Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 8

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

Tearmoon Empire is a very funny series. There are tons of scenes of Mia being silly or smug, other people misunderstanding her to comic effect, etc. But the series also knows when it’s time to be 100% serious, and that time is whenever get get a glimpse of what life was like in the original timelines. We’ve already seen how things progressed in Bel’s world (and see why Dion is her absolute hero, something that baffles both the Dion of this world as well as Citrina), but we’ve also seen the main cast occasionally have dreams of their prior lives. They’re never good dreams. It’s Tiona’s turn here, and it hits especially hard given that Mia was thinking that she hopes the Tiona and Sion of her past life, the “perfect couple”, lived happily ever after. Instead, in both Tiona and Sion’s case, we see that the need for vengeance, justice and revolution ended up driving them away from each other, and nobody ends up happy. Everyone should be relieved Mia went back in time.

Because no Tearmoon Empire volume can ever QUITE get the arcs to line up properly, we start with the end of the previous arc, as Mia fosters better relations between the Empire and its domain by doing the one thing that even the narrator admits she’s fantastic at: dancing. Feeling good about things, but reminded of her previous complacency, she decides to read her Bloody Diary. It’s a good thing she checked – now it says that Sion is assassinated in a month’s time. Coincidentally (or is it?), Esmeralda comes to Mia in a panic, as her father has said she'[s to be married off to a Sunkland noble. Realizing that she can go to Sunkland and stop Sion getting killed if she tags along with Esmeralda’s engagement party, Mia and her entourage visit Sion’s country for the first time. And, as it turns out, getting assassinated by bandits may be the least of Sion’s worries…

We do sometimes get the device of seeing Mia’s POV of a scene and then seeing the same scene again with another character, though not nearly to the extent of, say, My Next Life As a Villainess. And sometimes we don’t even need to get the other half of the scene because we can infer the heartwarming in our heads. Now that Citrina is no longer an enemy, she’s ready to do anything she can to help Mia – including, she assumes, what she’s be best at – killing people. But Mia assures her that she will never ask her to kill someone else for her, something that poleaxes Citrina. Yes, it’s framed around Mia wanting delicious mushrooms (as is most of the book, really) but the sentiment is also genuine. Mia wants as few people killed as possible, even if that might affect her end goal. It inspires Citrina, who is really crafty for such a young girl, to try to help Mia in slightly less permanent ways. Her growth was my favorite part of this book.

This volume spent most of its time setting up a stack of dominoes, but unfortunately we have to wait for the 9th volume to knock them over. Till then, this remains one of my absolute favorite light novel series.

Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 7

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

The narrative voice is one of the most well-known parts of this series, but we do occasionally see inside Mia’s own thoughts as well, and when we do we can sort of get what the narrator is talking about. There are several points in this book where Mia is essentially being a petty, selfish and gluttonous princess – we see how she thinks. In those cases, yes, the fact that everyone misinterprets her can be ridiculous. That said, we also see many times in this volume Mia’s sharp instincts to avoid the guillotine, and those are top-tier. When Mia doesn’t think but simply reacts, be it to a death flag or when she sees one of her friends is unhappy, she shines. And heck, even her selfish pettiness doesn’t last long – her desire to see a money-grubbing merchant suffer is thrown out the window when she sees him legitimately suffering the aftereffects of a heart attack. In this book we really do see that if she does become Empress, she might just do OK.

The first fifth of the book wraps up the third “arc” we’ve been reading, with Mia returning home for the weeklong festival to celebrate her birthday, as we are reminded that her father is, not to put too fine a point on it, a freak. That said, it’s the colors Mia wears to her party that make the impression. After this we move into a new arc which features Mia, having set up an excellent program to combat famine, trying hard to keep it from collapsing. Chaos Serpents are still trying to sow discord, but we also have to deal with those who realize that a famine can be a great way to make a pile of cash if you’re the one delivering the food. Now Mia and Ludwig have to face off against an antagonist who Mia remembers from her past life… when things ended in disaster. Can she turn things around with the help of a commoner studying medicine and the power of wheat?

This is usually the point of every review where I get annoyed at the narrator for harping on Mia being chubby, and yeah, it’s here as well. That said, we also see Mia chiding herself for a different kind of flab. A couple of times in this book she makes the mistake of being complacent, and that’s when disaster pricks at her intuition. Given that there is a secret society whose goal is to destroy her and her kingdom, Mia simply can’t stop and just relax. I think, in time, this will become second nature to her – she just needs to have her thoughts map to her instincts more. She also has help. Ludwig is hilarious here, taking on the brunt of “misunderstand Mia in a positive way” and realizing that if you truly want to change everything about the Empire, might as well also let people like him be Chancellor. As for Shalloak, the “evil” merchant, his story actually ends up being heartwarming and tragic at the same time – the benefits of people dreaming of their past lives in another world.

Add to this one of the best side stories in the entire series, where a search for cake will make you cry, and you have a fantastic volume. Each one of these is a treasure.

Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 6

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

It can be hard to let go of a gimmick, especially when the gimmick in question is the main reason you got readers in the first place. One reason everyone loved Tearmoon Empire 1 was not only the dissonance between Mia’s own thoughts and actions and what everyone ELSE thought of these, but also the snarky narrator constantly pummeling her. I’d theorized before that the narrator was hired by future Mia to try to slow the publishing of hagiographies about her. That being said… Mia has grown and matured a little bit, and I feel now that the goofy “she only thinks about herself and food” shtick is holding her back. And the narrator, especially when he’s making fat jokes, is starting to grate. Most importantly, though, I’m starting to feel like all the other cast members Mia has misled: if you ignore Mia’s intentions and the narrator, this remains a fantastic read, filled with intrigue, action, character building, and plot twists. Mia being a dumbass and the narrator pointing it out all the time isn’t needed anymore.

Mia is in the background for this cover picture, which is a good thing, as it shows us that Bel is, finally, going to get some actual attention. Much of the book is about Mia trying to avoid her own assassination in various ways, though honestly she mostly just avoids thinking about it, as she doesn’t want to get anyone else in danger. So we get things like a massive mushroom hunting party in the nearby forest (where she accidentally discovers deadly poison mushrooms that were what killed off a large number of people in the prior timeline) and preparing for the Holy Eve Festival, which we do not get to see because, of course, Bel is kidnapped in order to force Mia to leave the island and then kill her. There’s only one thing Mia can do… exactly what they say, hoping that if she managed to rewind time once she’ll be able to do it once she’s killed again.

Not to spoil or anything, but Mia is not killed off again, this is not that kind of time loop book. And I’ve complained about the parts of the book I didn’t like above, so let me talk about what I did like. Sometimes Mia’s thought processes are wonderful, such as when she discovers Bel is kidnapped and tries to think of the many very good reasons that going after her is a mistake… all the while getting dressed up and preparing to leave, because unconsciously she knows she’ll never abandon her granddaughter. Bel is basically a shoujo protagonist here, winning over the villains by the power of being sweet and kind, and it’s adorable. The villain is obvious and hammy, but hey. There’s also some good worldbuilding here, showing us the underside of the Yellowmoons and also a few flashbacks to the previous world, where everything went terribly. And the chase and fight scenes were wonderful, and also introduce a new minor villain who I hope we’ll see again, along with his huge puppies… OK, wolves.

So yeah, I don’t expect Tearmoon Empire to drop Mia being thought of as smart when she’s really thinking about cookies, or the narrator pointing out how her altruism is bullshit, but I’d like more of the growth we saw in Book 4-5. Also, I have no idea why the narrator is insulting her “mushroom outfit”. She looks stylish! That’s clearly a raffish cap!