By Satoshi Wagahara and 029. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Kevin Gifford.
We’re back to the main storyline, but the devil is almost entirely absent from this book, not showing up till the end. Instead we get some of the other characters getting a section of plot, including Chiho (who is still dealing with “Maou hasn’t answered my confession and I know the moment Emilia realizes she loves him I lose”, while Emeralda is trying to drag out her time in Japan as long as possible, both because she likes it there more and also to make sure that Emilia is really doing OK. And, of course, there’s the choice that Emi and Maou have to make – help Laila and save Enta Isla, or stay in Japan and keep seeking their own future? Perhaps most importantly, it’s Christmastime, which ties in with Chiho’s woes – Maou’s working the entire holiday. All of these subplots end up coming together when we center on what to get Alas Ramus for a Christmas Present… a decision that ends up shaking up everyone and everything.
It’s fairly rare to have a Christmas-themed light novel come out in North America close to Christmas – owing to when a book is licensed here, we get far more “Christmas in July” series. It handles the Christmas plot well, and the concept of what Alas Ramus really wants for Christmas is a strong story beat. I also really like everyone thinking about their future going forward in Japan – Maou is absent from most of the book as he’s doing training to become a full-time McRonald’s employee (given the title of the series, I suspect this won’t go well), and both Emi and Chiho are studying to get into university. We see most of this from the POV of Emeralda, who is quite happy to see it as she’s been against Emilia sacrificing her life for some time now, and would be delighted if she actually did things for herself, be this a new career or romance.
That said, there are a few big flaws with this book. This series has never shied away from long expodumps, and I’ve criticized it before. Well, I’m going to do it again, as so much of this volume was characters sitting around listening to Angels and Demons explaining the backstory. I get the sense that the author wanted to put this into a side-story or a spinoff, but was told no, so instead we get to see it secondhand from other people. Sadly, that just makes things boring. The other issue I had was a “one fakeout too many” problem. The book begins with Chiho and Rika arriving at a deserted apartment complex, with Chiho telling Rika everyone connected to Enta Isla has now left. Then we get the book proper. When we return, we get the setup for what feels like another “sorry, humans, you have to stay behind” bit… only for Chiho to pitch an absolute fit, use a magical portal device, grab Rika, and leap into Enta Isla. I loved this. The problem I had was later, when Chiho’s rage, which I loved so much, was handwaved away as being Rika misreading the situation and Chiho being tired. I get they don’t want her to confront Maou yet, but I’d rather she’d have been angry.
Still, provided you don’t mind having the plot spoonfed to you, this is a reasonable solid volume of the series, and I liked one big revelation at the end, which made me think of the Doctor Who story State of Decay. Expect things to stay on the Enta Isla side for the next book.