By Satoru Yamaguchi and Nami Hidaka. Released in Japan as “Otome Game no Hametsu Flag Shika Nai Akuyaku Reijou ni Tensei Shite Shimatta…” by Ichijinsha Bunko Iris. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Joshua Douglass-Molloy.
I get the sense that this was the first book written not only after the 2nd series of the anime had aired, but after the author had noticed fan opinion of that series. There’s a combination of things that worked really well in that season combined with an effort to move the plot along to its inevitable conclusion even more than it was in the previous volume. That said, that inevitable conclusion is becoming more and more a single route. My hope was that we might, at least, get an open ending with no romantic resolution, but the plot twists introduced here, while not technically resolving anything, very much say that Katarina is going to end this series married to Jeord and we are all going to have to lump it. Even Sophia and Maria get very little to do, though at least Mary gets an opening scene where she can pretend she and Katarina had a kid. That said, have faith, yuri fans, there is one bone thrown to you here.
The focus of this volume is on Frey Randall, Katarina’s underclassman and currently on the Student Council at the academy. The fact that none of the princes have married is starting to be a THING, and Frey’s father, Marquis “I am 100% evil” Randall, is starting to throw rumors around that Prince Jeord has abandoned Katarina (the weak link of the fiancees) and is going to marry Frey. This is, of course bullshit, and Frey would surely say so, except she was called back home and has not appeared since, clearly held hostage. Katarina immediately… does NOT spring into action, instead realizing that rushing off to save Frey would be counterproductive without help. So instead she gathers all her powerful allies, with the exception of Jeord (who can’t make a move because politics) and, most importantly, Larna, who, of course, has a secret of her own.
If your favorite episode of the 2nd season of Bakarina was Episode 8, this book is like catnip. Starting off with a chapter devoted to showing off what Frey used to be like before she came to school and how she changed thanks to Katarina, it also references the talk she had with Nicol (which he owes her a great debt for), and also shows that she and Ginger are, shall we say, VERY close – like Katarina and Maria, they’re planning to work at the ministry together, and unlike Katarina, they don’t have men in their life. The author almost confirms the yuri in the afterword. The other big success in this book is Katarina herself, who, after a chapter that tries to get all the “I am unobservant” out of the way at once, shows she can, in fact, be VERY observant when it matters. She’s maturing, if not in terms of romance, then in terms of life skills, and her harem are all more surprised than they really should be.
The author does sometimes still tend to slide into “comfort zones” a bit too much to make this a lights out volume (it ends with the standard “Jeord tries to get a moment alone with his fiancee but everyone else interrupts), but after two years I was very glad to see our baka back in action and really achieving things. Hopefully it won’t be another two years before 13…