By Ichiro Sakaki and Yuugen. Released in Japan by Kodansha. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Kevin Steinbach.
This volume is still short, but a bit longer than the 10th book. That said, I’m still struggling to find 500+ words to say about it. The series is good, I enjoy it, but it’s not really trying for anything other than “be entertaining” with a small side of “treat all people equally”. It doesn’t help that this book is an expanded short story, blown up to book format when the author realized he didn’t have the room. The thrust of the plot is that Amatena, Elvia’s cold, paranoid sister, and Clara, who held him captive while he was kidnapped, are on the run from the authorities of their nation, who have decided that they’re a liability – possibly as they’ve been passively helping Shinichi smuggle anime and manga into the country. Elvia helps them hole up at the mansion, but they have to hide themselves. This leads to an extra maid (which stresses Myusel out, though not for the reason you might think) and an extra (disguised) Elvia. Hijinks ensue.
There’s a subplot in the book of Shinichi’s class getting a hold of digital cameras, and Shinichi and a very grumpy Hikaru end up having to teach them that it’s not OK to just take pictures of everyone all the time – you need permission, and sneak shots are right out. This is a good reminder that a lot of the “lessons learned”, heavy-handed as they can be, are as much for any young readers the series might have as for the fantasy elves and dwarves of Outbreak Company. Consent is important, even though Shinichi frames it as “you don’t want to catch them out of character”. The other small subplot is Amatena’s cool, overly suspicious attitude is contrasting hideously with Elvia’s puppy-ish mood, something that’s more vital than you’d expect given Amatena is supposed to be pretending to be Elvia. This leads to another obvious, but still welcome lesson: if you don’t trust anyone, why should anyone trust you? You have to open up a LITTLE bit.
Meanwhile, the series’ slow-boiling romance may finally be getting somewhere, though this may all vanish by the next book. The difficulty is on both sides, as Shinichi still tends to think of himself as a “loser” that nobody could like. He’s also, despite his perversions, still relatively innocent, and Clara reminds us of how he fended her off when he was kidnapped – by pretending that if he has sex with a woman, he’ll die. On Myusel’s end, more and more people are accidentally seeing Shinichi naked, and this frustrates her though she’s not sure why. After talking things through with Clara, she may have finally realized how deep her feelings for Shinichi are, but then she’s also dealing with a poor self-image, so it’s unclear whether she’ll actually act on this – certainly Elvia’s “heat” interrupts her at the end of this book.
It was nice to be back in Eldant for this book, despite it reading very much like a padded-out short story. We may get that next time too. Still recommended for those who enjoy the series.