Remember how Makimoto wasn’t actually given her own route in the main VN despite the fact you could almost see the words “potential heroine candidate” painted on her forehead? Well, these two light novels fix that, and do so in a… decent enough way. Which is what Jingai has always been, I suppose: decent enough.
Okay, so quick recap: Makimoto Misae was the girl in Katsuki’s class who occasionally showed up in the early parts of the storyline, and (aside from a handful of exceptions) pretty much vanished after the first few chapters. The game occasionally made it seem like there was more to her than met the eye, but nothing of substance really came of it. She didn’t have a route and her role in the VN was minimal at best.
And that’s where these novels come in, because they’re essentially the Makimoto route: they aren’t a sequel or a prequel to the VN, but rather a complete retelling of the story from Day 1 with Makimoto as the central love interest. So basically it functions like the other three routes in the game, albeit it is notably less fleshed out considering it had to condense stuff into two short novels of 200-ish pages each. It’s also worth noting that Fantastica of Nine is the first novel while Riders of Darkness is the second, but honesty, it’s best to just view them as one singular book/story broken up into two volumes because Riders continues exactly where Fantasica ends, with the latter flowing effortlessly into the former. I’m honestly not even sure why they felt the need to break the story up into two novels because all it does is confuse people.
So the good news is that these novels were written by Kaihou Norimitsu, the author of the VN, which means that the characters are all spot-on and no one acts OOC. Katsuki’s usual antics translate very well into the novels and there are indeed quite a few chuckle-worthy moments involving him, Megumi, Mineyuki and the rest, so if you enjoyed those in the VN, you’ll enjoy them here as well. The basic story structure and the scenes involved are also extremely similar to the VN’s (there’ll be a food scene, an amusement park scene, a fish people scene, etc.), making it even more obvious that this story should’ve been part of the game. Also, and I doubt I need to really say this, but imo it’s best not to read these LNs before the VN. Since the novels are so short and can’t go into details about a lot of things, some prior attachment to the characters is probably needed to get the most out of them.
The meat of the story obviously focuses on Makimoto and ends up answering a few of those vague questions that were left hanging in the air in the VN. First off, we get a look at Makimoto’s backstory and learn how she became what she is (the covers of both novels make it pretty obvious that she’s… special) and yes, we also find out what the deal is with her sister, Fuyuko, who was only offhandedly mentioned in like one throwaway line back in the VN. And, well… Makimoto’s past isn’t exactly all sunshine and rainbows. Far from it, in fact. Let’s just say that if the VN didn’t already make you hate Ugaya (the scientist lady at Stolas) with a fiery passion, these novels will. The romance that inevitably ends up blossoming between Katsuki and Makimoto is also pretty cute and I liked how it got tied into the whole superhero thing. Especially during the final battle. I’ll be honest, that was pretty cool. If this was the VN, that probably would’ve been the scene where they played the OP song. Oh, and a surprising amount of side characters actually show up, even if it’s only briefly. Obviously Ignis and Kaze no Ushiro wo Ayumu Mono make brief appearances, but Mercuriali, his two henchmen and Kanrinin-san (sorry, but referring to her as Momiji just feels weird lmao) also have some minor roles to play. As for the ending, it’s very bittersweet. I was personally fine with it, but it’s a damn shame that this story wasn’t told in the VN because at least then we could’ve been able to pick from two, maybe even three different conclusions. And you’ll probably remember how the various alternate endings were one of my favorite things about Jingai.
Overall, these novels don’t do anything special, but they’re not bad. In other words, they’re the quintessential Jingai Makyou experience, lol. If you’re not particularly interested in Makimoto or simply didn’t feel strongly enough about Jingai to want to read yet another route (especially one without voices/music/etc), then there’s probably little reason for you to check these novels out, as they don’t offer anything radically different compared to the source material. For people who really enjoyed the VN and its characters, though, they’re a decent enough read.