Last Round Arthurs, Vol. 5: Once King & Future King

By Taro Hitsuji and Kiyotaka Haimura. Released in Japan by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jan Cash.

Yeah, that really did not stick the landing, did it? After a series that mixed up wacky romcom “shout at the appalling girl being appalling” stuff with Shonen Jump battles, the series goes all in on the latter here at the end. Which is fine – given the glimpse of Kay and Emma *still* in fetishwear in the epilogue, I’m quite happy to have a final volume of serious fighting. The trouble is that the fighting is not all that great, and the beats are very, very predictable. I’ve compared it to Jump before, but here it sort of reads like one of those Jump series that gets cancelled 2-3 volumes in and told to wrap things up here. We meet the final boss, who is exactly who you’d expect, and our heroes are almost defeated, as you’d expect, except Luna simply! will! not! give! up!, as you’d expect. What about Rintarou, you ask? Well, he’s trapped in another dimension. Will he make it back just in the nick of time? Take a guess.

We pick up where the last book left off, as our merry crew (minus Rintarou) have gotten back from their Holy Grail Quest to find that New Avalon has been overrun by monsters, and that evacuation of the island is being cut off by magic. Someone wants a massacre here. (Casualties are implied, but we never see or hear about dead bodies, so…) There’s also a massive dark evil castle in the center of the city now. Making their way there, our heroes split up to take on the bad guys: the original King Arthur, who has been corrupted into evil, his two companions, and Morgan Le Fay, who we find in this book would like the entire world to end so that she can be reunited with a nebbish ordinary knight she fell in love with back in the day. Luna may declare herself to be the next King Arthur, but can she go up against the original without Rintarou’s help?

Well, no, because the entire point of the series is that you get a partner for your quest and rely on them. Plus, again, Jump-esque series. When Rintarou showed up to save Luna in the nick of time, all I could think was that she’s going to hit him and tell him “You’re late!”, and sure enough, that’s exactly what happens. There’s a lot of discussion of what makes a king here, especially when Luna gets all the other candidates to basically give up and join her as subordinates. Luna says that being a king is about determination and never giving up, which certainly defines her, though give the fights in this book I sometimes get the sense she’s a Tex Avery dog slamming against a door over and over till it opens. Rintarou basically had his character development finish last time, so he essentially is absent for most of this book until he comes to save the day.

And so we end with Luna in charge, a new Round Table, and a world that is now aware of magic and monsters, which means that we’re seeing more of them across the globe. You get the sense that Luna’s going to turn the new Round Table into a modern-day Avengers. Fortunately, the series ends here, so I don’t have to worry about it. There wasn’t anything really bad with Last Round Arthurs, unless you dislike obnoxious women, but it never really rose above “yeah, it went there” in terms of narrative thrust.

Last Round Arthurs, Vol. 4: The Weakest Knight & The Exceptional One

By Taro Hitsuji and Kiyotaka Haimura. Released in Japan by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jan Cash.

I have to admit a certain sense of relief. I kept telling myself that eventually the novels would HAVE to get to Sir Kay and make them more than a simply butt monkey fanservice generator, but so far the author had not lived up to my expectations. Even the start of this book, which has Sir Kay and Emma dressed up in flashy fetish outfits as part of Luna’s plan to make her potential voters too horny to vote for anyone but her in the student elections, there was a temptation to sigh. But no, Kay actually gets a thing to do here, and it fits in quite well with her character, which, let’s face it, has been “loyal but weak’, as the subtitle says. That said, it’s a good thing Sir Kay was around for this battle, as Luna and Rintarou are faced with one of their biggest challenges… one that comes after one of Rintarou’s greatest losses. Will he be able to keep his head and not get tempted? (Signs point to no.)

As our story opens, as most of these books do, with Luna being doing her best “Haruhi Suzumiya in Book 2” impersonation, Nayuki is still trying to fess up to Rintarou about who she really is – he knows she’s a Dame du Lac, but has not really figured out she’s actually Nimue, or at least not consciously. Unfortunately, Nayuki’s own cowardice plus Luna being obnoxious means that instead of a confession, we get a brutal execution by Vivian, who would appear to be, if not the final boss, at least the second to last one. Despite Rintarou’s Roaring Rampage of Revenge, there’s not really much he can do about that… well, unless he convinces Luna to go completely off the map of the test for the next King Arthur and instead go on a Quest foe the Holy Grail… a test that everyone admits is impossible. Can he, Luna and Kay survive what appears to be a trip to the underworld? Why is Rintarou so manic? And why is Luna so depressed?

Despite the way that I phrased that last sentence, this is not a bodyswap sort of problem, but instead a very good example of Rintarou completely 100% screwing up. For once, you want to strangle HIM instead of Luna, who as always improves throughout the book, especially once she starts dwelling on her not-very-tragic backstory, something she clearly remembers better than the other person in it. As it turns out, capturing the Holy Grail is REALLY HARD to do, and only Galahad had ever successfully done it before, and they immediately took it to Heaven, which is definitely not where this Grail search takes place. Fortunately, even with Rintarou essentially being stupid, Luna has two big weapons at her disposal: a) her ludicrous determination, and b) the only Knight of the Round Table who’s as pure as Galahad was. Sir Kay finally steps up, and it’s very satisfying.

The next volume is the last one, and that seems about right, to be honest. Certainly the cliffhanger does not bode well. But now that Rintarou is back to normal, and with Luna’s bullheaded pure courage and kindness, they should be OK. If you like stories about blonde King Arthurs seeking a Holy Grail, this is at least the third best.

Last Round Arthurs, Vol. 3: The Snow Maiden & The King Who Killed Arthur

By Taro Hitsuji and Kiyotaka Haimura. Released in Japan by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jan Cash.

I must admit up front: I did not enjoy this book as much as the last two. There’s a big reason for that: Luna, who is probably the best reason to read the book, spends most of it sidelined by the latest villain, and the series is simply far less fun when she’s not around being the Big Dumb Girl With A Good Heart. The other reason is an odd one, as the afterword explicitly lays it out for me: Rintarou changes over the course of the book, becoming far more of a shonen hero-type of character rather than the grumpy cynic he’d been so far. The author says this is a common development in manga and light novels, but I’m not sure it’s as common as he thinks, and I’m not sure it fits the character well. I don’t really want to see Rintarou become Touma. Other than that, though, the book is doing what it does best: lots of Arthurian backstory, lots of big shonen battles, and lots of betrayal.

The titular snow maiden is Nayuki Fuyuse, who readers may have forgotten was introduced in Book 1 as Rintarou’s mysterious classmate. The fact that she’s part of all this is not that much of a surprise. The fact that she’s secretly in love with him is also not that big a surprise. What *is* a surprise is that Rintarou, who is usually fairly clever, does not immediately realize who she is when she says the one thing she can’t do is tell him who she is. All he has to do is think of the person who betray4ed Merlin back in the day and bing! There’s your answer. In any case, she’s more support here. The actual King candidate is a whiny young creep named Hitoshi, his Jack Sir Tristan, and a mysterious young woman named Reika, who seems to be a mass murderer but there’s more to her than we think. And, as always, Elaine is pulling all the strings.

Apologies for spoiling a bit, but to be fair, it is in the book’s subtitle: the best part of this book is the subplot with Mordred. There is rare subtlety in the writing at her portrayal, and I particularly liked her own Jack, Sir Dinadan, casually mentioning that all the King candidates she’s supposedly murdering are not actually dead yet. It also reminds us of the story’s Arthurian background, and the fact that Arthur basically fell from grace, as it were. Unfortunately, there’s one more big minus in this book, and that’s the villain, Hitoshi. If Last Round Arthurs is a Fate ripoff, then here’s Shinji, whining, demanding, and threatening to rape the cast. What is it with light novel writers and their desire to make all the villains super, super, SUPER bad?

This is still a quick, easy read, and I might get the next volume, if only to see if Kay (barely in this book) will do anything at all. But I must admit this volume is no more than a C+.