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+.

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.