The Bloody Battle with Lord Kelshinha’ review • AIPT

Sabikui Bisco Vol. 2 cover image

In light of their anime adaptation’s success, the Sabikui BiscoLight novels are slowly being translated into English. Vol. Vol. 2 is out now and has a lot of work ahead. The series’ debut had an entire season’s worth of content after all, and the world and characters it introduced were instantly endearing. Does Shinji Cobkubo’s second glimpse into the lives of Mushroom Keepers match the prior installment’s high standards?

This is where the transition from volume one to two in the status quo is made quickly and efficiently. Bisco and Milo’s past exploits have gained them notoriety across Japan to the point that bandits have started impersonating them for various purposes. As a result, while our heroes’ past deeds made a considerable societal impact for the better they still have to be wary of revealing their true identities. This preserves the pair’s status as underdog travelers without ignoring the results of their last adventure, as their reputations’ newfound mythic natures become obstacles unto themselves.

The thrill continues for the first forty-pages as Milo and Bisco run into one of these bandits. It is a terrifying encounter that leads to an even more exciting discovery. At the bandits’ base Milo and Bisco discover piles of corpses that have all been mutilated in the same way: by literally having their stomachs removed. It’s an unnervingly specific image and a portent of danger to come, with the sole survivor seemingly being a weak old man whom Bisco finds muttering to himself. Not all is as it seems however, and the choices in language help sell the drama’s eerie, supernatural nature (particularly where the old man’s snakelike movements are concerned).

The flaws in the volume’s overall polish and effectiveness in handling subject matter are evident as one digs deeper. Chief among the issues is the volume’s setting. Vol. Vol. The second takes place in the city of Izumo. When the vagabonds’ best moments often involve being on the run, planting roots in a single location is risky if that setting isn’t made compelling enough.

Izumo simply isn’t. It’s defined by its six towers which are home to various warring religious sects, and there are some fun concepts thrown around here. One clan values money more than anything else, and it is transparent in its reward for corruption. This causes Bisco and Milo to commit morally questionable acts which call into question the limits of necessity or necessary evil. Many of the leaders from the other sects display interesting personality traits or interests. One example is one who considers his time playing chess sacred. All in all, it’s interesting to see new perspectives with which this world’s inhabitants approach the Rust world.

Unfortunately, there’s little else positive to say about Izumo. Half the sects are not given any description or exploration. As a result there’s not enough sense of the various cultures and morals at play, making the city feel somewhat flat and undeveloped. What details we do get are fun and prompt compelling questions about the nature of fate and obedience, but there just isn’t enough substance behind the ideas presented.

Character writing is mixed throughout, with the support cast being the worst. Several of them are returning characters whose new roles in the plot feel questionable, as if they’ve ended up in their current positions more as an excuse to keep them active on the page than as a natural progression of their character arcs. There are a lot of very convenient run-ins that undercut the drama somewhat, and many of the characters’ interactions feel like recycled versions of scenes we already saw back in Vol. 1.

With that said the writing is far from without its charms and Bisco and Milo’s relationship continues to be the series’ strongest aspect. Their conflicts could be more well-executed, but the heart of the story is there. In the novel’s best passages their dialogue and narration exudes an intimacy that is earnest and impactful, making one want to root for them as they travel to the ends of the Earth. Milo, in particular, makes great strides in overcoming his initial timidity. Of course, it’s their clearly budding romantic affection that’s most poignant, even as the characters fumble with proper terms for one another.

This volume is a little lacking in plot. All the intriguing aspects I’ve mentioned help it along, as fun ideas and great lead characters can balance out a lot of faults. However, those faults still exist. The supporting cast’s performance was not impressive and the setting is not as dramatic as Vol. 1. Concepts of immortality and perseverance are central, but they’re handled in such a way that the actual moments of resolution don’t feel earned. When you hype up characters’ power levels to a certain point their victories and defeats can end up feeling arbitrary, as is the case here.

Art-wise, the occasional illustrations throughout by K Akagishi do a good job bringing the novel’s world to life. The characters are expressive and it’s easy to see why the anime opted to steer so closely to the source material in design. My only complaint is that there aren’t enough illustrations, particularly since the diagrams take up two pages of art.

Overall, Sabikui Bisco Vol. 2 is an enjoyable read that highlights the series’ strengths as well as its faults. Their relationship as partners remains a source of affection, and the core duo is still charming. There is also some fascinating lore and well-executed horror in the volume, which has promising implications for future worldbuilding. Unfortunately some of the compelling ideas presented don’t have time to develop, and the resolution of the conflicts throughout often feels unsatisfying. With that said the world’s charms are endearing enough to make the journey one well worth taking even if the execution doesn’t live up to the premise’s full potential.

Sabikui Bisco Vol. 2 cover image

‘Sabikui Bisco Vol. 2: The Bloody Battle with Lord Kelshinha’ review

Sabikui Bisco Vol. 2

The series’ strengths and flaws are all here, but the charm prevails over any shortcomings in execution.

Bisco’s and Milo’s close relationship provides a strong emotional base for the series.

The transition between volumes balances shifts to the status-quo with the need for heroes to be kept as underdogs.

There are many creative and intriguing worldbuilding ideas.

As always, the illustrations are charming

Izumo is lacking in many areas.

The supporting cast almost always has weak performances, which makes them seem less important or less relevant to the plot than Vol. 1

Some conflict resolutions feel unsatisfying in their execution

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