Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 12

By Nozomu Mochitsuki and Gilse. Released in Japan as “Tearmoon Teikoku Monogatari” by TO Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Madeleine Willette.

The cliffhanger ending to the last volume already told us that Bel had returned “from the dead”, so it’s not a surprise to see her on the cover, though it is a bit of a surprise to see her looking older. Mia is also stated to have grown, and for once the narrator, usually snarky, has to assure us that it’s height this time rather than the usual fat jokes. We are told that Mia is now sixteen, which is nice to hear, but also ominous, as it was when Mia turned eighteen that she was captured by the revolution in her first timeline. And it’s probably because we’ve come so far, and are theoretically closer to the end of this series, that Mia is allowing one big secret to come out. Not her own, of course – heaven forbid – although we see some signs in the future that Ludwig may figure it out. But with so many people having seen Bel shot in the neck with an arrow and killed, there’s no other way to explain her return than time travel.

Of course, Mia has bigger problems than just Bel’s resurrection and presence back in the past. Another young girl showed up behind Bel… and Bel has no idea who she is. So presumably not from the “good future”. What’s more, the girl’s name is Patricia… the same as Mia’s grandmother… and she claims to be from a family that Mia can’t quite remember but isn’t around anymore. (It’s hinted she’s suppressing the memory as what happened to the family terrified her.) Mia, who is more on the ball in this book than any other book, is 90% sure that this is her grandmother, somehow sent into the future, the opposite of Bel, but that’s even more terrifying, as it becomes clear that Patricia has been indoctrinated by the Chaos Serpents!

I think the most interesting part of this book is that we see Mia eating a giant pile of sweets throughout, but the narrator rarely chimes in to mention her weight. This is because the sweets help Mia to think and not get distracted, and Mia needs to do a giant pile of thinking in this book. Mia is sixteen, as mentioned earlier, and while still tending towards doing the right thing for the wrong reason, she has learned to not only trust her instincts but anticipate them. She knows she cannot just ignore the Patricia problem and hope it will go away, as (let’s be honest) she did with Bel. And there’s plenty of what we read Tearmoon for, as Mia accidentally comes up with kingdom-altering ideas that will reverberate for decades to come… only it’s getting less accidental. Mia still frames it as being selfish, but she’s not only getting the best results here, she’s getting it because of her words and actions. Her final speech is a fantastic example. It was a terrific lesson. I really love her.

That said, whoops, another nasty cliffhanger. Luckily, Book 13 should be out in late August. Can Mia rescue her own past as well as her own future? And can we still quietly ignore some of the May-December romances in this series? (Looking at you, Citrina.)

Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 11

y Nozomu Mochitsuki and Gilse. Released in Japan as “Tearmoon Teikoku Monogatari” by TO Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Madeleine Willette.

(This review gets a bit spoilery about the fate of one of the main characters, be warned. Though I try to glide over it.)

We’ve seen Tearmoon Empire be a fun comedy, and we’ve seen it be an action thriller, and we’ve seen it be a romance as well. But we really have not seen it as a dark tragedy. Or rather, it’s only been seen in flashbacks to the bad future, where we see the consequences of Mia being unable to save everyone and getting executed. And that’s tended to be more along the lines of “my God, what have I done?” The latter half of this book, though, goes as closely as this series is likely to get into the tragedy mode, and I’m kicking myself that I did not pick up on the ominous foreshadowing in the last volume, which I cheerfully thought was “oh boy, secrets are going to be told once this arc gets finished!”. Unfortunately, this leads to the question of “why won’t secrets actually be told?”, and the answer is possibly “because the person with the secrets is now dead.”

We pick up where the last book left off, with the race between Mia, on her “slow but steady wins the race” horse, and Xiaolei, on her “fastest in the land” horse. If you’re suspecting we’re seeing a retelling of the Tortoise and the Hare fable, you’re pretty much dead on. Mia is, of course, trying her best NOT to win, for various reasons, but we already know how that’s going to go. She does, however, manage to unite the tribes. Which is good, as unfortunately while this was going on Citrina was kidnapped by the Chaos Serpents, led by Abel’s older sister Valentina. Mia goes to rescue her, and oddly she is allowed to take other people with her, such as Abel and Dion. Why, it’s almost like the Serpents’ goal is not merely to kill off Mia but something far more sinister…

This is the second book I’ve read recently that felt like a final volume of the series, enough so that the author needs to assure us it’s not the end. The cliffhanger ending helps, as we’re introduced to what appears to be yet another Tearmoon from the future (?). As for the book itself, Mia is pretty great in it (I always enjoy a good “I won’t let the villains die, that would be too easy on them, they will have to live on” plot), but honestly the emotional lifting is done by Citrina and Bel. I joked on Twitter that since Mia had changed the future so that she doesn’t suffer, Citrina had become Tearmoon Empire’s designated woobie, and it’s not wrong. The other reason that this feels like a final volume is that we get a ton of flashforwards to “the good future”, the one Mia will eventually get to, with everyone alive and married off. It’s nice to actually *see* Grandma Mia rather than just hear about her. As for Citrina… well, I suspect the start of Book 12 will help. At least, I hope so.

I haven’t even mentioned the other high point of the volume, where Valentina tells us what the Chaos Serpents actually are. This was one of the best in the series. And again, the arc ended at the end of the book! Keep it up!

Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 10

By Nozomu Mochitsuki and Gilse. Released in Japan as “Tearmoon Teikoku Monogatari” by TO Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Madeleine Willette.

This volume starts off with something we have rarely seen in this series: the actual beginning of a new story arc. For some reason or another, the author and publisher of this title are very bad at making climaxes in this series happen at the end of the volume itself, so we have the next book start with the climax instead or an epilogue chapter rather than the next arc. But here, at last, we start off with something new: Mia, Rafina, and company headed off to Equestria, there to meet up with the chiefs who make up that nomadic people. Or at least, they are until Mia and Rafina, our for a ride, are beset by bandits. The head of the bandits turns out to be the daughter of one of the tribe leader, and there’s a good reason that her people are reduced to this: a poor harvest means they’re hard up for food. Something that Mia understands all too well…

I’ve been complaining about the narrator for a while now, so it’s time I turned around and mentioned the points where I do appreciate it. The manga doesn’t really use a narrator, making Mia far more sympathetic, but the new anime adaptation (which so far is excellent) is definitely playing it up. It was a highlight of the early books, but grew a bit wearying as we began to see Mia genuinely growing as a person. Where it works best in this book is when it’s looking at everyone else’s thoughts – seeing Ludwig or Rafina staring at Mia talking about what is inevitably food, and thinking that this is the point when they realize that she’s not a great sage but a massive faker… and then they leap to a different conclusion to support their own love for Mia, and the narrator is disappointed once more. This is funny as hell.

Bel, as always, gets little to to in this volume, but for a change what she does get is fantastic. We haven’t paid quite as much attention to her past… which is to say, the Bad Future #3… in a while, but that does not mean that she isn’t constantly dwelling on it, especially given that her entire existence is something of a secret. But now she’s best friends with Citrina, and may finally be able to reach out and make promises without getting her hopes dashed by everyone promising to come back and then dying on her. (There is some mild subtext between her and Citrina, which I’m content to ignore, partly as they’re both 10 and partly as I’m sure it’s unintentional, but…) She also says she’s going to tell Citrina about her secrets when they get back to the Empire, which should be very interesting if it happens, and might be the start of a new arc.

But first we have to end this arc, which of course does not neatly wrap up here. Is Abel’s sister irredeemably evil? Can Mia possibly win a horse race riding a horse the narrator repeatedly compares to Mia herself? And did we just see the start of a Rafina x Malong ship? The next book is… for once, not that far away! Also, go watch the anime.