By Yuu Kamiya, Tsubaki Himana, and Sino. Released in Japan by Kodansha. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by fofi.
This volume gives a lot of attention to Halter, who has tended to serve as the realist and voice of reason for our little band of terrorists. To be fair, this role seems to be his by default; Naoto and Marie are such shiny idealists it’s a wonder you can look straight at them without going blind, RyuZU would destroy the world if Naoto asked her to, and as for Vermouth… yeah, let’s not. So it’s fallen to Halter to explain that, in fact, the world does not end up being sweet and caring just because you wish really hard. Especially when they’re in the steampunk Thailand, where anything and anyone can be bought and sold. So it’s not a big surprise when he turns out to “betray” Naoto and Marie in order to make sure that they aren’t, well, killed in eighteen different ways. That said, while Halter may be the sensible one of the goup, that’s only by a matter of degrees. Because this group is, to a man, utterly broken. In a gaming sense.
The cover girl is TemP, the newest of RyuZU’s siblings to show up, but she’s arguably the weak point of the book, being something of an airhead and lacking a purpose in life beyond “get revenge on her sister” and “be silly”. No, as ever, it’s the main group that commands the most attention, particularly the way that they react to each other. We’ve seen this before, but it’s spelled out explicitly here: Naoto, Marie, AND Halter all think of themselves as being “normal” people surrounded by insane geniuses who do the impossible every day. Since Naoto thinks of his hearing as something that’s typical, he can’t appreciate that he does what no one else can do. Marie’s own self-deprecation frequently gets in her way whenever she runs into a fresh new obstacle. And, as we really see in this volume, Halter is not merely a bodyguard and mercenary, he is possibly THE bodyguard and mercenary, able to take out whole divisions by himself with ease. Each of the three help each other in this book (indeed, Marie helping Halter is almost framed religiously), and are reminded that they can’t stop chasing in Y’s footsteps, but have to create something new. Be artists, not artisans.
At the end of the book we’re headed further west, and it’s definitely open ended. The afterword talks about the anime that was being made, and does mention the 5th book being written in among its goofiness. That said, it’s now nearly three years on, and there’s still no 5th book in Japan. One of the two authors has been dealing with health issues, and also writing the (more popular) No Game No Life books, which have also had lots of delays. The other author (who you get the sense wrote most of this book, if only as it’s slightly less lewd than the other three) started another series for Kodansha in 2017, but that also seems to have stalled out. And so we may be left with this as the final volume, and it’s not too bad a way to go out. You get the sense that Naoto and Marie will eventually achieve the heights they dream of, and manage to have the whole of RyuZU’s siblings around them. As to how that happens… well, the reader is invited to spin their own tale.