By Inori and Hanagata. Released in Japan as “Watashi no Oshi wa Akuyaku Reijou” by GL Bunko. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Kevin Ishizaka. Adapted by Nibedita Sen.
Last time I mentioned that it felt awkward to start a new volume of the series when it could easily have ended in Book 2 with “and they lived happily ever after”. Oddly, towards the end of this book Claire’s father thinks much the same thing, trying to send Rae, Claire and their family back home because “they’ve done enough”. Not in a negative way, though Claire initially takes it that way, but n the sense that the country of Nur is quickly about to become super-dangerous. That said, as events unfold in this book one gets the sense that this world is not about to let either of them go live a quiet, happy life very easily… though it has no such qualms about quietly shuffling most of the new cast we met in the third volume off to the side, to the point where I wondered if this were a Christie novel set on a faraway island. As for why? Well… revolution. Again. Come on, it’s in the game title.
The general thrust of this volume should be familiar to readers of the series. We start off with a lot of cute, fluffy things, like a fantasy cross between Iron Chef and the Great British Bake-Off, and we then start the balls rolling down the hill until you reach a climax that can be summed up by “great googly-moogly, it’s all gone to shit”. Part of the problem is that while Dorothea is amusing as a strong as heck, emotionally blunt empress, she is also a somewhat terrifying dictator, and does not particularly care if that means that the country is hated by everyone around it. As for her daughter, after being the comedy girl with a crush at the start, Philine’s development is actually one of the strongest parts of the book (though I’d argue it does come a bit too fast). Which is better, speaking softly or carrying the big stick?
As with previous books in the series, there are occasional digressions in order to discuss modern gender politics. Rae gives a good explanation of gender identity, and one of the subplots later in the book also resolves around this sort of thing. On the down side… there really is an awful lot of “brainwashed to be evil” in this book, and indeed in this series, though some of it is less “I am here to kill you” and more “I am here to threaten you on behalf of the Church”. Fortunately, the main reason to read the books is Rae and Claire, and they’re both excellent. There’s a recurring theme of Claire being beloved by all (including her daughters) and Rae getting either slightly less attention (her daughters) or outright dislike (one of her classmates). It’s amusing but also makes sense, as Rae’s personality is the sort that is difficult to trust… the exact opposite of her partner.
The book ends on another cliffhanger, and seems to indicate the 5th will be the last. Till then, this remains for the most part a well-plotted and compelling series with excellent LGBTQ content.
Oh yes, and mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be tsunderes.