Agents of the Four Seasons Volume 1 Review

Many of you reading this may already be unknowingly familiar with author Kana Akatsuki. They’re the writer behind Violet Evergarden and although we’ve never had the original light novels released in English, many of us have enjoyed the anime. Now Akatsuki is finally making their light novel debut in the West with their latest series: Agents of the Four Seasons. Does it prove another captivating story? Let’s find out!

The story is set in an alternate version of Japan where the seasons are controlled by “Agents” who walk a thin line between being human or gods. Each is handled by a specific agency and lives in a town dedicated to their season, tended to by an attendant who is tasked with keeping the Agents’ mental state stable.

While we meet all four agents across the course of the book, the one we spend the most time with is the Agent of Spring, Hinagiku, and her attendant Sakura. For ten years now Japan has gone without seeing a single season of Spring. This is because Hinagiku was kidnapped at only six years old while visiting the Agent of Winter, Rosei. Usually, when an Agent gets too old or dies, their power is passed on to someone else. But Hinagiku wasn’t killed and despite Sakura’s protests, both the Spring and Winter agencies gave up on looking for her until she suddenly returned one day.

Now Hinagiku has set out to change Winter to Spring for the first time in a decade, but there’s understandably a lot of emotional baggage here. We don’t directly see what she went through while she was missing, but it’s heavily implied that Hinagiku went through some horrible torture and that has left her mental state in tatters. Despite now being a teenager, her mind is still that of a young child and she can’t communicate without stuttering. And the insurgents behind Hinagiku’s kidnapping are still out there, looking to murder the Agent of Winter and/or bring an end to the seasons being systematically managed the way they are currently.

With the Agents always at risk of being attacked, their attendants are understandably under a lot of pressure. However, for Sakura, there’s also a great deal of guilt for having not been able to protect Hinagiku when she was kidnapped and not being able to convince the Spring agency to continue searching for her. Although Sakura worked hard with Winter to continue the search until they too gave up, ultimately ten years went by without her having been able to accomplish a thing. And now her master has been through god knows what and Sakura is scared of reliving the past and has developed post-traumatic stress disorder. She’s also still furious with the Winter Agent Rosei and his attendant Itecho.

When Hinagiku was kidnapped it was during an assassination attempt on Rosei and she effectively traded her life for his. Rosei has survivor guilt and although he knows Hinagiku has finally safely returned, he can’t bring himself to reach out. His attendant Itecho, who was already sixteen at the time of the incident is also weighed down by the guilt of not being able to protect them both, despite being older than the others. He’s now overly protective of Rosei and fears the wrath of Sakura when they do eventually reunite.

Agents of the Four Seasons Volume 1 is the first of two parts. The series is ongoing with seven volumes in Japan, but it appears each ‘arc’ is structured as a two-parter and Akatsuki clearly knew they were being given two books from the off as nothing is tied up in this release despite over 300 pages of content. For any other book, I’d probably criticise this, but with the number of characters and how much there is to explore here, I think Akatsuki is justified in both making it two parts and having such a hefty page count. It means there’s plenty of room to breathe and nothing feels rushed, which could have been a real issue otherwise.

This is a very skillfully written novel showing Akatsuki’s experience writing about characters with mental health problems. If you’ve watched Violet Evergarden you will recognise similar themes of loss, grief and those left behind when something life-changing happens. The book is written from a third-person perspective, which I think works betterm since if we had the characters’ inner thoughts all the time it might prove overwhelming. I also appreciate that someone (perhaps an editor at Dengeki Bunko?) took a leaf out of manga and used black pages with white text for flashbacks to the past. It creates a very chilling atmosphere as you relive some of the cast’s feelings from the time of the incident here, in grief-stricken dialogue. I’ve never seen this done before in a light novel but it’s a fascinating idea, so hats off to whoever came up with that.

Depending on how well you can deal with reading about trauma and mental health issues, this work might prove too much for you. There are some moments of happiness, but it’s certainly a heartwrenching read. However, this is also a book that I couldn’t put down and that I immediately came away from desperate to read more. I love the characters and find myself intrigued by the fantasy element. I wish for their happiness and want to follow their journey toward it. There’s just so much to say, so many things I haven’t even touched on yet and that I look forward to exploring as the series goes on. Seriously, don’t let this one pass you by if you think you can stomach the content.

Agents of the Four Seasons Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to Yen Press and has been translated by Sergio Avila. The translation reads well with no issues to note. The release comes complete with colour pages from illustrator Suoh, who has done a tremendous job. I am rather fond of quite a few of the interior artworks too, which include a two-page spread. It certainly feels like they pulled out all the stops for this one!

Volume 2 is already available with #3 following in July. As previously mentioned, the series is still ongoing in Japan with seven volumes, so still quite a few of these to head West. No sign of an anime yet (I’d be shocked if there wasn’t one before long), but there are two manga adaptations that are currently unlicensed.

Overall, it’s very difficult to sum up Agents of the Four Seasons because it’s so many things. It’s such a powerful novel that is a must-read if you enjoyed Kana Akatsuki’s other work and it’s something genuinely different to anything else out there currently. I adore it already and I hope you will too. This one is not to be missed!

Our review copy from Yen Press was supplied by Diamond Book Distributors.

9 / 10


When she's not watching anime, reading manga or reviewing, Demelza can generally be found exploring some kind of fantasy world and chasing her dreams of being a hero.

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