Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World, Vol. 5

By Kei Sazane and Ao Nekonabe. Released in Japan as “Kimi to Boku no Saigo no Senjou, Aruiwa Sekai ga Hajimaru Seisen” by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jan Cash.

Well, it was bound to happen eventually. After three straight volumes where I was ready to drop the series as being “ok but not good enough to read more” and then getting blindsided by a cliffhanger that made me want to see what happened next, we’ve finally hit a volume where the cliffhanger isn’t quite good enough, so I’ll be taking my leave of the series after this. It’s still not that bad – its action scenes are fun, its overarching plotline is at least interesting, the betrayals aren’t impossible to explain like a lot of series. No, where Our Last Crusade falls down is when it’s trying to be a romantic comedy. Its heroine is supposed to be a feared combatant and the most powerful Ice Witch around, but when love gets involved she acts like a petulant six-year-old. Her sister is not much better, and the addition of a love triangle does not add to the fun. It should stick to being serious.

This picks up right where the last book left off. Sisbell is now hiring our four heroes to be her bodyguards so that she can safely return to the kingdom. This is easier said than done. Back home, the queen is worried that Elletear, the oldest princess, is an imposter and a traitor. One of these things is wrong. Honestly, the queen herself is also somewhat sus. There’s an assassination attempt, which is set up to look like the most obvious person. And, yes, lots of people are indeed trying to kill Sisbell, and they will be perfectly happy to do massive property damage to see this happen. Fortunately, Iska is still ludicrously overpowered… as is Alice. Unfortunately, as noted above, Alice is currently super jealous of Sisbell but unable to actually articulate this, leading to an incredibly long and petulant pout.

There are a few bad habits that ar3e not in this volume. Mismis gets far less to do… well, OK, she hasn’t done much before this, but she’s definitely kept in the background except for one egregious fanservice scene to remind us she’s still a ditz. The palace intrigue is genuinely interesting, and almost made me get the 6th volume till I decided it just wasn’t quite enough. The third ‘faction’ in the Witch Nation is named Hydra, which is funny for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with the book and everything to do with Marvel Comics. One of the villains controls gravity to the point of making black holes, which forces Iska to try a bit harder. It’s just… whenever the book focuses on Alice, her unacknowledged crush on Iska, and her unacknowledged jealousy of Sisbell it’s so immature I want to stop reading immediately.

Obviously, YMMV. If you’re enjoying the “playful back and forth” between Alice and Iska, then you should definitely keep reading, there’s at least five more volumes after this. But a series that runs on Romeo and Juliet had better reach a bare minimum of making me care about the love affair. Sorry.

Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World, Vol. 4

By Kei Sazane and Ao Nekonabe. Released in Japan as “Kimi to Boku no Saigo no Senjou, Aruiwa Sekai ga Hajimaru Seisen” by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jan Cash.

I’ve come to realize that Our Last Crusade falls into the same bucket that I put Strike the Blood and the complete works of Ichiro Sakaki, which is to say a series that does not stand out as all that good but succeeds by dint of being smoothly written and not really doing much that’s bad. It feels written in hopes of an anime, which is good news given that there’s one airing as I type this. Sadly, I was not able to get very far into it, mostly as I can tolerate characters like Mismis when they are words on a page, but find it almost impossible when they are tripping and falling onto their boobs in glorious color. This particular book picks up right where the last one left off, but manages to avoid sending our heroes into deathtrap number four and sends them on a vacation instead. Of course, where Iska goes, Alice is soon to follow… though not alone this time.

As hinted by the last cliffhanger, this volume features Sisbell, the youngest of the three sisters who are vying for the throne. Due to the nature of her powers, and the general scumminess of humanity, she has come to distrust everyone around her, especially her two sisters, Elletear and Alice. the only one she feels she can trust is the man who rescued her from the Empire one year previously – Iska. As for Iska and company, they’re sent on a forced vacation after the higher-ups realized how ,long they’d been in enforced combat. Which is very good news for them, as this gives them time to figure out what to do about Mismis’s Astral Crest. The group, after a long shopping scene that reminds me why this series tends to grate on me, heads to an independent desert nation that consists mostly of resort hotels. Sisbell is also there, and propositions Iska: will he join her? Unfortunately, the villain of the second book – and his mask – have also shown up.

Given the entire series deliberately runs on coincidences constantly bringing Iska and Alice together, I am not all that annoyed at events conspiring at the last moment to save Mismis form execution, and anyone and everyone showing up at the same desert city. And I was glad that we briefly got to see Mismis do a thing, even if it was unconsciously and we’re not really sure what she did. Sisbell is sympathetic, and I expect to see more of her as the books go on, though I’m almost positive she will serve as hostage fodder in some way. The ending fight with what amounts to a giant robot with lasers is a lot of fun and will likely look cool if the anime gets to this book. As for the romance between Iska and Alice, they’re separated most of the book again, so it’s mostly just constantly thinking about each other.

The cliffhanger, which is again excellent, implies that events are going to be headed towards the Alice side of the two nations for a while. Till then, enjoy a book that can best be described as “serviceable”, but at least also lacks the bad habits of many other light novels. It’s okay.

Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World, Vol. 3

By Kei Sazane and Ao Nekonabe. Released in Japan as “Kimi to Boku no Saigo no Senjou, Aruiwa Sekai ga Hajimaru Seisen” by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jan Cash.

Some authors are really good at plotting and worldbuilding. Some succeed at depth of characterization. Some write amazing dialogue. And then there’s Kei Sazane, who does none of those things, but that’s OK, as they have one thing that they do better than most anyone else: crafting cliffhangers that make a reader want to get the next book. I spent most of the second volume of this series thinking I would drop it after I finished, only for a last-minute plot twist that made me want to read more. Unfortunately, little is made of the plot twist here, mostly as the characters are two-dimensional. And once again I got to the end thinking, “yeah, OK, interesting did not happen, dropping this” only to get an epilogue which made me say, “Hrngh, now I want to know what happens next.” It’s a praiseworthy skill, and very well done. Of course, I wish that the skills had been used on a better light novel series.

Last volume ended with the revelation that Iska’s captain and designated dojikko Mismis now had an astral crest after basically falling in a pit of magic. So they have to figure out a way to keep it hidden so that she’s not imprisoned for life at best and executed at worst. I suspect skin-colored bandages, tried here, are not going to work well. It doesn’t help that, aside from one or two flashes of actually being a commander, Mismis is a fluffhead of the first order. (The author loves to write those types – more on this later.) Fortunately, they have a reason for her to be away from the Empire and using an Astral Crest – they have to infiltrate the enemy territory. Unfortunately, everything goes south when, for once, it’s Iska who gets to be the designated idiot, sipping a drugged drink provided by Alice’s maid and now taken prisoner in the hideous… honeymoon suite of a first-class hotel.

Last time Alice and Iska never met up, this time they’re together most of the book. It’s not really a great thing for Alice, as, like Mismis, the author loves to write her as a fluffhead, in this case a girl in love who doesn’t actually realize it. The ‘kidnapping’ wasn’t her idea, and she prefers to settle things on the battlefield in a one-on-one fight, of course. Unfortunately, the Empire is also trying to break out a top security prisoner (who is basically Gilgamesh from Fate/Stay Night only with magic instead of swords), and so everyone needs to rush off and stop everything ending in fire. Including Iska, who is, of course, also slowly falling for Alice in his own stoic lunkhead sort of way. Both Iska and Alice excel at combat scenes, where they’re both allowed to be ridiculously overpowered and cool, rather than enacting A Child’s Garden of Romeo and Juliet Scenes.

There’s no actual bad scenes or writing here – everything is very competent but empty, and reminds me a lot of Strike the Blood or Asterisk War in that it feels like it was written as a novelization of an anime. The main cast are all pretty likeable, and as I said, there’s a great cliffhanger that will probably make me read the 4th book in the series. I’ll be grumbling as I do, though.