Before you can fight the Evil God, you have to get to him!
Title: Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers
Genre: Action, Mystery
Publisher: Shueisha (JP) Yen Press (US)
Creators: Ishio Yamagata (writer), Miyagi (illustrator)
Translator: Jennifer Ward
Original Release Date: April 18, 2017
Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers, a story about going off to fight the Evil God but immediately getting stuck in a locked-room mystery, is not an unfamiliar title to English-speaking fans but I’m not sure how many fans remember the 2015 anime series. I did and, like with every mystery, I was looking for hints and foreshadowing in my second encounter with this series to see how well this convoluted mystery held up.
The good news is that Rokka-the-light-novel is much better paced and flows a lot more smoothly than Rokka-the-anime. You can adapt a single light novel into three or four episodes of an anime, five or six if you’re being thorough, but Rokka made the odd call to spend all twelve episodes adapting just the first volume and the story truly dragged. It sounds as if the series has a proclivity for ending on cliffhangers, forcing the adapting staff to make a tough call about where to end the anime, and given how nicely this volume reads I do wish they had opted for the swifter pacing and adapted multiple volumes at once.
The bad news is that Adlet Meyer, the self-proclaimed “Strongest Man in the World” is still the main character and possibly the most insufferable light novel hero of the year. I got the impression that Ishio Yamagata knows that he’s written an unlikeable character but is sure they’re doing something different with Adlet, something that will really pay out! So far, nada. In fact, despite the fact that the story even shows the moment that Adlet is chosen as one of the six Braves to fight the strengthening Evil Gold, it’s tempting to wish that he is the treacherous seventh Brave who has slipped in to sow chaos.
That’s where the meat of the story begins, Adlet and the other Braves begin meeting up with each other but when they all come to the designated gathering spot they’re trapped within a barrier and, given the nature of the barrier, one of the Braves must have done this and to make things worse, there are seven Braves instead of the usual six and there is absolutely no way all of them are authentic. Adlet is immediately under suspicion due to his comparative lack of qualifications and being in the wrong place at the wrong time so the majority of the story is spent with Adlet on the run from the other Braves. The breezy reading matches the intense pace of the story and amazingly enough the implausible situation does in fact have a solution that makes sense. It’s not the most elegant solution; I remembered the culprit and thought I remembered the solution from my anime-viewing but I was wrong about the solution (I feel as if Yamagata missed a very obvious solution and it’s bizarre that Adlet considered every option but that particular one).
Also sad is that the visuals, both in illustrations and description, are a real step-down from the anime. The anime chose a very distinctive route by using Mesoamerican-inspired designs for both the setting and background characters, all of which is absent in the light novel. The light novel is rather light on descriptions in general but those which it does provide, for background warriors or the temple at the heart of the locked-room mystery, they’re very generic and bland. I’m not sure if Yamagata always intended for Rokka to have this stylistic element/if it becomes present in later books or if this was a choice by the anime staff but I missed it, especially since the few illustrations present in this book (all portraits of the Braves) feel rushed and unpolished.
For those curious, yes this volume does end on the same cliffhanger that the anime did. But lucky for us the second volume is out in August so anyone who is willing to put up with Adlet’s enormous ego will finally have a chance to see how the next mystery plays out!