Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, Vol. 16

By Fujino Omori and Suzuhito Yasuda. Released in Japan as “Dungeon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatte Iru Darou ka?” by GA Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Dale DeLucia.

Look, I know the spoiler. You know the spoiler. Most readers following this series have long since figured out the spoiler, if only as they googled the name and were redirected in a spoilery way. But yeah, this review is gonna talk about Syr, so if you say to yourself “oh, the shy but also sly waitress who likes Bell!”, I’d advise not reading this till you’ve read the book. We’ve seen Syr in action in one of the spinoff books, where she and Lyu go to a casino and she absolutely destroys a group of gamblers. But we’ve never quite seen Syr like this. This is Syr’s Last Stand. In the last volume we had a festival of remembrance, and in this one, hot on its heels, we have a festival of harvest. It’s meant to be a happy, joyous occasion, and is very popular with couples. As such, when Syr asks Bell out on a date, all hell breaks loose.

Admittedly it’s hard to pretend you’re avoiding a spoiler when the cover also heavily references the spoiler. So yeah, Syr is Freya. We all had guessed this by now, especially if we knew any mythology, and the derivation of the name Syr. That said, there’s another twist to it (hinted at in the Freya spinoff that came out last year) that makes things more interesting. For a good 3/4 of this book, however, this is really a cute romcom – something the author admits they were going for. Syr is, for obvious reasons, protected by the Freya Familia, and if she’s going to be dating Bell Cranel, then by God, she will be dating the BEST Bell Cranel, leading to a hilarious 5-day training from hell trying to teach Bell how to be a sexy boyfriend. (Poor Cassandra.) At the same time, Hestia is flipping out, and she and Aiz team up to follow Bell… as do Lyu and the rest of Syr’s co-workers. There’s funny moments, there’s sweet moments, there’s touching moments.

…and then it all goes to hell. Another slight spoiler, but the end of this book absolutely sets the table for the next arc, which I suspect is going to be “Freya Familia tries to kill all of Hestia Familia over and over again”. It has nothing to do with Bell figuring out Syr is Freya – he doesn’t. It’s simply that Syr left all her emotions and love on the table, begged Bell to accept her, and he CAN’T. He loves Aiz. (This is not stated explicitly with her name, but, um, see the previous 15 books). And it’s devastating and tragic until the last five pages or so, when you realize that oh shit, no, it’s going to be “fuck it, burn it all down” for Freya as she decides to have Bell Cranel By Any Means Necessary. It’s a stunning ending, and made me appreciate the comedy in this book all the more – I doubt we’ll see it in 17.

As with the wait between 15 and 16, 17 is not yet on Yen On’s schedule. Still, I hear 17 isn’t the end of the story arc either, so if you want to wait to binge, I’d advise against it. This works well as a stand-alone showing us what happens when someone who can get anyone she wants falls hard for the boy who won’t sleep with her because it would be wrong.

Combatants Will Be Dispatched!, Vol. 6

By Natsume Akimoto and Kakao Lanthanum. Released in Japan as “Sentouin, Hakenshimasu!” by Kadokawa Sneaker Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Noboru Akimoto.

Given this is a series about an evil organization, it’s not a surprise that there haven’t been very many heroes seen so far – at least not by the standard definition – and those we have seen have been quietly shuffled away as quickly as possible. Six and company are not battling against a heroic organization, they’re battling against the Demon Lord in order to gain control of this planet. And even that battle was taken care of last time. So it’s no surprise that we need something to fill the void, and it comes in the form of Adelie, a self-proclaimed Hero of Justice who has all of Amelia’s vim and vigor but none of her political savvy. She’s here to stir things up and set the table for the next arc, and she does a great job of it. Plus, for the second new character in a row, she doesn’t remind me immediately of someone from KonoSuba. The two series are gradually separating from each other.

The Demon Lord and her people have settled rather nicely into Six’s organization, as you can probably see by her presence on the cover. She continues to be the one person in the entire series that is sweet as pie and always means well. Even when she tries to remind herself she has to be evil now. Actually, Six’s group has sort of turned into a combination refugee camp and soup kitchen, and there’s not really a lot of evil points being acquired as we start the book. That said, though, there is someone who is going around causing chaos and ruining everything… and no, believe it or not, it’s not Snow either, as even Snow gets to have one or two moments of triumph in this book. No, it’s Adelheid Kruger, the Umbral Savior! She’s here to see how evil everyone in this Kingdom is, and she finds, well, Snow, who is happily taking bribe after bribe; Six and Alice, who are happy to throw anyone to the wolves for their own gain; and even Princess Tillis, who may seem to be trying to hold the kingdom together (she’s even doing her best to say Dick Festival now), but who may have the blackest heart of all…

This book is a lot of fun, even the ending battles. Everyone gets a chance to be cool and a chance to be incredibly dumb, which is the best reason to be reading this author. Rose shows that she cannot read the emotions of even the simplest minds; Grimm’s jealousy leads to more deaths and more curses,, and Snow is of course horrible all around. That said, Snow briefly turns into a real military soldier here when her entire life is on the line, and I loved the epilogue where it pointed out that, despite the bribery, she actually was being a very good governor and making sure everything ran smoothly. Combatants likes to look at the definition of what Good and Evil are and make people think harder about it.

That said, this is the last volume to date – despite the anime coming and going, there’s no sign of Vol. 7 over there. So it may be a while. Till then, this is a strong entry in a series where everyone is pretty scuzzy – but not TOO scuzzy.

Reign of the Seven Spellblades, Vol. 3

By Bokuto Uno and Miyuki Ruria. Released in Japan as “Nanatsu no Maken ga Shihai suru” by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Alex Keller-Nelson.

The third volume in this series is very much “Part 2” of the second volume, as we ended with a nasty cliffhanger last time. Pete is in the hands of Ophelia, along with several other boys from the school, and is not expected to be found alive. Our heroes need to go after him, but the labyrinth is not off limits for no good reason, and there are also upper-year students also searching for them. Still, Nanao, Oliver and Chela are actually good enough to survive it, and are joined by a former enemy who turns out to be helping them… though not necessarily out of the goodness of her heart. While this is happening, we get the tragic backstory for Ophelia, who is a succubus whose scent can inflame male passions, and therefore not only had trouble making friends when she first got to school, but was slut-shamed to the point where it drove her to… well, bad actions. Can she be saved? Can she at least have a remotely peaceful death?

It was mentioned to me on Twitter that this series probably would work better in animated form than it does as prose, and I can certainly see why. There are an awful lot of cool battles here, and while they are definitely cool enough being described to us they cry out to be seen. Each of our six protagonists gets something to do… though Katie and Guy can only help in indirect ways, and Pete, of course, has to do something about their own kidnapped situation. Pete’s reversi nature is rapidly becomeing a far more well-known secret, which I suspect might have consequences in future volumes, especially given the fate of one of their support mechanisms here. And yes, Oliver is clever, Chela is clever, and Nanao is… well, NOT clever, but she’s very battle savvy, and her not cleverness can provide some of the few light moments in this book.

Those who have read my previous reviews know that I have been studiously avoiding mentioning a certain other well-known fantasy series that Seven Spellblades reminds everyone of, and that comes into play here as well, as a lot of what Ophelia goes through is reminiscent of another group in that series. That said, Ophelia’s is far darker and more tragic. Her backstory is welcome mostly as it shows us that she was once also a first-year who was slowly drawn into a group of friends, just like our heroes at the start of the first book. It shows us that we should not get too comfortable, and that any of of them could easily be sharing an equally tragic fate in the next few books. My money, in fact, is on Oliver, who may be the main character but also has far too many weak sports.

The main weak spot of this book is the ending, as the book simply stops like a Target Doctor Who paperback that has reached Page 128. I’m not sure if the author was trying to set a somber, downbeat book with that or was working to a pagecount, but either way, I think an epilogue would have been better here. That said, it’s still another strong volume in the series, and I eagerly await the fourth book, where apparently our heroes move up a year.

Also, love Milihand, and I really hope she sticks around as a regular character, or at least a mascot.