Returning to what has ended up being a surprise favorite LN series for me, we find that things aren’t, for the most part, significantly different in terms of tone from previous volumes – the Otherworld is still disturbing (although in some ways only as much as some of the people throughout these pages are), and Sorawo still doesn’t seem entirely clear on what her own feelings for Toriko really indicate. But there are some big developments afoot, as we get kidnappings and cults into the mix, as well as some clearer depictions of the unfortunate folks known as Fourth Kinds, people who’ve been bodily and mentally altered by their experiences with Otherworld to the point that they are barely recognizable as human anymore.
There are three arcs within the book, all of them pretty good, although I’m partial to the one which brings Sorawo’s kouhai, Akari Seto a.k.a. Karateka, back into the narrative. Karateka’s been dogging Sorawo for a while despite the latter’s noticeable lack of enthusiasm, but our leads get involved when Karateka’s friend, Nattsun, inadvertently gets cursed for throwing out some teeth gifted to her by a weird monkey. Nattsun turns out to be a mechanic who gives off a delinquent vibe, a delightfully novel character type for this series; she also tells Sorawo she didn’t like Satsuki because something just seemed off about her, which is a good reason to like her (it’d be nice to see her again). (Granted, Nattsun may’ve not liked much that Karateka seemed very enthused about Satsuki, as Nattsun also admits she was prepared to not like Sorawo much given Karateka’s apparent adoration of her. It is very, very easy to see these two as a couple.)
The final arc pulls bits that had filtered in in the earlier arcs of the books together with a revelation about people trying to get the Otherworld to interact with the real world, an effort which involves seeding the internet with videos meant to curse people, as well as a cult leader whose voice can control people. And we may meet Satsuki, although Kozakura is pretty sure that despite having the right physical form, it is not the woman herself. (By the way, I always forget to mention Kozakura, but I like her a lot, too. She’s definitely a particular type, and its one I don’t usually like – petite and cranky shut-in genius – but author Miyazawa fleshes her out enough to make it work.)
Yuri here is… how to put it? I’ve said before that the yuri elements are pretty light-handed, and that is also the case here, but it’s also pretty clear that Sorawo has a crush on Toriko. There’s a moment in particular toward the end of the book in which Sorawo realizes how much Toriko changes her outlook on things, and that Toriko makes her a better, more complete person. It really is more queer than it is yuri (which isn’t to say that yuri can’t be queer – it definitely can, but its also true that yuri has often had a troubled relationship with queerness and not all yuri is queer by a long shot), and I really like that. Other than Sorawo, well, I’ve noted that Karateka and Nattsun are easy to see as a couple, although they are also clearly not one, at least not yet. Meanwhile, I am beginning to wonder if Kozakura’s harboring some romantic sentiment toward Sorawo…
Good work from translator Sean McCann and editor Krys Loh. Didn’t expect otherwise, but, hey, it bears mention.
There isn’t a streetdate yet for Volume 4 in English, which was itself only released in December in Japan, but I’ll certainly be pre-ordering when there is one.