If Langrisser or Fire Emblem were to receive a shoujo isekai treatment, Enemy! would be the result. The story follows the tale of Kiara, a teenager in a fantasy world with a rough noble upbringing who finds herself essentially purchased off of her stepmother by one Count Patriciel, who intends to use her to solidify his power. This scares her, however, because she has flashbacks of her previous life as a teenager in Japan who played the strategy game “Farzia: Kingdom at War” and recognized from this that her fate is to become something of a midboss, attempting to kill the main hero before dying herself. Naturally, she doesn’t wish to die and she would rather not be the bad guy, so she attempts to run away. In the events that ensue, she actually finds herself in the hands of the game’s main protagonist itself, and also in the presence of the Prince, who in the game died in the opening credits. She has two years time to ensure this fate doesn’t befall him, while also hoping she doesn’t let slip how she knows this information in case she comes off as crazy.
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At times, it comes off as incredibly light hearted, almost slice of life. Time is taken to build the relationship between the female lead and the men in her life. A lot of inspiration is clearly taken from traditional medieval European stories, such as the class systems and the fact that women shouldn’t be showing their ankles off. For a story that has a lot of romantic undertones, it is surprisingly pure and nonsexual. The main character is believable, coming off as driven to protect those she cares about and well versed in strategy through her playing of a video game yet also untrained to the darker tones of war and uneasy with the decimating of enemies when they prove to be real human beings.
And yet, Enemy! feels like it has a bit of an identity crisis. It’s a romance novel, with one clear intended partner and two other potential challengers, but the intimacy is handled in a very juvenile matter and the main character is so quick to deny her feelings it comes off as a bit boorish. One might be inclined to recommend this story clearly in the “young adult” or “teen” genre, but this is marred with typical Japanese anime tropes like a Forest Goddess who is a shotacon, i.e. a pedophile who prefers young boys. It’s slice of life moments contrast starkly with the later portions of the book, in which the main character finds that her precognition is beginning to manifest in the absolute worst way imaginable.
Most of the book also deals with a 2 year timeline, from the time Kiara escapes her stepfather and finds herself living with the Évrard family up to the enemy nation of Llewyn’s attack on them. The time jump and events that unfold are handled very briskly, in a way that shows how Alan and Reginald grow into older teens but does nothing to show advancement on Kiara’s part. I felt this was handled rather poorly, although in the context of the light novel proper it makes sense.
It should also be noted the translation has an issue that may cause concern for some readers. The novel switches from a first person character view when dealing with the protagonist, but switches to a limited third person view when dealing with any other characters. This is handled rather poorly, especially in transitions, and comes off as a distraction during certain parts of the book.
Overall, I’m not sure who I would recommend this novel to, but I don’t regret giving it a shot. This book’s charm isn’t in that it treads new ground, but that it manages to feel fresh in how it does so.
Fun story, I originally bought it because on Amazon and GoodReads the book is listed as having 28 pages. Twenty-Eight pages! For $7! I had to see what about this book merited such a pittance. As it turns out, this is a mistake – the novel is just over 200 pages in length. Much more reasonable, considering it is being imported.