she’s not in love with Koutarou (yet), there was always going to be a revelation about her. Her super strength for no reason at all was a signpost there. Still, it’s hard not to be amused when Koutarou literally pulls a deus ex machina and calls on his ancient dragon friend from the past… only to find the dragon has been within Shizuka all along. Shizuka herself seems unaware of this, possibly because the author wanted to have a wacky tag for the epilogue, but I suspect it’s only a matter of time before she ends up much the same as Harumi is now. Given the nature of this book, it’s unsurprising that there are an awful lot of last-minute saves and “oh, did I mention I can do this” twists to it. Oh, and we also hear about another Koutqarou and Clan time-travel adventure we haven’t seen yet, though I hope that doesn’t mean another .5 volume.

So with Theia and her mother likely having to stay in exile for a while, and the two biggest antagonists in the series joining forces at the end, what’s coming up? This feels very much like an “End of Part One” sort of book, so I suspect next time we’ll see the start of something new.

Invaders of the Rokujouma!?, Vol. 12

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

Rokujouma is, of course, a balanced harem sort of series that in all honesty feels like it’s going to end up with some sort of polyamorous resolution. That said, obviously as a reader I have my favorites. After after realizing that the three volumes where she gained character development are my three favorite volumes, it’s time to admit it: Yurika is my jam. (I may have admitted this before, but forgive me for the slight return.) It’s a somewhat unusual choice given that Yurika’s default state is essentially Usagi from Sailor Moon: a whining, clumsy, somewhat bad at life sort of girl. But, like Usagi, when you put her into a situation where she has to protect the world and her friends, she comes through with flying colors. In addition, her scenes with Koutarou in this book really have a nice amount of romantic tension, even if it’s just on her part. And finally, praise the Lord, everyone admits that Yurika is indeed a real Magical Girl. This book is basically everything I want in a character arc.

Being a Yurika book, it’s no surprise that the chief villains here are Darkness Rainbow, though one of the main plot revelations is that they’re getting help from another group of villains. This means that Maki also gets a large amount of character work, following up on her bond with Koutarou in the 8th volume… in fact, the literal bond created between them becomes almost a chain to Maki, who worries that it means that her feelings aren’t her own. And Harumi, who has always somewhat suffered from being the normal girl in the group (Shizuka can beat up monsters with martial arts, so doesn’t count), gets a power up thanks to the narrative explicitly acknowledging her reincarnation of the princess status, even if Harumi doesn’t quite get it herself. Her scenes with Yurika were also fantastic, as Yurika’s guilt in falling for the guy Harumi loves is wiped away by the power of friendship, and the two end up literally merging souls for a bit when things get rough.

The nature of the Rokujouma license means that’s we’re getting these books once a month, and while it can be hard to catch up, not to mention expensive, I also think it’s helped me appreciate the plot and the way the book tie together in a way I wouldn’t if I was reading these three times a year. The last several books have felt like one continuous narrative, even as they change focus and emphasis, and I’ve no doubt that when Vol. 13 focuses on Theia (as the cliffhanger implies), it will also pick up threads from this book and others. Koutarou too is recognizing his faults out loud, and actually doing something about them. Yurika as well, though she needs a lot more help with her more comedic faults. (The funniest joke in the book may have been the final one, where Shizuka points out to Koutarou that not letting Yurika get any sleep at all will not help her study habits.)

Broken record time: Invaders of the Rokujouma!? is the best light novel series you’re not reading. Catch up as soon as possible.

Invaders of the Rokujouma!?, Vol. 11

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

Sanae has always had the most difficulty as part of the Koutarou harem. First of all, as the author notes, it’s been about 10 books since she last got any real plot focus. More importantly, she’s a ghost, which is a heck of a larger bar to clear than “alien”, “magical girl”, or “underground dweller”. And so a plot like this one, in which we find that Sanae is both dead and not dead, a ghost and not a ghost, was somewhat inevitable. Its resolution is handled pretty well. It’s not surprising in the least (Rokujouma is frequently anti-surprising, but that’s because it’s trying for Warm and Fuzzy Feelings, which of necessity involves the comfortable and familiar plot twist), but it fits well with what has gone before, only uses Deus ex Machine once or twice, and ties in neatly to the previous book right at the end. Also wow, Sanae’s rich.

Sanae’s plot is not the highlight of this book, though, which excels at the girls analyzing Koutarou and why he keeps a wall up in front of most everyone he knows. This comes up because Yurika is an exception, and they reason out what’s so different about her compared to the others. The difference is, of course, Koutarou thinks of her as a “normal girl” – indeed, that may be a big reason he’s in denial about the magical girl thing – and thus their life together is unlikely to change. The others, though, he’s put in a “eventually they will leave me so I’d better not get too close” bucket, which as Kiriha says may be related to his mother’s death as a child. It feels a bit awkward to have all this character analysis dumped onto the page like this, but it does make for fascinating reading, especially when we see him treating the now-alive Sanae (who has temporarily lost her memories) as a past chapter of his life.

The book is not without its issues. Much as I’m fond of talking about how much the characters have grown since the start of the series, I don’t want the author to talk about it in the actual text – it feels a bit too much like patting oneself on the back. Likewise, The Sanae plot steams over any subplots that might have been happening, including Harumi, who gets a scene at the start implying that something is going to happen when they do club recruiting but then vanishes from the rest of the book. And, in terms of problems actually lampshaded by the character in question, why is Shizuka such a part of the harem group now? I like Shizuka, don’t get me wrong, but she doesn’t seem to be in love with Koutarou (Yurika hasn’t admitted this either, but at least she’s in denial about it). I get the feeling the narrative is edging towards that, but until it gets there, Shizuka feels a bit like an optional extra. So does Harumi, come to that.

In any case, this is another solid volume of the series, which I still enjoy a great deal. Next time looks to be heavy on the magical girl side, so let’s look forward to that.