[Review] Dies irae: Song to the Witch

Dies irae: Song to the Witch is the second light novel spinoff to Dies irae (the first one being Wolfsrudel, which I have yet to read) and was written by Fujii Sanda, with insert illustrations by Minatogawa Kazuomi, the artist for the Dies irae manga adaptation. As clearly implied by G Yuusuke’s beautiful cover art, the novel features Rusalka and Beatrice as its two main heroines, and chronicles their exploits in the United States of 1962, where they face off against a mysterious new foe: the powerful witch known as Marilyn Monroe.

Now, if that initial premise didn’t instantly catch your attention, then nothing will, lol.

Anyway, let’s just cut to the chase, because you’re probably wondering if the book was good. Well, it was! More so than I initially expected, to be perfectly honest. In fact, it was quite the page-turner most of the time – I found it pretty engaging from start to finish and read through the entire thing in a fairly speedy fashion. The story sets up an intriguing mystery (a series of bizarre incidents seemingly carried out in a way to resemble the characteristic powers of the various LDO members), and works off that to introduce a new villain in the context of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and Marilyn Monroe’s death in the same year (although the prologue takes place at Omaha Beach in 1944, but there’s a reason for that). Injecting Dies’ lore into a specific historical context was actually one of the things I enjoyed about novel – it showed the LDO’s influence in various major historical events, and demonstrated how the terrible threat their very existence poses came to shape the entire world. Either way, Song to the Witch was a competently written, well thought out book, I feel. The characters and their personalities also came across nicely; I had no problem recognizing them and could pretty much hear their respective VAs in my mind as I read their lines.

I don’t really want to go into too many specifics in terms of the storyline so as not to spoil things, but it is no secret that the novel’s primary antagonist is indeed Marilyn Monroe, and honestly, she turned out to be a pretty interesting villain, all things considered. One of the key mysteries throughout a good chunk of the novel revolve around her identity and unique powers, and, well… things get pretty grotesque / disturbing towards the end, lol. We definitely reach a point where she starts posing a threat to the LDO and potentially the world as well, let’s just leave it at that. It’s a bit of a bummer that the other antagonist wasn’t fleshed out as much (the main focus is mostly Monroe vs Rusalka), but with this being a fairly short light novel of only 190-something pages, I suppose that was to be expected. Thankfully, said pages aren’t wasted on long fight scenes – while the novel does feature some combat and even a “final boss battle” sort of encounter, none of them are particularly drawn out. Despite being a fairly short work, it’s pretty easy to see the amount of care that went into the book: it told an interesting spinoff story that felt like a part of the Dies world, and neatly wrapped it up by the end, all the while keeping its focus on what I love the most about the original VN: the characters. Hell, there’s even a bit of humor thrown in there: Spinne, as usual, is the butt end of jokes and this novel fully embraces that, lol. You’ll know which scene I’m talking about when you get there.

Beatrice gets a few nice scenes as well (THRUD WALKURE INTENSIFIES), and I particularly liked her final showdown and how that reflected on her character, although most of the novel is still largely about Rusalka. Nonetheless, we get a glimpse into the bittersweet nature of Beatrice’s new-found powers, and the inner struggle that stems from her humanity and noble desire to save Eleonore clashing with her overwhelmingly monstrous supernatural prowess.

The insert art deserves a mention as well: it’s like 90% Rusalka and 10% Beatrice, which saddens the Bea fan in me, but the good news is that the pictures are all very pretty. I’ve said previously how I wasn’t a big fan of Minatogawa’s art style based on what I’ve seen from the manga, but he did some good stuff for this novel. Let’s just say Rusalka fans will be very pleased.

Honestly, the overarching plot and Monroe’s backstory were interesting enough that they could’ve been expanded upon and turned into a proper VN to create an IkaBey-esque experience, though I would be equally happy to maybe see this animated as an OVA or something. Either way, this was precisely the kind of spinoff I wanted from Dies irae. Remember how the members of the LDO (well, aside from Albedo/Nigredo/Rubedo, obviously) were mostly just doing their own thing between the end of WW2 and 2006 while waiting for the Day of Wrath, which leaves us with several decades available to be mined for various extra adventures, and Song to the Witch stands as a fine example of what can be done with that untapped time period. If you’re looking for a short but entertaining gaiden story in the Dies irae world and have already finished IkaBey, this should probably be the next thing on your to-read list.

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