I’m going to try to be diplomatic, but there’s no real…diplomacy you can give to the massive problem that is this book and this series.
A couple of things out of the way first:
STOP TRYING TO FORCE A ROMANCE IN ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM WITH THE KID. It doesn’t matter how ‘mature’ they are, they’re not an adult. They’re a kid. Especially in how absolutely trauma-filled this whole series is, that last thing I even want to begin to entertain is even the slightest glimmer that the MC feels romantically or sexually attracted to them, or their eventual adult iteration. I wouldn’t have a problem with this being a quickly discarded question, but it spends so much time on it in multiple books and it is deeply disturbing.
Along a similar line of thinking but with very different contexts STOP TRYING TO MAKE THE MC SYMPATHIZE WITH AND FEEL ANY ATTRACTION TO THEIR MURDEROUS AND EXTREMELY ABUSIVE EX if we don’t show any inclination toward that. They had a history. Neat. It’s a highly problematic history. Neat. That should not translate into a present and a future where the MC is forced to think of them in a romantic or positive sexual way simply because they happen to share that connection. If we want to, to have that “”“”“flavor”“”“” fine, let it be there, but it being forced, regardless of player choice, and regardless of how the character might have actually thought about the person based on player choice, is almost as problematic as the above. I shouldn’t have unprompted and long-winded reflections about “what if junko and I are more alike than I thought?” We’re not. I made that choice from book 1 to now repeatedly. I’m not a murdering, abusive psychopath.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against discussing trauma, physical abuse, SA, or anything else brought up in this book, as long as it’s done in a way that fits and furthers the story and makes sense to what is happening. The level and handling of trauma that is being dished out across this whole series, and especially in this book, is on the level of a dark power fantasy, except there’s no power. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean it’s becomes simply dark fantasy, but actually bad fantasy.
Trauma and suffering happen regardless of choices or logic. People die not because it’s logical for them to die, but because it’s demanded that they make irrational choices in an extremely twisted sense of “dying for a cause.” The number of people who give up their lives against all reason, because of the kid or the mc, is beyond ludicrous. There isn’t a single moment when characters make an accounting of available options, and come to the conclusion that it’s either suicidal bravery or self-sacrifice that is necessary. They just make that decision, unprompted and unchanging, because the plot demands that the MC takes another L. You made all the right choices? Here’s your L. You made all the wrong choices? Here’s the exact same L.
Random aside, but why are more than half the choices memory tests? It’s a choose your own adventure book, not a “can you remember the previous plot” book. Remembering the previous plot is a given either because of the recap, or the prior books. Hero’s Rise had a similar issue, but there most of the pointless choices were if you wanted to search the left side of the room first, instead of the right, or what kind of attack you were going to use that was going to succeed regardless. Memory test, that the MC themselves goes “wait no, it’s actually this” if you get it wrong, is even worse than that. It feels more like a school quiz, and the grade you get is a big fat F anyway because the game requires that the MC take another L.
Here’s my recommendation for book 6, because against all my better judgment, I will play through it because 5 had a genuinely interesting cliffhanger and twist, and you are a genuinely good writer, at least when you trust the reader and don’t make everything verbose. Make the book the last book, for the love of god. Everything is in play, and it doesn’t need to take that long. Kill the cliffhanger demon, fix the body swap, drop the kid romance…thing, let Jun/ko actually be dead and gone finally, get back to the emperor, get the forces together into a last battle, defeat the last demon, something something epic battle of the lions, wedding, mourning, the end. The MC did all the suffering they ever will need. It didn’t make them stronger or more interesting in the least. It just made it a slog to read and straight up frustrating. It didn’t feel like an exploration of a real world, but just torture-porn.