A dark, psychological mystery series of Light Novels written by Eiji Mikage.
Kazuki Hoshino is just an Ordinary High-School Student who gets a strange sense of deja vu when the new student Aya Otanoshi transfers in. Matters are only made more confusing when she claims that this is her 13,118 th transfer and that she is here to break him. After realizing he is in a time loop, he is forced to work together with her to escape. And at the heart of the plot lies a mysterious entity called O and the boxes capable of granting any wish.
Utsuro no Hako to Zero no Maria ("The Empty Box and the Zeroth Maria" in English) is licensed by Yen Press, with the final volume due to be released on 29 October 2019.
By the series's nature, a vast number of the tropes listed on this and associated pages will be spoilers. It is highly recommended that you do not view these before reading the corresponding novels.
Tropes present across the series as a whole:
- Be Careful What You Wish For: An overarching theme.
- Chronic Hero Syndrome: Maria. She won't leave anyone who needs help alone. Ever. Combined with her pacifist tendencies, this turns out to be a troublesome character trait.
- Dub-Induced Plot Hole: For a long time, the name "O" (the letter) was mistranslated as "0" (the number, which is referred to in the title). The ending of Volume 5 made the error in this abundantly clear.
- "Groundhog Day" Loop: Happens to the characters in the first volume where Aya, Mogi and O and later Kazuki are the ones to keep their memories. Also happens in volumes 3 and 4 where the genuine players of the game keep the memories of previous iterations. And then in volume 7 O traps Kazuki in another loop, this one for at least half a million iterations. Over time Kazuki regains his memory of where he is, tries to escape, fails, goes completely insane, gives up and sinks back into amnesia for a few thousand more iterations before starting the cycle all over again with no recollection of it having happened before, thus creating a Groundhog Day Loop "within" a Groundhog Day Loop. And then he starts to realize he's trapped in a cycle ...
- I Just Want to Be Normal: What Maria truly wants, although she wavers over this due to it violating her wish. Kazuki also has this motivation at first.
- Literal Genie: The boxes grant the users' wishes, but also grant any doubts the user may have had along with their wish.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: The effect of using the Flawed Bliss is forgetting about everything related to everyone who the person it was used on knows.
- Man Behind the Man: O in volume 1 and Kamiuchi in volumes 3 and 4.
- Manipulative Bastard: Many characters.
- Meaningful Rename: Played with a lot. Maria renames herself Aya, her dead older sister's name, setting up a mask she wishes to become the truth within the unlimited time she has inside the Rejecting Classroom. However, she inadvertently tells people her real name and uses it as a test to find out if others remember the fact they're in a loop. Kazuki remembers it and starts calling her Maria, which prompts her to return to her real name, as evidenced when she introduces herself as Maria in the end of the volume. Flashforward to volume 5 and she's ignoring Kazuki's Be Yourself speeches, once again only wishing to be referred to as Aya. Cue the epilogue of volume 6 when she uses the Flawed Bliss and she recognizes herself as Maria in her thoughts. No wonder this is a major plot point.
- Mind Screw
- My Sibling Will Live Through Me: Maria. She's built her personality based on her dead sister's Aya, whose name she starts using, and took on her ideals. Those are the reason she seeks to become a perfect box... misguidedly. Whenever she finds that out, she'll forget it right away."Your 'wish', Maria, is to strive for your ideal. But once your 'Flawed Bliss' became flawless, wouldn't you realize that there is no Aya Otonashi within you?"
- Red Herring: The initial assumptions set up for many characters or plot points are wrong or misleading.
- Sympathetic Murderer: Ryuu Miyazaki to a certain extent. Mogi also counts though none of her murders stick. Also pretty much everyone in volume 4 although those aren't real murders either.
- Yandere: Kazuki Hoshino. After killing Kamiuchi inside Kingdom Royale, he starts displaying psychotic behavior in the next volumes, going as far as "killing" Shindou Iroha just to save a Maria who was supposedly kidnapped on Daiya's orders.
Tropes specific to Volume 1:
- Anachronic Order: The time loops allow for the reader to discover pertinent information from any loops at the time when it becomes most relevant to the plot.
- Foreshadowing: Not the only example but perhaps the most noticeable is Haruaki's "Why not just kill him?" suggestion, shown to be repeated in several iterations and implied to have been repeated in all or close to all. Its repetition can be attributed to how the characters remain static throughout the "Groundhog Day" Loop, so when asked the same question, Haruaki would naturally respond with the same joke. Of course that's not the case and it all becomes clear when Haruaki is revealed to be 'O' under disguise.
- "Groundhog Day" Loop: The Rejecting Classroom.
- It's for a Book: Kazuki frames the idea of the time loops as this when asking Daiya for advice.
- Red Herring: Kokone's mention of mascara at the beginning is this.
Tropes specific to Volume 2:
- Abusive Parents: The real Yuuhei Ishihara
- Grand Theft Me: The volume's plot consists of attempting to discover who is doing this to Kazuki.
- Missing Time: to Kazuki, due to a temporary case of Grand Theft Me.
- Not What It Looks Like: Maria explains to Kazuki's mother that Kazuki had spent the night at her house but she hadn't been too rough on him. Coupled with the visible handcuff marks on Kazuki's hand...
- Self-Made Orphan: Riko Asami and Ryuu Miyazaki
- Sympathetic Murderer: Ryuu Miyazaki to a certain extent.
Tropes specific to Volumes 3 and 4:
- Actual Pacifist: The reason Maria is the weakest player in Kindgdom Royale.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Yuuri. Appearing completely vulnerable, scared, unable to act and ready to trust the others, she turns out to be a calculating Master Actress who's been plotting her plan for survival from minute one.
- Deadly Game
- Divided We Fall: Discussed by Kazuki, who tries to avert it in other to put an end to the game. It doesn't work in full but the final result is favorable enough.
- Fingore: In one of the rounds, Iroha cuts off her own finger as an act meant to inspire awe and respect, to prove herself to be worthy of becoming the "king" of Kingdom Royale. It works.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Iroha and Yuuri after the events of the Game of Idleness. Between the feeling of being betrayed by one another and the feelings of guilt at having crossed the Moral Event Horizon, they're complete wrecks.
- Involuntary Battle to the Death: The participants are dragged into the Game of Idleness unknowingly and if a winner isn't decided after eight days, everyone dies.
- Killer Game Master: Kamiuchi.
- Martyr Without a Cause: Maria considers suicide in the case this would benefit Kazuki's survival and offers herself to die in Yuuri's place when threatened by Kamiuchi, which later turns into offering herself to be raped in Yuuri's place. To top this off, her death wouldn't even help the situation, as Kamiuchi would keep doing whatever he wanted regardless and she knows it. She just can't stand seeing others suffering due to her Chronic Hero Syndrome.
- Never My Fault: Whoever has killed is expected to make this claim succeed.
- Sympathetic Murderer: Virtually everyone, given the nature of the Game of Idleness.
- Thou Shall Not Kill: Maria. She really won't.
- Title Drop: "Zeroth Maria" shows up for the first time in the text of volume 4."She's crying. All alone. I will go meet her, then. I will go meet the zeroth Maria."
Tropes specific to Volumes 5 and 6:
- Anti-Hero: Daiya. Life wasn't kind to him in the past, but he's past the point of feeling sorry for himself and instead set on changing the world into a better place, using whatever means necessary.
- Batman Gambit: Daiya and Iroha's plan to show Maria that Kazuki has moved away from her ideals is this.
- The Chosen One
- Knight Templar: Daiya and Iroha blur the line between this and Well-Intentioned Extremist.
- Locked Out of the Loop: Maria after the Game of Idleness. Since she never got to take the player seat in the Game of Idleness, she didn't experience the previous rounds through her NPC and has no recollection at all of what happened.
- Title Drop: "Empty box" shows up for the first time in the text of volume 5."With that knowledge alone, I can obtain the knight's power to crush 'boxes'.I can obtain the tool that grants my wishThe Empty Box."
- Utopia Justifies the Means: Daiya's motivation and justification for his actions throughout the volume.
Tropes specific to Volume 7:
- And I Must Scream: After he kills everyone on Earth, Kazuki sits in Maria's apartment for at least a thousand years doing nothing but banging the walls in the hope that somebody will come for him.
- Ax-Crazy: After O traps Kazuki in a "Groundhog Day" Loop that lasts at least twenty times as long as the Rejecting Classroom, Kazuki finally snaps and starts killing everyone. At one point he runs through the city with a chainsaw.