By FUNA and Sukima. Released in Japan as “Potion-danomi de Ikinobimasu!” by K Lanove Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Hiroya Watanabe.
Word of warning first, it is impossible to review this volume without spoiling the biggest parts of it, as the plot IS the spoiler. So reader beware!
Nothing makes my jaw drop quite like a volume of I Shall Survive Using Potions!, and this one made me do it even more than usual. I mean, it starts out normally. There’s a civil war going on in the kingdom next door, and the first prince (the one who’s stalking… erm, crushing on Kaoru) has had to go into hiding, while the arrogant and dimwitted second prince is now in power, held up by the evil bishops who have managed to escape from their religious dictatorship and insinuate themselves here. Kaoru is not particularly interested in helping the stalker prince, nor does she feel any need to protect Roland and Francette’s kingdom. Instead, she feels that this is her war and she’s the one who’s going to put an end to all of it. This goes quite well at first… until she’s killed off brutally.
The cover deliberately has a feel of “this is the final volume, please enjoy the author’s next work”, let’s face it. Now, this is NOT the final volume – the 7th book came out recently in Japan – but certainly it’s a big ol’ sea change, with most of the supporting cast thrown out the window. Kaoru is able to escape her deathtrap, but it takes a long time and the help of a long lost friend… and when she gets out, it’s 70 years later. In fact, I was pretty convinced (as was Kaoru) that all of her friends would be dead. That turns out not to be true, thanks mostly to Kaoru’s ludicrous potions, but she also makes a clear decision, now that she’s been essentially killed off and made into a legend, to not go back to her old life, and to seek out a new country to live in far away. It’s a very Kaoru thing to do, and fits her well.
As for the rest of the cast, well, they’re mostly not in it, as you’d expect, though Francette gets a big chance to step up and be the hero, saving the world from the wrath of a furious goddess who has just lost her friend. (I also loved said goddess yelling at Francette for offering up her own life as sacrifice, as if Kaoru would want that either.) The main addition here is Reiko, one of Kaoru’s two friends from Japan. Time apparently passes the same in Japan as it does here, and since it’s 70 years later, the two friends can now reunite (the third is still alive, but presumably will show up soon). Reiko and Kaoru are very similar types, but they also play off each other well, and Reiko is (slightly) more sensible. As for where the story goes from here, well, we’re already adding a whole new cast of waifs nd strays for Kaoru to take in next time.
So yes, time skip, new cast, everything you would NOT expect from FUNA, whose Make My Abilities Average is noted for the stasis of its lead girls. FUNA: Hard Mode continues to reward fans of the author, while possibly appalling those unused to such things.