By Mato Sato and nilitsu. Released in Japan as “Shokei Shoujo no Virgin Road” by GA Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jenny McKeon.
You will pardon me if I am just a bit exhausted after reading this volume of the series. It consists entirely of payoff, which makes the plot more interesting, but also means that we don’t really get to relax and take in anything. And, frankly, we’re still inhibited by the actual writing. The anime was quite successful when it was released, and I think it showed off that the ideas and concepts in this series work best when they’re taken away from the author’s control. This book is a slog, no mistaking it, and while I realize some of that is simply because the events in it are unrelentingly grim that’s not the only reason. It doesn’t help that I get the feeling this series was supposed to end with this book (and Flare’s plan), but the upcoming anime had the publisher tell the author “we need to extend the series, can you make everything worse instead?”.
This book is about the battle between Menou/Akari and Flare, and it does not need supporting characters getting in the way, so Ashuna quickly departs (after confirming what we all knew already, that it’s Momo she’s really into). As for Momo herself, she falls for a fairly obvious trap and spends most of the book in a literal cage. This is not to say that Menou and Akari are getting all the cool and awesome things to do, though Menou does pretty well. Unfortunately, the new character from last volume has shown up, and she is absolutely the new antagonist and wants to let you know it by removing Akari from the board. The one thing that Menou has been trying to avoid this entire time has now happened, and what’s worse, she’s not a wanted traitor. Can she possibly find a way to set things right?
It’s hard to talk about this book without spoiling everything (as you can see by that awkward paragraph above), but I do want to say that a lot of the ideas and themes here are really good. We finally get revelations about Menou’s past, as well as Akari’s past, and they fit thematically. Everything about the Pandaemonium subplot was fantastic, and almost made me have an emotion. That’s probably the part of the series I look forward to seeing most in the next book. There’s generational stuff here, as we see the relationship back in the day between Flare and one of her isekai’d victims was similar to Menou and Akari’s. An anime of this would probably kill. It’s just… it all feels so flat on the page. I kept checking to see how long it had to go. The author’s writing has no style, no pep, no verve.
There’s enough here for me to grudgingly continue, if only to see if Ashuna can actually do something next time. But for the average reader wanting to see what comes next, I recommend waiting for a Season 2 of the anime.