Young Lady Albert Is Courting Disaster, Vol. 5

By Saki and Haduki Futaba. Released in Japan as “Albert-ke no Reijō wa Botsuraku o Goshomō Desu” by Kadokawa Beans Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Ray Krycki.

I am pleased to say that the antagonist of this new volume is not a new heroine or villainess fro yet another spinoff of the original game this world is based around. No, we’re going back to first principles here. Remember how this series began in the first place? With Mary Albert trying to cause her own doom because she knew that her family becoming too powerful would lead to bad things within the kingdom? Well, um, she failed, if you recall. And thus, well, her family, as well as Patrick’s, have gotten so insanely powerful, at least in the minds of some of the lesser nobles, that the worry is that soon there be be no need for those lesser nobles. And since attacking Mary Albert has, well, worked very badly for the last four books, it’s time to try to do the next best thing: go after Alicia, who even Mary says lacks any behavior at all that makes her a royal.

I appreciate that this series knows how to have the broadest possible caricatures of characters and yet also use them seriously for plot purposes. One of the best things about Alicia has been that she’s basically a bullheaded puppy who only cares about Mary (and Patrick, if she’s forced to admit it), but now it’s come back to bite her, and seeing her cowed and doing her best to learn manners (even if she’s quickly distracted) is something new. Likewise, Mary’s desires to exile herself and start her own fried migratory bird stand are all very well and good, but there’s a reason that her brothers have been absent from the last four books. We finally meet them… and they’re exactly what you’d expect from a couple of opposite personality twins who are also siscons. If I told you just that sentence, you could write all their dialogue. Marty may not want to be, but this book makes clear she NEEDS to be the next family head.

And she manages to win the day without ever really changing at all. Sure, she does end up giving in and throwing her hat into the succession ring, mostly to save Alicia, but the rousing speech that she gives at the climax amounts to one giant tsundere hair flip, thrown at the (increasingly pathetic) oppositional lords. And there’s even room for the sensible straight men of the series as well. OK, Adi is not always sensible, but he does the detective work here, which involves Mary’s old drill hair, believe it or not. And Patrick and Gainas help to remind everyone WHY Mary is so powerful and influential – every family and house that tries to go up against her becomes an ally, and they all (remotely) rally to her here.

So yes, no worries, Alicia is the princess, and she’s allowed to tackle hug Mary again. And Mary might be the next head of the family, but she’s still far more interested in croquettes and etiquette. Still a very fun series.

Young Lady Albert Is Courting Disaster, Vol. 4

By Saki and Haduki Futaba. Released in Japan as “Albert-ke no Reijō wa Botsuraku o Goshomō Desu” by Kadokawa Beans Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Ray Krycki.

I’m starting to feel really bad for Patrick. The most obvious reason being that it’s not entirely clear, at least until the end of this volume, that Alicia would actually choose him over Lady Mary. The relationship between Alicia and Mary has not been yuri per se, but certainly Mary is the most important person in her life, and she has a tendency to tackle hug, and fondle, and adore her. Meanwhile, Patrick has to actually run a country, so is not as free for snuggles. More worrying for Patrick is that he is now the only fully, 100% sensible one in the cast. He didn’t think this was the case. He was sure it was him and Adi against the eccentrics and airheads of this world. But when push comes to shove, Adi has been around Mary far too long and thinks far too much like her for this to be true. Sorry, Patrick. Everyone is bananas except you. Someone has to do the nasty work.

Things are looking up for Mary Albert. She’s survived the first game (despite her best efforts to be exiled), and the second game has come and gone with only mild sadism and shotacon friends as the result. Unfortunately, the game also had an anime adaptation. Which introduced a friend character for Alicia, consoling her when Mary was being too much of an evil villainess. And now we get Veltina, a new arrival to Mary’s group due to a school exchange program. Veltina clearly has memories of the anime from a previous life, great hatred for Mary Albert, and a huge crush on Adi. On the bright side, she makes an absolutely terrible villainess herself, and taking care of her is ludicrously easy. On the down side, Mary is starting to get this odd heartburn when people get too close to Adi…

Everyone knows that if you write a villainess book where the heroine came from an otome game, and the plot resolves, then you need to have the otome game sequel, or spinoff media, or side story… anything to keep the series going. Here it’s the anime, but it’s amusing how little it actually matters. The author just says “oh, there was an anime, she must remember it” a few times and then proceeds to forget about it. So does Mary, who occasionally tries to find a good time to ask her but it never comes up. Which is fine, as in the end it doesn’t matter. We’re not here to see how Mary Albert can escape the terrible fate of whatever new plot hits her life – she’s not Katarina, or Aileen. We’re here for the comedy, as not only is Mary unable to tell that she’s feeling jealousy, but Adi is ALSO unable to realize this. You’d think that, having been married for some time now, the self-doubt would have disappeared, but that’s not how it works. Their resolution of it is sweet. Also, Alicia turns out to be the best gardener ever, which may be my favorite joke.

There’s four more volumes, and I’m not sure how many more antagonists we can reasonably introduce at this point. But the books remain a hoot, and always put a smile on my face.

Young Lady Albert Is Courting Disaster, Vol. 3

By Saki and Haduki Futaba. Released in Japan as “Albert-ke no Reijō wa Botsuraku o Goshomō Desu” by Kadokawa Beans Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Ray Krycki.

Theoretically a short story volume, this reads more like an interquel between the series as originally conceived by the author and the “this was stupid popular, write more” sequel that we will no doubt get in the next volume. It’s meant to wrap up all the loose ends that weren’t wrapped up in the second book, which is an awful lot of loose ends. It’s also meant to show how this is a series driven by its women, and they are all awesome in different ways. Now, the men are awesome too… well, some of the men. Patrick and Adi, pretty much. And Gainas once he’s let out of the doghouse. But frankly, this is a comedy, and the comedy comes from seeing the women in the book not only be awesome, but be awesome in ways that are funny. Mary Albert is best at that, of course, but everyone gets a look in as we go along.

As Mary plots something secret in the background, which everyone except Adi believes is going to be her announcing that she will be the next head of the family, the other cast members all have their own short stories. Margaret has abandoned her old boyfriend and is trying to get a hottie by hook or by crook… even if that hottie may not quite be old enough yet. Parfette is still reluctant to forgive the penitent Gainas, so sets him a task, that will hopefully go well given it’s meant to take an entire year. Carina is still finding new ways to beat up and torture her old boyfriend, and is (unconsciously, perhaps) really starting to get into it. Alicia and Adi go around to deliver invitations to her wedding with Patrick to all her friends, which neatly connects the other stories in the book we’ve had to date. Finally, Mary unveils her grand idea to the public, though she has to destroy an evil noble family first to do so.

A lot of this book relies on the reader being OK with the cliches of “noble society set in the sort-of Victorian age” novels, so if the idea of Margaret trying to entice a ten-year-old to be her future husband is icky, be warned. That said, she pretty much knows how far is too far, so it doesn’t get too weird. I also really enjoy the running gags of Alicia greeting Mary with a flying tackle every time they meet each other (which is every day, so Mary is understandably annoyed by it. Alicia is one of those rare otome game heroines who’s enthusiastic and brash rather than meek and polite, and it’s nice to see. As for Carina… look, anytime her and her ex are on the screen, the book becomes a treatise on the joys of BDSM, and discovering you have a new kink. Like the other parts of this book, it doesn’t go too far (the only sex in the book is between Mary and Adi, and it’s really sweet) but let the buyer beware.

I’m not sure what the fourth book will bring… perhaps the opening of Mary’s Chicken Palace… but I’m definitely going to read more. This is fun.