By Ishio Yamagata and Miyagi. Released in Japan by Shueisha. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Jennifer Ward.
I have to say that I was groaning when the beginning of this third volume dealt once again with “which one of us is the traitor”. Fortunately, like Book 2, the question quickly gets set aside as we deal with an ever-growing threat. We also deal with the return of Nashetania, who’s still trying to pursue her goal even if she has to kill a bunch of people. Her loopy amorality was a highlight of the first book, so I was looking forward to this. Sadly, we don’t get nearly as much Nashetania in the book as I’d like. Chamo is also sidelined, and Mora reduced to support. The first half mostly focuses on Adlet, Fremy and Rolonia getting into various fights and trying to figure out how to stop Nashetania – or at least find her. The other half of the book focuses on Goldof, as you might have guessed from the cover, and we get his backstory and see why he is so devoted to his princess.
The main problem with this is that Goldof is fairly stoic, with his quirk being a berserker rage and urge to destroy that only turns off around Nashetania. His past is tragic, but his churlish acceptance of it (and violence against women and children) make it harder to sympathize. Nashetania is the most interesting part of the flashback, and we also learn a bit about how she got to be the way she is (pretty much brainwashed since birth into being a cultist, which… well, fits her pretty well). In the present, Goldof’s narration shows him trying to figure out what the fiends are doing, who’s lying, and how he can be both a Brave and save Nashetania. I found it rather frustrating that Goldof kept thinking of himself as not as smart as Adlet, particularly as Adlet has never been all that smart in this series. He’s not all that smart here either, basically just running around till he arrives at the climax.
The best part of Rokka continues to be the mysteries of each book, which are pretty hard to figure out – the revelation about how one trick is done is sort of impressive and also rather disgusting. Even if the solutions aren’t as satisfying as the author thinks, it did keep me constantly trying to figure things out, the goal of any mystery. Sadly, the main issue with Rokka continues to be that I just don’t find the characters all that compelling. I enjoyed Mora when she was the focus in Book 2, but without her backstory she’s basically dull. Adlet is nowhere near as main character-ish as he should be, and as I said before, Goldof is supposed to be dumb muscle, but can come across easily as unlikable dumb muscle, especially when give the standard “save the world or save the woman you love” choice.
We’re now halfway through the series, and I’m not ready to give up on it just yet, but I really would like the real traitor to be found so that the book can move forward, and I’ll be honest: this series cries out for a manga spinoff that’s a high school AU. Mildly recommended, with reservations.