Bofuri: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, So I’ll Max Out My Defense, Vol. 12

By Yuumikan and KOIN. Released in Japan as “Itai no wa Iya nano de Bōgyoryoku ni Kyokufuri Shitai to Omoimasu” by Kadokawa Books. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Andrew Cunningham.

I’ve said before that I think the Bofuri series works best when it’s just Maple and Sally taking on a fresh new challenge, and the author agrees. Actually, the author may be starting to agree a bit TOO much. This is the 3rd book in a row that’s been about 75% Maple and Sally, 25% rest of the cast. I joked on social media that the extended scene with Kanade was inserted at the request of the editor, as the author had forgotten who Kanade was. (Actually, Kanade gets more to do here than he has since he got his clone, mostly as a lot of the challenges involve translating ancient runes.) Likewise, Kasumi and Iz get one scene to show off, Mai and Yui get one scene to show off, and Chrome exists. Sorry, Chrome. That said, if you ARE here to read this series for Maple and Sally, you should have a lot of fun with this book, which has them both doing what they do best… for now.

Velvet is on the cover, possibly to draw in Fate fans who think there’s a Saber crossover, but she only really appears near the end, to help set up the next volume. Most of this book deals with the 8th level, which is set mostly underwater. Fortunately for non-swimmers like Maple, Mai and Yui, there are diving suits with oxygen tanks, and the more materials you find the better you can upgrade the suits so you can go deeper. It’s the sort of level that works best in small groups, so naturally Maple and Sally team up, rarely having problems with monsters due to their insane builds, but sometimes having trouble working out exactly what it is the game wants them to do. On the bright side, both Maple *and* Sally get new transformations, sort of. And then there’s the 9th level, which may make Sally’s dream come true.

We see Kaede and Risa for only about three pages, but they’re very important pages. I’m not sure if the author has an end to this series in mind (from what I understand, the webnovel is huge, and Vol. 17 came out in Japan last month), but time *is* passing in the real world, and the 12th book takes place about 18 months after the first book. This means that Kaede and Risa have started their second year of high school… which means soon studying will take precedence over games. Kaede’s grades are good, Risa’s are… okay… but it’s clear that Risa’s mother, at least, is not going to let her game her third year away. That’s why the next couple books may be very important, as they’re a PvP event where players can choose one of two sides. We know that Sally’s big wish is to fight Maple one-on-one, but she’s been putting it off, mostly as fighting a friend is just not Maple’s thing. But this might be a way to achieve it.

And, of course, there’s also the other guilds. Will they stick together? I realize that I just made this volume seem like a brief downtime while we wait for the next really exciting floor, but it was very good. And Maple and Sally held hands a lot.

Secrets of the Silent Witch, Vol. 4 ~after~

By Matsuri Isora and Nanna Fujimi. Released in Japan as “Silent Witch” by Kadokawa Books. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Alice Prowse.

I had been referring to this as Silent Witch 4.5, which some retailers are using, likely to better differentiate it from the 4th volume. But the author states in the afterword that they did not want to have it be a .5, and I get that. Generally speaking it’s hard enough when you realize that the next volume is going to be a short story volume, and when the volume number ends in .5 it can be even more highly variable. You never know if you’re getting stuff that was too goofy or too pornographic for the main series, or if you’re getting a bunch of titles that were written for various DVDs, Blu-Rays, and store giveaways piled into one book for completists. Fortunately, this new volume of Silent Witch has none of those problems. The book could easily read as Book 5, except there’s less conflict than usual. The stories all tie together, and all influence each other, so that the climax ends up tying everything together. Which makes sense, because this time we get Monica the Detective.

We begin with a prologue, showing Louis kidnapping… erm, leading Monica and Ray to a decaying library that is filled with magic books that are starting to leak mana, which they have to rebind and reseal. We then get four short stories taking place directly after the 4th volume, in the two weeks after the festival. In the first, Monica has to deal with Nero and Ryn getting addicted to mystery novels, and Felix trying desperately to read a book (well, essay) by the Silent Witch that is in the library’s second floor. She then joins Cyril in trying to prove who stole meat from the kitchens – Glenn insists it wasn’t him, despite a lot of circumstantial evidence. After this we get Benjamin, who always falls in love with women in love with someone else, falling for Claudia – you can imagine how well that goes. Finally, there’s a “charm” going around that apparently will get your true love, meaning all the girls are now gunning for Felix. But is it a charm?

This volume continues the previous one’s evidence that Monica is slowly but surely gaining social skills and confidence. Sure, she barely knows how to sew, but she actually picks it up fast. Her sentences may be slow and awkward, but there’s a lot less stuttering and biting her tongue. She also continues to bond with the rest of the cast, especially the student council (minus Bridget, who no doubt is a final boss in a future volume, the lack of attention the books have paid to her so far is deeply suspicious). That said, Felix’s obsession with Monica Everett is very worrying. The book is written as if it will end, if it does, with a Felix/Monica pairing, but at the moment that would be very unhealthy and has high potential to go wrong. I’ve heard fans tend to prefer Monica/Cyril, and I can see why (for one thing, you get Claudia as an in-law). Felix needs to drop the hero worship. Fast.

The next volume isn’t scheduled here yet, but I assume we will get back to serious assassination attempts and Monica’s identity being at risk. Till then, enjoy an excellent example of how to craft a short story volume in a LN series.

Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear, Vol. 18

By Kumanano and 029. Released in Japan by PASH! Books. Released in North America by Airship. Translated by Jan Cash & Vincent Castaneda. Adapted by Lorin Christie.

Well, I got my wish. Sort of. Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear, like My Next Life As a Villainess, has a problem. It has cultivated a large yuri audience it absolutely does not want, but it cannot afford to piss that audience off too much as they’re one of the big reasons that it’s a success. It doesn’t help that Yuna has accumulated a “harem” of underage girls, which yes is the main draw of the series (the moe aesthetic, I mean), but also makes the yuri a bit creepy. Still, here at least we do have Yuna straight up saying that she isn’t interested in men. Unfortunately, she says it to a girl her own age who has expressed attraction to her, and Yuna’s response is “just because I’m not interested in men doesn’t mean I’m interested in you”. Honestly, as with many other series of this type, Yuna seems to be fairly asexual in general. But hey, a bone thrown to the fans. Now back to beating people up with magic bear powers.

As everyone predicted, Yuna’s discovery from the cliffhanger to 17 ends up being the Land of Wa that the author has threatened us with for so long. She heads over there on her bears, and finds it pretty much is just Japan in a vaguely fantasy setting. And I do mean vaguely. She can buy tatami mats, stay at a hotel with futons and a hot spring, and get artisanal candy shaped like animals (the bears have sold out, for some reason). Then she goes to the adventurer’s guild, there’s a quest to take out a dangerous predator that no one wants to take except her… and a very suspicious ninja girl named (try to contain your shock) Shinobu, who insists on accompanying her. Is there some secret plot going on? And does it involve trying desperately to break Yuna out of her shell of “whatever, I don’t care, I’m headed back”?

I was reminded the other day of a series I dropped .like a hot potato a while back, Wandering Witch. It has quite a bit in common with Kuma Bear, in that it stars talented people who try not to get involved in things but end up doing so anyway, and who have a large element of selfishness to their personality. For Yuna, though, this is mostly a front. When she finds out what’s happening to the country, and that it’s been predicted by the country’s prophet, she’s still fairly apathetic. But when she finds the prophet is a 10-year-old girl whose parents have died… naturally, she decides to help. Yuna rarely thinks about her parents much anymore, but there is a definite subtext of “kids need to be allowed to be kids, even when they are orphans and have to grow up fast, no one deserves the childhood I had”. She is a surrogate big sister to every girl she meets, and she will move heaven and earth for them. And then deny she did anything special.

This is a multi-part arc, so I assume next time will have lots of fighting. Till then, enjoy another review where I overanalyze a title that really doesn’t deserve it.