Hi. The time has come to read the recently released fourth volume of the Rokka no Yuusha series. At this point, the question every reader following the story should ask is: will this volume follow the ruleset established by all the previous books? Will it be the same as always? The answer is: partially, yes. You can count on Yamagata Ishio to mix things up at least a little bit, though. So as to make things less predictable and boring.
As always, at the beginning, we’re treated to several pages of the story fleshing out the fantasy world the Braves inhabit. This time, we get enough information to get the impression that the overall history of the Rokka world has been conveyed to the reader more-or-less completely – there’s hardly anything significant you could add to it this far into the story. We learn the particular details about the fiend commanders and some historical Braves, including a certain overpowered Saint responsible for inspiring Dozzu and Nashetania’s quest to find a third way out of the grand conflict of two races. We also get to see the history of humans and fiends from the perspective of the latter: it’s easy to shelve them as the evil ones in this conflict, but their actions come to appear rational considering their situation. If you’ve seen Tatakau Shisho, you might experience some flashbacks about the conflict between Armed Librarians and The Church of Drowning in God’s Grace. Their status as “the good” and “the bad” isn’t one-hundred-percent clear. However, the knowledge built up at the beginning of the novel actually doesn’t prove to have much to do with this volume’s intrigue, ultimately.
Dozzu, the newest addition to the party tells the heroes about a temple built by the fiends in their territory, which might contain something crucial to the Braves’ victory – it might be the “ultimate weapon”, recently developed by Tgurneu, potent enough to debilitate all the Braves in one move. On their way there, they encounter a major obstacle: a forest occupied by zombies – humans kidnapped and made into walking corpses puppeteered by a parasite inside them, and a single powerful fiend steering the parasites remotely. However, the prologue to this volume introduces a single walking dead who’s still alive, kept sentient by magic. The reader learns of his existence, but neither the Braves or the fiends know of him. Through an unlikely incident, he learns the truth about Tgurneu’s wonder weapon. He’s the monkey wrench in the enemy commander’s plans. However, the probability of him ever being able to convey the good news to the heroes is very low. Since he’s a zombie with limited control over his body. And, as it turns out, he’s Adlet’s childhood friend, Rainer. Will the Braves of the Six Flowers find out about this unlikely protagonist for a fantasy tale, reach him, and manage to get the necessary information out of him?
So, at a point in the novel, a certain question comes to the reader’s mind while reading. The same one as in the previous volumes: “Is this still a mystery?”. It can’t be denied, that the percentage of “mystery” in every next volume of Rokka no Yuusha is lower and lower. In this fourth book in the series, the hope finally dies. The story might maintain the appearance of being a solvable mystery – it’s written in a hyper-rational way, generously offering possibly useful clues, but in the end, there is no mystery. There’s only the question of “Will the good guys pull off this very difficult, improbable feat, which is absolutely needed for them to win?” The story keeps you at the edge of your seat and makes you beg to know what will happen next. But it’s not a mystery.
Taught by the example of the previous three volumes of the series, you might think that the protagonist this time is Rolonia. She’s there on the cover, and if you squint, you can spot Rainer too. And you’d be right. At a point in the story, Rolonia declares she wants to save the zombies, believing they can be returned to their healthy, human state. As the reader only knows, she’s Rainer’s sole bit of hope for being discovered. Sadly, Rolonia turns out to be the only party member empathetic enough to attempt it – the rest either actively refuses or says “it can’t be helped” and proceeds to kill the undead hordes. And so, the blood-manipulating cowgirl ends up alienated and suspected by the other Braves of being the Seventh, just like Goldof was before. Rolonia, the only just Brave, finds some hints left by Rainer and then ends up running off on her own to investigate them, and also out of fear of her life – mainly thanks to Chamo being her usual bloodthirsty, hellspawny self – a nice “are the heroes actually the bad guys?” kind of bit. Later, during her search for the only conscious zombie, she wanders off into an enemy trap and ends up being saved by Adlet and Hans, but her escape proves to have not been in vain. At the last moment, Adlet finds Rainer, after the zombie lets his location be known in a surprising, impressive “dude, that’s been foreshadowed!” moment. The truth the Braves learn from the zombie is quite shocking. Not to spoil to much: the identity of the Seventh, the fake Brave is finally revealed. Unless the fifth volume comes up with some “actually, not” shenanigans.
And so, the book ends and the reader is left with a bombshell of a reveal and the lust to read the fifth volume to see what happens next. As I’ve mentioned before, this book is the one that ended up with the hot potato, being the volume where Yamagata-sensei finally caved in and gave up on constructing a proper mystery narrative. It’s focused more on the worldbuilding and the bigger picture aspect of this tale of “too many yuushas”. It had to happen sooner or later, and I’m glad it happened this late into the story. Don’t get me wrong, though: Rokka v4 is still worth your attention as an engaging, winding bit of pop-lit. It reads very fast. Rokka no Yuusha remains an incredible gem among English-translated light novels and you can bet your booty that I’ll follow the series until its very end.