By Sakon Kaidou and Taiki. Released in Japan by Hobby Japan. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Andrew Hodgson.
We’re taking a bit of a break from the main plot here, as we get what Dendrogram had not yet had to date: a short story collection. It’s bookended by various aftermath stories involving Ray and the past couple of books. Ray starts college properly and deals with the hurricane that is Tsukuyo, and also cleans up after the crisis in Quartierlatin. Both of these things involve B3, though the latter is somewhat more amusing as it reinforces the cluelessness of Ray as a harem lead. It’s not entirely amusing, though, as we’re reminded of another reason that Azurite hates Masters, and it goes all the way back to the first couple of books. There’s also some suggestion of future plot points, as a technical master – who we’ve met before, in a different context – finds something that might actually help the beleaguered kingdom out for once. But for the most part this book is about the short stories, which, as you might imagine, vary in quality. That said, there are no real duds in here.
The first story gives us a description of what life is like in one of the other countries, this one essentially based on Edo Japan, meaning there is no peace, just all fighting and alliances shifting all the time. A group of rather sad villains try to take advantage of this, and are humiliated. This bookends nicely with the final story of the book, in which we see more about life in the gaol, featuring Gerbera, who we’d met before but is busy sitting around the coffeeshop within it and being bitter. This is a fun story, partly as the King of Crime is basically another of those really calm, placid guys who is secretly unkillable and also because Gerbera’s POV is fun, especially her broken sense of her own power. Less successful were stories about Logan, the villain from the last two books, which is actually successful in a plot way but I also sort of hate “villain recruits villains” stories, and a Valentine’s Day story that is about a very very spurned woman beating up people in love, and is funny if you like that sort of character.
The best story in the book is also the longest, as usually seems to be the case with short story volumes. It’s mostly from the POV of Hugo, who is looking for new experiences and so heads off to a desert casino sort of country currently run by the not-Chinese not-mafia. Now that we know the actual identities of Hugo and Franklin, we can really get into Hugo’s head a lot more (it also means we get more of Cyco, who is awesome). The new character we meet here is AR-I-CA, who is so over the top that for a moment I thought the revelation would be that she’s Ray and Shu’s oft-mentioned but never seen older sister, That doesn’t seem to be the case, but she’s certainly a lot of fun – and also actively bisexual, something you don’t normally see in a light novel, or at least not this blatantly. This story also has hits of future plot, but it’s also a hell of a lot of fun.
It will be even longer till we get back to the main action, apparently, as the 11th volume will be a prequel taking place before Ray joined. Still, this should tide over Dendrogram fans nicely as they wait for the upcoming anime.