I literally said I was never covering light novels again, yet here I am talking about Keishi Ayasato’s Torture Princess: Fremd Torturchen again. Because I can never be consistent, I had the thought of “Well, in the rare chance I manage to finish a light novel series, I can do a full series review of it as if it were a manga, right?” And so here we are. If this becomes a thing, it will be the only time I discuss light novels in any capacity (and if it did, it would be pretty rare because I haven’t had good experiences with most light novels, and all of them are massive money sinks).
In Torture Princess, a young lad named Kaito Sena gets isekai’d, not through death by truck, but death by abusive relative. The world he ends up in is a hot mess to say the least. Oh, and here’s the kicker: he’s the servant of Elisabeth La Fanu, the Torture Princess who has been tasked with slaying a bunch of demons, afterwhich she is to be publicly executed.
What immediately jumps out is how edgy Torture Princess is. No, “edgy” doesn’t even describe it. The world in this series is what H.P. Lovecraft would come up with if he was born and raised inside of a Hot Topic. It’s gothic and broken, full of innocent people being killed indiscriminately in over-the-top ways.
Yes, “over-the-top.” That’s a term that comes up in criticisms of anything that has an excess amount of gore. Seriously, Torture Princess has gore in perhaps the most excess of anything I have ever experienced in my life (it’s at least up there with Chainsaw Man). But you know what, Ayasato commits to it. The prose is both poetic and misanthropic, and always finds creative ways to convey its despair and hatred for humanity. The ways that people are brutally destroyed are varied, creative, and wildly effed up. In fact, I might lose this blog if I listed an example.
However, the plot is perhaps Torture Princess‘s weakest aspect. It starts off straightforward enough, but in typical Japanese fantasy fashion, it goes down a road of conspiracy theories revolving around the in-universe religion that isn’t even subtle about it mirroring Western religions. You can even say that the novels have battle shounen-like escalation. To be perfectly honest, most of the story is pretty tropeish, and since I haven’t reread them since first starting the series, I can admit that I forgot most of the story itself.
However, there are still two things that make Torture Princess really good, one of which is its truly star-studded cast. Kaito is a legitimately complex isekai protagonist, full of insecurities and conflicting emotions. He’s edgy, sure, but having an abusive father who murders him is a pretty good justification this time around. When he confides in his waifus, it actually feels emotional this time, as opposed to fan-service.
Speaking of waifus, Elisabeth is a badass, who can bring on both verbal and physical assault with elegance that would make that old dude in Spy X Family kneel before her. She has tons of baggage, courtesy of society, which makes her an ideal waifu.
Of course, the best girl is the automaton, Hina. She’s perhaps the best yandere of all time, with her manufactured love for Kaito feeling more real than most actual human girls. She’s powerful and priceless in every way. Other waifus include a warrior named Izabella Vicker (whose story I won’t get into because of spoilers), and the rootin’-tootin’ Jeanne de Rais.
From the peanut gallery is Elisabeth’s nonchalant, nihilistic father, Vlad. He is killed off early on, but his spirit sticks around for the bulk of the series. He’s an ass, but I still love him. Same goes for the demon known as the Kaiser. He just chills while watching the world burn.
The other thing that makes Torture Princess so enjoyable is that it’s actually well-written for a light novel. Like I said before, the prose is poetic. Everything is described in gruesome detail, especially the violence. There are some clever instances of redundant phrases and passages that actually help make the story have more impact. I can’t say why, though; you’ll have to experience it for yourself to see.
Of course, it’s not a review of any media franchise without saying it gets iffy toward the end! The first six volumes of Torture Princess are, for all intents and purposes, a perfect, complete story. However, the final third is a second act that is… weaker in some areas. The action and insanity are still high, but there’s a lot more dialogue, and the story isn’t that much better. I get that the second act is there as an allegory to how humans will keep wanting to destroy themselves for no reason, but it still puts a few knicks in the series’ armor.
Final Verdict: 9.85/10
Torture Princess: Fremd Torturchen is one of the best light novel series I have ever experienced. It’s a dark take on isekai tropes I feel like actually works, and it has some of the best characters in the market. It’s also cartoonishly gorey enough for me to not be able to attribute it to the real world, allowing for some semblance of escapism. I recommend it if you’re sick of those typical harems.