~A guest review by Wolfstein~
This is a review for Mikagura School Suite volume 1 by Last Note., with illustrations by Akina.
This book is, in one word, goofy. I had watched the first episode of the anime a while back, but I wasn’t too interested in it. However, I picked up this book out of my love for Last Note.’s music as well as the songs by Jin (the author of the Kagerou Daze series). I’m glad I gave the books a shot because this volume was a unique experience. Mikagura has three strong appealing characteristics to me: voice, engaging characters, and a fun concept.
First, I should mention what the story is actually about. Mikagura finds a good balance of having an inter-club battle-royal system without being needlessly violent or gory. Representatives from every club, which students are required to join, fight each other in (non-lethal) competitions in order to earn points that let them buy items and services (i.e. food, shower time, and better dorms) on campus, which they are also usually not allowed to leave. I personally love how the idea was handled creatively, but I was disappointed in how it was delivered. Even though we are introduced to the battles in the first pages, it isn’t until the final (and shortest) chapter that it’s actually shown in any depth beyond surface observations. However, that does make me excited for whenever One Peace decides to get on with the next volume.
Aside from the adorable illustrations, one of the first things I noticed reading in just the first few pages was that the writing style (which I have great respect for the translator in being able to convey) was different from most light novels I’ve read. The best comparison would be with how strongly Hachiman’s voice is in the narration of the Oregairu series. The book drops you into the mind of first-year high schooler Eruna Ichinomiya, the self-proclaimed human version of an easily-excitable dog whose tail has a propensity for knocking off everything that’s on a table. Throughout the book, there are strands of internal dialogue with herself (most of which end up being revealed as external dialogue immediately after) that I almost couldn’t help but read without punctuation. I can’t stress how powerful the voice is here. It truly did feel like reading the unfiltered thoughts of this very strange narrator. However, that wasn’t always a good thing. Even though the voice comes through so strong, or maybe precisely because it does, the plot tends to lag behind all of the internal and external banter–especially in the first few chapters. In the end, it’s probably how much you like Eruna’s personality that will determine if you like the story overall since the voice is so prevalent.
The next part I found most interesting in the story were the characters. Eruna with her excessively energetic attitude was not the only quirky character. Her cousin Shigure was initially kind of creepy. At first, Shigure seemed to be the token “guy who likes his cousin a little (or way) too much” second chair comedic relief. However, as the story progressed, we can see that there’s more mystery and real compassion behind him. All of the rest of the club representatives introduced in this volume were just as interesting to me, though neither I nor the book have enough time to go into depth on them. I will say that they all had me wanting to know more about them–and why they act the way they do–which I consider an important thing for any story to convey. The one exception to these exceptional characters, however, happened to be the one that got the second-most attention behind Eruna: Bimii. Although his feline-bestial nature made me curious about him (and also unable to read his lines in a voice aside from Nyanko-sensei’s from Natsume Yuujin-cho), he seemed to only serve as the necessary straight-man to Eruna’s wily antics. I only found myself wanting to know why there was a flying, talking cat who’s treated like a teacher by all but the main character, but not really being interested in what little personality he did show.
Overall, I enjoyed the book. While it’s not my favorite, it’s certainly memorable. I wouldn’t say it’s for everyone, but I suppose if you’re the kind of person who likes Vocaloid music or energetic protagonists who embody canine eagerness, then you might enjoy it immensely.
Wolfstein’s Rating: Recommended
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