Originally Posted: November 29, 2020
Last Updated: December 13, 2020
“At present, she was sprawled lazily in bed doing nothing in particular. She wore nothing but her underclothes and was entirely unpresentable. […] Gone was the cool majesty of the Great Sage of the Empire, replaced by the belly-scratching indolence of a girl determined to reach the zenith of unproductivity.” – Nozomu Mochitsuki, on Mia after a job well done.
It’s a good thing this is all in her private chambers. One could only imagine the fallout if anyone but Anne saw Mia in this state. It is only through delusions, luck, and shampoo(?) that she maintains her grand reputation. And now, how will the Great Sage bumble her way into preventing a famine, saving her sweetheart from revolution, and keeping her head in the process?!
(Warning: contains spoilers on developments from Vol. 1. Skip to the bottom for the spoiler-free summary and rating.)
Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 2 is the next entry to the fantasy-comedy series where delusions are king and empty-headed princesses stumble their way into a brighter future. This series continues following Mia Luna Tearmoon, of the titular empire, on her quest to not get her head lopped off. Vol. 2 brings us closure to the events of Vol. 1 and throws us into the flames of a revolution igniting in Renmo. For her love of sweets, baths, and young boys(?!), Mia will rewrite not only her fate but that of her friends(?) and their nations. Nozomu Mochitsuki pushes us to explore their fantastical world with comedy, drama, and action at every turn. Alongside them are the beautiful illustrations by Gilse whose style gives life to every character and the story’s light-hearted atmosphere. What changes will the sequel to Vol. 1’s heartwarming story bring to our lazy, sucrose-deprived princess?
Did you like the intro? Well, if you’re here, you’re probably wondering if Tearmoon Empire is worth continuing, right? The short answer: it is. It maintains its light-hearted tone and comedic strengths. But there are many changes that I’d like to talk about in this review. Also, if you haven’t already, please take a look at my Vol. 1 review (here!) for a summary of why I love the series (and I truly do love it!). For the sake of brevity though, we’ll focus on the new things Vol. 2 brings to the table. But we’ll still mention continued elements from Vol. 1. Unfortunately, this means there are Vol. 1 spoilers contained in this review. Skip to the bottom if you want a safe summary instead! And with that, let’s jump into this review. I hope you enjoy it!
To start, let us talk about first impressions. It’s been a while since I read Vol. 1 (almost three months!), and so it’s all fresh to me! As Vol. 1’s cover did, Vol. 2’s shows us the light-pastel tone of the book, fantastical world, and Gilse’s adorable art-style. And this time, we find Abel and Sion (in causal clothes!) on the cover – they’ll be important in the latter half of the story. My only minor improvement would something to symbolize the revolution or famine that plays a large role in the overarching plot. Otherwise, it’s very well-done. (Note: Is that flag supposed to play that role? It’s not very clear.)
Next, we’ll mention the length. Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 2 is a relatively enormous book at 95,000 words. This is the longest entry I’ve ever read. For comparison, Vol. 1 is only 77,000 words. As we’ll discuss, this is due to the two distinct (and long) sections this volume tries to depict. And we’ll find that this may be to its overall detriment.
Moving on, there are a collection of images to introduce the text: (1) the uncropped featured image (above), (2) a clean cover, (3) a character and story summary (below), and (4) a map (bottom of page). Unlike Vol. 1, the featured image doesn’t depict any scene in particular – which is an unfortunately inefficient use of the art. However, the character and story summary is a great addition to counterbalance this. If it’s been a while (or you need future reference), you’ll find much value in this page. Finally, the map shows up again – but it’s exactly as it was before. Given the new scope and depth of this volume, adding specific locales would’ve been much appreciated, especially because there are so many new places to be introduced. But with that all out of the way, let’s get into the text!
Now, let’s continue from where Vol. 1 left off. At the end of Mia unwittingly befriending all her past nemeses (and more), summer holidays have begun. Unfortunately for her, the bloody diary still foretells a gruesome demise. And so, against her lazy-inclinations, self-preservation forces her to work to keep her head. In this case, this requires preventing an empire-wide famine and suffocating the embers of war – an awfully productive vacation for our 14-year-old princess.
This section acts as an extended epilogue to the events of Vol. 1; Mia reaps the rewards of all the relationships she established. Solving food sourcing, distribution, and preservation issues are impossible for one child. But with the help of Ludwig, the Forkroads, and the Rudolvons, perhaps Mia’s goal can be achieved. Of course, delusions and her Sage-ly reputation help her immensely with this task – and provide a fun source of entertainment.
So, what does this all achieve? As a reader, we get to explore the Tearmoon Empire and enjoy more characters falling under Mia’s spell. And given our protagonist’s connection with the former, it is a great way to world-build while progressing towards an end goal. This also makes her future success all the more rewarding as we got to see everything that went behind it. All in all, it is very well-done. However, it feels… out-of-place. The monstrous length of Vol. 2 makes it an ordeal to read in one week (which is why I took my time). And it’s separated into two distinct sections; there’s even an interlude set as Chapter 18 at about 40 % through the book. And with the way it concludes, it feels like a Vol. 1.2 rather than a part of Vol. 2. There is little connection before and after the interlude other than Mia’s presence. To tackle this issue, I recommend reading Chapters 1-18 immediately after Vol. 1 and then taking a break before starting Vol. 2.
In summary, Part 1 provides a strong start to Vol. 2 as a follow-through to Vol. 1’s events. It’s world-building expands and deepens our understanding of the Tearmoon Empire. But its length and distinct conclusion from the rest of the book (post-Chapter 18) make it more suitable to be read as an epilogue rather than a setup for future events.
Now, after that extra-long world-building setup, we jump into the synopsis-foretold plot – the revolution of Renmo! A week before their schooling restarts at Saint-Noel Academy, all of our recurring characters are informed of upstart revolutionaries in Renmo. Worried(?) for her sweetheart(?), Mia ends up roping together a rag-tag group of royal heirs to save Abel. This more serious story is what fills the rest of Vol. 2’s page time.
As hinted before, Part 2 of Vol. 2 is where it becomes a different story than before. The tone, the setting, and the important characters are all completely changed here. To summarize, Renmo revolutionaries – ignited by a heavier taxation – plan on overthrowing the monarchy. There is also an apparent connection between Tearmoon’s predicted revolution and this one. And in Mia’s attempt to save Abel, she ends up having to overcome many obstacles with Sion – one she still despises for his role as one of her executioners in her past life. It is with this we learn more about Sunkland and Remno and their crown princes.
And honestly, it wasn’t the best. This is not because it’s poorly written or not enjoyable. I still love Mia’s antics and how everyone plays along with them. Instead, this just feels like Nozomu Mochitsuki is trying something a little different and missed the mark. The serious plot contrasts with the constant joking (by the characters and narrator). The Renmo revolution is only tangentially related to our investment behind the Tearmoon Empire. And the plot is more Sion and Abel-centric than around Mia. This leaves her less agency and more as a spectator – which isn’t the best for engagement.
(Updated Section:) However, we should be aware that Tearmoon Empire is a story about the world as much as it is about Mia. The added focus on Abel and Sion is welcome, if only a little lacking on the fantastical MacGuffin and delusions fronts. I hope we can spend more time learning about their backstories and how they’ll affect the Empire long into the future.
Overall, I’m not as impressed with this plot as I was for Vol. 1. It is fairly removed from what this series has perfected in the past and the decreased available page time (~58,000 words) is not enough to build something as compelling as Vol. 1 from scratch. If you consider Vol. 2 as a transitional ‘wrap-up’ volume, then I suppose it’s adequate. But it would seem Vol. 3 goes in another different direction rather than build from Part 2’s story.
Now after discussing the story, let’s talk about the characters. As the plot is effectively separated into two parts, we’ll talk about them in two sets. Then we’ll talk about the overall effect.
In Part 1, we focus on much of the Tearmoon Empire and get a lot of time with Ludwig and Dion, a new face and the Empire’s strongest knight. We’re also introduced to Berman, a corrupt noble, and Marco Forkroad, Chloe’s merchant father. These two don’t get much more characterization beyond these descriptions. Instead, they’re the stepping stones in Mia’s plan to stop the incoming famine. This is fine given their positions as side-characters. However, this shallowness also affects Ludwig and Dion. Despite their allotted time, I don’t feel any closer to understanding their personalities or backgrounds. This may also be due to them being not as “important” as the royals, but it sure is disappointing. Including more scenes like the epilogue of Vol. 1 would greatly help us understand them.
In Part 2, we spend a lot of time with Sion and meet the many faces of Renmo. Aside from Sion and Abel, we see a similar result to Part 1. The many side characters are glossed over after their initial setup. And because we’re in entirely new territory, it’s unfortunate that we don’t meet more significant recurring characters (that I’m certain of) or afford the time to give the new characters a lot of backstories. In comparison, Vol. 1 meticulously built up every character through the use of Mia’s past life. This gave us reasons to be interested in them and a baseline for our expectations. For me, the lack of this made each new face in Part 2 fall flat; they are forgettable past the conclusion.
Overall, the character-building in Vol. 2 is weaker than in Vol. 1. This comes from a wide array of factors. To start, many of the new faces don’t have connections to Mia’s past life – which plays against Nozomu Mochitsuki’s normal approach to building their foundations. Following this, many of their interactions are solely through Mia. This heavily hinders their capability to deepen through a variety of dialogues (see the Epilogue of Vol. 1) – especially because Mia is not an expert on Renmo internals. Finally, the fact that many of the new characters seem to be irrelevant outside of Renmo leaves us wondering if the investment will ever be worth it. There are more, but these three are the biggest issues Vol. 2 faced.
After the story and characters, let’s talk about the world. As previously discussed, Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 2 explores the Tearmoon Empire and the Kingdom of Renmo. In exchange for the weaker developments in the plot and characters, it would seem Nozomu Mochitsuki has opted to strengthen their world-building.
Firstly, as many of the issues about Tearmoon Empire’s famine are systemic, Part 1 talks about distribution, imports/exports, production, and politics. I can’t say this is Nozomu Mochitsuki’s strong suit, but it’s nice to finally tackle these issues directly. In doing so, I feel like I have a better understanding of the inner-workings of the Empire and the impact of Mia’s actions. It also gives some focus to otherwise unknown actors in Tearmoon’s revolution. We then get to explore some new (important) areas of the Empire such as the Sealence Forest and the County of Rudolvon (Tiona! <3). These weave well into Mia’s overall journey and give some closure to her worries.
Secondly, the time spent in the Kingdom of Renmo is free to start and expand any number of threads. We see their entrenched misogyny at play with Mia, Tiona, and Lynsha when they try to join the politics. We’re shown the importance of martial prowess through Sion, Abel, and Dion. And we’re shown the corruption of a Kingdom not-so-far-removed from the Empire, and how it only takes a few bad seeds to start an overwhelming revolution. These give Renmo a distinguished feel and a narrative role as a mirror to a past life’s Empire.
Additionally, it fixed my issue with Tearmoon’s Emperor giving Mia too much independence and power. It turns out he’s, um… that type of father. And will pretty much make the Empire move to suit his daughter’s desires. I suppose it’s a miracle she’s (still) got a good(?) head on her! There remains the oddity that is the corrupt nobles, but it seems we’re slowly defanging them for the sake of the Empire.
Overall, I’m happy to see Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 2 dive more into what makes their world tick. Even if the delivery (through comedy, drama, or action) is lacking, the added world-building gives weight to Mia’s actions and a whole new country to explore. Hopefully, we’ll see more of Sunkland and Belluga in the future!
After all the foundations, we’ll talk about the comedy and the supporting elements. As discussed in my Vol. 1 review, the comedy was Tearmoon Empire‘s strength. With many of the jokes centered around the logical leaps between Mia’s selfish actions and everyone’s Sage-like perception of her, Tearmoon Empire ups the ante by making Mia’s every public action part of some elaborate scheme they could only hope to understand. Can their minds ever play her 4D-political game? Nope! Because she’s just as clueless. This type of joke started at the beginning of Vol. 1 and continues throughout Vol. 2. Needless to say, I was fairly numb to it by the halfway point. Unfortunately, this leaves the world-building, plot, and character development (that exists) rather bare. That isn’t to say I wasn’t chuckling at times. There are scenes where Mia is acting all high and mighty only to be put back in her place. Or others where she’s teasing literal children (she’s mentally 20-years-old+) only for the narrator to rebuke her. Or another where a first-kiss goes horrendously wrong. Such situational comedy adds to the fun. And for the future of the series, it would be best for Nozomu Mochitsuki to invest in an even greater variety of jokes.
Additionally, in support of this main element, Tearmoon Empire also implements drama and action. Romance is mostly absent in this volume. In line with the other parts of Vol. 2, what remains is fairly lacklustre. Unlike the drama-minefield that is Mia befriending her ex-executioners, we’re treated to some conjured misunderstandings and surface-level brother-sister issues. The action is more exciting this time around (there are bodily injury and near-death involved), but they lack the narrative weight in their stakes. The climactic fight in Vol. 2 is hardly climactic at all – though this is mostly due to the presence of the all-powerful Dion. Finally, the loss of romance takes away from Mia’s development as a character. I was extremely hopeful for more Mia/Abel scenes… They’re so cute together!
In short, Vol. 2 is weaker in many aspects. The overdone delusional jokes, easy-to-clear drama, and shallow duels leave a poor impression coming from the very strong Vol. 1. There are some improvements in the situational comedy and life-threatening fights but they don’t make up for what we’ve lost.
Finally, let’s cover some additional details. Firstly, the writing-style and narrator-voice continue to be great. Despite the overall weaker performance of Vol. 2, the snarky and foreboding comments from the narrator keep me reading. And the allegories and exaggerations Nozomu Mochitsuki comes up with add that extra bit of word-spice to the passages. One of my favourites is “reaching the zenith of unproductivity” (quote above) for being lazy. Big kudos to David Teng for an excellent translation in this regard as well. Secondly, Gilse’s art continues to be just as beautiful, detailed, and expressive as before. However, there is the same number of black-and-white illustrations as Vol. 1 (which was about 19 % shorter) leaving Vol. 2 feeling sparse. This also means many critical scenes are left without a punctuating image (</3). Additionally, there’s a distinct absence of any action shots – which further debilitates the weakened fights. It’s just not a perfect showing this time around. And lastly, I’m still miffed there’s no paperback version. J-Novel Club, please! I just want to have Mia’s dumb face on my bookshelf…!
Overall, I’m still happy with the quality of the writing, art, and translation and have little doubt in their maintenance moving forward. However, some more investment in the illustrations would help fill out longer entries in the future.
Before we wrap things up, I want to note that, despite my many critical points, I did enjoy reading Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 2. I didn’t finish 95,000 words because I hated it, of course. It’s just that I loved Vol. 1 so much, it was hard for me not to compare to it. Hopefully, a re-focusing in Vol. 3 will bring back that cute, heart-warming, and exciting story I once thought was flawless.
Overall, Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 2 is not as strong as its predecessor (which you should still read if you haven’t already). The two disjointed plots feel like they’re cramming too much into a single volume. The first is like an extended epilogue to Vol. 1’s events, and the second is (at best) tangentially related to Mia’s quest. Because of the splitting of focus and page count, many side characters are glossed over and recurring characters don’t gain much in-depth or scope. However, by exploring two new aspects of their world, we gain insight into the Empire’s inner-workings and see how a revolution could’ve started in a mirror-nation – the Kingdom of Renmo. In short, it was like Nozomu Mochitsuki traded characterization and plot strength for expansive world-building. On top of this, the comedy is repetitive at times, the drama lacks the ex-nemesis flavour, and the action is missing the narrative stakes (and cool fight illustrations!). However, that is not to say there aren’t funny situations or exciting battles – they’re just not as perfect as I had hoped going into this. The few things that haven’t changed are the great writing-style and beautiful illustrations. In short, Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 2 disappoints by design (plot choice) but will take you on a fun ride, nonetheless. It’s still more of what I love, and I enjoyed reading the vast majority of it. Perhaps my harsher criticism comes from my love and greater attention for it…? In any case, Vol. 3 will be coming out in less than 2 weeks (from the original post date), and you can be sure I’m going to read that too! See you all next week!!!
4.5 / 5 – Highly Recommended
To readers looking for more of Tearmoon Empire‘s signature jokes in a more serious-coloured story.
To lovers of supervised baths, horse-shampooed hair, and (clearly poisonous) mushrooms.
Hello! Thank you for taking the time to read my review (even if you scrolled straight to the bottom). I hope that you take home even a little of what I’ve written down.
Normally, I would have an extra blurb to talk about something I liked that I couldn’t add to the main review. However, I just want to grieve the lack of Anne in Vol. 2. Her delusional devotion, her cute maid outfit, and her role as Mia’s confidante… they’re all missing! I demand a rewrite/side-story where she’s the heroine to make up for this transgression!!! (<3)
For this review, a review copy was provided by J-Novel Club. Thank you so much for letting me read and critique this great sequel! I can’t wait to read Vol. 3 when it releases. :)
I’m 春華 or Haruka, aspiring novelist, light novel reviewer, and the recently titled “Effortlessly Effervescent Embodiment of Eloquence.” I’ve only started diving into light novels, so please bear with my naiveté. You can follow my Twitter for updates on my reviews and writing progress. And if you want to talk about light novels with me and many others, consider joining our Discord here! Let’s all get along!