The Ephemeral Scenes of Setsuna’s Journey Volume 3: Anemone



When you peruse the mountain of isekai light novels that exist, it’s painfully easy to discount the entire “genre” of them, but The Ephemeral Scenes of Setsuna’s Journey volume 3 (though really just the series at large) exists as one of many exceptions to that line of thinking. To it, isekai is but a simple theme meant to serve a greater purpose, one that’s really wonderfully expressed with this most recent instalment. Impressively enough, it’s comprised of but a single storyline that takes place in the span of several weeks to a little over a month, but much like the contents of the previous volume, each and every step that Setsuna and Alto take provides immense value to both their characters and the scope of the world at large.

This light novel series is already no stranger to the themes of family and how that’s expressed through Setsuna, but I think more interestingly this volume tackles the idea of Setsuna’s humanity. Where the distinction between bed-ridden boy ends and immortal hero begins. It’s a really great angle to take in only the third volume so far, and I really am impressed with how far reaching Rokusyou’s vision is with that in Setsuna’s Journey volume 3. It’s not even the idea of Setsuna’s morality that challenges himself, but the very act of power. As we learn more about dragons in this volume, we find out that they’re essentially revered as Gods in this world. So what then, is a human that can effortlessly overpower a god? Setsuna poses many such questions himself, but all the same many other characters begin to poke holes in Setsuna’s facade. The errand knight (not knight-errant here, so pun intended) Cyrus, who’s introduced in this volume is one such example. A man of considerable standing and strength, he’s continually left helpless in the face of Setsuna, and that experience weighs on the young man alongside the reality that Setsuna will outlive his new friend by countless years.

It’s really great work that provides a wonderful counter to the beastfolk that came and went of their own accord in the previous volume. Setsuna expresses genuine fear towards those that will pass on towards the Waterside before him, and because of that finds himself struggling to really form connections with the people around him. Though it’s a little layer deeper than that. Setsuna can make connections with people around him, just look at Nestor and Agito. The issue is that those people will always be “parents” to Setsuna, so the concept of death remains strong with him in those moments. His challenge appears when making friends, when being brought together by a non-familial bond, one that’s on equal footing. Because of that, he doesn’t necessarily fear his own immortality, but the mortality of others.

Speaking of the beastfolk point above, I’m still loving Alto’s consistent development as a person (and Setsuna’s awareness of things such as self-image as a beastfolk), but that’s not why I want to bring him up. In the end, the sole character that remains outside of Setsuna’s fear (in both directions) is Alto, and that’s expressed surprisingly well in this volume. Cyrus sees everything Setsuna does as inhuman and otherworldly which alienates the young man, but Alto simply looks on with wonder and excitement. The young boy has had his world shaped by his master, and because of that is able to interact with Setsuna within it naturally. The idea of fear doesn’t occur to Alto, the idea of something in the realm of a god is but a triviality to the boy.

On the opposite end of the spectrum with Setsuna’s Journey volume 3 is Setsuna’s (to be) brother-in-law, the dragon Revale. Due to circumstances the two meet, and Revale’s antagonistic streak strikes a harsh chord with Setsuna. So harsh, that despite being of a similar power and life force, Revale pushed Setsuna the furthest towards despair. Or perhaps it’s because Revale is so similar to Setsuna, yet still so inferior, that Setsuna despaired so. It’s a lot of nuance and in-between the lines that exist with this sort of thing, and it’s why I’m eternally grateful for Rokusyou’s decision to voice the perspectives of other characters in addition to Setsuna. It allows his character to remain a dark and murky mire, making it impossible to discern everything from a single glance. Though conversely, it also means that outsiders are able to offer perspective and information that isn’t quite verbalized to the reader.

For example, Revale clocks the dangerous emotions swirling in Setsuna in relation to his sister, Tuuli, almost immediately. He recognizes them as something different from love, questioning the truth of Setsuna while also musing that he’s but a young boy after all. It’s a great confirmation of the sort of odd firmness Setsuna expressed in the previous volume, and tips the reader off to something interesting- the remains of Kyle and Hanai that exist in Setsuna. It’s only a theory after all, but the possibility that strong emotions and feelings can arise from Kyle and Hanai through Setsuna remains a possibility, and one that would very much complicate his existence as a person. Which of course, means I’m all for it.

Anyways, at this point it’s an obvious conclusion the character development in The Ephemeral Scenes of Setsuna’s Journey volume 3 remains impressively strong, but I think that the overall story and world are also equally intriguing. With this volume, more and more of the curtain hiding the territory of dragons has been pulled back, calling into questions the events that produced Tuuli’s imprisonment as well as the nature of her punishment. Alongside that we also get an incredible degree of casual exposition towards the history of this world. With the trio completing their (two-thirds) impromptu mission of saving a king from a slow and poison-induced death, Rokusyou is able to explore the land of Lypaed on the Northern continent. Here, we learn more about the circumstances of the pair of beastfolk from the previous volume, as well as a great number of confusing details. Varying mana densities, beings that had wings and could possibly fly, the mass exodus of the northern population. It’s a great deal of world building that exists on top of the geopolitical tensions that underpin this volume. Alongside Gardir as an “enemy” nation, Guilonde begins to take stronger shape as an antagonistic nation attempting to “unify” the north.

It’s a world of conversations all swirling around one another that creates such a dynamic and multi-faceted world- and it goes on to tackle the topic of slavery the best I’ve really seen in an isekai light novel. Through an extra chapter focused on Gardir princess Tylera and their current hero, we get a brief view of present and past for the country. Firstly, we begin with the idea that religion is still currently held in high regard within the country. Tylera mentions herself to be viewed by others as inferior to her adopted sister due to the difference in status as warrior vs priest. With that point in mind, Tylera is then roped into discussing slavery by the hero who attempts to (poorly) purchase a group of beastfolk slaves to save them. Of course, the hero nearly gets swindled, forcing Tylera to step in and mediate while admonishing the hero for the shallowness of his actions. After cooling down she explains that beastfolk slavery came from a certain God’s view of them being an inferior race, which then was institutionalized within the country, creating a backbone of industry and labor that Gardir finds itself now unable to separate itself from.

It’s really really great work because it denounces the shallow effort of slavery in other novels while also mocking their attempts at “fixing” it. While some readers might think the current hero’s methods are “better”, Tylera provides a resounding voice of reason that ultimately places the weight on Setsuna regardless. Institutionalized bigotry backed by a religious nation isn’t something you can “fix” by buying a few children and sending them on their way. Similarly, you’re not “solving” racism or slavery by taking on a single beastfolk as an apprentice- and that’s just the difference. Setsuna isn’t trying to solve that problem currently, all he was trying to do was save Alto.

So all in all, I think for anyone that’s a fan of medieval fantasy, and wants actual substance and purpose in their characters and story, The Ephemeral Scenes of Setsuna’s Journey volume 3 continues to prove that there’s scarcely any better series than it.

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