This volume covers, I'm pretty sure, Katarina's entire first year at the Academy of Magic, which is also the entirety of the otome game that Katarina played when she was a 17-year-old girl living in our world. She finally meets Maria Campbell, the commoner who can use Light magic, who happens to be the otome game's protagonist, and is convinced that Jeord, Alan, Keith, and/or Nicol will fall in love with her. After all, Maria's so sweet, beautiful, and kind, who wouldn't fall in love with her? Katarina is so focused on avoiding Maria-related Catastrophic Bad Ends that she doesn't notice some disturbing and possibly deadly developments at the school.
I had figured that Yamaguchi would milk the humor surrounding the mismatch between Katarina and the other characters' POVs for all it was worth, so it was surprising when this volume took a more serious and poignant turn. I was also surprised that the Catastrophic Bad Ends storyline was wrapped up so quickly - two volumes and that's it. I assume that the next few volumes either start a new story arc of some kind (focused on what?) or read like unnecessary filler. I'll hope for the former but expect it will be the latter.
At any rate, after finishing the first book, I was wary that this one would follow the same pattern of having a scene from Katarina's POV and then showing everything a second time from someone else's POV. Although Volume 2 still switched between Katarina's POV and others', the repetitiveness was drastically reduced - Yamaguchi made slightly more effective use of the new POVs and instead focused more on flashbacks to important times in those characters' lives.
The first POV switch was a shock, revealing something that caused me to question the series' setup and everything that was going on. Yamaguchi then did absolutely nothing with that massive revelation until close to the end of the book. It felt a bit like cheating on the author's part, even though it tied in with Katarina's past life in our world, the Fortune Lover game, and the book's friendship theme.
I liked the friendship that developed between Maria and Katarina and the effect it had on Maria's relationship with her mother. And the "hidden character" storyline was interesting and unexpected. Still, I missed seeing Katarina interact with the characters from the first volume. They were definitely there, but they didn't feature as prominently as I had hoped. That said, I loved Katarina's conclusions about her "Friendship Ending" - otome games in general could use more emotionally satisfying Friendship Endings that aren't treated like another sort of Bad Ending.
The writing/translation, while less repetitive and less riddled with typos, was still pretty bad. I was glad to only see one instance of the word "abode," but its status as most popular word in the translation was taken by the word "snack." Surely a more specific word, like "cookie" or "cake" or "tart," could have been used occasionally. By the end of the book, I could feel myself suffering from bad writing fatigue, so rather than starting the third book right away, I'm opting to take a break from the series for a bit.
This second volume wasn't quite what I expected (or, honestly, what I wanted), but it did wrap up the Catastrophic Bad Ends storyline pretty nicely, and I'm very much looking forward to reading the manga adaptation of this part of the story, considering how much of an improvement the first volume of the manga was over the source material. I expect I'll be reading Volume 3 in the near future, once I've had a little time to recover, but I'll be approaching it with some trepidation. How will the series continue when the main storyline has already been concluded?
- Side Story: She Who is Dearest to Me - A Jeord POV story focused on a particularly harrowing portion of the story, although with some lighter bits at the beginning and end. It felt a bit fan service-y, complete with one of those cliched "character using their own mouth to give an unconscious character a drink" scenes. Still, it had some of the character interactions I missed and had wanted to see more of.
- An afterword written by the author. Apparently, this book was published only two months after the first, which could explain the issues with the writing.
- Bonus Editor's Column - Aimee Zink writes about "katakana nightmares," the problems involved with translating katakana (Japanese syllabary that is used for non-Japanese words) into English. My favorite example was Sirius Dieke, whose name could easily have been Serious Dick (I admit, this possibility occurred to me even before I made it to this bonus section).
- Several black-and-white illustrations.
- A cute color illustration.
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)