Kagerou Daze VIII: Summer Time Reload

By Jin (Shinzen no Teki-P) and Sidu. Released in Japan by Enterbrain. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Kevin Gifford.

(This review gets even more spoilery than I normally do, FYI.)

I will admit, those who are only familiar with Kagerou Daze via the light novels themselves, rather than the franchise in general, may be a little dissatisfied with the ending. It’s not really that the villains win or even that most of the cast die, it’s that it all ends with a big old reset button. We tried a cool plan, it didn’t work, and so we’re going back to try something else – which, it turns out, they’ve been doing for a long, long time. Kagerou Daze is not a visual novel, but like Higurashi and Little Busters, it revolves around repeating a sequence of time to try and fix things. In the case of the light novel, things don’t get fixed. Oh, there are some survivors – the “side story” in this book deals with Seto and Marie after everything else has already happened, and Hibiya is still around as well – but no one really wins. Not even the villains.

That said, the novels are not all there is to Kagerou Daze. The books are based on a series of songs, and the final song in the “main” series, Summer Time Reload, is also the title of this book. It implies the majority of the cast survive, though they may forget about all this. There’s also the manga, which is just about to wrap up in Japan, and clearly tells a different version of events from the books and the songs. And there’s also the anime, Mekakucity Actors, which may annoy fans for various reasons, but also arguably provides the most closure. All the spinoffs are different kinds of flavoring to the main plot. Here, with prose, we get a lot of monologues showing off the emotional state of the cast – in fact, I would argue that Jin is better at this than he is at actual plotting.

There’s also an awful lot of shipping in this last volume, which surprised me. Kagerou Daze has a large shipping fandom – it’s got about 2.5K fics on Fanfiction.net – both het and otherwise. You don’t see much of the otherwise here, but other shippers should be pleased. Haruka clearly ships Shintaro and Ayano, and is visibly upset when their reunion in the Daze is less about “Sorry I forgot to say I love you before you killed yourself” and more “how do we stop the villains”. Hiyori, who I suspect the majority of readers may have forgotten about, pops in at the end too, and she’s just as tsundere as ever, though she does manage to spit out words very few tsunderes ever have. And the entire book is about Seto and Marry’s relationship, and how they’re family but also clearly want to have more, at least on his side. Sadly, his desire to protect is sort of destroying anything else they might have.

Jin’s afterword is very self-deprecatory, and I get that. These aren’t the best written books, especially in translation – there were several times when I could have used a “this character is now our narrator” slug at the top of the section. And Seto really did get the least focus of any character, coming off as a bit wet in the process. That said, in terms of emotion and character, Kagerou Daze was a fast favorite for me. The books make me want to listen to the songs, read the manga, and watch the anime all in a marathon. Which is all you can ask from a franchise spinoff.

Kagerou Daze VII: From the Darkness

By Jin (Shinzen no Teki-P) and Sidu. Released in Japan by Enterbrain. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Kevin Gifford.

Each volume in the series has competed to see who in the Mekakushi Dan has the worst childhood, and we may have a new winner with Kido, who gets the focus here. The book is divided into two parts that it goes back and forth between, like previous volumes in the series. The main story continues, with Shintaro, the Mekakushi-Dan and a newly revived Takane trying to find a way to stop Tateyama – or rather, whatever is behind Tateyama – and figure out how to stop this whole mess. This is interspersed with Kido’s childhood, being a child of an affair whose mother then dies several years later, causing her to be taken in by her rich father. Kido is an introverted self-hating mess, which honestly fits pretty well with what we’ve seen of present-day Kido, so the flashbacks work pretty well. Luckily, she also has a big stepsister looking out for her. Unluckily, this book is called “From the Darkness”.

Kido’s sections are the strongest in the book, doing a good job (despite the author’s self-deprecation in the afterword) of a realistic young girl resented by most people in the mansion, ignored by her father, and waiting to be abused by a sister that she’s sure hates her. But Rin does not, in fact, hate her, and after a series of painful to read but oh so accurate scenes of Kido wondering when the next blow is going to fall, she gradually begins to open up to the other girl and speak. Unfortunately, her dad is not merely cold and withdrawn, he’s rather unhinged, something which I wish was written in a slightly less abrupt way – the shortness of these books means that sometimes motivations get either left out or reduced to a villain monologue, and in this case it’s the later, as Kido’s father insanely expounds on why he went mad. After tragedy strikes, Kido finds herself in Azami’s realm, where Azami – rather startled to be meeting someone – realizes that Kido has one of her Eyes, and tries to explain as best she can. This section works much better.

Things don’t get much better in the main storyline, where we learn that you rarely gain a cool cyborg body without its creator having the ability to take the body over and turn it evil. Balanced against this is the reunion of Shintaro and Takane, who has to explain why she did what she did as Ene – which is fairly heartwarming – and why she ACTED like she did as Ene – which is the funniest part of the book. Unfortunately, while Shintaro’s plan to take out Tateyama is a good one, as I said, it reckons without one of the group being possessed. And so how we end the book with Shintaro dead, Kido dead, everyone else presumably about to die, and the realization that Book 8 not only may be the last but also isn’t out in Japan yet. This will have to satisfy Kagerou Daze fans for now, but I think it will do a fine job.

Also, will Seto ever get developed?

Kagerou Daze VI: Over the Dimension

By Jin (Shinzen no Teki-P) and Sidu. Released in Japan by Enterbrain. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Kevin Gifford.

For all that I’ve joked about the Kagerou Daze light novels being short – and they really are, they’re easily the shortest books that Yen is putting out right now – that’s not a complaint about their quality, which has steadily improved with each volume. Kagerou Daze does not really give the reader a lot of information directly, so one can get very easily confused reading the first three books. As we move on, though, and discover backstories and connections between characters, everything starts to come together as we realize that there is an overarching plot here, we have a main villain, and we almost know what the villain is doing, though not why. It can also help flesh out previous books, and no volume does that more than this new one, which is a mirror to the second book, A Headphone Actor.

In that book we had the POV of Takane, the eternally angry high school girl who likes her tall, airheaded classmate Haruka but can’t do anything but take shots at him, because hiding embarrassment, etc. A tsundere with very little dere. This new book gives us Haruka’s perspective of the same events, and we can see that he does actually sort of like Takane, but unfortunately due to her actions he doesn’t think that she likes him much at all. If you’re going to haev a stereotypical angry anime girl, it’s always nice to show off how it can work against them in the long run. As for Haruka himself, he’s a bit shy, straightforward, nice… and dying, something that he’s known about for some time but hasn’t really told anyone about. The knowledge that he’ll be dead in a year informs many of his actions, especially as he begins to open up to both Takane and his new friends Ayano and Shintaro.

Shintaro is a bit of a revelation here, as from Takane’s perspective in Volume 2, he was quite different back in school from the emotional hot mess we know and love. Here we see Shintaro slowly open to to Haruka’s aggressive overtures of friendship, and we can see that the emotional turmoil is not all that far from the surface. There’s lots of bits in this book that work because we know the cast and their pasts from previous books – when Ayano walks in on Haruka and begins to act in a completely non-characteristic way, it’s easy to see that it’s really Kano. We also see the start of Momo’s idol career, and the fact that literally everyone but Shintaro can see how gaga Ayano is over him. Of course, Ayano is dead in the future, which also makes this a bit tragic as well.

In fact, the book ends darkly, as not only do we see Haruka and Takane getting turned into Konoha and Ene from his perspective, but we also see that Konoha seems to be somewhat possessed by evil, and also that Shintaro is possibly dead as well. Given that we’ve seen time loops in this series before, I highly doubt this is meant to be permanent, but our heroes still have a long way to go to fix things. Definitely worth a read, even if you’re not a fan of the songs.