Isekai is an iffy genre. The bad ones are littered with overpowered protagonists, inconsistent world logic, and all-around insufferably boring casts of characters. But they don’t HAVE to be this way. One light novel, Konosuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World!, is one of those really, really good isekai light novels. This is a review of volumes 1-9 of the series, published in English by Yen Press.
Konosuba has so many ridiculous ideas that it’s a miracle they all somehow work. The story starts when the main character, Kazuma, is killed in the real world (like ya do) and is given a chance to live a fantasy life in another world. He jumps at the chance, but immediately regrets it when he forms the most incompetent harem ever.
This light novel revolves primarily around character interactions, to the point where it’s almost a slice-of-life. So if you want an epic adventure, you won’t get that here. The world is also not the most well-built. The areas that are visited are memorable by themselves, but there isn’t any fascinating lore as opposed to something like DanMachi (which will be covered soon enough on this blog). Fortunately, the characters themselves are phenomenal.
Kazuma, our boy, is not an ideal, righteous, yet socially awkward and wholly unremarkable turd. He is an ACTUAL turd; a selfish thief who has sub-par stats with the exception of his high Luck. He prefers leisure over labor, but thanks to his allies, that won’t quite happen.
Aqua, the goddess who accompanies Kazuma, is an egotistical and whiny brat, and I love her. For some reason, the author’s writing is so good at making these annoying-ass characters so lovable. But she’s only the tip of the iceberg.
My favorite girl, Megumin, has grown pretty notorious due to her meme-ability. Since you’ve probably already been spoiled of it, I’ll tell you that she has insane magic power. However, she only knows the spell Explosion, and although powerful, sucks her dry, forcing her to rest for 24 hours. The real problem is that she is obsessed with using it in the worst situations possible!
Darkness is the tank of the group. The catch is that she’s a hardcore masochist, and as such chooses to go out and not wear armor because she wants to get hit by enemies over and over again. There is also another side to her, but that’s spoilers…
In fact, there are still a lot more lovable characters, such as Chris, Eris, Vanir, and Wiz, but they’re more minor characters that I’ll let you react to for yourself. In any case, the four main characters form one of the best groups in light novels by far, and this is a case where nothing can happen and yet feel like more is happening than most plot-focused narratives.
The art has a charming look to it. The characters are very appealing and expressive and that’s enough to get customers to see what the books are about.
Konosuba is a brilliant light novel that I would recommend to anyone, even one who hates isekai. The funny characters and their interactions make it an amazing pick-me-up if you’re ever feeling gloomy.
No Game No Life
Overpowered protagonists, check. Fanservice, check. Blatant pandering, check. Incest?! Lannister-shaped check! That basically sums up everything wrong with modern isekai. YET WHY IS NO GAME NO LIFE SO GOOOOOOOOOD?! This is perhaps my favorite light novel of all time, and yet it’s so… wrong! I’ve read all eight English volumes published by Yen Press at the time of this review.
No Game No Life stars two sibling protagonists, Sora and Shiro. These two have given up on the world and only play online games. Together, they are unstoppable, to the point where a GOD invites them into his world of games.
The thing that immediately sets this series apart from its contemporaries is the world it’s set in. It is a world where the aforementioned god, Tet, created laws to where everything is governed by games. This goes right down to the laws of physics and people’s willpower. If you want a girlfriend, beat her at chess, and she will be FORCED to fall in love with you if you win, as long as she agrees to the terms of the game.
Sora and Shiro’s goal is to use games to start at the bottom and conquer all of the races in the world, a lot of which are mind-bogglingly powerful, in order to win the right to challenge Tet on his own home turf. Since this is an isekai, Sora and Shiro are insanely brilliant and smart. Almost stupidly so.
Nah, impossibly so. The first, simple matches that they have are pretty tame. But as the games get more and more cinematic and literally reality-bending, your disbelief is suspended from the school flagpole like that poor kid who got wedgied. No matter what circumstances they’re in, Sora’s got a plan. In fact, everything that happens in a given match- EVERYTHING- is all according to keikaku for Sora, no matter what. This is something that isn’t a problem for me, as I love over-the-top theatrics if done right, but it might be a turn-off for some people.
Speaking of turn-offs, how about that sexualization of an eleven-year-old girl?! No Game No Life could be called No Shame No Life. And Shiro’s the tip of the iceberg. Every volume contains tons of bathing, bras, and panties. Thankfully, this being a book enables you to censor a lot of this content in your imagination if need be. But what CANNOT be censored is Shiro’s incestuous love for her brother Sora. It’s just something you’ll have to put up with. It’s not integral to the plot, and it more so comes off as a young sibling not understanding her own feelings toward her loving brother than anything else.
The characters are one of the best parts of No Game No Life. We discussed the cruel and calculating Sora and Shiro before, but there are so many other great people. Best Punching Bag Steph is normally a really strong character, but reduced to a lowly servant at the hands of the siblings. She tends to be the “straight man” who flamboyantly reacts to all the stupid things they do. Jibril is a gorgeously lewd guardian angel who always puts a smile on my face whenever she’s on scene. Actual Best Girl Izuna is awesome. She’s, like, eight years old, but hilariously speaks using a lot of curse words while also ending sentences with the word “please” at the same time. I love her! Mentioning anyone else leads straight into light-novel-only spoilers, so I’ll stop here.
The art of No Game No Life is surreal and eye-catching, and it’s drawn by the author himself! It’s very colorful (well, at least the ones that actually ARE colored), to the point where it could give you a migraine. And of course, a lot the illustrations are very lewd. You have been warned.
When it comes to flaws, No Game No Life‘s theatrical prose almost shoots itself in the foot. As previously mentioned, the games that these kids play get INSANE. Almost too insane. And I’m not saying that as far as suspension of disbelief, but as far as actual visual comprehension goes. From volume 6 and onward, there is so much grandiose space-time rending and multi-dimension-ing stuff occurring that it can’t be described well in human language. You will really have to pull through with your imagination to be able to paint a clear picture of stuff, or just not paint the picture at all.
If you can get past its lewdness, No Game No Life is easily one of the best light novels, if not THE best. Since the anime so notoriously lacks a second season, there really is no better version to experience than the original light novel!