A Certain Scientific Railgun, Vol. 13

By Kazuma Kamachi and Motoi Fuyukawa. Released in Japan as “Toaru Kagaku no Railgun” by ASCII Media Works, serialization ongoing in the magazine Dengeki Daioh. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Nan Rymer, Adapted by Maggie Danger.

I’ve talked before about how the Railgun manga is far more tied into its parent than most other spinoffs I’ve seen. For one thing, it actually feels like it’s written by Kamachi. Most spinoffs tend to have the original writer simply give approval to stories that the artist has come up with themselves (the Nagato Yuki spinoff is a good example), but events in this book and the previous one are interconnected with Index’s 15th novel. Not only that, they enhance the novel itself – the last book saw Frenda get the character development she never got in Index for obvious reasons, and allowed someone to actually grieve for her. And the use of Scavenger, the spinoff Dark Side group that’s appeared in both Railgun and the Accelerator spinoff, allows us to expand on the purpose of these dark Side groups: they’re broken kids who’ve been screwed over by authority, but not necessarily evil.

Touma wasn’t in Index 15, and readers of Railgun who always dread his spotlight-stealing appearances will be grateful to know he’s not in this volume either. This puts the focus on Mikoto, who is in heroic good guy mode here, even though she’s missing the rest of her core team. (I assume that Kuroko and Saten are helping Uiharu recover from her broken collarbone.) Misaki steps in admirably, though, and the two are almost getting along, thoguh that thought may make Mikoto ill. (It’s notable that the only time Mikoto really gets (offscreen) pissed off is when Seike mistakes her for a guy. Femininity is always a touch point for her.) One of the best things in this volume is seeing Leader, the cold-mask-wearing Scavenger girl, constantly trying to outthink Mikoto as she assumes that she’ll die going against a SECOND Level Five, only to finally be one over by Mikoto’s innate niceness.

As for the main plotline involving Kuriba, it continues to get into the nature of existence in the Indexverse, adn how that’s a fluid, individual and personal thing. Her doppelganger is rampaging as she knows that she does not, in fact, have a soul. This doesn’t seem to bother Mikoto, but once it’s clarified that living with that knowledge is agony and torture, she’s willing to help end her pain. And, as with almost every Railgun plotline since the beginnign that hasn’t involved Touma, this all turns out to be the result of scientific experimentation gone amoral. I’m not sure how I feel about Misaki solving the problem by memory erasure, but then she’s always been a morally ambiguous girl herself – she’s never going to be the innocent sweetie pie Mikoto has at her core.

So we wrap up the Indian Poker arc here, and I assume the next volume will start a new one. 14 isn’t out in Japan yet, so expect another long wait. In the meantime, for Index fans who always liked Railgun better, this is a perfect volume for you – Mikoto really shines!

The Magic in This Other World Is Too Far Behind!, Vol. 3

By Gamei Hitsuji and himesuz. Released in Japan by Overlap. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Hikoki.

I didn’t mention it in my review of the previous volume, but a large chunk of that book was taken up with the journey of the actual hero, Reiji, and his adventures trying to destroy the demons. Given that the basic premise of this book is that we leave the hero by the wayside and follow his secretly more powerful best friend, it’s impressive that the author it not only coming back to the hero occasionally but also treating him seriously. Reiji wants to help this world, despite the fact that he’s not from it and that everyone not in his party seems to be a cynical bastard of some sort. Admittedly, the more I see of Mizuki, his wannabe girlfriend and the third member of the “from another world” party, the more I think that she’s going to be turned to evil pretty easily, but hey. That said, the bulk of this book still follows Suimei as he arrives at a new city, buys a house, and meets yet another young girl.

If you look at the girl on the cover, you might be thinking that the author is starting to come up with heroines by ticking a fetish box. And, based on the afterword, you might not be too wrong. Liliana is a young girl with many dark secrets who works for the city’s military police and is a bit shunned by the general populace, who are terrified of a) her magic and b) her general demeanor. Neither of those bother Suimei, and he also sees her playing with cute kittens, so he knows she’s good at heart. But it may take more than one book to help her, as the city has more problems than just a goth-loli with a bad rep. Nobles around the city are being attacked and falling into a coma – though oddly, all the nobles attacked seem to be stereotypical “evil noble” types. And worse, there’s a different summoned hero in this town, and the oracle has told Lefille to join him… and he also wants to add Felmenia, the heroine from the first book who has caught up with Suimei. Is he a hero? Or just amassing a harem?

There are a few more things in this volume that I wasn’t too fond of compared to previous ones. As I noted, Felmenia has caught up, which means we have three heroines in one book. That means the standard jealousy ensues, though it’s low-key for now. The reason it’s low-key is that Lefille is still in her little girl body, which is mostly mined for comedy, but even the author admits readers are asking for him to fix her soon. And sadly the author’s worldbuilding discussions of magic tend to come out at the worst possible times – in this particular case at the climax of the book, which leaves a reader wanting to skip to the point where they can read something other than magic history. That said, we’re only halfway through what I expect is a two-book arc, so things may turn around. Too Far Behind! is adding a few more generic harem fantasy tropes, but is still good enough that you should enjoy it.

Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle, Vol. 1

By Kagiji Kumanomata. Originally released in Japan as “Maou-jou de Oyasumi” by Shogakukan, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Sunday. Released in North America by Viz Media. Translated by Tetsuichiro Miyaki. Adapted by Annette Roman

Yes, it’s another entry in what’s turning out to be a long series of “it only has one gag, but it’s a great gag” manga. Actually, the last one I wrote up that had a similar feel was Satan’s Secretary, and the two series are not dissimilar: human is kidnapped and taken to demon lord’s castle, where they proceed to have the run of the place, much to the frustration of some of the demons. But where the secretary in the other title took over by simply competence and hard work, Princess Syalis just wants to sleep. And she’ll do anything to ensure that she can get a good night’s rest. That “anything” is what drives this comedic title, which despite its fantasy-sounding name is actually in shonen Sunday, one of the three big weekly magazines for boys. That said, this would not be too out of place in one of the Big Comic titles, or even Betsucomi. Its comedy is sui generis.

So yes, Princess Syalis, who appears to be somewhere between six and eighteen, as with a lot of manga characters, has been kidnapped by the demon lord. The people of the Kingdom are horrified, and the hero and a few other folks make the occasional attempt to rescue her. They fear for what horrible tortures she’s undergoing. In fact, she’s merely locked up in a room with nothing to do but sleep. Sadly, for the demon lord, torture may have been a better option: Syalis really likes her sleep, and gets annoyed when anything makes it less of a perfect experience. And so, in a demon castle surrounded by horrifying monsters, she sets out to get a fluffier pillow, softer bedding, a mosquito net, and other amenities that ensure she gets a good night’s rest. She also, by bribing her guards, has the run of the castle to obtain such things, which is unfortunate as while she’s the heroine she’s not invulnerable.

I think it was around “Oh, princess, you must have fallen in the molten lava again!” that I really began to seriously enjoy this title. Syalis is incredibly selfish and hyperfocused, but is also fairly emotionally “stoic”, so it comes off more as cute social ineptness rather than pure evil. Plus the reactions of the demons around the castle (the lord is mostly absent except for one or two chapters) are what really make the title. The guards are teddy bears, the demon king’s secretary is a dog man with a fluffy chest Syalis can sleep against, and even the Michelin Man shows up, though everyone is very careful to dance around the fact that he’s clearly the Michelin Man. The chapters are only about 8 pages long, so it’s definitely in the ‘gag manga’ category. That said, as with other titles of this ilk, the main worry is how long it can keep up its one gag. It’s seven volumes and counting in Japan, so it’s managing it so far, but I hope Syalis doesn’t wear out her welcome. Well, any more than she already has in story.

If you picked this up based on the title and were expecting a quiet fantasy, you’re out of luck. But if you wanted something funny, then this is the title for you. Enjoy watching Syalis sleep By Any Means Necessary.