The open forum for Rokka: Braves of the Six Flower volume 1 has been “live” for over a month, so as promised, here is an editorial to reflect on the volume as a whole. Justus and I are here to share our analysis of volume 1! Feel free to share your thoughts on the volume too.
Note: This is an editorial for the volume, so there will be spoilers. Big ones! We’re discussing the solution to the volume’s mystery, among other significant reveals. Make sure you’ve finished reading volume 1.
Cho: I had a good time trying to guess who the traitor was, and thought the author did a good job of making each character suspicious in some way. Amusingly the flash-forward the book started with (Nashetania trying to kill Adlet) made me think it would be too obvious for her to be the seventh, despite a few moments that made her seem suspicious (namely how she had orchestrated the conflict between Goldof and Adlet, which set off all the fighting in the mist trap). I ended up suspecting Hans for a bit (he felt the most capable of pulling off the ruse), but then I settled on Mora being the culprit… Well, until she became obsessed with killing Adlet, at which point she felt too obvious. I’m too used to the wise religious leader turning out to be evil all along in stories, ha ha.
Justus: Yes, that was exactly my experience reading the book. One thing I felt worked very well in the novel, which the anime couldn’t adapt, was being able to have the 7th’s voice. I found those inner monologues the 7th had fueled my doubts and suspicions. One reason I initially suspected Mora was because of the 7th’s monologue. But I agree, the more frantic she became about killing Adlet, the more I doubted she was the 7th. But I found I never gave up entirely on suspecting anyone. As you said, they each had a shady side and a background that seemed prime for corruption. Even when Hans sided with Adlet, I can’t say I entirely let go of my mistrust. I thought, what if he’s changing the rules? What if he’s seeing Adlet as more capable and rethinking the idea of killing him first?
Cho: I’m just glad it didn’t turn out to be Adlet, through some contrived magic (e.g. a fiend spirit or something possessing him, so he has a split-personality and laser-guided amnesia). I figured the author *probably* wouldn’t pull off a stunt like that though, since we had those parts you mentioned from the seventh’s point of view, which gave a different perspective from Adlet during shared scenes.
Justus: Yeah, I hardly suspected Adlet, for much the same reason–the 7th’s monologues. You’re right though–it wouldn’t be the first time a LN/anime/manga used split personalities to make something improbable possible. For me, I saw Adlet as the detective in the locked room mystery. I won’t say the detective NEVER ends up guilty, but typically they act as the proxy for the audience, allowing us to see how the trap was laid and sprung, and how the culprit eventually escaped. I think I would’ve hated the ending if the book revealed Adlet was the 7th. As you noted, the mechanics to make that work would’ve seemed forced and cheap compared to the rest of the book’s execution.
Cho: In regard to the book as a whole, I suppose what stands out the most is its premise. A rag-tag team of warriors joining together to defeat the prophesied destroyer of the world is as basic as it gets for fantasy adventures, but Rokka combines it with a “traitor in our midst” setup and locked-room mystery plot. All in all, I thought it worked really well–but perhaps we can delve a little deeper into the how‘s and why‘s.
Justus: I think the reason it worked so well was that it fit so naturally with the world and that overall setup. I mean, looking at the typical ingredients as you say, we have strangers coming together to save the world. In an average human situation, putting strangers in a high-stress situation is probably going to create tension and even mistrust. Not only are these characters strangers, but they meet each other at varying points in the story–some after the trap has already activated. Even the locked room itself felt natural because of the geography the author crafted. I mean, saying that a thin strip of land separated where the demons were from the humans, it makes total sense to try and block that access point–especially when only the Braves can survive beyond that point anyway.
I guess what I’m getting at is the author made even the geography play a role in the setup. And how clever an enemy to use a logical defense point against humanity? The book works because the various layers make sense and function in a logical way with the world. And don’t forget that not only does it combine all these elements, but in the end, in a fantasy world, it is SCIENCE which proves to be the 7th’s undoing.
Cho: That might have been my favorite aspect of the whole mystery. It was well-established that the famous Saint of the Sun had gone missing, so I figured she would play a role at some point in the story. I wasn’t able to guess what that role would be though. The concept of fiends forcing her to keep the region hot, then killing her to drop the temperature quickly and thus create a sudden fog (intended to look like the fog of the magical mist trap) was very clever.
Cho: Regarding the ending–obviously it’s a sequel hook, which is always a divisive move. It certainly looks like the second volume would have to follow a similar series of plot beats as the first book, but I imagine the author will do something new with the “why seven Braves though” setup.
Justus: At first, I was a little… perturbed by the end. Not because it felt cheap, but because I worried that after such a strong volume, the following books were just going to be a rehash of everything I’d just read. The book to that point made such a strong impression on me–I was disappointed to think the author would turn out to be a one-trick pony. But as I gave it more thought, I decided it had the potential to be a strong ending. In a way, it reminded me of the movie The Sixth Sense. You watch the movie one way, but when the trick at the end occurs, you begin to look at the story differently. I began to question if I was privy to the thoughts of only one person considering themselves the 7th. I wondered if maybe I hadn’t been wrong in my suspicions. And I also thought even if there is a fake among the group, they might have entirely altruistic thoughts. In a sense, I could see Adlet being a 7th who faked joining because of his desires
One thing I noticed is how Rolonia had her crest in the same place as Nashetania. Among the other Braves, there is no other duplication. The closest is Fremy with the symbol on her left hand, and Adlet on his right (which I think is more to symbolize their relationship with each other). Which to me says maybe this time is different. But that doesn’t mean we won’t have tension and mistrust, which usually makes for a good story.
Cho: The crest positioning stood out to me too. It made me think Rolonia’s sudden arrival could be a kind of “going-away present” left by Nashetania, ha ha. But of course, this little “clue” could just be a red herring meant to make us do what we’re doing right now. In theory it should be a good thing to have more Braves to help battle the Evil God, right? But if nobody is offering an explanation for the bonus warrior, it’s only to be expected the motive for the deception isn’t a positive one for the rest of the team.
Cho: Setting aside the new character for now, I’m actually more curious about what will be done with Nashetania in subsequent volumes. It feels up in the air to me whether or not she is a fiend (or part-fiend), or if she has simply learned the magic of fiends somehow–and in turn it’s intriguing that her ultimate goal seems to be better than what the Braves intend to achieve. When the Evil God is defeated, it’s only a matter of time before it resurfaces and the cycle of Braves fighting fiends begins anew. Nashetania, for reasons unknown, seems to want to end that cycle, but also doesn’t seem to mind if half a million lives are sacrificed in the process. I like the idea of Nashetania being a kind of “third party” in the war between humanity and the fiends, and she may work against either side depending on how things play out from volume to volume.
Justus: That reminded me of the function Mahiru played in the Seraph of the End novels–this third party working toward their end independent of the major players. That was perhaps my biggest complaint about the end, which was what brought Nashetania to this decision? I’m willing to wait to see why she disappeared using the magic of a demon, but I wanted to understand the basis of her motivation more. Yes, at face-value, it makes more sense to seek a lasting solution to this recurring disaster as opposed to continuing the cycle. And maybe it’s the cynical person living in a world with billions, but really, is 500,000 people that many? Far more than that died in each of the world wars and neither of those was facing a demon lord intent on the eradication of all humans. How big a threat is this demon lord if he doesn’t rack up too many casualties each time?
But I also think Nashetania’s vision is a little short-sighted. Humans have a tendency to unite against a common threat. We see that theme often revisited–Macross and Watchmen just to think of two. By removing the threat of the demon lord, is she creating a lasting peace, or just setting the stage for new conflicts? Given the shock and horror of the Braves at her stated figure, the demon lord doesn’t kill anywhere near 500,000, so is it a fair trade? That said, it does acknowledge a flaw in the fantasy trope of a reviving evil, and it will be interesting to see what the author does with it. Are these truly world-saving Braves, or just pawns in an endless cycle? Is this some unnatural thing to be altered and defeated, or is it a way the natural state of the world tries to maintain balance? What happens in that case if the cycle is broken? It creates a shade of gray in a story which could’ve fallen into the conventional good versus evil, right versus wrong, and everything is black and white. The possibilities are endless. In that case, I’m impressed the author opened up those paths–but which will he go down, and will his narrative continue to show the intelligence of this one volume? I’m a little worried, but that’s probably just because of other LNs which failed to deliver in the longer stretches.
Cho: We don’t have a death count for the devastation that the Evil God and the fiends have wrought, but we do know the fiends are capable of taking out entire villages (see: Adlet’s backstory). They’re also capable of coming up with a way to kill off a chunk of the world’s very limited number of magic users (see: Fremy’s backstory). I wouldn’t be surprised if the other characters have some tragedies associated with fiends to be revealed in upcoming volumes.
I think regardless of the number of people the Evil God has killed (which I *do* imagine would number in the millions, if this is over the course of many centuries), the Braves would still be entirely dumbfounded by Nashetania’s outrageous proposition. No hero is going to want to even consider such a course of action–especially Adlet, who early on in the story showed a willingness to risk the mission’s success just to save one person.
And, obviously, I doubt anyone wanted to take any kind of partnership with Nashetania seriously after she tried to get them all killed! But of course, things can change in the future…? Especially in regard to Goldof, who I imagine will become a more significant source of conflict in subsequent volumes. He may still love Nashetania, or at least be anxious to understand her point of view (and perhaps try to change it).
Justus: The only other thing I wanted to talk about, and I’d like your thoughts too, Cho, is what about Adlet as a character? Initially, I thought he was going to be another braggart idiot character–a man who overvalues his capabilities and contributions. His repetitious claim to be “the strongest man in the world” initially grated on my nerves (I’ve heard from others who felt the same). But as we got into the book, Adlet shows self-awareness. He acknowledges the abilities of others and that they are stronger than him. He knows he could die if he becomes careless. And once we get his backstory, his refrain of “Strongest Man” actually made me pity him. I came to understand it was a mantra, words he said to keep himself going against adversity as much as anything. His stupid smile seemed sad and impressive in the face of adversity. He was a broken man who convinced himself he could only survive by being a certain type of person. I can think of few books which made me groan about a main character in the beginning, but by the end made me appreciate and love him for all the very things I initially disliked. What were your thoughts?
Cho: My reaction was similar. At first he seemed like a very typical “shounen fighter manga” hero, a loud boy out to be the greatest warrior, who saves the day by virtue of simply having guts and believing in his friends. But it turned out that was just one of Adlet’s many tricks. Along with outsmarting all of his opponents, he is constantly having to fool himself too, you could say. I felt that Adlet was well-aware of his position as the weakest of the Braves (he was running away a lot in this volume), but he’s able to pull through thanks to his cunning and quick wits. Also worth noting was the role his empathy played in ensuring a good ending for this volume. It took a lot of work, but in the end he managed to get Fremy to believe in him by repeatedly going out of his way to help her and understand her.
Which ties in with Rokka‘s overarching theme of trust. It can be difficult to earn, and at times even harder to keep. I imagine the next volume will have plenty more to delve into on that front.