Last Round Arthurs, Vol. 2: Saint Arthur and the Red Girl Knight

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’m not sure why it took almost a year between the first and second volumes of this series to come out, but fortunately it doesn’t really matter much. Even if you’ve forgotten what happened in the first book, the protagonists quickly steamroller over your doubts and get around to what Last Round Arthurs wants to be: Fate/Stay Night with Haruhi Suzumiya as Saber. I know I said this last time, but it bears repeating: this series is so unoriginal that it beggars belief. In the first volume, the author basically admitted that he was asked to make a Fate ripoff, and getting the guy who does the art for Index and DanMachi Sword Oratoria to draw it just means that half the characters remind you of those two series. I joked on Twitter that it was the Black Clover of light novels, meaning that it is a series that will unashamedly steal any hot new trend, but somehow manages to work anyway. There’s nothing really annoying or boring about its unoriginality. It’s fun. Provided you can stand Luna.

On the cover are the newest competition in the battle to be King: Emma, a girl who has been brainwashed/tortured by a bunch of French religious folks to be the perfect candidate (with a little help from Rintarou, who had no idea what was actually going on but knew they were abusing a girl) for King, and Sir Lamorak, who may be one of the more obscure Knights to casual readers but is well known to Arthurian fans as one of the strongest knights of all. This being a Fate ripoff, she looks like a 10-year-old girl. Emma wants to be King for supposedly noble reasons; Lamorak is super strong and tough. What can stop them? Rintarou, who seems perfectly content to switch sides? Luna, who is busy buying a mansion with all their funds and continuing to insist that she wants to be King for the fame and the money? Certainly not Sir Kay, who had better be the final Last Boss of this series or I’m going to be cross. We’re in for an epic battle.

This volume has a bit of a point it’s trying to make, which is “you don’t have to do what your abusive family tells you to do if it doesn’t fit you, find another path”. Sadly, this ends up being “you are a weak little girl who is not fit to be king, perhaps an attempted rape and being made literally into a maid by the final pages will make things better”, which left a very bad taste in my mouth. Other than that, this book is Big Dumb Fun, much like its heroine. As with the first volume, Luna is obnoxious and awful until things get serious, and is shown once more to be a better king deep down, even if on the surface everything about her is terrible. She’s hardly the sort to be a tsundere, so we get two other options for that here with Felecia (the standard example) and our hero, Rintarou (the distaff example). And the action scenes, attempted rape aside, are very well handled.

So this won’t change your life or make you want to write fanfiction. But if you’re sad Fate/Zero’s novels aren’t licensed and want something with as much fun but 80% less tragedy, Last Round Arthurs is just the right sort of book. And I think the third volume is due out in the fall, so there will be less of a wait.

Last Round Arthurs, Vol. 1: Scum Arthur & Heretic Merlin

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

Even the author knew what people were going to be thinking. In the afterword, he describes getting the premise from his editor and thinking that it had been done to death. The words “Fate/Stay Night” did not get mentioned explicitly, but the implication was certainly there. Actually, it appears the editor and publisher were really stepping up to the plate for this one. The author is known for Akashic Records of Bastard Magic Instructor, a very popular LN series with a manga out over here. They also brought in Haimura as the illustrator, who’s already busy drawing Index and DanMachi Sword Oratoria. All that and a series about a bunch of King Arthur wannabes fighting each other in a battle to the death to see who can be the Last Round Arthur (see what they did there?). The obvious flaw in this series is that it reeks at times, especially in the first half, of being written to be a franchise rather than a story. Fortunately, it gets better, especially in the last third.

The premise is essentially Mallory’s Arthur legends meets Fate/Stay Night meets Haruhi Suzumiya. Rintarou is a young man who is perfect at everything he’s ever done since he was born, which makes everyone think that he’s a monster – including his parents. He hears about a competition between those with the blood of King Arthur, a battle involving Kings and their “Jacks”, essentially a summoned Servant a la Fate. The winner takes over the world… which isn’t all good, as there’s also a reality incursion they’ll have to deal with. Rintarou wants in on this competition, and finds the weakest candidate – Luna Artur, a seemingly arrogant young woman who’s taken over the local Camelot High School and made it her plaything – and sold her Excalibur for cash. Despite thinking Luna is annoying and possibly bonkers, he becomes her vassal, mostly so that he can stop being bored with life. Of course, things aren’t going to be easy, as Luna’s childhood friend is fighting for the prize as well. And Rintarou also has a secret… which the title of the work may in fact give away.

Luna starts off as a weird mix of Haruhi and Gilgamesh from Fate, and it can make her hard to like until her true self shines through. In reality, she wants to see everyone happy and wants the power to achieve it. This does not mesh very well with Rintarou, who tends to be the pragmatic “let’s sacrifice their lives and sneak up behind the enemy” sort, but they eventually do get along quite well. I was less enamored with Sir Kay, Artur’s beleaguered Jack, but that’s the fault of the author, really – Kay is nice enough, but she’s Mikuru Asahina with a sword, and unfortunately I have no confidence she’ll rise above “comedy relief” in future books. The fights were well described and tense, which is good, as I think they may be the main reason people will read this. There’s also a few surprise revelations that AREN’T in the title, some amusing jokes, and some setup for the future.

When that future is I’m not sure – unlike the other July Yen debuts, Last Round Arthurs doesn’t have another book scheduled yet. It’s not fantastic, but it’s worth a read if you like modernization of Arthurian legend or just want a Fate book with the serial numbers filed off.