Reign of the Seven Spellblades, Vol. 9

By Bokuto Uno and Miyuki Ruria. Released in Japan as “Nanatsu no Maken ga Shihai suru” by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Andrew Cunningham.

Well, the good news is the Spellblades anime was not the complete disaster the way, say, Spy Classroom is. The bad news is that it wasn’t all that great, either, and I doubt a lot of folks who hadn’t read the books will be reading the anime and going “whoah, need to read that”. Which is a shame, as these really are a series of great light novels, but alas, “first rule of anime: drop the internal narration” strikes again. As for this volume, it was mostly excellent, with one major exception which I will get to. It also had a hell of a cliffhanger, as for once the author did NOT write the end of an arc with “and I’ve run out of pages, so bye”, but instead teases us with something that I really don’t want to have happen but will also be really interested in if it does. That said, most of this is the last of the tournament, so fight, fight, fight.

There are three big battles in this book. First, Oliver, Nanao and Yuri have to fight Ursule Valois and her other team members, Generic Person 1 and Generic Person 2. This gets into a long discussion of sword styles but is derailed a bit by a flashback that made me want to drop the series. After that, Stacy, Fay and Chela go up against Richard Andrews and his team of final bosses, and do their best despite Chela basically being told “you can’t win because the teacher is your dad”. Finally, Team Andrews and Team Horn get a knock-down, drag-out battle which allows Yuri to actually become a real live boy but gives Nanao her worst nightmare: an erotically charged swordfight between Oliver and someone who isn’t her.

There are so many ways that this series feels like it was written by an emo 24-year-old boy. Sometimes this is awkward but endearing, such as Horn and Andrews battling to see if they get to call each other by their first names and maybe hang out sometimes. Sometimes this is pretty damn cool, such as Katie sticking to her principles so much that she might eventually turn evil and die, or Chela needing to be Bright Slapped by her dad. And sometimes it’s really awful and stupid. I don’t like “let me show you a flashback to my super evil abusive family to show you why I am super evil and abusive” to begin with, but this one adds a kitten to the trauma to make things extra horrible. There was no need for that, and I say this as someone who wrote very similar things when *I* was 24. That said, I’m never going to be able to stop Spellblades wearing its heart on its sleeve, which means that sometimes you get really awesome stuff, and sometimes you get this. It’s all just out there on the page, everything.

So the arc is over, go in peace. Tune in next time to see if Yuri dies, if Katie turns evil, or if Oliver and Nanao finally bang. The first two are far more likely than the third.

Reign of the Seven Spellblades, Vol. 8

By Bokuto Uno and Miyuki Ruria. Released in Japan as “Nanatsu no Maken ga Shihai suru” by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Andrew Cunningham.

I have grown used to this series casually killing people off. It’s easy to guess when they’re one of the people on Oliver’s hit list, but we’ve also seen the glorious death of Diana Ashbury and others. The author knows this, of course, and plays with it throughout this book, making me assume once or twice that we were going to see yet another tragic student fate. Because, well, every student at this academy has a mission just as important to them as Oliver’s, a mission that they will kill for (OK, maybe not Guy, I can’t see Guy turning into an instrument of vengeance), and that unfortunately a lot of these goals and missions end prematurely and in death. It’s the nature of how they’re being taught in this academy that, frankly, takes sink or swim to all-new heights. It doesn’t help that – again – this volume ends with no epilogue or cooldown, just a climactic final scene and then the end.

The combat league continues, but there’s a more important issue to deal with: Godfrey’s sternum bone has been stolen by Cyrus, and without it his abilities are down to about 1/20th what they should be. No, this is still enough for him to slip through the early rounds of this tournament, but he needs that bone back if he’s going to get further – or win the election. And so everyone who is supporting him in the election, including our heroes, go on a journey to find Cyrus and get the bone back. Along the way they discover exactly WHY Cyrus is going around stealing everyone’s bones, and it will come as no surprise to find that it’s not because he’s just a giant jerk, but because of a life goal he has to achieve.

Fans of Spellblades will find a lot of things they like in this, including the fact that every single time Oliver and Nanao converse with each other at all, it’s interpreted by everyone else as “flirting” – much to the annoyance of Katie and Pete, the others in his unwanted harem. (I say again, poor Guy, who has so many issues. He’s the least developed character of the six, he’s clearly being paired off with Katie but she likes Oliver, and he’s R*n W**sl*y in all but name.) There are also some truly fantastic fights, and we get to spend time with the badass Lesedi Ingwe and the badass but also hilarious Tim Linton. That said, the best part of the book is Cyrus and why he’s doing this, and the final pages are really well handled. To say more would be to spoil.

I have no idea what’s going to happen next, thanks to this volume ending so abruptly. I assume more combat league stuff, as you can’t really drag a tournament arc on too long… (stares nervously at The Asterisk War)… right?

Reign of the Seven Spellblades, Vol. 7

By Bokuto Uno and Miyuki Ruria. Released in Japan as “Nanatsu no Maken ga Shihai suru” by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Andrew Cunningham.

This is not, in general, a light and fluffy series in the least. However, with the exception of the start and final pages of this volume, this is definitely one that is on the lighter side. For one thing, our main group of six are now in their third year, and we’re long past their finding out how this school works – they know it well by now. Everyone (except Chela, who is sadly ignored for almost this entire volume, and who I hope gets some nice plot bits in 8 to make up for it) gets a chance to show off, especially Pete, Guy and Katie, who each get a nice bit at the start that allows them to be the elder student advising the newbies. This is especially welcome for Guy, who has honestly the least character development of the six. As for Oliver and Nanao, well, they get the bulk of the book to themselves, as always. Everyone is a protagonist, but some are more protagonist than others.

This book is the start of what amounts to a Tournament Arc, as there’s a Combat League competition coming up, and since there’s so no real stand-out winner in the election yet, it’s going to be a factional battle. Fortunately, the initial stages are grouped by year, meaning Oliver and company don’t have to fight Seventh-Years. That said, he and Nanao will need a third, as Chela’s dad clearly designed this year’s complicated rules, so she wants to keep a low profile. Fortunately, they have everyone’s favorite ball of sunshine, Yuri, to be on their team. (Guy, Katie and Pete also form a team, and get a chunk of the book to show off as well.) Their team will be up against three others that they’re unfamiliar with, which is a pain. Oh yes, and a seventh-year student is stealing other student’s bones.

That last bit is what forms the serious part of this book, and it is quite creepy, though it remains unclear how much permanent damage it actually does… or what the end goal is. It does show off Yuri’s worrying tendency to go after mysteries the way that the Scooby Doo gang do, and Oliver has to be the voice of reason multiple times throughout trying to keep him from haring off and getting himself killed. Other than that, this book is mostly here to show off everyone’s cool magic fighting. It does a very good job, and there are lots of interesting applications, but Oliver and Nanao are leagues above everyone else in their year, and that fact does not change with anything that we see in this volume. We also get to see the 4th/5th year and 6th/7th year fights, the latter of which is most interesting as it shows off Vanessa Aldiss, who loves to fight and who clearly is not above killing people if there aren’t rules in place. It’s clearly meant to show readers that the next Oliver v. teacher battle will be even harder and more vicious.

So yes, good volume. Needs More Chela. Not much to say.