By Fuminori Teshima and COMTA. Released in Japan by HJ Bunko. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Hikoki.
This series started out starring two people, but the cast has grown exponentially sine then. As such, it seems appropriate that this volume is fairly light on both Zagan and Nephy – in fact, it actually manages to work that into the plot, as Foll is planning a massive party for the not-Christmas holiday that is upon us and wants to surprise both of them. Zagan is completely in the dark about the holiday, but Nephy isn’t – in fact, she’s working part-time at a pub to get money for a present. As such, both are absent from the main plot itself till the end, though there’s many scenes with both of them, of course. The main plot focuses again on Kuroko, who is literally confronting her past – unfortunately, she has to confront it as a small kitten. She (accidentally) joins forces with another sorcerer, one who has a troubled past that is a lot closer to hers than she’s aware. And worst of all, due to a villain and also the nature of the holiday, the dead are riding up.
Also on the cover is Alshiera, the vampire who’s trying her best to get everyone to see her as someone not worth saving but doing a fairly terrible job of it – indeed, by the end Zagan has figured out the way to handle her best – it’s how to handle Nephy, and Chastille, and indeed literally everyone in the cast. Yes, be really nice to her until she cowers in embarrassment. She and Shax, the sorcerer that Kuroko befriends here, are both examples of the classic “can a former villain be redeemed” school of writing, and the answer is fairly firmly “yes” in both cases. Indeed, Shax is pretty much set up here as a love interest for Kuroko, complete with a father who now wants to kill him for daring to have his daughter take interest in him. Combining this with the somewhat sad and pathetic pairing of Chastille and Barbatos (who both have a long way to go), and you can see the author is definitely “pairing the spares” here.
The holiday during this book is Alshiere Imera, which (it’s hinted) is named after Alshiera, the vampire whose birthday it is. It’s an odd fusion of Christmas, Halloween and the Day of the Dead, which allows for the plot to happen (the zombies are created easily as it’s the one day per year when the line between here and the afterlife is so thin) but, let’s face it, is also an excuse to put Nephy and her friends in Santa outfits, even though Santa is never quite mentioned. Much as I mocked Chastille and Barbatos earlier, she and Zagan are not all that further along, though at least they have confessed. The present-giving scene is the sort of “so sweet it makes you sick” scene that people read this series for.
We are almost caught up with Japan on this series, as the next volume is the latest. Will it move the plot along/ Depends on what you’re calling the plot. In any case, this is a nice, solid volume of this sweet series.