Though I Am an Inept Villainess: Tale of the Butterfly-Rat Body Swap in the Maiden Court, Vol. 7

By Satsuki Nakamura and Kana Yuki. Released in Japan as “Futsutsuka na Akujo dewa Gozaimasu ga: Suuguu Chouso Torikae Den” by Ichijinsha Novels. Released in North America by Airship. Translated by Tara Quinn.

For the most part, the idea of romance has been about 4th or 5th on the list of reasons to read this series. We know that Reirin is loved by more than one man, but honestly until recently Gyoumei has not really had enough focus to make us care about him enough. But (perhaps because they realized that the readers were starting to wonder if this was going to be a yuri series given the relationship between Reirin and Keigetsu) this volume starts to concentrate a bit more on the romantic chemistry between some of the potential couples – indeed, we get new potential couples here. The other major aspect of this volume, which has again been touched on but not overused in previous books but they’re usually too serious to do it for long, is farce. The entire plot is that our party is split up and slowly converge at once place, and when they get there they all open doors at the same time. All it needed was a plate of sardines.

After the events of the last two books, Reirin and Keigetsu need to switch back to their own bodies. Unfortunately, the Emperor is apparently searching for evidence of magic practitioners, who are supposed to be dealt with with great prejudice. The main characters suspect the Emperor is just doing this for show, but they decide it’s safer to do the switch out in the outside world, so they all agree to leave the inner court, go to a restaurant, and switch there. They split up to avoid being obvious. Reirin, with Leelee (and Gyoumei trailing them) comes across a girl trying to find her mistress, who was sold to pay off debt. Keigetsu and Keishou walk around looking at jewelry, with Keigetsu in full “every word out of my mouth is full of spite and anger” mode, but find illicit goods. Tousetsu and Keikou hide out at a restaurant that turns out to be in the process of a shakedown by thugs. And Shin-u, joined by Unran, goes to a teahouse which they find is actually a brothel. All of this ties into one gambling house.

In case that lengthy description did not clue you in, this is a caper book, and decidedly lighter in tone than the previous six, though there is an ominous cliffhanger at the end that suggests the party is over. It reads a bit like a short story volume, and as such there are some that are better than others. the highlight of the book for me was the incredible fight/flirting/takedown of bad guys by Keikou and Tousetsu, as she realizes that he does not, like every other man she’s ever dealt with, hate women who can fight, and he realizes that she’s able to keep up with him. It’s also a hilarious scene. Speaking of which, as always Reirin is a hoot, ending up in a gambling den where she immediately disquiets everyone by throwing a knife at an erotic piece of art that penetrates the member of the rapist portrayed, causing every man there to feel… uncomfortable. She also has terrific chemistry with Gyoumei, though, much to Leelee’s horror, they don’t balance each other out but instead are like a gasoline fire and a bigger gasoline fire combining.

If you aren’t already reading this, I don’t know what more I can do to convince you. Every single volume is magical.

Though I Am an Inept Villainess: Tale of the Butterfly-Rat Body Swap in the Maiden Court, Vol. 6

By Satsuki Nakamura and Kana Yuki. Released in Japan as “Futsutsuka na Akujo dewa Gozaimasu ga: Suuguu Chouso Torikae Den” by Ichijinsha Novels. Released in North America by Airship. Translated by Tara Quinn.

There’s a lot of terrific humor in this volume, most of it stemming from the series’ premise. I’ve talked about this before, but it’s even more true in this book: both Reirin and Keigetsu are absolutely, 100% terrible at pretending to be each other. For the most part they’ve been helped in the past by a) no one knowing bodyswapping was a thing, and b) no one knowing the two well enough to be able to pick out the obvious poor performance. Now that both of these things are no longer true, the best gags in the book come from Reirin’s misplaced confidence that she’s got Keigetsu down pat, or Keigetsu’s inability to not let her cynical anger seep in through everything she does. That said, it’s a good thing that there’s some humor in this book, as the basic premise of this arc is evil and terrible, and the consequences, for some people, are rather chilling.

We pick up where we left off. Reirin has just been rescued from her attempted murder, and has swapped bodies with Keigetsu in order to repair all the damage she blames herself for and take back everything they’ve lost. In practice, this means finding out why exactly Kasui snapped and tried to kill Reirin, plus what she’s actually desperately looking for. She also needs to try to stop Reiga and Hourin from trying to kill her – or rather, using their maidens to try and kill her – and if the way to solve that problem is by getting the maidens on their side, then it’s something she’s going to have to do, even if it means allying with (ugh) Houshun. And then there’s Anni the shaman, the cause of everything that’s led up to this and possibly the most evil person we’ve seen in the series to date.

I continue to absolutely love Ran Houshun, even though she’s also possibly the most terrifying of the maidens. I’m used to hearing Reirin rattle off “Though I am an inept villainess” when she’s gloating over her supposed attempts at being bad, which usually are nothing of the sort. With Houshun it’s chilling when she utters the same phrase, because she’s about to let her Consort and “mentor” be beaten nearly to death by all of her court ladies. And yet it’s also triumphant, because Hourin is a piece of shit who’s spent years abusing and torturing those same court ladies, and for once vigilante justice feels like (at least narratively) the correct answer. As for the others, Kasui gets the closure that is all she can get, really, and can finally achieve a real bond with her own (non-evil) consort. And as for Seika and Reiga, they also get a good scene, but it pales next to Houshun, who’s simply better at this. You can see why Reirin hates her.

I enjoyed this so much I will forgive the use of a deus ex machina “this gets people so drunk they tell everyone the plot out loud” device, though I do hope this is the last we see of it. The next volume promises to be lighter in time, and (theoretically?) only one volume rather than an arc. Can’t wait.

Though I Am an Inept Villainess: Tale of the Butterfly-Rat Body Swap in the Maiden Court, Vol. 5

By Satsuki Nakamura and Kana Yuki. Released in Japan as “Futsutsuka na Akujo dewa Gozaimasu ga: Suuguu Chouso Torikae Den” by Ichijinsha Novels. Released in North America by Airship. Translated by Tara Quinn.

In the last volume we saw that discovering the wonders of living inside a healthy and hale body broke down Reirin’s emotional reserve, to the point that when she was confronted with a horrible tragedy she broke down in tears. In this volume we see that the experience of having a friend who doesn’t spoil her and treat her like she’s made of fragile glass has broken her reserves even more without her knowing it. Unfortunately, this friend is also the sort of person to have every single emotion, no matter what it is, come out as “anger”. And this is very unfortunate, because for once in her life, Reirin is completely unable to cope. As for said friend, Keigetsu, well, she’s throwing wild tantrums and raving that she’ll never, ever apologize, but that’s far less surprising. Unfortunately, the timing on this is really awful, as the maidens are having a competition for the Top Spot, and the knives are coming out.

Three months have passed since the events of the last book, and it’s now time for Rite of Reverence, where the five maidens all compete to see who can show the most devotion to the Emperor. This is a hotly contested battle, with the respective house fortunes rising and falling depending on the placement of said maidens. As such, Keigetsu is even more stressed out than usual. And she’s not the only one, as we get a good look at the other three maidens in the series. Seika is trying to do this in an honorable way, but is cowed by her consort’s power and threats. Houshun is discovering that her cutely incompetent act is starting to show its cracks, and her own consort can see them. And Kasui is on a detective mission, desperately trying to find out what happened years ago that led to the death of her sister and the mere mention of her name being forbidden in the inner court. As for Reirin? She’s fiiiiiiiiine.

This is an amazing book in an amazing series, frankly, and I am desperate to read the next one because, of course, it ends on a cliffhanger. Reirin and Keigetsu get into a huge fight, and you can absolutely sympathize with both of them. After four books of finding Keigetsu’s tantrums cute and funny, Reirin is finally hurt by them, and finds her powers of observation and judgment severely curtailed. Of course, that may also be the fact that she’s getting progressively more ill after getting her foot burned in a murder attempt and diving into an icy lake to try to save Keigetsu’s poetry. I think everyone else in the cast was too stunned at seeing the supposedly deathly ill Reirin doing these things to bother to be angry at her. Keigetsu, though, expresses all her emotions through rage. Including worry, and concern, and guilt. Not great. Especially when Reirin genuinely screws up in a conversation with Kasui and ends up beaten up and dying at the bottom of a well.

That said, the cliffhanger is not “will Reirin be found before she dies?”, because the author is aware we know she will. Also, this is a book where the main premise is bodyswapping. So the cliffhanger is, instead, how are we going to stop Reirin’s Roaring Rampage of Revenge this time? Everyone, I beg you, read this.