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.

Though I Am an Inept Villainess: Tale of the Butterfly-Rat Body Swap in the Maiden Court, Vol. 4

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.

Sometimes when you’ve lived a certain way your entire life, and are suddenly shown that there are other ways to live, it can be very very difficult to go back to what you have always done. That’s what Reirin is dealing with in this book, as a consequence of the body swaps. For the most part, she’s held this in, because, well, that’s the sort of person she is, but the stress of the situation in this book and the fact that, for the first time, someone might be dead because of her actions, makes her have a breakdown and admit – she hates being in constant pain. She hates being at death’s door. She never used to worry about not waking up every time she fell asleep, now she does. And it terrifies her. It terrifies her so much that she misses something else – why is her sickly, dying body now so utterly healthy whenever Keigetsu is in it? I mean, this is new, right? It wasn’t the case in the first book. What’s going on?

We pick up right where we left off with the previous book. Reirin, in Keigetsu’s body, is trying to deal with the outbreak in the village, while she and her allies also try to figure out how to stop the entire village, AND the maiden, being burned to the ground as a “necessary measure”. Meanwhile, Keigetsu (in Reirin’s body) is having to deal with her reputation being tanked so hard that there will be no way for her to come back from it, and now she has to give a tea party with three of the other maidens, including the one behind all of this. Fortunately for both of them, they have actual allies this time around, including the Emperor. Which helps a lot, let me tell you. But is it going to be enough?

There are three scenes in this book which should make every reader sit up and cheer. The first is the tea party itself, where Keigetsu finally manages to apply al of the observational skills she’s never really tried to use before to manipulate the conversation away from the master manipulator and swing things back her way. The second I mentioned above, where Reirin (who is noted beforehand to have never cried before) breaking down, a scene which is probably the first time I actually though that she and the Emperor could be a good couple after all. But the final scene is magical. Everyone is doing their best to stop Reirin’s roaring rampage of revenge, and they fail miserably. But it’s actually Houshun who’s the MVP here, as all this has done is make her FAR more interested in Reirin than she was before. She’s clearly one of those “anything but a boring life” villainesses, and now that Keigetsu is effectively a dual heroine, we needed a really great bad guy. We have one now. “I’ve taken a liking to you” is like a white glove thrown to the ground. Let the duels commence.

That said, our dual heroines may be in trouble with Book 5, which promises (in the author’s afterword) to break them up. This remains one of the best series I’ve read this past year, and is recommended to everyone, even if you think you’re tired of villainess books.