By Kuji Furumiya and chibi. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Sarah Tangney.
This is a highly enjoyable volume of Unnamed Memory, although the story placement felt very odd. I joked when I was halfway through the book that I’d reached the end and the other 150 pages would just be light music. That’s because the story that covers the first part of the novel feels very much like a climax, the sort of thing you’d have to wrap things up with a bang. Instead, after that blockbuster we get a few lighter in tone short stories of varying length, followed by another longer story for the last fifth or so that gets serious and dramatic once again. Fortunately the stories all read well, and at its core the book is about the relationship between impulsive, outgoing Oscar and cool and calculating (except when it comes to Oscar) Tinasha. We’re still in the time promised in their contract, but that time is rapidly coming to a close. Can Oscar win her over? Will he even be able to, given her own past and the threats of other witches?
The book starts off in a disturbing fashion, as our heroes find a wannabe mage who killed most of a family and imprisoned their souls in daggers. This leads indirectly into the main plot of the first half, as Tinasha abandons Oscar after meeting a man from her past long thought dead – Lanak, who wants her back… well, “wants’ may given him more agency than he really has here. What’s worse, as this happens, towns across the land are having everyone in them suddenly vanish – seemingly dead. Is Tinasha behind this? Has she gone to the dark side? (No. Come on, you guessed that.) After this crisis, Tinasha fights a kraken, shows Oscar a very pretty lagoon, battles against time to stop her getting hit by an aphrodisiac, watches Oscar go behind her back to stop a brothel that allegedly uses a song that can kill you, and, in the last, more serious story, fights a god.
As with the first book, the novel’s main strength is that it lacks any of the gimmicks that light novels are littered with today. It’s a simple fantasy, with no one from Japan, no game worlds or stats, and none of the usual anime shtick. I particularly liked the story about the killer song (clearly, I suspect, meant to be based around the song “Gloomy Sunday”, which has indeed been banned a few times for supposedly making people suicidal) as it has more than one good fakeout, and also gives us a chance to see Tinasha at her most furious. She and Oscar are clearly a great couple, and he knows it, and I think she does too, but it’s going to take a lot more to get her to actually commit to it than what we have now. She does NOT want to be tied down that closely. Still, when you trust a man enough to disembowel you in the most careful way possible, that’s a keeper.
The third book ends with a brief cliffhanger showing us one of the witches is working to destroy the bond between Oscar and Tinasha, which should not be surprising – there are five witches for a reason – but also makes me wonder if the next book will actually feature their contract running out at last. In any case, those bored with isekai and harems should definitely add this to their must-read list.