ROLL OVER AND DIE: I Will Fight for an Ordinary Life with My Love and Cursed Sword!, Vol. 3

By kiki and kinta. Released in Japan as “Omae Gotoki ga Maou ni Kateru to Omou na to Gachizei ni Yuusha Party wo Tsuihou Sareta node, Outo de Kimama ni Kurashitai” by GC Novels. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Jason Muell. Adapted by Brock Wassman.

If anyone had “zombie apocalypse” on your Roll Over and Die bingo card, well, congratulations. I can’t really be surprised, as not only is this series far more comfortable with being a horror book than a yuri book, but it’s several different types of horror book as well. That said, the undercurrent of the entire series is “we need to fix all this so we can live a peaceful happy life”, and, especially here, we are told that getting a peaceful and happy life does not mean sticking your head in the sand. Milkit has a quote that sums it up: “This world has no shortage of people willing to drag others down to make themselves feel superior and in control,” said Milkit. “The moment you accept that you can’t get away, you let them win.” This book is about not letting them win. Not that it’s a total victory, though…

Pictured on the cover are Gadhio, formerly of the Hero’s party, and his wife Tia. If he seems a bit less than happy, it’s because Tia’s been dead for the last six years. After Milkit gets kidnapped AGAIN, Flum discovers that the culprit is Milkit’s old master, the one who damaged her face and is in general one of the worst people in this book (and that’s saying something). Unfortunately, after Flum gets her brutal revenge and takes Milkit back, they discover that the dead are returning to life. Not just Milkit’s old master, either, but Gadhio’s wife and even Eterna’s adopted family have returned from the dead. They seem real… mostly? They’re being very friendly? But how much can this be trusted, especially since it seems to be part of a plot by the Church?

As with previous books in the series, this volume features a lot of body horror, brutal killings, and bad things happening to both good and bad people. There’s graphic descriptions of torture, and while there are fewer main characters dead than I had expected when I started, in the end surviving is about all our heroes really achieved. At the same time, of course, there are a few really sugary sweet yuri scenes sprinkled throughout (primarily Flum and Milkit, though there’s also some suggestive stuff between Ink and Eterna which I am far less comfortable with.) Milkit here decides that what she’s feeling for Flum is definitely love. Flum likely feels the same, but both of them are too shy, and possibly a bit too broken, to have it be much more than “we just want to be at each other’s side”. That said, I am appreciative of these scenes, as without them this book would be too dark to even read at all.

The Hero’s Party was also in this book, and things appear to be going very badly for them, as two are evil and two are likely going to be forced into evil. The next book in the series has Cyril on the cover, so I suspect we may see even more of them next time. Till then, this is still well-written and compelling, but save it for when you have a strong stomach.

Invaders of the Rokujouma!?, Vol. 36

By Takehaya and Poco. Released in Japan as “Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!?” by HJ Bunko. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Warnis.

I’ve mentioned this a few times before, but Rokujouma frequently has to walk a bit of a high wire, especially in the books that take place after the “ending” we saw in Vol. 29. The author still clearly wants to write more and more stories, and does not want to wrap things up quickly. At the same time, one of the joys of this series has been seeing the characters gradually grow and mature, and as such we don’t want to see them all static either. This new volume is particularly good at keeping that balance, especially for our two resident magical girls, Maki and Yurika. Maki’s past, both as an orphan sold into slavery and as a member of Darkness Rainbow, still tends to guide her actions. Meanwhile, Yurika’s self-pity sometimes verges into self-loathing, so much so that she can’t honestly see how impressed everyone is with her. The best way to resolve both of these things is to head off to Folsaria, Maki’s homeland. And who knows, maybe we can tie into the other ongoing plot while we’re at it.

We pick up where we left off, as Ralgwin has gotten away, though he does not seem to be starting anything major from somewhere else. This allows them to focus on Maki, who has been invited to join Rainbow Heart after recommendations from both Nana and Yurika. Maki certainly has the magic for it… and she’s got the “heart” as well. But can she really become one of the good magical girls after being a literal terrorist just a year or so ago? She gets a provisional task she must complete: investigate the disappearance of several men from a part of the city. This leads her not only to the home where she was born (now a ruined building), but also to a graveyard containing something that’s a lot bigger than just missing people. Can Maki rally together with all of her friends and family and save Folsaria from a hideous disaster?

I was talking about balancing character development with a certain static point, and something in the narrative really showed that off to me: when they arrive at Rainbow Heart headquarters, Yurika is given a letter explaining that all of her debt has finally been paid. Folsaria is a magical land, and Yurika should have been getting a salary, particularly given how much nof a prodigy she was. But apparently she destroyed a factory when her magic went out of control… and it was on her own time, not during work. So her wages were garnished forever to pay for it. Yurika, however, is not delighted by this at all. She fears that if she’s no longer a freeloader Koutarou will abandon her. What surprised me is that there’s no snapback at the end of the book. I was sure Yurika would end up reincurring a large debt. But no. And she’s even able to continue living frugally (so far). It’s really impressive, both for her and the author, not to fall into old habits.

Apologies to Maki, as I spent most of her book talking about Yurika. But Maki is awesome here too, gets to resolve many conflicted feelings, and becomes a real heroine at last, with a paycheck and everything. Unfortunately… the villains kinda win here. We’ll see what happens next, I guess.

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.