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.

Torture Princess: Fremd Torturchen, Vol. 6

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.

(This is one of those “I spoil the ending” reviews.)

Let’s face it, the biggest flaw in this book comes after the afterword, where gives us a preview of the next volume, which introduces new antagonists to take the place of our protagonists. The flaw here is that this book was pretty much a picture perfect finale in every way, and the author admits that straight up. They say that the story of Elisabeth is not over, and that they still have more stories to tell, which is all fine and dandy, but it’s gonna be very hard to top Book6 next time, so it had better be good. As for this volume itself, well, it’s a War Against Heaven and Hell, with everyone (mostly) joining forces, and Kaito serving as a one-man army of his own. The question is whether they can pull off what needs to be done – killing Jeanne and Elisabeth. Izabella has already said straight up she won’t be able to kill Jeanne. Will Kaito be able to make the ultimate sacrifice?

No, of course not. Anyone who’s ready even fifty pages of this series knows the answer to that one. Indeed, the least surprising thing in the book (although Jeanne and Elisabeth both manage to be surprised, with Jeanne pulling off the best use of ‘motherfucker’ in a light novel ever) is Kaito’s plan. The bulk of the book is the lead up to that, where he first manages to convince the humans, demi-humans and beastmen to team up by either terrifying them or proving strong enough to equal them in combat (thankfully the first princess does not have a Red Sonja clause in her character), and then spends the bulk of the book walking around the various battle zones, watching the saints and soldiers fighting against horrific monstrosities from beyond our ken, and occasionally destroying them all with a ‘la’ when he feels he has to. Oh yes, and have one last picnic date with Hina, which honestly I think the readers care about more than the war itself.

Hina remains that very rare example of a yandere whose feelings are returned, and she’s finally risen above “she’s Rem from Re: Zero” status, though it is ironic that they both end their roles in the series in eternal sleeps. I was also surprised to see the relationship between Jeanne and Izabella be as romantic as it ended up being, despite Jeanne spending 90% of the book trapped in God’s Iron Maiden and Izabella walking around in a body that’s 3/4 artificial. There’s lots of cool fighting here, and a nice final confrontation between Kaito and Elisabeth, but the best moments from the book are the smaller ones – I loved Kaito and Izabella discussing the frailty of human beliefs, and how it drives them to commit atrocities against anyone who can fit the definition of “expendable”. And yes, in the end Kaito and Hina remove themselves from the series, leaving Elisabeth to live on, alone. Well, except for a lot of the cast, also alive. She doesn’t count them.

Still, we get the arrival of a new sneering smug villain at the end, as well as a girl who seems to be based off of Alice Carroll/Alice in Wonderland, something that I don’t think we’ve ever seen in a single piece of Japanese media. After a satisfying climax to this book, I admit reluctance to see it continue, but I’ll read the next one to see if the author can pull it off.

Torture Princess: Fremd Torturchen, Vol. 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 have been preparing myself since the start of the first book for the fact that this series, which has an awful lot of gore, death, and icky things happening to everyone in the world, is going to have characters I care about die in horrible ways. That said, the author knows how to keep us coming back, and while Hina may have spent one of the volumes on ice, for the most part the main cast has made it though with a lot of pain and maiming but with their essential selves intact. That changes big time in this volume, in ways both surprising and not so surprising. No one is going to gasp at the idea that Izabella, the one noble Paladin in a corrupt church, is not going to have a fun time, and that turns out to be the case. Far more surprising it the fates of our two Torture Princesses themselves, as we get a book that sounds like it’s the penultimate volume (it’s not).

This volume picks up right where the last left off, with the reveal of the church’s big secret. After escaping thanks to Izabella making a noble sacrifice of herself, the rest of the cast go off to let the Butcher out of the gibbet Elisabeth left him in. Anyone surprised he isn’t there doesn’t know either the Butcher or books like these. Instead he leaves them a clue that takes them over the ocean to this world’s equivalent of the South Pole, where they might find the Saint – who everyone agrees they need to kill if they are to stop the world being completely annihilated. Fortunately, they have some allies here, as the Beastmen (mainly Lute) have also been led here. Unfortunately, the Church is here too, with yet another creepy child who essentially gives Kaito a Trolley Problem that he proves unable to solve. Then of course, we see what the Butcher has really been doing, and finally meet the Saint… which is not good news for our title character. Either of them.

I have to admit, Jeanne went from villain to ally awfully fast, and the book lampshades that it’s mostly due to Izabella. I’d been expecting Very Bad Things to happen to her for a while, so my only surprise here is that it wasn’t as bad as I expected. It did give Jeanne some nice character development that might have gone somewhere were it not for the end of the book. There’s also some lovely imagery regarding the Suffering Saint, who is less the Lamb of God taking on the sins of the world and more simply tired and worn. She wants a change, which Jeanne and Elisabeth are here to provide. Fortunately, Elisabeth and Kaito are very clever, so our heroes do find some way to carry on – it causes Kaito monumental pain, but let’s face it, that’s become almost a gag for humor purposes by this time. Now all he and the others have to do is stop the rest of the world going to war.

The first three books were an arc, and I suspect the same is true of the second three, so I’m pretty sure we’ll get an even more grandiose climax in the next volume. Till then, enjoy this dark, pitiless world and the creepy yet strangely awesome cast that walk through it. (Also, does anyone else get Jimi Hendrix in their head when they see Izabella?)