By Ichiro Sakaki and Yuugen. Released in Japan by Kodansha Light Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Kevin Steinbach.
Harem comedies can be immensely frustrating for the reader, especially if they’ve picked the girl they like and would like the author to end the series with their choice please, OK, thanks. But harem comedies are also popular because everyone reads it to see who will be picked, and so that is drawn out forever. You think you’ve reached an end point… and then it backs away again. There are very good reasons for this – much to the frustration of North American companies, harem comedies that have a resolution in Japan see sales in the West drop off precipitously once they know who wins (not their girl). Or it has “no ending”, leaving everyone angry. But again – fans love these sorts of books and read them in great numbers AT FIRST. So they keep happening. And that’s how we get to Outbreak Company, which last time had Shinichi finally realize that Myusel and Petralka are both in love with him. How does he handle it? Unfortunately, like a harem protagonist.
There is a plot here, which is so ridiculous I hesitate to type it up. The kingdom is going through its armory, which includes various mind-controlling weapons and such, and find five boxes of armor with lettering on them that seems to be Japanese. While having our heroes examine it, through various wacky accidents, Myusel, Petralka and Elvia all end up inside one of the artifacts, which are essentially powered suits (powered by fanservice, if the pictures are any indication). The armor removes some inhibitions (meaning they can all yell at each other about how Shinichi likes the other two more than them) and also was military in use, meaning it allows them to attack each other – potentially fatal news for Myusel and Elvia if they hurt Petralka. How do they get out of the armor? Well, the objective has to be fulfilled. Sadly, the objective is “have Shinichi choose a girl”.
I’ve gradually come to realize that I’ve been giving a bit more depth to Shinichi than the author has really intended. I’ve said before how Shinichi’s own self-hatred would make it hard for him to genuinely love anyone, and there’s a bit of that here, notably in the harrowing opening nightmare that he has. But for the most part Shinichi acts like any shonen harem lead would… he whines, he wusses, he says he likes all of them equally, he says he doesn’t want to hurt any of them. That last is perhaps the real reason – he got rejected when he confessed back on Earth, and doesn’t want the others to suffer like he did. And so, inevitably, he arrives at a solution that is very harem manga-like – he gets the girls to resolve their fight by beating him up instead. By the end of the book the feelings are still out in the open, but we seem to be back to “status quo”.
There’s some foreshadowing towards the end, notably in terms of where the armor came from in the first place. But for the most part this is the most harem-like of the books to date, and therefore suffers most of the weaknesses of that genre. The next volume is short stories, so we likely won’t see any forward movement there either. Which suits the author fine.