By Satoru Yamaguchi and Nami Hidaka. Released in Japan by Ichijinsha. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Shirley Yeung.
When I was reviewing the 2nd and final volume of It’s My Fault That My Husband Has the Head of a Beast, I noted that it was a very open ending for a series that wrapped up there, not resolving much of anything. The 2nd volume of Bakarina has the opposite problem – unsuspecting readers who finish this book will definitely think it’s the final volume, which isn’t true. While none of the cast have been able to get their feelings through to the dense Katarina yet, the book takes us through to the end of the “Fortune Lover” game that her prior incarnation had been playing, and she successfully navigates it without getting a horrible Bad End. We even meet Maria Campbell, the actual heroine of the game, and she’s sweet and kind and also falls head over heels for Katarina, because of course she does. Problems are solved, tragic backstories ferreted out, and they all lived happily ever after and ate lots of snacks.
I will issue a word of warning: while there are still tons of hilarious parts to this volume, the second half of the book turns serious, and one of the backstories features sacrificial murder of a loved one. It’s not played for laughs at all, nor should it be. Katarina starts her school life, meets Maria and defuses any problems there by her love of sweet, and all seems to be well… except that the same things happen that occur in the game – Katarina is accused of being a terrible bully to Maria. Fortunately, in this world it’s not true, so this is rapidly defused, but it’s clear that someone is out to get Katarina. Someone with Dark Magic, which can control a person’s mind and also means they’ve killed to get it. The culprit is not exactly a mystery, frankly, but it’s handled quite well, especially as Katarina doesn’t have any foreknowledge of the events – her past self never got to the “hidden route” before she died.
Speaking of past lives, we find here that another of the main characters turns out to be as reincarnation, though she isn’t consciously aware of it. This allows Katarina, at a time of great peril, to get advice from her former friend who HAD played the game, and allows her to try to save the villain – because remember I said tragic backstory? Plus this is Katarina, and much as she may be silly and dense a lot of the time, she’s a kind and loving heroine, to an extreme. This means that she’s allowed to talk the villain down by simply saying that she’ll listen to him and she understands his pain. Bakarina is having fun with its heroine’s personality, but it’s not really subverting or deconstructing anything except perhaps the fact that literally everyone falls in love with her. She is 100% shiny and pure.
So with everyone living happily ever after, where does the series go from here? Well, they’re all still at school (though Nicol graduated, and time definitely seems to be moving faster than these sorts of books usually do), and this world may be based on a game but clearly isn’t actually a game, so I’m sure that something will come up. And maybe Katarina will realize the others’ feelings for her!… yeah, OK, no.