Torture Princess: Fremd Torturchen, Vol. 8

By Keishi Ayasato and Saki Ukai. Released in Japan as “Isekai Goumon Hime” by MF Bunko J. Released in North America Yen On. Translated by Nathaniel Hiroshi Thrasher.

As you might expect, there’s a lot of serious stuff going on in this volume of Torture Princess. We’re going to war, and one side does not really have a goal that is not “kill everyone in the most appalling way imaginable”. We get to see this world’s equivalent of last resort weapons, only for the enemy to respond with their own. Characters that we have seen since Book 1, who have died before but always seem to come back, finally die. And, of course, the entire book is asking the question: why are we even bothering to save a world like THIS? As a result, you might guess that the humor we’ve seen in previous volumes is pretty much absent, and you’re right – mostly. There is one scene near the end, though, which also begins in death, which ends up being the funniest scene not only in this book but possibly in the entire series. I don’t want to spoil it, but it features Jeanne and Izabella. It’s magical.

The mixed-race people, with Lewis and Alice behind them, are continuing to wage revenge against the humans and beastmen, with the help of some demi-humans. There are a few suggestions to stop the war. One is offered by the enemy, which is to give them Elisabeth, Kaito and Hina. But that would pretty much make the previous seven books pointless, so that’s off the table – at least privately. No, let’s face it, there’s really only one solution left, and it’s to go to war. On one side we have the humans and beastmen, aided by two Torture Princesses and some near gods. On the other side we have Alice, Lewis, and a dead giant sandworm which proves to be far more useful than anyone else might have imagined. Can one side win? What is “winning” in a battle that’s just about revenge? And is this world simply doomed regardless?

Kaito and Hina get a bit more to do in this book, despite spending almost all of it trapped in the big ol’ crystal. Their dreamscape not only shows off what’s happening in the world as a game of brutal chess, but also has a few uninvited guests. That said, for the most part we’re still putting focus squarely on Elisabeth. She’s trying to do her best here, but as everyone is fond of pointing out to her, she’s changed a bit TOO much fro being around Kaito, and actually, y’know, likes and cares about people now. That, plus the fact that she’s trying to save Kaito and the world he himself saved, means she’s less effective in many ways. Thankfully, she has daddy dearest, Vlad, on her side. The battle between Vlad and Lewis is probably the second best scene in the book. Also not without humor, it has a far darker finish.

The afterword notes that the next volume will be the final one in the series. Which is good, as frankly we’re running out of population. Will we go full end-of-world? Can our heroes manage to pull a happy ending out of a hat? Does a happy ending even fit this series? We’ll find out soon. Till then, this was an excellent volume.

Torture Princess: Fremd Torturchen, Vol. 7.5

By Keishi Ayasato and Saki Ukai. Released in Japan as “Isekai Goumon Hime” by MF Bunko J. Released in North America Yen On. Translated by Nathaniel Hiroshi Thrasher.

I suspect a lot of people looked at the decimal point in the next volume of Torture Princess and went “Really? NOW is when you decide to release a short story volume?”. After all, we JUST began not only a new story arc, but a story arc that is missing three of the four main cast members, and was promising even more horrible things happening to both deserving and undeserving people, and also possibly snarks and boojums. But also, honestly, this volume is a bit of a relief. The last book was excellent but emotionally exhausting, and I wasn’t quite sure whether I was ready to dive right into more torture games. This is not to say that all the stories in this book are fluffy fun. Come on. It’s Torture Princess. The content warnings are baked in. But compared to the rest of the series? Yeah, this is fluffy fun. Ah, yes, and one more thing: don’t read this out of order – the other stories may all come at the beginning of the series, but the last one is a prelude to Vol. 8.

The volume has four “main” short stories, interspersed with two smaller ones split up. We see Kaito, still struggling to be Elizabeth’s manservant, being haunted by a half-flayed ghost; Elizabeth being invited to a grotesque banquet by a bunch of folks who love her for all the wrong reasons; Kaito and Elizabeth realizing that Hina is missing, and searching the entire castle to try to find her; and the last story, which I will get to in a bit. Each one of those has a “front” and “back” side, showing first one POV and then the same events from another POV – while this can be annoying when you’re reading the same dialogue twice at times, that is kept mostly to a minimum. We also get several first-person monologues from the Saint, and a series of short interludes showing us Alice and her “father” are still deeply screwed up. But hey, bunny!

The final story shows us a celebration dinner for Elizabeth’s third anniversary as Captain of the Peace Brigade. Kaito and Hina are back at the castle whipping up a grand feast, inviting all their friends, and flirting shamelessly. The reader is, of course, aware that this is a giant pile of bullshit, as is Elizabeth, but she goes along with it as long as possible, and we get a few scenes that we are likely never going to get near ever again. What makes this so interesting is that some of the narrative critiques the fact that events are still proceeding as they are – in other words, it’s yelling at the author, in-universe, for not stopping Torture Princess with Book 6. I mean, I did that too! But in a review, not in a Torture Princess story. It’s fascinating and layered, and in the end I think the author does actually justify going forward. Which is good, because in reality Kaito and Hina are still locked in their Cage of Stasis, and Elizabeth has to fight a war.

This is not really a skippable short story collection – the end literally leads straight into Book 8 – but that’s OK, as it’s worth reading even if you do normally skip them. A strong stomach is needed as always, but it’s another winner from this author who writes horribly gratuitous gore much better than the author of Roll Over and Die.

Torture Princess: Fremd Torturchen, Vol. 7

By Keishi Ayasato and Saki Ukai. Released in Japan as “Isekai Goumon Hime” by MF Bunko J. Released in North America Yen On. Translated by Nathaniel Hiroshi Thrasher.

Back in my fanfiction days, I used to have an argument with a friend of mine, who wrote some great stories but tended to end them a little too late. I used to call them the “And they all lived happily ever after till they died, and here’s how they died” stories. Now, I’m not sure I expect Torture Princess to go QUITE that far. But at the end of my last review, I mentioned that I was worried that the series would not be able to justify continuing after a very satisfying 6th book, which wrapped up Kaito’s plot beautifully. I’d say the answer is yes and no. Yes, it’s another Torture Princess book, with some of the most evocative writing in light novels, and I could have easily quoted a dozen passages. And I do enjoy Elisabeth’s character arc here quite a bit. Still… man, this is a downer, and has some of the most graphic horror descriptions since Vol. 1. It is a Dead Dove: Do Not Eat of a light novel.

The book picks up right where the previous one left off, with the introduction of our antagonists, who also grace the cover: A girl who calls herself Alice Carroll, the new Torture Princess, and her minder/father figure Lewis. They have killed off the two beast princesses who worked with Kaito in the previous book, and are basically here to destroy the world AGAIN. To be fair, they do have a pretty good reason they can use to justify it, but that’s not good enough for Elisabeth. Now she has to try to stop them, helped by Lute, whose job is to be the heart of the book; Jeanne, who is a girl in love, and Izabella, who has acknowledged this love but not responded to it; and La Cristoph, who has already been captured by the enemy. Worst of all, as everyone seems to be telling her… Elisabeth is getting SOFT.

This is not a completely grim book. There are lots of attempts at humor, some of which are admittedly as dark as the blackest night, but they’re there. One running gag with Elisabeth and La Cristoph actually made me laugh. But I won’t deny that there’s a lot of depressing goddamn shit here. Alice, like Kaito, is an abused Japanese girl, whose previous life reminded me an awful lot of Satoko from Higurashi, and it’s no surprise that her reincarnated powerful self is a very, very broken girl. And then there is the revenge that Lewis takes on behalf of the mixed-race peoples, which involves using a large number of purebreds as wombs for demon children. The description in this particular scene is so Grand Guignol that it almost crosses over into parody, but it’s also incredibly sickening to read about. There is, briefly, a nice little bit of hope towards the end of the book, but I still am not 100%… or even 50%… confident that this series won’t end with most everyone dead or wishing they were dead.

Still, I admit that’s not much of a change from the previous six books. I think the loss of Kaito’s POV affected the book more than I was expecting. It’s still a great series to read if you like good writing and horrible graphic images. But man… what a bummer.