Villainess Level 99: I May Be the Hidden Boss but I’m Not the Demon Lord, Vol. 5

By Satori Tanabata and Tea. Released in Japan as “Akuyaku Reijō Level 99: Watashi wa Ura Boss Desu ga Maō dewa Arimasen” by Kadokawa Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by sachi salehi.

The anime has now finished, and it ended up being a fantastic advertisement… for the manga. Great news for that, but as for the light novel, I think anyone who enjoyed the anime and reads it is not going to be anything other than pissed off. That said, I think the author, now that they are aware that this won’t be a short series, is trying to do something beyond “Yumiella is wacky and dumb” over and over again. For the first, oh, 4/5 of this book, we get a deeper Yumiella, who actually thinks and makes realizations that are actually correct. Admittedly a lot of this is because she spends a great deal of the book depressed, but it’s still a positive development. She’s dragged into politics that have been simmering since the first book, and does OK… well, till the last fifth of the book, where Yumiella reminds us who she is. Sigh. It was nice while it lasted.

Yumiella is supervising (well, not really) the building of several new structures in her territory in preparation for her upcoming wedding when she is lured to the capitol, supposedly to build cool sentai armor, but in reality to be fitted for her wedding dress. The one-two punch of having to endure the fitting and discovering that anime giant robot physics don’t apply in this world sends her into a funk, which is not helped by Eleanora – spotted in the capitol – being dragged into a dispute between the radicals and the moderates… which she only just now realizes was framed to her by those who support the moderate side. Now both sides are grappling for power, and are trying to use Yumiella’s position to get it, reasoning she is sensible enough not to punch people to death. Which is true. That is the end of the sensibility.

Let’s get the terrible out of the way first. Everything about the final bit with Yumiella and her parents is pathetic and awful and unfunny, and it does not help that everyone in the story agrees with me. Ugh. Leaving that aside, I did enjoy this. Yumiella is more sensible until the denouement, something she even notices herself. She also is starting to examine her own habits and thought processes and find them wanting, especially when it comes to observing others. That said, Eleanora is easily the reason to read this. The running gag in the book is that Eleanora, the duke’s daughter, is not the same person as Eleanora, the girl everyone knows is living with Yumiella. But that’s also very true – Eleanora has grown up. She is using her own special talents to help businesses. She’s mature enough to criticize Prince Edwin and even say that his own morose moping makes her hate him now (though she later melts down after realizing what she did). She’s terrific. Yumiella… ends up backsliding, alas.

It was nice to see the book wade back into the politics of the first two again, and it’s still fun to read, provided you completely separate it from its adaptations.

Villainess Level 99: I May Be the Hidden Boss but I’m Not the Demon Lord, Vol. 4

By Satori Tanabata and Tea. Released in Japan as “Akuyaku Reijō Level 99: Watashi wa Ura Boss Desu ga Maō dewa Arimasen” by Kadokawa Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by sachi salehi.

The anime is currently airing as I type this up, and it’s quite enjoyable, if very low budget. It’s also doing something very sensible, which a lot of series are doing lately: it’s adapting the manga, not the light novel. This is obvious if you watch any scene with Alicia, who is simply far more sympathetic and nice in the manga than she ever was in the LN. I’m not sure how the manga resolves the Alicia plotline, if it’s even gotten to that point yet, But I remember how the light novel did, with Alicia essentially under house arrest, and still traumatized by the finale of the first book. And, as it turns out, the author was rather jealous of how Alicia was handled in the manga. And so, after taking a couple of books off, Alicia returns for this new book. Unfortunately, this is still the light novel version of Alicia, which means that the reunion is more pathetic than anything else.

After resolving issues with her alternate universe self, there’s not really much standing between Yumiella and Patrick’s wedding… except for Yumiella, who suddenly realizes that a large wedding is exactly the sort of thing she doesn’t want. Given this, she naturally decides to fly to the moon. This doesn’t work out, so instead she plummets into the neighboring country of Lemlaesta… which you may recall is the country that Patrick’s mother despises. There she meets a man named Gilbert, who looks a lot like Patrick. And he has the same name as Patrick’s brother, something which Patrick just told Yumiella before all of this insanity happened. Naturally, she doesn’t recognize him. Incredibly, she also manages to fool (?) him into thinking she’s not Yumiella. Can the two densest people alive possibly manage to stop a war?

How much you enjoy this book may depend on how much you can tolerate Yumiella being even more of an airhead than usual. The anime reminds me just how far off the rails she’s gotten since the first volume, and she now rarely if ever manages to descend to anything resembling reality. There are a few times when I just wanted to throttle her, particularly when she tried to jump to the moon to run away from her problems. On the bright side, sometimes Yumiella being this dense really is very funny, and once you get behind the idea that she and Gilbert don’t know who the other one is, despite the 87 billion clues each one has, you just roll with it and laugh. And yes, Alicia comes back. More interesting than her actions in this book (which are predictable as hell) is the fact that she’s being trained to be a weapon that will be deployed in case the country’s bomb (Yumiella) goes off. I’d feel bad for her if it weren’t for, well… (waves hand at everything Alicia does in this book).

I didn’t even mention Yumiella measuring her new level, which leads to some of the best jokes but also sets up the final confrontation. Oh yes, and Yumiella sprouting wings like an Evangelion shout out. In any case, despite Yumiella starting to get a bit *too* dense, this is still a series I enjoy.

Villainess Level 99: I May Be the Hidden Boss but I’m Not the Demon Lord, Vol. 3

By Satori Tanabata and Tea. Released in Japan as “Akuyaku Reijō Level 99: Watashi wa Ura Boss Desu ga Maō dewa Arimasen” by Kadokawa Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Satori Tanabata.

I’ve said this before, but I will say it here again: these books are just too long. Normally I don’t carp too much about the length of a book, but it’s relevant in this vase because Villainess Level 99 is a comedy. The bulk of the humor comes from Yumiella being ridiculous, and everyone’s reaction to this. And she’s very funny here, but the trouble is, about 50-60% into the book, you just flag a bit, and want it to be over faster. Luckily, by around 80% or so complete, the actual serious plot kicks in, so it ends strong. But there’s no reason this had to be 300 pages, dangit. Especially since, as the author says in the afterword, this is no longer a villainess series ad there’s no longer a demon lord. Well, mostly. Covers always spoil, and maybe the reason that this book was so long is because the presence of two Yumiellas means that there needs to be twice the pages to contain them.

After the events of the last book, things have settled down mostly, and all Yumiella really has to worry about is Eleanora being around her far more often and a sinking suspicious that she’s dead weight even though she’s running her territory. But then the God of Darkness shows up, and through him Yumiella finally learns the way to get past that Level 99 cap and get even stronger – she has to kill a version of herself from another parallel world. Believe it or not, Yumiella is not as gung-ho about this as you’d expect, especially since there’s only one other Yumiella left – all the other parallel Yumiellas have been killed by virtue of the otome game plot that our Yumiella subverted. Unfortunately, the remaining Yumiella is still alive as she’s destroyed her world… and is heading for our Yumiella next!

The core of this series remains Yumiella’s combination of deadpan humor, oblivious ditziness, and meathead tendencies, and all three of those are in full effect. You’d think that the alt-Yumiella would be quite a different person give that she destroyed the world, but remember even our Yumiella, with her “isekai” personality, had those feelings a few times in Book 1. Honestly, and this is part of the gag, the alternate Yumiella is a heck of a lot more sympathetic than the one we know. Things do turn serious in the end – alt-Yumiella’s trip to this world was not just for evil kicks, and there is a higher power behind all of this. I had sort of guessed how things were going to have to turn out, but the book did enough hoop jumping that I was able to accept a lot of the hand-waving near the end that kept everything from getting too depressing – this IS a comedy, after all. And the epilogue is the best joke in the book. Maybe our Yumiella should be #2 after all.

This volume is well-timed, as the anime starts in January and will likely get through 2-3 books at most. It should be fun to watch. Especially as the episodes won’t all be 75 minutes long. Also, Patrick is just Kyon, right? He’s even doing the Kyon pose! Yare yare.