Tag Archives: Yen press

Manga Review: Hatsu*Haru Vol. 11

Ah…high school romance. It is a staple of shojo manga, and Shizuki Fujisawa adds another title to this list with Hatsu*Haru. Read on for the review of Volume 11! (For reviews of previous volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

The start of the school year brings unexpected trouble for Kai, as the new semester’s class assignments mean he’s no longer in the same class as Riko. Their time together has been drastically cut, but Riko is completely unfazed, to Kai’s dismay. Luckily, the school trip is right around the corner, and there will be plenty of time for relationships—even if it’s not their own they’re working on!

The Review

Most volumes in the series focus on one or two pairings, but Volume 11 gives three couples significant moments. First we have Kai and Riko. Lately, they’ve gone through different variations of Kai’s romantic plans getting derailed. This time, things get changed up when Riko unexpectedly asks him to go on a visit to Suwa and Akemi’s home. They pretty much dropped out of the picture since their wedding, so it’s a chance to catch up with the newlyweds and their baby. It also gives Kai the opportunity to earn points using his superior baby-handling skills. He does make one bungle, but his dismay over the mistake is way over the top. By and large, he demonstrates himself to be an excellent boyfriend and earns Akemi’s stamp of approval.

The focus then shifts to Misaki and Ayumi. Several weeks have passed since Misaki’s Valentine’s Day get well visit. Although the results weren’t immediate, his efforts made a definite impact on Ayumi’s heart and mind. It does drag on a little long, but the instant of realization for Ayumi is cute and very much in keeping with her personality.

That leaves us with one final couple-to-be. At this point, the timeline jumps to the class trip, so the vaunted city of Kyoto serves as the backdrop for Kagura’s attempts to be honest with Tarou. Because she is such a stubborn tsundere, Kai must give her an extra push, though his involvement seems more like that of a meddlesome aunt than a concerned friend. It’s a romantic comedy, so Kagura’s prickly nature of course interferes over and over. However, when it really counts, she is surprisingly articulate to Tarou. At this point, it’s unclear what will happen between the two because Tarou has never shown interest in becoming a one-woman man and Kagura is unwilling to do more than “wait” for him.

Extras include story-thus-far, mini-manga about Fujisawa-sensei and her assistants, and translation notes.

In Summary

A lot of fun wins for our characters in this volume! Kai has an unexpected opportunity to impress Riko, and he manages not to get punched by her. Misaki’s efforts to capture Ayumi’s heart finally pay off in a beautiful springtime moment. Kagura also manages to make progress in her relationship with Tarou, but whether he returns her feelings in kind remains to be seen.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Sacrificial Princess and the King of Beasts Vol. 9

The theme of love transcending appearances is a popular one in fairy tales, and Yen Press’ Sacrificial Princess and the King of Beasts fits that genre. The fantasy manga tells of the relationship between a girl and her beastly fiance, and you can read on for the review of Volume 9. (For reviews of other volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Sariphi’s bond with Leonhart only grew stronger during their time apart. But her road to royalty is long and perilous…During a visit to the country of Bolstobas, a sudden insurgency threatens to destroy the trust between the lovers. Caught between his position as king and his relationship with Sariphi, Leonhart’s faith is put to the test. Can he let her risk everything? Or will he protect her at any cost—even if it means betraying her beliefs?

The Review

Sari has pretty much been destined to be with Leo from the start, so the narrative provides a bit of drama by turning to a maiden who’s much less certain about her love interest. Previously, Amit took a big step forward by daring to give Captain Jormungand an amulet which she made with all her affection. Now, the Captain is back from his expedition, and he abruptly returns the token without explanation. Amit’s feelings for the Captain are obvious, but how Jormungand feels about Amit is less clear. In addition to stirring up maidenly sorrow and perplexity, the Captain’s actions–interestingly enough–leads to Lante getting to test his skills against Jormungand in a swashbuckling duel.

Then the story turns from reptilian romance to yet another trip for Sari–this time with Leo. Unlike previous arcs concerning the nations under Leo’s rule, this time we get a map of his territories, which provides a much better perspective what’s happening. (By the way, Ozmargo looks a whole lot like the Black Sea region in Eastern Europe.)

But during their royal tour of Bolstobas, Leo receives an urgent summons just as Sari catches wind of nefarious doings within the region. As a result, Leo entrusts Sari to handle the investigation while he rushes back to the capital. This turns into a challenge similar to the Maasya arc: Sari must overcome the prejudices against her in order to free the innocent and capture the wrongdoer. The arc is also similar in how quickly and tidily it concludes, although how the situation arose is nothing short of convoluted. Even Lante remarks on the absurdity of the Simian people’s enslavement.

While Sari is proving herself a champion of justice yet again, Leo is confronting a threat to his rule. Unrest within Ozmargo has been mentioned before, but now anti-monarchists are coalescing into a real force with powerful leaders. After so many Sari-centric arcs where Leo’s merely been steadfast support, having him face this challenge is a welcome change of pace.

Extras include embedded author’s notes and the bonus manga, “The Beast Princess and the Regular Princess and the Captain.”

In Summary

After a heartfelt romantic arc on Princess Amit and Captain Jormungand, Sari once again puts her queenly reputation on the line to bring about justice. The dilemma resolves itself a bit too easily, and the reason the Simians got enslaved in the first place is nothing short of ridiculous. Fortunately, the narrative is moving away from tests of Sari’s mettle to a challenge for Leonhard, which I hope allows him to do more than be Sari’s cheerleader.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Hatsu*Haru Vol. 10

Ah…high school romance. It is a staple of shojo manga, and Shizuki Fujisawa adds another title to this list with Hatsu*Haru. Read on for the review of Volume 10! (For reviews of previous volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Thanks to Riko’s heroic instinct, she took first prize in the Hottest Guy Contest and won a trip to a hot-spring resort. Kai has been eagerly awaiting their romantic getaway, but unfortunately for him, the dream trip for two has suddenly become a group affair. With Shimura and Misaki tagging along, alone time has dwindled to a thing of mere imagination. Odds take a turn in the boys’ favor, though, when Shimura insists on sleeping in Misaki’s room…The hope for intimacy may not be lost, after all!

The Review

The last volume ended with Riko winning Hottest Guy Contest, and Volume 10 dives into the hot springs trip Kai was hoping for. Only it’s not the intimate getaway he’d been dreaming of. Yes, we get to see our characters in traditional clothing in a charming setting, but in keeping with the pattern of Kai’s romantic plans getting thwarted, this time he’s blindsided by a third and fourth wheel. The circumstances that have Misaki and Ayumi joining their overnight trip are fairly improbable, but this is shojo manga, so oh well.

Not surprisingly, Riko’s awkwardness about being alone with Kai interferes with his efforts to grow closer to her, but he manages to get a kiss without getting punched, so that’s progress in a sense. As for the other pair, they’re still not a couple, but Ayumi’s forced to face Misaki’s feelings more directly than she’s ever had to.

Then the timeline speeds up, and we zip through three holidays: Christmas, New Year’s, and Valentine’s Day. Most of the focus ends up on Valentine’s Day when Kai, who despairs that it will even occur to Riko to give him chocolate, decides to make Valentine’s chocolates for her instead. A third of Chapter 39 winds up an illustrated recipe for chocolate muffins as Kai and his guy friends head to the kitchen to bake treats. The narrative’s taken pains to point out how manly Riko is, and this arc highlights Kai taking the traditionally girly role.

Predictably, Kai’s Valentine’s chocolate arc ends with a comic twist. For Misaki, though, it extends to a get well visit to Ayumi’s house when she falls ill on Valentine’s Day. Unlike the time Kai took Riko home, Ayumi’s conscious for all of Misaki’s attentions, and it is sweet seeing him dote on her. However, the mood shifts to comic when Misaki encounters Ayumi’s parents. The arc reveals quite a bit about Ayumi, and the way it strengthens Misaki’s resolve to pursue her is adorable.

Extras include story-thus-far, mini-manga about Fujisawa-sensei and her assistants, afterword, and translation notes.

In Summary

Kai and Riko’s romance continues at a turtle’s pace. Despite an overnight trip and a tremendous effort to make Valentine’s Day special, they only manage to progress to the point where Kai can kiss Riko without getting punched. Misaki, though, is making great strides with Ayumi. Although she’s yet to reciprocate his feelings, it’s a delight to watch the two grow closer.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Saga of Tanya the Evil Vol. #09

The Saga of Tanya the Evil anime was a surprise favorite for me in 2017. With a title like that, I was almost too scared to give it a try, but conniving little Tanya turned out to be nothing like I anticipated. Yen Press has released Volume 09 of the manga adaption, and you can read on for the review. (For my reviews of other Tanya the Evil works, click here.)

Back cover Blurb

Only a step away from their demise, the Regadonia Entente Alliance desperately push for a government-in-exile. Meanwhile, the notorious “Rusted Silver” Tanya von Degurechaff faces off against Colonel Anson Sue in another fatal battle that threatens to change the course of the entire war…and her chances of promotion!

The Review

Volume 8 ended with a glimpse into the far future, and Volume 9 continues that meandering path by detouring back to the assessment that revealed Tanya’s magic capabilities. While this look to the past includes her rationale for volunteering for the military, it mainly serves as a framework for explaining how technology and magic work in this world. If you’ve ever been curious about the origins of aerial mages, these pages lay out a fairly detailed explanation.

We then return to Tanya’s present-day and the summons that cut her leave short. The pace gets bogged down as the narrative presents a status report on the northern conflict against the Alliance, an initial survey of the battleground to come, the announcement of search and destroy orders to Tanya’s battalion and an update on the Alliance official at the center of this activity. It’s a lot of information for a complicated setup. Tojo-sensei makes these giant chunks of information more digestible by placing some of it in a lunchtime chat between Visha and an Academy friend and by interjecting humor through the contrasting responses of Tanya and her subordinates. Even so, it’s a dense read. (Not nearly as dense as the original novel text though).

However, there is a purpose to laying out the broader landscape for these multiple moving parts. When those parts finally converge, the payoff is huge. The collision of air, sea, and undersea forces is astronomically improbable, but it makes for splendid chaos, and Tojo-sensei does a great job conveying the frantic thoughts of all parties involved.

In the midst of the furious battle is a turning point for Mary Sue that doesn’t occur in either the anime or the novel. Being X and his cohorts in the higher plane haven’t meddled much since the Elinium 95 arc. Now they intervene directly and in a significant way. Whereas the anime and novel implied Mary’s powerful mana was something inherited from her father, here her powers are the result of not one, but three miracles. The divine backing she receives is quite dramatic and brands her as a force Tanya must contend with down the line.

Extras include a world map, battle log thus far, character introductions, and detailed glossary of terms between chapters. Unfortunately, the font on the character introductions is so small (4 point? 3 point?) that reading it feels like an eye exam.

In Summary

After a lesson on the history of mages, the narrative returns to the abrupt summons to Tanya’s battalion. These orders might be sudden, but the explanation of the circumstances surrounding it takes a while. However, if you’re patient enough to process that information, it pays off in a thrilling ocean battle.

First published at the Fandom Post.

 

 

 

Light Novel Review: Spice and Wolf Vol. #21

Spice and Wolf is a wildly popular light novel series that has spawned off an anime, an Internet radio show, and a manga series. While its European medieval setting is typical of high fantasy, this series has a unique bent. Rather than swordfights and magic, the plot focuses on economics, trade, and peddling in a way that skillfully blends adventure and romance.

Yen Press has released the 21st volume of this novel series, and you can read on for the review. (You can also click here for my reviews of previous Spice and Wolf releases).

The Review

I’d thought Lawrence and Holo’s traveling days were over, especially given that they’re now proprietors of a popular inn. However, Hasekura-sensei seems to have decided that this couple’s dynamic is best while they are on the road. Thus, thanks to assistance from several non-human types, the pair is journeying again, this time to catch up after their daughter Myuri.

The combination of travel and moneymaking schemes is reminiscent of the original series, but this book retains the Spring Log format. In other words, rather than one continuous narrative, it consists of five short stories, each with its own self-contained arc. However, the first four stories follow one another so closely chronologically that they form a steady look at this new journey.

The first of the four is “Beyond the Steam and Wolf,” written from the perspective of Selim, who’s tasked with running the bathhouse in Lawrence and Holo’s absence. She is a relative newcomer to the Spice and Wolf world, and we get to know the shy, conscientious wolf a bit better as Lawrence and Holo eagerly prepare to leave the village. The perspective then shifts to Lawrence’s once they hit the road. “The Autumn Colored Smile and Wolf” pokes fun at Lawrence’s rusty traveling skills during their first significant journey in over a decade. He then gets to redeem himself in “The Colors of the Forest and Wolf,” when a lord requests their assistance in protecting a forest in his territory. The impact of human activity on the ancient landscape Holo once ruled was a constant thread in the original books, and this story revisits that issue. Then the first leg of their journey ends with them handling the repercussions of Col and Myuri’s activity in “The Eggs of a Journey and Wolf.” This fourth story is a lovely throwback to the original Spice and Wolf tales in that it involves economics (futures trading in herring eggs) and conflict with a religious institution (a young priest who apparently aspires to be just like Col), but it also works in a new element. Preceding Spring Log tales have Lawrence and Holo seeking ways to preserve memories of their days together, and this story introduces a new means for doing just that. An added bonus is that Holo is so desperate to attain it she refrains from her gluttonous ways for once.

The final story in the collection, “Another Birthday and Wolf,” is a brief flashback. Written from Col’s point of view, it chronicles a party celebrating the tenth year of both the Spice and Wolf bathhouse and Myuri. Most of it is Col preparing Myuri for her grand entrance. To be honest, it strikes me as odd that a young man of around twenty is dressing up the ten-year-old girl instead of her mother or another female. At any rate, the interchange makes it very difficult for me to take a romantic Col/Myuri pairing seriously.

Extras include the first eight pages printed in color, world map, six black-and-white illustrations, and afterword.

In Summary

Holo and Lawrence begin a new journey! Fans of the original series will get to enjoy Holo and Lawrence essentially reliving their younger days on the road. They have the vibe of an old couple rather than the insecurity of their unmarried selves, but the stories present a nice blend of travel and moneymaking.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Light Novel Review: Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina Vol. #01

There are a range of witches depicted in literature nowadays – good, bad, sexy, terrifying. But how about a witch wandering around with no particular goal in mind? This is the subject of Jougi Shiraishi’s light novel Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina. Read on for the review of Volume 1.

Back Cover Blurb

What’s your favorite story? Does it have a hero who slays a dragon and saves a princess? Or a child of prophecy destined for greatness? Well, my favorite story is a little different. It’s the tale of a witch who travels the world, seeking nothing in particular. With no quest of her own, she’s free to wander wherever the wind takes her, adding a few pages to the story of whomever she meets before setting off on her next adventure. At the end of her travels, the witch takes on an apprentice who will one day begin her own journey. And so the cycle continues, or so the story goes. Now, the witch who starts the story anew…who could she be?

The Review

Elaina may be a witch, but she’s not an ugly old hag. As a cute girl in her late teens, she’s definitely in the moe category. But despite being a genius at magic, she uses her powers mainly to fly herself via broomstick from place to place.

No, this isn’t a witch on a quest for magical items or seeking to improve her skills or any other concrete goal. For the vast majority of the story, Elaina’s magic merely shortens her travel time. She doesn’t even really use those powers to make a living, which strikes me as truly odd. Despite having the ability to fix broken items, transform herself into animals, manipulate tools, and fight off several mages at once, the way she earns money when she runs low on cash is bogus fortune-telling. As such, the magic aspect of this story is nominal, except for a couple of flashback chapters about Elaina’s witch apprenticeship. (Even then, her motivation for undergoing that training is because her mage parents require her to become a full-fledged witch before they will allow her to travel.)

The meat of the stories, then, is the places she visits. Elaina calls them “countries,” but they are more like medieval city-states. Each is ruled by a monarch, but they are enclosed by protective walls and can be fully explored in one to three days. Every chapter focuses on a different country or an in-between village. Because Elaina is a traveler, we get to explore these countries and villages alongside her, and each place is unique.

Actually, it’s more accurate to say each place has its own particular brand of weirdness. From the country that persecutes ugliness to the country awash in counterfeit currency to the country literally divided into two because its king and queen can’t compromise. Some episodes are humorous: others are mysterious or sad. However, these anecdotes tend to highlight the worst of humanity–stupidity, avarice, hate, deceit, indifference.

The opening chapter, “The Country of Mages,” left a particularly bad taste in my mouth. I believe the author’s intent was to make a story in which Elaina inspires a lonely mage. However, Saya’s behavior is definitely the stuff of creepy stalkers (I don’t care that it’s coming from a cute girl, psychopathic behavior is psychopathic behavior).

On top of that, Elaina’s commentary on the people and places she encounters is mostly snark. Because her snark isn’t particularly clever or insightful, it just makes everything seem that much more unpleasant. Given the disdain she expresses throughout most of her travels, I have to wonder why she bothered leaving home at all.

Extras include the first four pages printed in color, five black-and-white illustrations, and afterword.

In Summary

The title of this book is accurate. Its chapters chronicle the journey of a wandering witch named Elaina. However, the actual content of those chapters don’t form a cohesive narrative, and the main character Elaina doesn’t have enough personality to make engaging commentary on these disjointed and often dark anecdotes.

First published at the Fandom Post.

 

 

 

Light Novel Review: The Genius Prince’s Guide to Raising a Nation Out of Debt (Hey, How About Treason?) Vol. #01

Fantasy series are full of royalty, and those characters are often noble, incompetent, evil, or ambitious. But how about a genius prince who is plain lazy? That’s the protagonist of The Genius Prince’s Guide to Raising a Nation Out of Debt (Hey, How About Treason?). Read on for the review of Volume 1.

Back Cover Blurb

Prince Wein is ready to commit treason. And who can blame him? Faced with the impossible task of ruling his pathetic little kingdom, this poor guy just can’t catch a break! But with his brilliant idea of auctioning off his country, this lazy prince should be able to retire once and for all. Or that was the plan…until his treasonous schemes lead to disastrous consequences-namely, accidental victories and the favor of his people!

The Review

This series’ long-winded title is somewhat misleading. The main character, Wein Salema Arbalest, is a prince and a genius, but his country, the Kingdom of Natra technically isn’t in debt. The kingdom doesn’t owes money to others; rather, Natra is lean on industry and resources. Ergo, the demands on the country’s leadership are high but the material benefits are few. Wein, however, is naturally lazy, bears no idealistic notions, and has had a taste of the good life during his studies abroad in the Earthworld Empire. As such, his dearest dream is to sell out his country to the Empire that he might live out his life in ease and luxury.

The title might also lead one to think the story is of trade and negotiation, similar to Spice and Wolf. Although Wein’s first act after being named Prince Regent to stand in for the ailing king is a peacetime discussion with the Earthworld Empire’s ambassador, the majority of the plot concerns military strategy and tactics and the resulting geopolitical consequences. (Even that initial discussion with the ambassador concerns the terms of an agreement allowing Imperial troops to be stationed within Natra.)

Sounds like serious stuff, but even though everyone around Wein is serious and takes him seriously, Wein is a comic character behind the scenes. He’s constantly trying to ditch his responsibilities, and only the fear of a coup and his longtime friend and aide Ninym (the one person who knows his true nature) keep him in line. He’s also got a sister complex and is a bit of a perv (a tone which gets incorporated into the artwork). If the series was turned into an anime or manga, it would undoubtedly include fanservice elements.

As annoying as I found the breast references, this plot was engaging. Interestingly, it reminded me of another Yen Press title, Tanya the Evil. While one is a fantasy and the other is an industrial-era isekai, both have heavy strategic, tactical, and political elements. Tanya and Wein have vastly different personalities, but they are similarly deemed model patriots when in truth they’d dump their responsibilities given the chance. And the running joke with both is that their brilliant schemes to attain the easy lifestyle continually backfire.

The main weakness of Genius Prince is that, unlike Tanya, its cast tends to be very one-dimensional. Aside from Ninyim and Wein, characters have little nuance. They’re all evil, all loyal, all idiot, or all victim. Also, even though Wein’s father remains king, he never appears throughout the several months worth of events.

Despite that, the story is an entertaining, easy read. Whereas Tanya delved into details to the point that it was a real slog, Genius Prince does a good job presenting information in a clear fashion that doesn’t bog the pace.

Extras include the first eight pages printed in color, ten black-and-white illustrations, and afterword.

In Summary

A military narrative takes a comic tone as a prince regent’s best efforts to rid himself of his kingdom backfire into one brilliant victory after another. The plot involves quite a bit of strategy and geopolitics, but it keeps the parameters simple, so it’s easy to comprehend. That combined with Prince Wein’s behind the scenes outbursts makes for an entertaining story.

First published at the Fandom Post.

 

 

 

Manga Review: The Royal Tutor Vol. 13

Rich, handsome young men, each with his own distinct personality…this type of bishounen cast is a staple in shojo manga. And if you like yours with a generous helping of chibi humor, you should definitely check out Higasa Akai’s The Royal Tutor. Read on for my review of Volume 13. (For my reviews of other volumes click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

The ongoing troubles at Café Mitter Meyer leave Licht feeling helpless as he witnesses firsthand the hate directed at his master for his Kvel ancestry. Infuriated by the kingdom’s ugly dark side, Licht realizes he has an opportunity many do not: the power to enact change from the highest level of government, the throne itself! With his return, all four brothers are reunited in the palace. They have all been transformed by their experiences apart, and each is more determined than ever to rule for the betterment of Granzreich!

The Review

The first half of Volume 13 is Licht centric. He’s been absent from recent chapters so Akai-sensei’s making it up with an extended arc where he’s the star and the guards Ludwig and Maximillian form the supporting cast. Like most Licht stories, it centers around the café, and like his brothers, Licht hits upon a turning point during their time apart.

A new element introduced at the close of Volume 12 is the existence of ethnic minorities within the kingdom. Volume 13 fleshes out that dynamic further. Kvels appeared to be modeled after the Jewish people, and considering how this world resembles 19th-century Europe, the picture of discrimination it presents isn’t difficult to grasp. It is, however, a shock for the privileged and mostly sheltered Licht.

Unlike the libel incident against Kai, the vandalism against the café is left unresolved. On one hand, it’s frustrating not to reach a resolution. On the other hand, it is a realistic outcome and one that wakes Licht up to the inequity that exists in his country. Thus the youngest prince discovers motivation to embrace the role he was born to, and Akai-sensei leaves the door open for this vandalism incident to reemerge at a later time.

At this point, Heine’s not only won the respect of his four pupils, but he’s leveled them up as candidates for the throne. Thus, the focus turns to the throne’s heir apparent, Eins, who poses with the Royal Tutor on this volume’s cover.

While the younger princes are technically competing with their eldest brother, most of the conflict has arisen between Heine and Count Rosenberg. Rosenberg’s position as Eins’ head steward would lead one to believe his actions are driven out of a desire for personal gain, but an unusually frank conversation between Heine and Rosenberg and a walk down memory lane with Kai reveal that the relationship between the count and Eins is deeper and more complicated. And with Eins acting strangely following his much-anticipated betrothal to a neighboring princess, Akai-sensei’s got me insanely curious as to what his fatal flaw might be.

Extras include bonus manga and illustrations and the first page printed in color.

In Summary

The troubles at Café Mitter Meyer take on an ugly tone. Although Licht is determined to stop the culprit, he eventually realizes that the problem is beyond what an ordinary café worker can handle. Thus, he embraces his princehood and returns to the palace with a new purpose. With that, all four brothers are reunited in time to receive news of their eldest brother’s engagement. Akai-sensei finally reveals more information about Eins and Rosenberg, but those details serve to raise more questions, leaving me eagerly anticipating the next volume.

First published at The Fandom Post.

 

Light Novel Review: Wolf and Parchment: New Theory Spice and Wolf Vol. 4

Holo and Lawrence of the  Spice and Wolf light novel series have reached their happy ending, but for those who haven’t gotten enough of the Spice and Wolf world, creator Hasekura has a spinoff series: Wolf and Parchment. Read on for the review of Volume 4. (For reviews of other volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Rausbourne, Winfiel Kingdom’s second-largest city, is on the verge of boiling over. Col and Myuri have come to this bustling metropolis at Heir Hyland’s request-but as soon as they land, they find themselves caught between heavily armed tax collectors and mercenaries hired by the local merchants association. The stakes are high when it becomes clear that Rausbourne’s troubles are simply one part of the wider conflict between the Kingdom and the Church, which has actually worsened due to Col’s deeds as the Twilight Cardinal.

If nothing changes, it’ll be only a matter of time before fighting breaks out. Right as things start to look their bleakest, Lawrence’s old archrival Eve Bolan offers a convenient lifeline. Will the fearless miser turn out to be friend or foe? Either way, Col has no choice but to dive into a three-pronged standoff between the Church, the Kingdom, and the merchants!

The Review

After their detour in Desarev, Col and Myuri finally arrive in Rausbourne, where Col’s supposed to report to the noblewoman Hyland. Unfortunately, their boat hasn’t even docked in the city port when Col’s taken into custody by the Rausbourne Tax Collector Association, an incident which immediately triggers a confrontation with the local traders’ association.

Col’s activities in the North haven’t gone unnoticed, and the deeds of the Twilight Cardinal have emboldened the Rausbourne tax collectors to get belligerent with the local religious authorities. On the surface, it looks like another Kingdom backed foray against the corrupt Church. However, the tax collectors are backed by Heir Klevend, a royal upstart out to usurp the throne. Additionally, the clergy are holed up in the cathedral, unwilling to engage anyone, but they don’t have to fight because merchants and their mercenaries are facing the tax collectors for them.

This is a situation with multiple actors, not all of them obvious, and their motivations aren’t what you’d immediately assume. The bulk of the story is Col and Myuri getting to the heart of the conflict and discovering more layers than they imagined. While the complexity makes it interesting, it’s not a light read. Having to keep track of how everyone is connected and why was a real mental workout.

While the original Spice and Wolf arc was sparing with its nonhuman characters, Col and Myuri seem to encounter a new nonhuman with each leg of their journey, and here it’s Sharon, the head of the Tax Collector Association. Heir Hyland, whom we haven’t seen since the early part of Volume 2, returns to the story, and we get a real blast from the past with the crafty merchant Eve arriving in Rausbourne. It’s because of the unique connections Col and Myuri have with these individuals that Col’s able to get a grasp on the situation, but watching the different personalities interact is pretty fun, too. Col may be a mild-mannered guy, but he attracts strong females. Despite his intentions of celibacy, one scene in particular with Myuri, Eve, and Hyland seems awfully like a harem situation.

Hasekura-sensei does a good job interweaving Winfiel politics, economic opportunity, and a defensive religious organization into the plot. There is an aspect I found troubling though. Along with the Church’s financial corruption, this volume adds the sin of sexual impurity. Basically, most priests had affairs, so much so these illicit relationships were an open secret. To make it worse, when they abandoned their lovers and children to rise in the church ranks, the Church deliberately and knowingly altered records to erase any inconvenient relationships.

Despite his desire to reform the Church, when Col meets one such priest, his response is less indignation and more along the lines of, “Well, he had his reasons.” Weirder is that another pastor, who himself is one of these illegitimate children, is in love with a woman, and the solution is to settle the pair together in a monastery dedicated to raising orphans rather than having the pastor find work that doesn’t require celibacy. Given that no one seems capable of following the celibacy rule, it seems odd Col never questions its necessity. At any rate, if the Church gets any more rotten than this, Myuri may be right that it’s better to destroy and build something new rather than to clean house.

Extras include the first eight pages printed in color, world map, eight black-and-while illustrations, and afterword.

In Summary

Our travelers arrive in Rausbourne to find it teetering on the brink of war. The Twilight Cardinal’s actions have spurred people to openly challenge the Church, but an armed conflict might just bring the Winfiel Kingdom to ruin. Col is confronted with the fact that his actions have worldwide consequences, and this volume is less adventuring and more pondering how to use his far-flung influence.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Sacrificial Princess and the King of Beasts Vol. 8

The theme of love transcending appearances is a popular one in fairy tales, and Yen Press’ Sacrificial Princess and the King of Beasts fits that genre. The fantasy manga tells of the relationship between a girl and her beastly fiance, and you can read on for the review of Volume 8. (For reviews of other volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Alone for the first time since she met the beast king, Leo, Sariphi has had nothing but trouble on her journey to the dessert city of Maasya. Matters get worse upon arrival as her new captain, Lanteveldt, is arrested on suspicion of attacking the local lord. But Sariphi’s belief in him is unshaken, gaining her a true knight in shining armor. Now that Sariphi has a trusted guard by her side and the confidence to stand on her own, does Leo still have a place in her heart?

The Review

The Maasya arc continues with the new captain of the Queen’s Guard getting blamed for the attack on Lord Braun. Predictably, everyone assumes Lante is the perpetrator, and he has no witnesses to account for his whereabouts at the time of the incident. Equally unsurprising is Sari’s conviction of Lante’s innocence. Sari is then saddled with the task of catching the actual culprit while Lante gets tossed into a cell.

I thought the main focus would go towards Sari’s investigation, which is under a time crunch, but we hardly see any of it. Rather, the narrative shifts to a lengthy flashback about Lante’s wretched past. While it does explain why he behaves as he does, it is yet another tale of a horrible childhood. It seems like the entire cast grew up under terrible parents or traumatic circumstances, and it is getting a little old.

At any rate, Sari (once again) succeeds in her endeavors and wins Lante’s loyalty and trust. The speedy capture of the actual attacker is a bit too convenient, but the one interesting part of the investigation is a reference to Sari’s ability to see colors that beastfolk can’t. That mention of beast colorblindness is a nice change of pace from the usual prattle about humankind’s inferiority to beastkind.

Sari then returns to the palace in time to receive a guest. I hadn’t expected Tetra to return to the story so quickly, but the tsundere princess is back–this time to meddle in Sari’s relationship with Leo. Given that Amit and Sari are so shy around their respective love interests, it’s jarring to have the child catgirl exhorting Sari to be bolder in approaching Leo in the bedchamber. While Tetra doesn’t change the Sari/Leo dynamic much, she does allow glimpses of plot developments to come.

The volume concludes with a two-chapter arc about Ilya. I hadn’t expected him to return to the story at all. He remains in the human realm, but his encounters with beastkind continue as he journeys as a vagabond beast hunter. While Ilya’s personality is prickly as ever, Sari’s influence has affected the way he views beastkind, and a chance meeting with a very small, very trusting beast demonstrates those changes.

Extras include embedded author’s notes and the bonus manga, “The Beast Lad and the Regular Boy.”

In Summary

Lante was marked for trouble from the start, and of course Sari gets him out of it. Unfortunately, the process by which she saves him isn’t that engaging, and mostly we get Lante’s tale of childhood woe while he is stuck in prison. While this arc is in keeping with overarching story of Sari steadily changing beastkind opinions about her, the plot is extremely predictable, and Lante’s wretched past is merely another addition to a cast full of terrible childhoods.

First published at the Fandom Post.