Invaders of the Rokujouma!?, Vol. 38

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

It can be hard to thread the needle when you’re writing a story that actually *is* being published in light novel form first, as opposed to the usual these days, where a publisher picks up a series published originally on the web. The author admits that, after getting past the ‘we’ll end this in three books’ and ‘we’ll end this in 7-8 books’ hump and getting to the proper ending with Books 28 & 29… they STILL did not have the room to tell everything they wanted to tell. Which is why, even though it’s a 2-volume arc, those books felt a bit rushed. With this book, and its reveal about who their new Big Bad is, we get to go back and tackle the plot-related bits of the ending that were sacrificed for the greater theme. And we get to do that in a way that Rokujouma has become very accustomed to lately… though massive battles. This time in space, as after dealing with villains with fatal flaws up the wazoo for a while, Koutarou and company finally have to take on smart bad guys.

This book starts off with plot and does not really let go of it – any fluffy moments are now pretty much reserved for the short story volumes. Our three magical girls, out on patrol, come back with a surprise… Sanae! But it’s not Sanae-chan, our lovable ghost, or even Sanae-san, the shy but spiritually powerful human. It’s a Sanae from an alternate world… one where things went very badly. The Grey Knight, their mysterious new enemy, has progressively spirited away or killed off a good deal of the cast, and so they sent Sanae to a different dimension to try to warn our heroes about him (and get help if she can). This leads to the back half of the book, which is a battle between our heroes on one side and Ralgwin, the Grey Knight, and the mage Grevanas, back from the dead and experimenting with modern technology. What is the shocking secret identity of the Grey Knight?

…OK, it’s not that shocking. Given Koutarou has spent 30-odd books gallivanting around as the BLUE Knight, and that we have a Sanae from an alternate universe now, the identity of the Grey Knight is actually pretty easy to guess. I did enjoy seeing alternate Sanae, who is exactly what you’d expect her to be: a mature Sanae who is at peace with the fact that she had to fuse her two “selves” together but is still “Sanae” at heart. There is also some amusing romantic progression… amusing because, as you’d expect, it’s unconscious, with Koutarou saying that he hasn’t married Theia “yet”, a definite step up from the previous “we’re not getting married” denials. The dam is starting to crack.

The book ends by implying we’ll be returning to Forthothe soon, and catching up with our team of former evil magical girls, who now work for the Crown. But yeah, I suspect this alternate universe will play out over the next few volumes, though I’m sure we’ll get short story ones as well. Rokujouma may meander a bit these days, but it’s still worth reading.

Invaders of the Rokujouma!?, Vol. 37

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

Given the longevity of this series – at 39 volumes (counting the two .5 volumes) it’s probably the biggest light novel series to hit North America in full translation – it’s not particularly a surprise that the more recent volumes are taking the time to look back at the past. This is particularly true of this, a short story volume that follows the usual pattern we’ve seen to date – three web-only short stories and a longer story written specifically for this book. The three web stories all involve looking back at the past in some way, shape or form, and seeing how far people have come. Harumi and Clan, who are in many ways opposites, each envy the other; Theia and Ruth reflect about the fact that they can trust other now and are better people as a result; and Sanae and Shizuka think about life without Koutarou in it and decide “no thank you”, even if at the time they may have felt differently. Fortunately, the final story in the book looks toward the future… and has swimsuits.

In the first story, Clan and Harumi (and Alaia, as Harumi’s later ego) are looking back over events of two thousand years prior, where Clan is forced to admit that Koutarou basically did all the cooking and laundry. The two then use magic and technology to swap bodies, essentially, so Koutarou can roughly rub Harumi’s head and treat Clan with respect and politeness. The second story has Theia and Ruth trying to pick out photos for a news article about the Blue Knight, and thinking about their childhood together and how difficult it was for both of them. The third story sees Shizuka and Sanae spring cleaning all the apartments in the complex, and also stirring up memories – be it Shizuka’s parents before their death or Sanae’s “haunting” of Koutarou before the others arrived. Finally, Koutarou and the girls go on a private beach holiday… but also find time to sneak in some plot-based activities.

Shizuka’s story reminded me that there are other residents of the apartment complex besides her and the 106 herd, and we really haven’t ever ran into any of them, have we? Even if they don’t complain about the noise and/or property damage, you’d think the idea of one man living with so many girls would cause them to at least talk to the manager. Then again, she *does* know martial arts… As usual with these short story volumes, the longest was the best, as we see Nefilforan and her troops wanting to train against Koutarou and the other girls, as they’re all basically powerhouses. This gives us a chance to see just how powerful everyone in the group has become… and yes, for once that includes Yurika, though she thinks sleeping gas is not very cute and magical girl-ey. Unfortunately for the girls, while Koutarou is slowly getting over his past traumas and personality flaws, he’s not really ready to admire the girls’ swimsuits at all or show that he is sexually attracted to them. Perhaps it might take another 39 books.

Of course, this still leaves a cliffhanger from the last book hanging there, and the author promises that we’ll get back to the main plot in Vol. 38, which should focus on Sanae. Till then, this is a good short story volume that is a definite buy for anyone who’s read close to forty other volumes of this series.

Invaders of the Rokujouma!?, Vol. 36

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

I’ve mentioned this a few times before, but Rokujouma frequently has to walk a bit of a high wire, especially in the books that take place after the “ending” we saw in Vol. 29. The author still clearly wants to write more and more stories, and does not want to wrap things up quickly. At the same time, one of the joys of this series has been seeing the characters gradually grow and mature, and as such we don’t want to see them all static either. This new volume is particularly good at keeping that balance, especially for our two resident magical girls, Maki and Yurika. Maki’s past, both as an orphan sold into slavery and as a member of Darkness Rainbow, still tends to guide her actions. Meanwhile, Yurika’s self-pity sometimes verges into self-loathing, so much so that she can’t honestly see how impressed everyone is with her. The best way to resolve both of these things is to head off to Folsaria, Maki’s homeland. And who knows, maybe we can tie into the other ongoing plot while we’re at it.

We pick up where we left off, as Ralgwin has gotten away, though he does not seem to be starting anything major from somewhere else. This allows them to focus on Maki, who has been invited to join Rainbow Heart after recommendations from both Nana and Yurika. Maki certainly has the magic for it… and she’s got the “heart” as well. But can she really become one of the good magical girls after being a literal terrorist just a year or so ago? She gets a provisional task she must complete: investigate the disappearance of several men from a part of the city. This leads her not only to the home where she was born (now a ruined building), but also to a graveyard containing something that’s a lot bigger than just missing people. Can Maki rally together with all of her friends and family and save Folsaria from a hideous disaster?

I was talking about balancing character development with a certain static point, and something in the narrative really showed that off to me: when they arrive at Rainbow Heart headquarters, Yurika is given a letter explaining that all of her debt has finally been paid. Folsaria is a magical land, and Yurika should have been getting a salary, particularly given how much nof a prodigy she was. But apparently she destroyed a factory when her magic went out of control… and it was on her own time, not during work. So her wages were garnished forever to pay for it. Yurika, however, is not delighted by this at all. She fears that if she’s no longer a freeloader Koutarou will abandon her. What surprised me is that there’s no snapback at the end of the book. I was sure Yurika would end up reincurring a large debt. But no. And she’s even able to continue living frugally (so far). It’s really impressive, both for her and the author, not to fall into old habits.

Apologies to Maki, as I spent most of her book talking about Yurika. But Maki is awesome here too, gets to resolve many conflicted feelings, and becomes a real heroine at last, with a paycheck and everything. Unfortunately… the villains kinda win here. We’ll see what happens next, I guess.