If you hear anyone speaking about that one otoge where the protagonist swoons more over her sister than any of the heroes, this is it.
Once upon a time, in a kingdom far, far away a pair of beautiful princesses did lay. One so bright that she continuously dazzled the other, her smile enough to capture her heart. Although they were sisters, and although they were near, they seemed to live in different worlds. A day came where they escaped the castle to go on a stroll together; the beautiful sister forever escaping the other’s grasp, calls of ‘please wait!’ ignored. From their world in the sky, they look down at another – it’s like trash, one of them says. Laughing. A heartwarming tale, right? This may have all the makings of a fairytale, but it’s one that quite literally has a sting to it. Several years later only one of the sisters lives on. With the other long since dead it’s time for her to take up the role of being queen bee – until she’s told to assassinate her beloved sister who supposedly died, that is…
From beginning to end, the trial of Pure Wool’s first venture Jooubachi no Oubou was explosive stuff. Catching me completely off guard, what I admittedly expected was a flimsyish nukige, albeit one with gorgeous art and a unicorn among otoge heroes taking the form of a comically subservient どM character (who is also the best boy). What I didn’t expect was to be thrown into the thick of a plot concerned with revenge, rife with political intrigue that seeps into narrative like honey. One of the first scenes has the queen – quite literally a queen bee – devouring red meat presented to by a loyal manservant. Something’s amiss with the way she hungrily begs for it; your ears filled with ripping and chewing, you soon learn that the meat the oh so regal queen is tucking into is of the human variety.
Jooubachi no Oubou (now referred to as QB) is split into two parts. The first part comprising Menou’s chapter will be released next month, whereas Kaguya’s will be released in March. Seeing her mother doing this Menou obviously feels ill at ease. Her mother was once highly revered, a perfect fit to rule over the kingdom. But now she has drones wiping away the blood from her mouth as she huskily chastises her daughter for refusing to eat the same delicacy. Does she want to become a source of ridicule? Does she want their kingdom to fall into ruin? Our heroine is unable to say anything. She’s told to become stronger, so that her heart won’t be stirred by anything – and this includes the inevitable death of her mother.
She’s powerless, evidently the runt of the litter compared to her wonderful sister. Yet when she hears Kaguya is alive, Menou isn’t sure whether it’s hope or dread that fills her. They will have to fight to the death at some point, the
punishment prize being to rule over the kingdom and its many inhabitants. Although she’s pragmatic enough to realize that when her mother dies things will change, a new dawn ushered in by Kaguya, she’d like to leave. All Menou could ever want is peace; a world without conflict. For bees and humans to coexist. It’s what Kaguya would like too, right…?
The person she so dearly admires has become more beautiful, yet there’s something sharp at the edges. When Kaguya saunters up her in the castle, Menou’s thoughts beg for someone to help her. Even though she’s filled with such adoration towards her, these dark feelings come bubbling to the surface. Earlier Kaguya left her tied up in the middle of a forest knowing full well that something terrible could so easily happen (and in a bad ending, it does). Can Menou kill Kaguya? Hell, can she even become the queen? Her mind is incapable of offering an answer. Can they live together from now on, just like they used to when they were younger? Kaguya doesn’t answer. Instead, she makes an aggressive declaration of war through a salacious spectacle of her trio of menservants pawing at her.
From what I’ve said about her so far, you may think that Menou is a weakling who cries into her pillow at night, carelessly willing to pass over the throne without a fight or care. But she’s wonderfully regal and carries out everything she does with grace and conviction. She’s almost as likable as her sister with the way she refuses to put up with anyone’s shit. Menou may be full of self-doubt when it comes to being the queen (likening herself to a frog rather than a princess, even) but she’s anything but weak. She’s clever. She knows Ruby is full of shit, and she knows that he knows that she knows it, but they continue on like they usually do, all smiles. It’s obvious he’s just messing about but they like each other anyway so they’ll deal. When he brings her flowers she frankly deals with the elephant in the room: did Ruby bring them because he sincerely happened to be worried about her, or is the queen’s dog plotting something and trying to get on her good side?
Menou’s feelings towards Kaguya are amazingly complicated. Although they’re sisters, and although she has a host of guys waiting at her beck and call she can’t help but be drawn to her or comment on how beautiful and all that she is – constantly. You almost start to wonder whether it’s really the guys who ought to have routes here and to say that she has something of a complex towards her would be an understatement. And being honest, I can’t blame her. Everything in QB revolves around Kaguya the way the characters do; you need a marvelously captivating character to pull this off. How can you have a girl so alluring that even her sister wants her? That even when she commits regicide you’re still cheering her on? If she weren’t such a magnificent asshole it would all fall apart. She’s rotten to the core but if she asked you to jump you’d ask “how high?”. Her charisma so potent that she’d be able to sell stocks in jars of air to Kaiki. The reader ends up
disliking her nearly as much as Menou does.
“Why are you doing this?”
“In order to live.”
But why would she put this grand plot into motion for the sake of dragging her treasured sister’s name through the mud? It’s not like one was given preferential treatment over the other in their childhood, right? Why was her being alive concealed all this time? No reason is given except ‘revenge’. It would be easy to hate her. Too easy. Yet when Takanemaru offers to eliminate her you know that although it may be better for Menou (and possibly, the kingdom) in the long run, you don’t want him to do it. He’d even get rid of the queen if only she’d give her approval. Same with Ruby. But Menou being the majestic type she is rejects these offers because like her mother said, she must become stronger in order to lead the kingdom. After all, if a kingdom’s leader is corrupt or weak-willed it won’t be long until their country reflects them and their choices. But with whispers of rebellion and human meat being their main source of nourishment, maybe it’s already reached the point where it’s too late.
In a grand speech Kaguya speaks of wanting their kingdom to prosper and rise to greater heights. They’re bees, nothing at all like those filthy humans. With them obviously being the superior creatures it’s all but a given that they should bow down before them. A bright future awaits them, and all they have to do is follow her lead. In contrast Menou isn’t a leader; in fact, she isn’t much of anything at all. Everyone knows it, so when suspicion falls on her for an assassination attempt involving Kaguya it’s almost too easy. Menou and her loyal retainers try and set things right but of course, it’s what Kaguya and her retainers anticipated. When the pair get locked away and the queen’s body comes rolling in you’re marveling at just how easy it really was. Kaguya’s menservants are dangerous guys. Very dangerous indeed and they would kiss the ground she walks on – and in the case of one, that probably does happen.
With me going on and on about the sisters you may wonder if, y’know, this being an otoge and all if the guys are any bit likable. Out of the six heroes presented (three each for Menou and Kaguya) I found myself quickly growing fond of them all which personally, is quite a rarity as usually there’s always one or two I just can’t warm up to so I end up putting off their routes, maybe only doing them for completion’s sake. I have no doubt these guys will come into their own as QB progresses so I’m looking forward immensely to that as well as the resolution of this gloriously poisonous affair.
There’s a Jimmy Hart version of ‘He’s a Pirate’ too – how can you not love that?
The trial can be downloaded right here, and Menou’s Chapter will be released on the 28th of February.