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.

Invaders of the Rokujouma!?, Vol. 10

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.

As the author says in the afterword, technically this could have been Volume 9.5. That said, I am happy that it kept itself in the main series, as for the most part it had a larger scope than the chapters with Koutarou and Clan back in ancient history did. This particular volume shows that, even as Koutarou adn the reader thinks that his troubles began when all the girls tried to move into his apartment on the same day, they actually have a bond that extends back a lot longer. We already know about Koutarou’s relationship with Theia and Ruth’s planet, and of course Harumi seemingly being the reincarnation of Alaia. Now we see how he was Kiriha’s knight in shining armor all along, and he also had a major role to play in the past of both Yurika and Sanae, though neither of them technically show up here. It all ties together, and not in a teeth-grinding way either.

Adult Kiriha is on the cover, but child Kii-chan is who we get for 4/5 of the book, having run away from home due to latent grief over the death of her mother. She runs into Koutarou and Clan, who are time-traveling back but have to recalibrate. Naturally, Koutarou doesn’t recognize her till halfway through the book… and even then he promptly forgets about it because of an even bigger revelation – the day they’ve arrived is the day his own mother was killed in a car accident. Now he has to choose between saving his mother or protecting the future he’s fought for with everyone. There are, of course, a few problems. Kii-chan is a target for assassination. The assassin is actually a dark magical girl. Which means that Nana, Yurika’s predecessor and mentor, is also trying to stop her… as in a young woman who is an archer, desperately trying to save her daughter, whose spiritual energy is being bled out to power EVIL RITUALS. There’s a lot going on.

I’ll be honest, I was expecting the “save mom or save the timeline” decision to be less of an issue than it ended up being, but I probably shouldn’t have been. Each of the characters has shown themselves to be deeply lonely in a way they can only fix by being around each other, and therefore it should be no surprise that Koutarou’s first reaction is “forget about the timeline, I have to do this”. You can likely guess what the outcome is, but on the bright side, we get another cool battle that shows off Koutarou’s ridiculous endurance even as it shows us that he’s getting less pwoerful the longer he’s away from the others. Probably the best scene in the book is the final one, back in the present, as Kiriha has realized who her “oniichan” really is and is, unsurprisingly, ecstatic. The author really excels at drawing deeply emotional, sappy scenes without making the reader roll their eyes or feel uncomfortable.

Shizuka may have gotten the last cover, but she wasn’t in this one (though her ridiculous strength was mentioned). It seems unlikely she’ll be in the next one either, as we get another cliffhanger that tells us that next time around is Sanae-focused. If you’ve been reading Rokujouma from J-Novel Club, and you enjoy supporting the author by actually buying it (please support the author!), you’ll definitely enjoy this new volume.

Invaders of the Rokujouma!?, Vol. 9

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.

There are many things that I greatly enjoy Rokujouma for, but it has to be said that surprises and plot twists are not one of them. This is not necessarily a bad thing, of course, but it does need to be said: if you’re reading Rokujouma and wondering what is going to happen next, “the most obvious thing” will be the correct answer. In this book we see Ruth getting an arranged marriage visit – given she’s the princess’s attendant and closest friend, she’s a bit of a hot commodity. We meet her theoretical fiancee, who is handsome, turned his father’s business around, donates to so many charities it’s ridiculous, and no doubt spends his spare time petting kittens. There is no reason to refuse this marriage except, of course for two things: 1) she’s in love with Koutarou, something that she finally accepts by the end of this book, and 2) he turns out to be… well, let’s save the gripping suspense for the next paragraph.

If you guessed “turns out to be secretly EVIL!”, congratulations, you can now write an anime series. In fact, not only is he secretly evil, but he turns out to look exactly like the sneering evil guy that Koutarou fought in the past in the previous mini-arc, something Koutarou lampshades. Actually, that arc is becoming the kick off for a lot of new plots – Koutarou is teaching Ruth sword fighting now because he wants her to fight like her ancestor did. More importantly, Ruth figures out the truth of what happened, that Koutarou is in fact the Blue Knight. She almost kneels before him in worship, to be honest, which made me a little uncomfortable, but given who Ruth is and the appearance of their biggest legend before her as the man she loves, it’s very much in character. Actually, given this book is almost all Ruth’s book, it’s pretty well characterized. Which isn’t surprising, as likeable characterization and development is the strongest point of this author.

As for the rest of the cast, it’s Valentine’s Day, and we are briefly reminded that Koutarou was supposed to, at the start of the series, be one of the “unpopular” guys that never got valentines. The very idea is laughable now, of course, so instead we’re treated to a comedic series of his love interests handing out chocolate one by one to an increasingly baffled Koutarou. Harumi is satisfied just saying it’s “obligation chocolate” when she knows it’s not. Theia gets the prize, however, as she says it’s definitely love chocolate, leaving Koutarou poleaxed. (She also implies that she’d be perfectly happy sharing Koutarou with Ruth, making me wonder if this is another series that’s going to have a harem ending of some sort.) The other girls also do well for themselves, apart from poor Yurika, who’s stuck in comedy relief mode this book, so is totally useless.

So now we have a new enemy, and I’m pretty sure he’ll be back, but probably not next book. Shizuka’s on the cover of this one, and of the main heroines she’s the least developed – in fact, is she a heroine? Perhaps she’s the best developed of the supporting roles. I wonder if she’ll get more focus next time. That said, the cliffhanger for this book implies Kiriha will get the bulk of the next one. Rokujouma remains a delight, even if it’s a very predictable delight.