Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers
Although the Princess was revealed to be the seventh brave, the troubles of the remaining six are far from over – especially since the arrival of Rolonia indicates that there's more than one false brave. As Adlet, Fremy, and the others try to figure out who amongst them is a false hero, Mora the Saint of Mountains is struggling with her own issues – issues which threaten to destroy not just the braves, but everyone she loves.
If the first volume of Ishio Yamagata's Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers light novel series played out like a classic mystery novel, this second volume takes its cues from contemporary suspense – we go into the book knowing the traitor's identity. The book opens with the death of one brave at the hands of Mora, the de-facto adult of the group and supposed most virtuous member of the party. The story quickly flashes back to the events leading up to the murder, both during the timeline of the fight against the fiends and from Mora's own life. Rokka continues to play with aspects of several genres in order to best tell its story, and its finesse is proven with an ending that's still able to surprise viewers despite opening with so much information.
The most interesting plotline to come out of this sophomore novel is Mora's backstory. This is partly because Yamagata builds on the suspicion he created in the previous book, when the characters were actively trying to weed out the seventh brave. In that volume, Mora came under reasonable amounts of suspicion, so revealing now that she did indeed have another game of her own makes sense. It turns out that Mora is married with a young daughter, a position that makes her uniquely vulnerable among the braves because it gives her a very specific weakness. It speaks volumes that the fiends are intelligent and organized enough to take advantage of this, especially because they put their plans into motion two years before the main plot even began. This indicates that not only do they have information networks that give them insight into who might be chosen to receive the crest, but also that they have the foresight to use this knowledge in advance. Although we certainly began to understand this with the revelation of Fremy's heritage in the first novel, it now becomes much more obvious that the fiends are just like us in many ways.
That will be the biggest threat going forward – it has been established that fiends cannot be counted on to act in one certain way any more than people can. Yes, the braves can make educated guesses, but those won't always prove correct, which makes the fiends much more frightening and dangerous as enemies. It also raises the question of what truly separates fiends from humans beyond their motivations; the fiends are looking to destroy the world as humans have created it, but it's possible that this is rooted in matters of appearance. To humans, fiends look monstrous, and they certainly aren't above capitalizing on that fact. But was this always the case? The fact that Nashetania threw her lot in with them, and that they were arguably able to raise Fremy better than Mora raised Chamo (in terms of emotional development) seems to support the idea that the hatred between humans and fiends may not be as simple as “they are not us”.
This volume continues Rokka's premise of playing with questions of what we do and don't know. Unlike with the princess, there's a suggestion made that the seventh brave is unaware of their own fakeness. Nashetania was well aware of her position, and she actively worked to hide it, but what if the current seventh has no idea that they bear a false crest? The intelligent fiend behind Mora's treachery, Tgurneu, mentions that the seventh's crest is just as valid as the other six's, having been created by the same person, so that may invalidate clues that would seem to eliminate some players. And if the idea of the seventh is built into the mythology of the braves, could it simply be that no one is aware of the truth behind it in the “modern” age when the series takes place? History is notoriously fallible, and losing even one key document or bit of information could have serious repercussions. Since this is demonstrated in Fremy's knowledge of the first battle, it seems like a valid possibility for the history the braves themselves know.
While the book does work for the most part, the flashback format does hit a few snags, especially when we jump between time periods within a single chapter. New character Rolonia can be irritating in her excessive innocence; although she is undeniably useful, she sometimes feels like she was created just so that Fremy could have a rival for Adlet's affections (not that he acknowledges either of them romantically). Chamo continues to be annoying, but this is tempered by Mora's perspective, which acknowledges Chamo's faults and makes her feel more purposeful in characterization rather than an attempt to put in a sadistic child character just because. The illustrations continue to only grace title pages and don't really fit the content (Mora especially looks far too young), but they are pretty nonetheless.
The second Rokka novel manages to play with the same basic story as the first volume – who is the traitor? – while also keeping things feeling fresh. This is largely due to a change-up in how the story is told, which bodes well for the series going forward. While it can drag or get confusing in places, this is a solid follow-up to the first book overall – even if it leaves us with just as many questions as we had when it began.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B-
+ Raises some interesting questions, keeps the plot moving, Mora gets some good development
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