By Yuu Kamiya. Released in Japan by Media Factory. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Daniel Komen.
The author says in this afterword that this 6th volume was very last minute, as the anime was coming out soon, they needed something quick, adn his editor suggested that he do this flashback explaining the past of Disboard that he had laid out for “some point in the future”. I applaud the editors, because it’s an excellent choice, and ends up giving us what is easily the best volume in the series to date. Told by the God Tet (in disguise) to Izuna (mostly so that she can break in and point out the obvious similarity between the stars in the past and our current stars), we get a “grim and gritty” backstory that actually works for more than just “being dark”, showing us the horror of the war-torn land and why it was worth sacrificing so much in order to ensure it became the game-ruled world it is today.
Of course, we’re not necessarily dealing with an entirely new cast – as Izuna testily points out, Riku and Schwi are clearly analogues for Sora and Shiro, and Couron is Steph’s distant ancestor and the founder of their kingdom. This allows readers to get a good visualization of them, even if the personalities don’t quite intersect – Schwi is pretty dead on for Shiro, but Riku is basically Sora if he’d been broken by reality even more. As for Couron, she’s Steph without the abuse, and therefore perfect. Indeed, a lot of the “ha ha the writer thinks this is funny” fanservice is absent from this book, as the war setting means that it’s hard to trot out the sexual perversions and humiliation of Steph. Yes, Riku is teased about being a lolicon, and there’s a few “dying a virgin” remarks that Sora would be proud of, but that’s about it. This book knows now is not the time.
We also, by the way, see Jibril, and in many ways she’s the villain of the book. We knew that her past life before the Games became the rule was filled with a lust for blood and carnage, and her fight with Schwi here shows off her impatience and tendency towards overreacting, even if it ends up doing her harm in the end. That said, we also see that she’s definitely different from the other Flugel, even if it will take Sora and Shiro to really drag her potential forward. Much of the book is Riku doing what Sora normally does, which is to say plan an elaborate series of moves that end up winning the game for humanity. Tet says Riku and Schwi are stronger than [ ], as their world didn’t have the “game rules”. Sadly, this also means that they’re not granted protagonist immunity, so be prepared for some tragedy as well.
This was an excellent book, and the big downside to it is that it shows off that the author can be really good when he wants to be, but frequently lets it get buried under a need for fanservicey jokes and stupid anime tropes. Book 7 (which is in December, NGNL has settled into twice a year now) returns us to Sora and Shiro, and it will be nice to see them again, but I hope we can keep some of the added depth and gravitas we saw here and not just have a series of jokes about Steph’s tits. If you want to test out the series, though, 6 is the way to start, oddly enough.