By Satoru Yamaguchi and Nami Hidaka. Released in Japan by Ichijinsha. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Shirley Yeung.
This is a stronger volume than the previous one. The reader gets the sense that the author has decided on a forward path after previously ending the series with two volumes and then extending it out. Now, arguably there might be some frustration with Katarina getting confessed to at the end of the last book – and the end of THIS book – and being able to forget about it merely by being mildly distracted. It borders on disbelieving. But this is the sort of series we are reading, and we all know that the moment Katarina realizes everyone loves her and she has to do something about that, the basis of the series would stop. So on that front, things are much the same. Fortunately, we don’t add another person who falls madly for Katarina’s dense yet forthright personality this time around. We do get what seems to be an ongoing villain, though, and we also see that Katarina might be able to do more than just be really nice at people until they give in.
The premise for this book is that Keith is kidnapped by forces unknown, who leave behind a note saying he is running away from home. No one really believes he would do this, except of course Katarina, who is already getting hammered by her mother and servants for being too… well, too much like herself. So she resolves to go find him, and a crack team heads out composed of herself, Jeord (who is still trying to get her to react to his declaration of love), Maria (whose light magic is super useful here), Larna (who remains entertained by Katarina, but also wants to see what’s really going on) and Sora (the villain from last time, he’s now there basically to get in Jeord’s way so everything remains status quo). Oh yes, and Alexander the Ugly Bear, a magical device/familiar that really does not like Katarina, and the feeling is mutual. Can they find and rescue Keith/ And is there more dark magic at the cause of this?
As I noted above, the book feels more confident in its characters. Katarina can still be a blockhead much of the time, but there is a sense that she is maturing, just not in the field of romance. She has minimal talent in Earth Magic, but one scene towards the end suggests that, with the help of certain artifacts she happens to buy at a flea market, she can do a lot more to fight the forces of evil. This is important going forward, because clearly she’s going to join the Ministry, and “because she makes me laugh” was not really a good enough reason. There needs to be more to Katarina’s life besides “who will she end up with?”, and this is a very good start. I also liked the brief look we got at the series’ new villain, Sarah, who feels incredibly creepy and broken and who I suspect might be a tough nut for Katarina to crack.
Not quite as deeply silly as it has been, I still greatly enjoyed this volume of Bakarina. Will everyone finally graduate in the next volume? I want to find out.