We have a diverse lineup of light novels and manga to close out the month of November, touching all sorts of genres and types from magical girls to harem, shounen to shoujo, and isekai to yuri—those last two within the same work! Come check out our reviews of this interesting crop of releases from Yen Press, Viz, and J-Novel Club!
The Executioner and Her Way of Life, Vol. 3: The Cage of Iron Sand
If volume one set of The Executioner and Her Way of Life set the groundwork for a visceral and creative fantasy tale, and volume two turned the heat on the story all the way up to its highest setting, volume three makes the wise choice of going a more modest route while still continuing to move forward with what is becoming an epic story. Menou and Akari continue their journey toward the latter’s execution, but run into ruffians with surprising tech along the way, as well as a new character, Sahara, a former classmate of Menou’s whose past is more entwined with hers than she realizes. While volume three continues the sin of featuring drippy dialogue that is intended to develop fun relationships between the almost entirely female cast through various levels and types of flirting (but fails in doing so), it also moves further down the route of stronger characterization by diving into Akari’s head (we only got a hint of this in volume two—albeit a shocking one) and laying out what that means to various characters. Meanwhile, Saraha is a welcome addition to the cast of mains (and is given a particularly strong backstory), each of which received considerable time in these chapters. Despite their throwaway dialogue, readers will care for each of them by this point, and the story as well, which continues to be smart, epic, and oftentimes, pit-in-your-stomach fearsome. ~ Twwk
The Executioner and Her Way of Life is published by Yen Press.*
Endo and Kobayashi Live! The Latest on Tsundere Villainess Lieselotte, Disc 1
Deeply dissatisfied with the tragic fate of otome game “villainess” Lieselotte, a high school girl and boy decide to record a Let’s Play of said otome game. The trappings seem conventional: a commoner girl attends Magic School for Nobles and encounters a not-so-villainous aristocratic “villainess” engaged to a prince. But then things go off the rails. The “players” have no control over the game, the save file is glitched, the protagonist’s stats are maxed out, and certain characters in the game can hear and respond to their commentary! Then these “gods” surprise themselves by conferring blessings, have a cryptic encounter that might be connected to the mystery of the game, and more. Awkward teen romance abounds both in-game and IRL, as well as non-romantic drama of various kinds, including medical, familial, and evil-witch-scripted-to-be-Lieselotte’s-doom-al. Lieselotte’s fiancé, Prince Siegwald, provides first-person narration when present, while scenes without him are told in third-person. Notably, this isn’t an isekai story, instead being more similar to The NPCs in This Village Sim Game Must Be Real!, where people in our world “play” a “video game” that seems oddly real, are perceived as deities by game characters, and start to uncover possible connections between our world and the not-so-virtual one (though if you’ve been reading Village Sim for this month’s Light Novel Club discussion, rest assured that there are many differences!). This volume was sweet and funny and intriguing, and I loved it. ~ jeskaiangel
Endo and Kobayashi Live! The Latest on Tsundere Villainess Lieselotte is published by J-Novel Club.
Cheeky Brat, Vol. 1
Can’t say I’ve previously ever bought a manga simply based off the font alone, but I can officially say that I have now now after purchasing Cheeky Brat! I absolutely love how colorful the font is! While this was more of a cover buy for me at first, the sports overtone in the blurb made me decide this was one I needed to pick up. The story centers around a second year, Yuki, who has a crush on the team captain of the basketball team (which she manages and decided to be specifically because of this crush). One of the first-year players, Naruse, finds out about “this crush” and starts to tease her about it. The thing is though, is Naruse just teasing? Or is he not? Outside of the manga Waiting for Spring, Cheeky Brat is the only other popular title I know that is a sports shoujo manga, which is something I can’t get enough of. However, while I deeply loved Yuki and her backstory of why she never smiles (as well as how caring and loyal she is to the boys’ basketball team), I could not love this story as much as I wanted. Well, the story—that I did like. What I didn’t was the couple. I could not ship the two as I had hoped because I could not support the Naruse not respecting Yuki’s boundaries. It works well for the story and does have its humorous moments, but in between the first meeting involving boobs and this sense of acting on touching because he likes her, it was more than I could let slide by. Outside of this, I loved the story, but it is one I sadly will not be continuing. ~ Laura A. Grace
Cheeky Brat is published by Yen Press.
Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl
While future volumes are on the way, Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl, the sixth light novel in the Rascal series, reads like the climax of the franchise, focusing on both the main heroine and the the most mysterious and otherwise most significant of the rest of Sakuta’s harem, Shouko, who arrived in volume five aged as a college student. Having accepted this Shouko into his home, Sakuta also invites in a situation fraught with discomfort and difficulty when Mai returns from her work trip to discover the older girl (and Sakuta’s first love) love taking residence in her boyfriend’s household while clearly declaring her love for him. But the situation goes beyond simple romcom antics, both because Sakuta is simultaneously attending to the middle school-aged Shouko, whose health is declining, and his own divided heart. Harem series often avoid facing such an issue head-on and with contemplation and appropriate drama, but author Hajime Kamoshida does in this sixth volume of the series, and deserves praise for doing so. And while Sakuta once again proves to be less reliable and good-hearted than I think the author would want us to believe, the ride itself is quite heartfelt and engaging. It’s also increasingly anxious as the novel moves toward its conclusion, particularly when one realizes there are only 30 pages left and a frightening resolution in sight. Those who have already watched the film—myself included—won’t necessarily be surprised by the main plot of the story, though access to the inner thinkings of Sakuta and Shouko, larger parts for the secondary characters in this volume, and some interesting relationship development that the anime will need to include should a second season come along, make the light novel more than worth the read. This is the most complete volume yet in the Rascal series, and gives me confidence that Kamoshida will continue to challenge himself as a writer instead of relying too much on unreasonable circumstances and explanations, a problem from earlier volumes that, like the original bunny girl senpai, has started to disappear. ~ Twwk
Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl is published by Yen Press.*
The Hunters Guild: Red Hood (Series)
The Hunters Guild: Red Hood, the first series from mangaka Yuuki Kawaguchi to get a full run, is fantastic, and unfortunately was cut too soon. It begins with the premise that fairy tale monsters which looked like eldritch horrors from some sort of Lovecraftian mythos attacking villages. The Red Hood, Grimm, a member of the Hunters Guild, arrives to protect the first village. The story then follows a villager, Velou, who goes off to become a hunter himself. However, the story moves in such a unique direction from there as it shows that the entire world is truly a created thing, a reinterpretation of fairy tales. As the manga progresses, readers will start to remember and recognize various fairy tale characters reimagined, including Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood, as well as the reinvention of werewolves. I wish this series was given a proper send off with at least a few more chapters, as the final arc is really compelling. However, it really all depends on readership, and so it happens sometimes. Even so, I would highly recommend this series if you are interested in this premise. ~ MDMRN
The Hunters Guild: Red Hood was simulpublished by Shonen Jump.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Wraith Arc, Vol. 1
Tainted beings known as wraiths prey upon young women, feeding on their emotions, and in Mitakihara Town, are growing in strength. Thankfully, magical girls Mami, Sayaka, and Kyoko are there to combat them—if they don’t kill each other first. The Wraith Arc, a short series developed by Magica Quartet and their frequents collaborator, Hanokage, fills the space between the end of Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Rebellion Story, and in mining this part of the lore, presents a fascinating and fun read. Readers get to see how Sayaka and Kyoko come to form their deep relationship out of animosity (with some wild twists), with Mami in her wisdom holding the team together. And meanwhile, of course, there are no witches. There is no Madoka. But much like the “absent” God in the Book of Esther, she is ever over the events of the book, and in this series, especially haunts Homura. Knowing what’s to come in Rebellion Story makes that chatacter’s actions all the more compelling, though it should be said that this volume belongs to Sayaka’s and Kyoko’s for the most part, illustrated in full glory by Hanokage, equal parts a feast for the eyes and a thrill for all lovers of PMMM. ~ Twwk
Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Wraith Arc is published by Yen Press.*
Reader’s Corner is our way of embracing the wonderful world of manga, light novels, and visual novels, creative works intimately related to anime but with a magic all their own. Each week, our writers provide their thoughts on the works their reading—both those recently released as we keep you informed of newly published works and older titles that you might find as magical (or in some cases, reprehensible) as we do.
*Thank you to Yen Press for providing review copies.