Originally Posted: December 13, 2020
“”Gosh, is that how you’re introducing me to people? I’m hardly as scary as you make me out to be.”
Mia’s heart almost leapt clean out of her throat. She spun around, only to look straight into the face of despair. Despair, in this case, had pale blue hair – the colour of a summer stream – and clear, glimmering eyes. They adorned a face with crisp, clean-cut features that wore a serene smile.” – Nozomu Mochitsuki, on Rafina after Mia’s failed attempt at a retreat.
To boldly talk about a Saint’s scariness behind her back is one of Mia’s strengths(?). It’s a good thing they’re friends! In this story of the Empire’s Sage vs. Belluga’s Saint, we’ll see on whose side God is on as Mia bumbles her way into a brighter future. For the Empire, Miabel, and Rafina’s sake, how will Mia overcome the insurmountable challenge that is winning the student-council election?!
(Warning: contains spoilers on developments from Vol. 1-2. Skip to the bottom for the spoiler-free summary and rating.)
Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 3 is the next entry to the fantasy-comedy series where empires are doomed to fall and student-council presidents are fated to become dictators – and the only thing preventing that is one (or two?) sugar-hyped princess(es). This series continues following Mia Luna Tearmoon, the Great Sage and princess of the Tearmoon Empire, on her second chance at life. However, after resolving her destined decapitation, it seems her work isn’t over just yet. With Renmo’s failed revolution telling of a deeper evil, we also find that Rafina’s counter-efforts will rend the empire apart. And instead of a bloody diary, Mia is reunited with her granddaughter in a joint-effort to stop this gruesome end. All they need to do… is get Mia elected to student-council president instead of Rafina! Nozomu Mochitsuki blends comedy, drama, and romance to tell a school-life story filled with friendship and world-ending stakes. Gilse’s beautiful illustrations also maintain the light-hearted tone and bring out the cutest of all the characters. Will we see Vol. 3 bring the series back to the heart-warming school-life of Vol. 1?
Hey! How’d you like my intro? It’s only been two weeks since my last Tearmoon Empire review (Vol. 1 here!), and I’ve been excited to read the newest entry. Now, you’re probably wondering, “What direction does the series take after Vol. 2?” And I’m happy to answer that it went right back to its roots – with a (literally) small addition! If you found Vol. 2 to be a little too different, please give Vol. 3 a try. For this review, we’ll keep it short this time around. Thus, we’ll focus on the specifics of Vol. 3 and the continuations of previous developments. Unfortunately, that means there are spoilers in this review. Please skip to the bottom for the safe summary. Finally, let’s jump into this review! I hope you’re informed by the end of it. ;)
To start, it has to be the first impressions! It’s only been a few weeks, so the memories of Vol. 2 are still in my mind. And though Vol. 2 didn’t quite meet my expectations, I jumped into Vol. 3 with high hopes. The cover art continues to maintain its high-standard for design. The light-coloured palette, fantastical outfits, and abundance of sweets tell us that we’re in for more of that noble-school-life like in Vol. 1. And the depicted characters tell us exactly around whom this story is focused. My only improvement would be something to hint at the story’s direction (the student-council election and/or Rafina’s dictatorial descent).
Next, let’s talk about the length. Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 3 is the shortest of the series at 73,000 words (77,000 and 95,000 words for Vol. 1 and 2, respectively). However, its similar length to Vol. 1 and focus on a single plot means we won’t have the same issues as Vol. 2 did. This is the first sign that the series is going back to its roots. And we’ll see that this was for the better.
Finally, let’s talk about the images that welcome us before the text: (1) the featured image (cropped, above), (2) a clean cover (not shown), (3) a character/summary page (below), and (4) a map (below… below!). In this volume, the featured image depicts a critical scene with great detail and expression. It’s a perfect use of Gilse’s efforts and reminds me of the dance scene’s illustration from Vol. 1. As Vol. 2 first added, we’re also given a useful summary page. Like before, if you’re a little rusty (or writing reviews) this is a welcome addition to get one up to speed. Last and least, the map returns! There are no changes once again and seems like it’s only there as tradition now. But with that, let’s get into the text!
Let’s continue where Vol. 2 concluded. Vol. 3 picks up half-a-year after Renmo’s failed conspiratorial revolution – where many of the conspirators were sentenced to working at Saint-Noel Academy. This coincides with two other developments: the start of spring break, and the revelation that the conspirators were part of the Chaos Serpents (a group opposed to the prevailing God). With this, Rafina – the Duke of Belluga’s daughter – creates a group of students with the intent of squashing out all dissidents. Given our ragtag gang’s endeavours in Vol. 2, this group includes Mia, Sion, Abel, and their trusted vassals. However, two important events soon occur. Firstly, Rafina invites Mia to join the student-council – much to the latter’s contempt for any non-essential work. And secondly, Mia gets another supernatural visitor in the form of Bel, her grand-daughter. All would be well and good… if only Bel didn’t tell Mia that Rafina must be defeated in the next election. If not, the president will inevitably become an all-powerful dictator!
So, what does this all achieve? Firstly, we continue developing the Chaos Serpent plot from the second part of Vol. 2, a story that was a little weak on its own. Secondly, we fix Mia’s lack of a supernatural MacGuffin – something that gave her a sense of direction. Thirdly, we have an opportunity to develop two important characters: one new and one recurring. And lastly, we elevate the stakes of a relatively harmless election to a world-ending catastrophe. All of these are well-designed and create a strong framework from which Vol. 3’s story can build off.
In short, Vol. 3 sets up a direct follow-up to Vol. 2’s events and puts us right back into the school-setting of Vol. 1. Its introduction of Miabel’s future and the Rafina-development are a good choice of new territory to explore. And for those who enjoyed those heart-warming elements and silly classroom events that can change the world, this all should excite you.
After that great setup, where does Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 3 take us? The majority of Vol. 3 is spent learning about Rafina and the run-up to the election. In that time, we see many faces that didn’t have the chance to shine in Vol. 2 – like Tiona and Chloe – and deepen our understanding of Saint-Noel’s most important figure – Rafina. Through the rallying of voters and the fight against the incumbent Saint, we have many opportunities for characters to rise in support of Mia, for sweet moments between Bel and her mentors, and for Rafina to open up her flawless exterior. It is a large collection of these little scenes that fill up the framework provided by the premise. We’re even given some hints as to who are the key players in the Chaos Serpents.
With most of the story taking place at Saint-Noel Academy, we partake in many school-related events. This may seem like Vol. 1 all over again, but it is not. There are two important distinctions to be made: all of the characters have changed since then, and the potential ramifications come from Bel’s far-flung future rather than Mia’s beheading. Thus, despite being the same type of story, we see many new sides of old characters. My particular favourite parts are when once-arch-nemeses step up for Mia and when Bel reacts to the younger versions of her mentors. The only issue here is that Bel must communicate her alternate future to Mia, and this can feel clumsy. But, in return, we get some weird reveals about where our current cast ends up (like Ludwig!).
Aside from the student-council election, the plot also takes time to wander into Mia’s past and Bel’s future. It is through these scenes that we can appreciate their struggles and motivations. Like Vol. 1, many heart-warming moments are found in these sections. I’ve always loved the scenes where one party knows what the other did in an alternate timeline – especially if a sacrifice is made. It adds a sort of bittersweet touch to a kindness they couldn’t reciprocate in their previous life. If you missed those while reading Vol. 2, you’ll certainly get your fill here.
Overall, I’m happy with the mix of present developments (the election vs. Rafina) and the glimpses into pasts/futures far removed from them now. The combination of the two creates a tale of school-life backed by high-stakes and bittersweet memories. I’m also excited to see where this Chaos Serpent arc will take us – if only because we were teased so much!
With the story out of the way, let’s talk about the characters. Like the previous two entries, much of the character development comes from a mix of present-day events and an alternate future. The latter was lacking in Part 2 of Vol. 2 but comes back in full-force for Vol. 3. Given the setting of Saint-Noel Academy in Vol. 3, the nobles get a lot of time to themselves. This leaves a few faces like Cyril, Liora, and the Emperor out of the focus. However, the depth gleaned from comparing the recurring characters to themselves in Vol. 1 and Bel’s future is certainly worth the trade. Furthermore, we get to see some of the characters from the revolution. I’m happy to see they weren’t disposable faces. There are also some new nobles introduced who seem rather important, but I’ll leave them to you to discover.
Now, onto the particulars! In Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 3, we focus on two other characters aside from Mia – Rafina and Bel. Rafina is the hard-working, essentially flawless, student-council president of Saint-Noel Academy. Bel is the teleported(?), very cute, granddaughter of Mia from a future where Rafina becomes a dictator. Since much of the plot is dictated (heh) by preventing the Rafina of Bel’s future, we learn a lot about these two. As it turns out, not all is right in Rafina’s life, and we learn of her issues throughout the story. Because of this focus, Rafina becomes a fully-fledged actor in the overarching story of Tearmoon Empire. This promotion from being a background character of Vol. 1 is great! And I just love the dialogues between the straight-laced Rafina and the Mia-y Mia. On the other hand, Miabel’s characterization is a little lacking. Other than being the cute granddaughter-type character, little is known about her. Rather than being a fleshed-out character, Miabel feels like a walking-talking bloody-diary. This is rather disappointing given her central spot in the plot (and cover). However, with this Chaos Serpent arc gaining momentum, I’m sure we’ll learn more about her in the future.
In summary, Vol. 3 does well with its development of the overall cast. Many of the returning characters mark their progress during the election, and we gain new insights through Bel’s future. The focus on Rafina is a great way to bring her to the forefront (like Vol. 2 did for Sion and Abel). But Bel is sorely lacking for such an important character. Hopefully, we’ll see more for all of them (and more) in the future.
Finally, out of the foundations, we’ll talk about the new world-elements. Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 3 develops three important concepts: their God, the Chaos Serpents, and Bel. This focus on the religious and the supernatural ties in well with both the Chaos Serpent plot and the setting of Belluga.
The nameless God is whom the dominant religion worships, headed by the Holy Belluga. Though much is not known about their disposition other than ‘a lover of good intentions’, their order is what the Chaos Serpents seek to destroy. Now, after the events of Vol. 2, the Chaos Serpents have shown themselves to be a widespread force of evil. This battle between good and bad seems to hint at a bigger picture behind Mia’s unique situation – a good choice when expanding the story. But the group appears to be lacking in logic and, as a result, feels comically evil. This works for the light-hearted tone of Tearmoon Empire but is fairly shallow. No one is evil for the sake of being evil, you know? In any case, I’m guessing that God is using Mia (and Bel) as a roundabout method of fending them off with the supernatural happenings. However, only time will tell if this is the case.
Other than these three, we see little in the development of the world. Given the scope of Vol. 3, this is not too surprising. And with the wide physical exploration of Tearmoon and Renmo in Vol. 2, it is nice to focus on the spiritual in Vol. 3. Hopefully, we’ll see more follow-up in Vol. 4, as Vol. 2 did for Vol. 1.
In short, Vol. 3 shifts its attention to the people and setting up the background conflict rather than the world. If you were hoping to see more of the tremendous world-building from Vol. 2, I would keep my expectations low until the next entry.
With the foundations built, let’s talk about the comedy. While the delusions still play an integral role in the development of the plot (through Rafina and a certain prince), we see much more situational comedy in this entry. Though the inciting causes are simple – like library ghosts(?), passing out in the bath, or stepping in… stuff – Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 3 always finds a way to give you a chuckle. Of course, many of these jokes are at Mia’s expense. The focus on this type of comedy is a breath of fresh air from the delusions of Vol. 2 – jokes that may have gotten tired after a while. And despite this change, the high-quality of the comedy is unaffected. If you found the previous two entries entertaining, Vol. 3 surely won’t disappoint.
And in support of the comedy, there are hints of drama and romance sprinkled in Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 3. With Rafina’s inner turmoil, the Four Dukes’ influence, and the alternate lives of all our characters, there is bound to be some drama to be had. The resulting situations vary wildly in use: developing a character, creating a heartfelt moment, or preparing for a well-timed joke. Two particular scenes between Mia & Anne (<3) and Miabel & Dion are excellent examples of this. Moving on, the romance is toned down a little in Vol. 3, but always cute when it’s present. We have a few more scenes with Mia and Abel – ones that were sorely missed in Vol. 2 – with Sion seemingly jealous at times…! I’m very excited for more developments between this royal trio. Lastly, the astute reader will notice I didn’t mention action. That is because it’s not significantly present until the Epilogue. This leaves Vol. 3 a little less complete than Vol. 1, but not to much detriment. I don’t think a physical conflict was well-suited to Rafina and Mia’s popularity battle. And the action that was used was as a context for another sweet moment.
In short, I can confidently say Vol. 3 is another strong entry for this series. Whether it is comedy, drama, romance, or wholesome goodness that you are looking for, it’s a great continuation that has it all.
Finally, let’s cover the writing and art to conclude this review. As always, we have an excellent showing from the writing-style and narrator-voice. The jokes, the foreshadowing, and the description all add to the overall experience. And Nozomu Mochitsuki’s allegories, exaggerations, and puns will attack your funny-bone at every available opportunity. Huge credits again to the translator, David Teng, for their clear conveyance of comedic tone and timing. In similarly high-regard, Gilse’s art continues to be as detailed, expressive, and abundant as before. Like many other aspects of this book, the return to a Vol. 1-like length doesn’t spread the illustrations as thin as Vol. 2 did. And the lack of action present means no action-shots are required either. Additionally, there are many exceptional scenes (one with Mia and Tiona, especially) where Gilse’s expertise is showcased. They don’t only do comedy and slice-of-life (like below) but can also convey reverence, horror, and heart-tugging love. You’ll have to see those for yourself!
Overall, I’m still impressed by the quality of this author-illustrator duo and the translation. There is no doubt in my mind that Tearmoon Empire will continue to release great future entries. My only gripe is the lack of any physical releases. I promise I will buy every volume! J-Novel Club, please make it happen!!!
Overall, Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 3 is a great continuation of the series. With the return to a school setting, many of the differences from Vol. 1 to Vol. 2 have been reverted. However, with the Chaos Serpents overarching plot and appearance of Bel, we have many new developments atop the familiar framework. The exploration of Rafina’s character through the preventative election is well-designed as the connecting element between the Chaos Serpents, Miabel’s future, and the principality of Belluga. This plot also allows us to see how our returning cast has changed since Vol. 1 (a solid landmark for their character development) and their impact in Bel’s future. However, with the focus on the cast and the world-elements surrounding the religion, we lost a lot in terms of world-building scope. Perhaps in the next entry, we’ll see Nozomu Mochitsuki follow-through as they did with Vol. 2 (from Vol. 1’s setup). The comedy is still top-notch with a renewed focus on situational jokes and ribbing at Mia’s expense. In support of this, the drama and romance add sprinkles of that sweet Mia and Abel (and Sion?!) alongside the bitter struggles of the past, present, and future. And as always, the writing style and illustrations continue to amaze me. If you’re looking to start the series or on-the-fence of continuing, Vol. 3 is another reason why you should give this fun, exciting, and heart-warming tale a try. With my invigored love, I’ll be patiently waiting for Vol. 4’s release! See you all next week~!
4.7 / 5 – Highly Recommended
To readers of Tearmoon Empire looking to continue the series – Vol. 3 went right back to what made Vol. 1 so good!
To lovers of sea-colour-haired Saints with a desire to destroy every instance of heresy.
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.
And so, with a decent fill of Anne in Vol. 3, I would like to bring some more attention to Tiona. (<3) The hard-working daughter of the Outcount is super-sweet and dedicated to helping Mia win the election. Her cute ponytail and golden eyes are just… so pretty! I hope her relationship with Mia develops even more in future volumes. :) And on that note, I miss Liora! Where is my favourite voracious meat-loving maid?
For this review, a review copy was provided by J-Novel Club. Thank you so much for letting me read and critique this excellent continuation! Now, when can I order a physical copy?!
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!