Invaders of the Rokujouma!?, Vol. 33

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.

The most annoying thing about this volume, of course, is what ISN’T here. We had been expecting that each girl would get their own “what if?” arc detailing their lives if Koutarou fell for them, with Harumi being the first. Now here we are with the next one, Clan… only we find that Maki already had hers, as an exclusive 75-minute CD bonus track. I gotta hope this is part of the Kickstarter in some way, because if that’s how it’s going down in the future, I suspect half of English-speaking fans are going to be left without satisfaction. Maki’s looks cute, seems to involve rescuing some stray cats (who continue to hang around her), and… well, sorry. As for the book itself, it’s fine. As with previous “short story” volumes, it contains three stories written previously for the “Hercules” website, and Clan’s “what if”, which is empty of surprises but is as sweet and cute as you’d expect. And you learn far more about vacuum tubes than you ever thought you would.

The first short story has Koutarou getting a cold while skiing (blame Yurika, who ends up going down the hill like a cartoon, as a rolling snowball) and getting nursed back to health by Elfaria and Kiriha. They both want to get closer to Koutarou, but are also nice and mature, so they end up having a “gambling match”, loser has to take care of him, and then both trying to throw the match, sort of. It shows off how Elfaria may not be quite as far out of the harem as she thinks, despite not being one of the “core girls”. Next we see just how Yurika got to be a magical girl, and her early days with Nana. If nothing else, this tells us that Yurika was indeed born on Earth and not in Magical Girl World. Other than that it’s slight, emphasizing how she’s still basically Usagi Tsukino in a Yurika skin. The third short has Kiriha and Maki, on separate outings with their friends, meeting at an amusement park and talking. It’s sweet, but again, two of the sensible characters having a conversation makes things a bit dull.

As with Harumi’s “what if”, Clan’s stems from one slight issue going worse than canon; while in the past searching for the Blue Knight, she gets a bad cold, and has to be taken care of by Koutarou. This allows the two of them to be far closer and less guarded than they are in canon, and that extends to when they return to the present day. Clan is not Harumi, so as you’d expect there’s a lot more tsundere action going on in this story, but the beats are the same – Koutarou’s defenses are brought down, he ends up hanging out with Clan more than the others, and they gradually fall in love, though being who they are said love is mostly exchanged via unspoken handholding and hugs. There’s also a nice examinatio9n of Clan’s tendency to think of herself as a “villain”, and the regrets she has from her past. She’s always going to be snarky, but Clan has soft4ened up a lot.

So overall, not an essential volume unless Clan is your best girl, but it’s readable. Next time we should get back to the main storyline… in fact, I think we get two books of main storyline in a row, so no what-ifs for a bit.

Invaders of the Rokujouma!?, Vol. 32

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’s been a while since we’ve checked in with our Rokujouma family, and it’s a relief to see that everyone is much the same. It’s actually quite impressive that this series that should have ended with Vol. 29 is taking a relaxing victory lap and also springboarding a whole new plot that will take many books to resolve at the same time. It doesn’t actually feel dissonant – what’s resolved is Koutarou and the other girls, and though he’s still too “teenage” to actually say I Love You out loud or anything, it’s only a matter of time. This is pointed out to him by MacKenzie, after Koutarou worries about Yurika above and beyond the call of duty – he cannot simply choose one girl at this point. Indeed, the author agrees, which is why we’re getting the side stories that imagine life if he DID fall for only one girl. But that’s next time: this volume is back in the present-day, and showing that the aftermath of the war is still coming to Earth… literally.

There are three main plot threads here, all of which tie into each other. First of all, it’s time for the sports festival again, which is very important to the original core cast as it’s the first time they really bonded as a group way back in the single digit volumes. Unfortunately, dreams of winning the big prize may have to be put on hold. The spaceship that blew up at the end of the last volume was deliberately blown up – now its alien tech is scattered all over Japan, and is being picked up by unscrupulous companies to examine. Even worse, they’ve kidnapped an American scientist and are holding his family hostage in order to force him to work on the alien tech. Now our heroes have to rescue the scientist, his wife and daughter, and retrieve or destroy the technology, all while trying not to get in trouble at school. Oh, and Yurika’s working for the bad guys again, though this time it really is an accident.

It needs to be said, there’s a whole lot of sap here, and if you dislike that, you may want to stop reading. That said, this is the 34th book in the series (counting the two .5 volumes), and I suspect new readers are not going to be anywhere near this. Old readers will find plenty to smile about – every girl gets a chance to be sweet with the man they love, except MacKenzie’s little sister, who’s still trying to come to terms with the fact that the brother she idolized is a playboy. This actually gets weaponized towards the end of the book, as part of the plan. The plan itself makes the latter half of the book feel like a heist movie, as we see everything coming together, everyone gets to show off their cool powers, and only a few girls have emotional crises. (Yurika is a given, but Shizuka is really starting to get worried about everyone thinking of her as basically “the big guy”.)

Summing up, this is exactly what Rokujouma fans want in a book. Next time we get another three short stories/alternate universe book, with Clan winning the “what if Koutarou chose only me?” sweepstakes. So expect bickering galore.

Invaders of the Rokujouma!?, Vol. 31

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.

And so I finally finish my Rokujouma catchup. This is also where the upcoming print boxset that was Kickstartered will end, as it had to cut off somewhere, and this is as good a place as any given the series is still coming out in Japan. It’s another one of those “three short stories from the online site and one half-book original” novels, only in this case the half-book overwhelms the short stories even more than usual. The short stories aren’t bad – first there’s a Triathlon our heroes are competing in, and we focus on Clan, who is out of shape, and Yurika, who is in shape but has little motivation. It’s cute, even though they’re also both very pathetic. We then get Harumi and Maki playing board games, which if nothing else shows off how desperately these two nice introverts need someone else to bounce off of. And Shizuka and Ruth have another sentai battle, bringing back Ruth’s beetle phobia, which, let’s face it, no one wanted to bring back.

The half-novel is the first of the “what ifs” the author said he was doing, but it’s framed as also being canon – in the brief interval between when Koutarou and company bring Nalfa back to Room 106 and when she wipes everyone’s memories, the idea of alternate universes comes up. Koutarou was relieved to hear that there are universes where his mother is alive, and Nalfa offers to show him one of those in a dream. (Pointedly, we don’t see that world, possibly as I suspect it would be rather sweet but dull.) The girls all then realize they can look at a world where they won and Koutarou is their boyfriend, and after a jan-ken-pon competition, Harumi is the first to see what that life would be like. She ends up sort of providing color commentary on the dream world, which works because it’s her but I was relieved when the afterword said it would not continue after this.

The “Harumi wins” world is very similar to this one, oddly – it takes place over about the first 8-9 books, and the rest of the cast still arrive and are trying to get control of Room 106. They’re barely in the story, though, as here Koutarou is all about Harumi. Amusingly, it’s because their initial meeting went worse than in canon – when trying to pull away from the dude harassing her, she sprains her wrist and Koutarou has to give first aid. This allows two very hands-off people to touch earlier than usual, and everything springboards from there – Koutarou opens up to her faster, she realizes she’s in love faster, and they confess rapidly. That said, which that world’s Koutarou and Harumi are blissfully happy, OUR Harumi is dissatisfied. A life without the rest of the cast just isn’t the same, even if their real-life romance isn’t resolved. Another reminder that found family story beats sappy romance story.

In Vol. 33 we’ll apparently get Clan’s “what if” story next, but before that it’s back to the ongoing plot. Till then, enjoy this what if that also reminds you that the main plot is best.