Log Horizon Volume 2 Review

Last time on Log Horizon, Shiroe checked out the new expansion pack of the long-lasting MMO, Elder Tales, and woke up- along with a slew of other people- physically trapped inside the game world. He meets up with his Naotsugu to see what’s up, and we get a long exposition dump on how the game works. After some extensive information gathering, Shiroe and Naotsugu test their mettle in an easy dungeon. Because of the new circumstances, battles are going to be much more high-maintenance than before. Later, they meet up with Shiroe’s friend, Akatsuki, who drinks a potion to revert back into a girl. Even more later, while practice-fighting, they end up in a real fight with PKers. Fortunately, thanks to their teamwork and experience, the jerks go down easily. Afterwards, they end up on a big guild expedition to the city of Susukino, to save a friend of a friend. When they arrive, they manage to rescue her no problem, thanks to some teamwork and an old cat guy.

This volume introduces a number of new aspects to Log Horizon‘s cast and setting. In the case of the setting, they go into a whole schpiel about the NPCs, called the People of the Earth in-game. They’re pretty much your normal isekai villagers, but I wanted to bring this point up as a comparison to Infinite Dendrogram

So far, the NPCs in Log Horizon- despite being called perfectly human- don’t come off as such compared to Dendro‘s, even though they are the same conceptually. This is likely because the narrator of Log Horizon just tells you they are, instead of Dendro, which is setup so that both the reader and Ray are meant to be bamboozled by Liliana’s appearance, mistaking an NPC for a fellow player, and selling the point organically. But hey, Log Horizon also brings up Ancients, who are NPCs that have a bit more chutzpah to them. Hopefully the author will introduce an interesting character from that pool of ideas.

The volume also introduces the issue of the guilds. Due to the difference in strength that various players have, higher-level players are beginning to monopolize the market. For example, a powerful guild called Hamelin employs two of Shiroe’s friends, twin siblings named Minori and Touya. They, along with many other newbs, are being worked to the bone at guilds like Hamelin, and since they’re newbs, they can’t do anything about it.

Unfortunately, these twins aren’t too interesting. They have pretty typical “baggage-type-character” personalities. The annoying thing is that they had an opportunity to go to Shiroe early on, but they refused because of pride or some BS. But when Shiroe reaches out to them anyway, they are astonished at what a good guy he is, painting him as more like Kirito than what I would prefer.

But hey, at least Log Horizon is really starting to get into the nitty gritty of the actual consequences of being trapped in a game world. In SAO, it was clearly a power fantasy, with no extra thought put into how various people would behave from a psychological standpoint. But Log Horizon is definitely the most mature of the MMO-based light novels that I’ve seen.

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Verdict: 7.5/10

Log Horizon is starting to shape up. But with the uninspired cast of characters and heavy exposition, it still has too many similarities to SAO for me to understand why it’s so critically acclaimed. The next volume seems to be the start of a two-parter, so maybe that’s when it’ll take the kid gloves off.

Log Horizon Volume 1 Review

In my first ever post, I called Infinite Dendrogram the best MMO-based light novel series. I knew I was making a wild claim, for I was aware that Log Horizon is generally recognized as such. Now that Yen Press has released it digitally, I can see for myself if it really is the best SAO wannabe.

Log Horizon is what you’d expect: a bunch of gamers log into the MMORPG Elder Tales to unlock its latest expansion pack. What happens instead is that they all get trapped in a fantasy world that just so happens to look and operate just like the game. Hooray!

So far, Log Horizon literally is the “smarter SAO”. Immediately, there is so much more thought put into the world of Elder Tales and its mechanics than most of its ilk. While it does result in this volume being mostly exposition dump, there are a couple of notable things that makes this world different from the others of its ilk. First of all, Elder Tales isn’t set in a stock fantasy world, but a post-apocalyptic Earth (basically, it’s just a better Fallout ‘76). There is also the mechanic of people being able to buy land, which in the isekai version of the game, includes entire dungeons and even towns. This could lead to some interesting scenarios later.

There is also the fact that fear comes into play as well. At the start of SAO, Kirito basically has no problem mowing down enemies, even though he’s effectively trapped in a death chamber where one small misstep renders his life forfeit. Heck, characters don’t even die when they die in-game, and yet we see our level 90 main protagonists wetting themselves in front of weak mooks.

Sadly, the battle system is pretty rudimentary. If you’ve played any JRPG, you know how things work in terms of Elder Tales’ combat system. But unlike SAO, where everyone’s fighting style is more-or-less exactly the same, Log Horizon actually has classes. This means that each character has their own strengths and weaknesses, and they actually have to rely on basic things like teamwork in order to come out on top.

So who are these characters anyway? Our main group is a classic love triangle by the name of Shiroe, Naotsugu, and Akatsuki. To be perfectly frank, the characters are the least exciting aspect of Log Horizon so far, with Shiroe being a generic intelligent and collected guy, Naotsugu being the dumb perv, and Akatsuki being the loli. There’s also Marielle, who is the usual busty woman that hugs other characters and presses said bust against their faces. But you know what, DanMachi didn’t have me hooked on its characters in volume 1, but that definitely changed for me later on. It’s likely to be the same case in Log Horizon.

The art is, sadly, not too exciting. While the cover art has a unique style, the inside illustrations are pretty lackluster by light novel standards. Also, the digital edition can have formatting issues in some cases. For example, the nook version scales down the size of any double-page spreads, and that happens to include the very informative character profiles.

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Verdict: 7.75/10

This volume of Log Horizon isn’t as “Holy crap!” as something like, say, Eighty-Six. But it does what’s most important, and that’s to create potential for it to be something truly great. I will definitely be reading more volumes in the very near future. So far, it looks like Log Horizon is a great read for any modern isekai fan.

Ride Your Wave Movie Review

Recently, I’ve realized that anime feature films are where Japanese animation puts its best foot forward. By a long shot. So, I decided to go against my gut and see Ride Your Wave, a new romance film from the studio Science SARU. Were mistakes made that day?

Can’t answer that question without a brief rundown of the premise first. A cute surfer girl named Hinako Mukaimizu moves from Chiba to a new town. One night, her life almost- literally- goes up in flames when her apartment catches fire. She is saved by a young fireman named Minato Hinageshi. They fall in love immediately and live happily ever after. Nothing goes south whatsoever.

Spoiler alert, it goes south. No, this isn’t even a spoiler, because if you’ve seen ANY romance for teens, or Up, then you likely figured what was going to happen just based on that last paragraph. What happens is that Minato drowns.

But don’t worry, this is magical YA-land! In the aftermath of his death, Hinako starts seeing Minato in bodies of water. You know, like you do.

There are three reasons why I wasn’t even remotely invested emotionally in Ride Your Wave. First, I never fell in love with a real life human ever, so I can’t relate. Second, as someone who’s been a teenager, I KNOW that love at first sight is the most BS thing ever; merely just some hormones going off in response to primal urges and other stimuli. Third, and most importantly, it is incredibly cut and dry (despite being water-themed). I even spent more than half of the movie thinking about the movie previews that they showed, and I was still able to follow Ride Your Wave‘s plot without missing a beat.

Ride Your Wave is basically your typical YA novel, except with that touch of anime whimsy. I can’t really say anything else about the story, because there isn’t anything else to say. The characters are all typical teen templates, too. I’m probably going to forget all of their names after completing this post.

The music, though, is the absolute WORST aspect of the movie. While half of it is pretty harmless BGM, the other half is the freaking overused song: “Brand New Story” by GENERATIONS from Exile Tribe. I had seen the band’s name come up occasionally on Apple Music’s Similar Artists tab, but I never got around to trying their music. Because of how it’s used in Ride Your Wave, I was not given a good first impression. While it’s not the worst song by itself, it is a plot relevant song in the movie. This means that you will have to hear it ad naaaaaaaauseuuuuum! Blech.

But hey, the visuals are all worth it, right (*sarcasm*)? I’m sure a lot of people will go gaga over Ride Your Wave‘s bright, Wind Waker-esque art style and fluid animation. I’ll admit that I might’ve silently gawked at a couple of shots. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to serve any purpose to the story’s themes.

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Final Verdict: 6.8/10

Ride Your Wave is nothing special; it’ll likely be forgotten when the next “pulse-pounding, break-your-heart-and-put-it-back-together” thing comes out (especially if it’s directed by Shinkai). I only saw it because the anime movies that I’ve seen have consistently maintained a higher standard than their TV counterparts, and despite all the salt, Ride Your Wave does the same. I can’t exactly recommend it, mainly because it was one-night only. So if the Blu-Ray comes out, borrow it from a friend, since there’s no such thing as a movie rental store in this world. 

The Night is Short, Walk on Girl Book Review

Most of what I read are series of several or more books. I haven’t read too many standalone novels in my life, but most of the ones that I have read sucked hot a**.  And yet… I decided to read another standalone- The Night is Short, Walk on Girl– published in English by Yen Press. Let’s see if I made another big mistake.

The premise is really simple. Almost too simple for its own good. A wholly unremarkable boy sees a beautiful woman at someone’s wedding reception, and naturally, falls in love at first sight (Every Day and Fault in Our Stars PTSD ahoy). So, the guy decides to talk to her. But that ends up being easier said than done.

Yeah, so, Night is Short is basically this dude trying to talk to her, but dumb bullcrap keeps getting in his way, as if it was some kind of sitcom. That’s the entire book. 

As for the presentation of the whole thing… hoo boy. The way this thing is written reminds of Haruki Murakami, at least going off of 1Q84, the sole novel of his that I read. Since a lot of people consider Murakami to be a genius, maybe you’re already interested in Night is Short. However, I found 1Q84 to be incredibly pretentious and pseudo-intellectual; trying to be weird for the sake of being weird. Night is Short is peppered with a lot of similarly superfluous passages and hackneyed philosophical commentary. 

Let’s use the very beginning of the story as an example. Night is Short starts with a whole passage about how punching people with your thumb under your fingers is “friendlier” than wrapping your thumb around the outside. It goes into some metaphor about how the thumb represents love or something. It doesn’t really mean anything, but sounds like it does when taken at face value.

Fortunately, the actual antics themselves are pretty funny. From vengeful bookstore gods to massive cyclones, it’s ridiculous how much crap this guy has to go through just to talk to a single girl. But hey, that’s how it feels in real life, right?

Hopefully you enjoy said antics, cuz the characters are next to non-existent. The main man is as generic as you’d expect, while the girl’s only defining quality is her rendition of The Robot. There are others who take part, such as the self-proclaimed tengu, Mr. Higuchi, and the drunken loan shark, Rihaku. They have more personality than the unrequited lovebirds, but not by much.

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Final Verdict: 7/10

Night is Short, Walk on Girl is a bog-standard romcom with a bunch of waxy poetic sugar-coating on it. It’s not utter misery, like some other things, but I can’t call it money well spent either. Check it out if you want a silly, short tale of unrequited love.

Hinowa ga CRUSH! First Impressions (Volumes 1-3)

I haven’t talked about Akame ga Kill! on my blog, so let me give you a short gist on how I feel about it: I love Akame ga Kill! It is a fun, edgy battle shounen with dark undertones and a surprising amount of emotional tension. Oh, and of course, the manga’s better than the anime! So with that out of the way, let’s dive into Akame ga Kill!’s sequel series, Hinowa ga CRUSH!, published in English by Yen Press.

The nation of Wakoku has been caught in a civil war for, basically, ever. Our main character, Hinata- who changes her name to Hinowa, taking after her mother who died in battle- dreams to end said war (pretty typical). It’s definitely a lofty goal. But fortunately, a familiar face washes up on the shores of her village, and just so happens to be pretty stinking powerful. (Spoilers: It’s Akame! *fan gushes*)

Despite the whole, you know, war going on, Hinowa is noticeably lighter in tone compared to its parent series. The first thing that’s easily noticeable is the fact that Hinowa’s friends don’t get slaughtered to death within the first volume, which is what happened to Tatsumi’s redshirted buddies in Akame. In fact, not a single protagonist dies in the volumes that I’ve read, other than Hinowa’s mom way at the beginning. This is a huge tonal shift compared to Akame, which had been memed as the “Game of Thrones of anime” while it was airing.

So while Akame got backlashed for having too many deaths “just for shock value”, Hinowa seems to suffer from the opposite; plot armor. We only see bits and pieces of training throughout the story, and it mostly comes down to them getting whooped by Akame in mock duels. It’s not enough to show how darn good these kids are during their very first battles. One particularly bad example is when this redshirted commanding officer gets one-shot by some other guy, while one of Hinowa’s friends- who’s still a greenhorn- manages to hold their own against the same exact guy. Maybe the author responded to the backlash in Akame? Or is this all a red herring before a dark tonal shift later?

Unfortunately, the characters have been downgraded from Akame. The whole cast of Akame either had a very expressive personality, memorable character design, or a creative ability. In contrast, the titular Hinowa and her buddies are just generic teenagers, and seem to handle being in the military as well as going shopping at the local mall; no moral quandaries here! The weapons in Hinowa are similar to the ones in Akame, but are nowhere near as interesting thus far. 

But what about the character we all came to Hinowa ga CRUSH! for: Akame? It has been a couple of years, but I remember her being way better than she is here. Akame goes from being a “tough-exterior-unstable-interior” type of girl to kind of a “perfect girl” type; powerful, but kind and supportive. While it is possible to follow Hinowa without reading the prequel, the context of Akame is important, or else you might think it’s strange that such a powerful woman just magically turned up when it happened to be convenient.

Another concern is the change in the artist. Overall, the new artist did a good job making Akame recognizable, but there’s a noticeable lack of oomph compared to the previous artist. All the over-the-top gore and expressions are toned down a lot, which makes Hinowa more “grounded”, but I’m still not a big fan. It could’ve been worse, I guess.

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Current Verdict: 7.25/10

I don’t want to be one of those fans that’s like, “It’s not EXACTLY like the original series I loved so much, therefore it’s objectively bad”, but I feel like Hinowa ga CRUSH! is lacking the chutzpah that made Akame ga Kill! so great. With how different it is, I definitely can’t easily recommend Hinowa to Akame fans. Honestly, I’m gonna have to sit on this one for the time being.

Top Five Quaintest Spots in Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World is a great place to be, but you gotta make the most out of their amenities when you don’t live in the local area. But you know, in this day and age, there’s- as Elton John would say- “more to do than can ever be done” in life. Sometimes, it’s worth going to Disney just for the brief reprieve from all the noise. In this post, I’ll list off the best spots to do nothing in.


5) Wilderness Lodge Lobby

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is one of the best-themed resorts on Disney property. This massive log cabin made out of real, dead trees towers almost endlessly. This place is filled with insanely accurate Native American motifs and huge totem poles. There’s nothing quite like crashing on one of the many sofas (preferably in front of the ornate fire pit), and lull off to sleep with the unending raucous of the Whispering Canyon Cafe in the background. If you can find the secret room on the second floor, you won’t be sorry.


4) Outside Davy Crockett’s at Fort Wilderness

Are you sick of standing around Fort Wilderness waiting for the Hoop-Dee-Doo to let people in? Well, don’t worry; there’s a way to sit around instead! Davy Crockett’s has a first-come-first-served set of comfy rocking chairs that you can recline on all day (or until someone wakes you up).


3) Boardwalk at the Boardwalk

The Boardwalk is one of my favorite Disney Resorts. It has the great atmosphere of an early Twentieth Century boardwalk, but now with good service, good food, and the FDA! It has a gorgeous view of the lake area and the neighboring resorts. Grab a pizza by the window if you want. Just don’t think you can laze around here at night, for street performers and other events will turn this relaxing place into a rave.


2) Pandora… at Night

Pandora in the Animal Kingdom can be enjoyed at any time of day. But it’s particularly special at night. If you wait from about dinner time, depending on what time of year you go; it gets dark later in spring and summer. As dusk turns to nightfall, you’ll see the plants slowly begin to glow one by one. When they do, chillax on an Alpha Centauri Expeditions patented bench and gawk at Pandora’s multicolored splendor while you laze off. The Wind Traders shop also has a nice atmosphere, but it gets cramped in there easily, so be wary.


1) Elvis Beach at Polynesian Village

This isn’t the official name, but it is the sole place in Disney’s Polynesian Village where they play some good ol’ Hawaiian-inspired, Elvis Presley tunes. Lounge in a hammock or a beach chair, and gaze out at the Magic Kingdom across the lagoon. And if you stay in one of the bungalows hanging off the coast, then you’ll be able to relax knowing that you now have no money.


In conclusion, Walt Disney World is truly a place where anything is possible. Despite the massive crowds, insane planning needed, and very pricey food and merch, it’s more than possible to relax and soak it all in. In fact, I think the people who DON’T do that once in a while miss the whole point of being there in the first place. So, if you ever find yourself hoofing it over to Walt Disney World, give yourself some time to take a chill pill.

Outer Ragna Volume 1 Review

What if you had complete control over someone’s body and mind? Their movements, their thoughts, their own souls… are yours. Would you do something like that to a living, breathing human? Although that’s part of the premise of Outer Ragna, the latest Overlord wannabe published in English by J-Novel Club, that train of thought isn’t even remotely explored in the plot. I just wanted to make an interesting intro paragraph *smirks*.

In Outer Ragna, a (presumably) Twitch streamer by the username of PotatoStarch plays the new deluxe edition of Dragon Demon RPG on stream. This game is supposed to be Dark Souls of JRPGs (if Xenoblade Chronicles X wasn’t already that), and your race and abilities are all randomized. He ends up with the worst possible role: a human slave girl. But for some reason, the whole game world is an actual fantasy world (of course), and he’s controlling this girl, named Kuroi. Thanks to his veteran gamer skills, the humans actually have a shot at survival in the ongoing war of the elves and vampires that normally wipe humanity clean in a normal playthrough.

Confused? Despite the simple premise, I found Outer Ragna to be kind of hard to follow at first. The structure felt very disorienting to me for some reason… I actually took my darn time to read through this volume, yet I was still confused at times. A lot of scene transitions felt very abrupt.

The author definitely put a lot of effort into the game mechanics, which is good. But it’s only introduced in chunks of exposition dump from Starch, and scattered throughout the book. What you need to understand is that elves get magic from the Dragon God, Vampires get magic from the Demon God, and humans- who can only learn lousy fire magic- have no god. Or so they thought. In the deluxe edition, the humans have the Devil God on their side, who is presumed to be Starch himself. 

“Hang on!” you exclaim, “This guy can’t play this game 24/7, right?” Don’t worry; strange circumstances occur in the world that force him to play it, such as being given an indefinite paid vacation from his job. Obviously, this doesn’t make a lick of sense, but them’s the brakes with the genre.

The biggest problem so far is that I’m not a fan of the writing style. The descriptions are lacking in detail, and the many “torture porn” segments feel underwhelming (keep in mind that yours truly’s standards of torture porn have spiked recently, thanks to Torture Princess). I also had no sense of where anyone or anything was in 3D space. The writing is at its best when it strictly comes to action sequences, but those occur in rather low abundance.

Among the characters, Kuroi is the  one most worth mentioning. It’s hilarious to see NPCs react to her doing repetitive tasks from their perspective, while we as an audience know that it’s merely Starch grinding stats a la Quest 64. But otherwise, she’s just your typical deadpan loli. The other interesting character is the sorcerer, Odysson, who has cool fire magic, but is implied to have Ted Bundy’d a bunch of people in the past. But seriously… they introduce way too many characters to keep track of right off the bat. In addition to the characters I mentioned, there’s… *deep breath* The priest Felipo, the knight Agias, his brother Origis, some merchant lady, a loli named Sira, and more! What they all have in common is being boring dullards.

Outer Ragna is yet another LN with only cover art. While it is a step down from Isekai Rebuilding Project, it still has a nice, edgy style to it that makes it visually appealing all the same. Let’s just hope the series will get as intense as it looks on the cover moving forward.

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Verdict: 6.75/10

From the first impressions, Outer Ranga doesn’t seem to be anything spectacular. It sets up some good groundwork, but to what end? The structure felt very wonky, and the characters are bland. I’d recommend it to fans of Overlord and Sword Art Online. But otherwise, I might end up quitting while I’m ahead.

Karneval First Impressions (Omnibus Volumes 1-4)

I’ll never get the manga magazine industry. I do understand that whatever manga stays and goes depends on popular vote, but sometimes, it’s really astonishing when something that isn’t all that popular somehow manages to survive for a long time. Seraph of the End and Twin Star Exorcists come to mind. But what about Karneval, published in omnibus form by Yen Press?

In Karneval, a boy named Nai is captured and almost sexually assaulted by some rich woman (who is, apparently, also a mutant of some kind). He’s saved by a dude named Gareki, who notices a necklace on Nai’s person: an I.D. bracelet of someone in the secret service known as Circus. According to Nai, a friend of his, named Karoku, possessed this bracelet (somehow), and wants to find him. So, the two boys team up to seek out this dude, and inevitably get involved in a whole bunch of stuff along with Circus themselves.

Karneval is basically a battle shounen manga that tries to be story driven. There is a lot of plot that gets covered in each chapter… almost too much at once. If I may touch on the artwork early, the panel flow is very wonky, as it cuts away to scenes more abruptly than Family Guy. A lot of times, there’ll be a fight scene happening, and then suddenly, two completely separate people will talk about something that has nothing to do with the fight at all!

Despite the weird cuts, Karneval has a pretty standard issue story. Most of the intrigue revolves around Nai’s strange hearing ability, among other things, as well as what Karoku’s deal is. It progresses towards answering these questions, while asking new ones, at a pretty steady pace. The Circus spaceships are also pretty cool. They’re basically flying mansions that are managed by robot bunny rabbits. Karneval also has a cool explanation for how they get their fantasy superpowers.

The characters are, sadly, pretty unremarkable. Nai is the worst of the bunch, as he is just a weak kid who only exists for his plot relevance. He’s obsessed with Karoku, to the point where it gets super annoying, and he’s also just… dumb; not in the fun way. Gareki is just the designated cool dude, with no real personality. These two protagonists are also lacking in the power progression department. Gareki doesn’t even start his first training arc until the fourth omnibus (volumes 7-8), and Nai is pure baggage, who is incapable of defending himself in any capacity whatsoever.

The people in Circus that they meet are basically just various character tropes. Yogi is the aloof guy, Tsukumo is the loli, Eva is the busty older sister, Hirato is the nonchalant guy… It’s an understatement to say that you’ve likely seen this before.

As for the art, Karneval looks kind of like a shoujo manga when it comes to the shapes of the characters’ faces. Fortunately, they (at least the ones in Circus) are VERY well-dressed. The mangaka creases the clothes so much that your mother will want them to put their clothes back in the dryer. The only issue with the clothing choice is that there are at least three guys in tuxedos and top hats, and I get them very easily confused with one another.

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Current Verdict: 6/10

Is there something I’m not getting? Karneval has been running for thirteen years and counting, yet it’s kind of meh. It’s not the worst manga ever, but that doesn’t make it a masterpiece. If you just want to kick back and relax with a whacky battle shounen manga, then Karneval is there for you.

Monogatari Series Review, Part 2 of 3

In my review of the previous season of the Monogatari novels, I mostly praised its strange writing and its weird and complex characters, while showing disdain toward its slow-pacing and “smart-sounding” dialogue. But wow, this season is really where the series gets good.


Nekomonogatari: Shiro

I alluded to disliking Hanekawa in my previous review. So, naturally, I was DREADING a volume told from her perspective. Well, it turns out that I like her a lot more now. My problem with her last time wasn’t so much her personality as it was Araragi’s hero worship of her. Even when her tragic backstories and flaws came to light, he would unflinchingly maintain his preconceived image of her as Super Mary Sue 9000, and that made me resent her (and Araragi). But in HER head, we see a more down-to-earth and less pompous person than before. 

She is, in some ways, a better narrator than Araragi. The volume’s shorter chapters provide more places for readers to stop and process plot developments. Plus, her proactiveness makes it so that she tries to solve the volume’s conflict, as opposed to Araragi, who had to wait for Memelord or Kaiki or whoever to exposition dump the issue onto his clueless face.


Kabukimonogatari

Oh boy. Araragi again. Well, fortunately, he at least learned some lessons from Hanekawa. The chapters are still shorter and he didn’t take QUITE as long to get to the actual plot.

It sure jumps the shark by suddenly introducing TIME TRAVEL out of nowhere. And similar to 99.99% of time travel mechanics, it falls into modern fantasy’s “make up random inconsistent crap just for whatever would help the narrative” schtick. Not even NISI can match Steins;Gate.

The biggest issue with this volume is its ending, as it builds up to an epic confrontation that ends almost instantly. However, the suspense and tension of the scenario are enough to make Kabuki arguably one of the best volumes of Monogatari up to this point.


Hanamonogatari

I was told by my friend who’s been lending me this series that this is either their least favorite installment or widely considered to be the worst installment… I don’t quite remember. In fact, I properly remembered incorrectly, because this is not a bad volume at all!

It is, however- in good old NISIOISIN fashion- an unusual volume. Hana is the FINAL volume of the series, chronologically speaking. Starring Kanbaru for the first time, this volume is set after Araragi has graduated high school and moved to college. We get our first deep look at the weirdo as she tackles this volume’s conflict solo.

However, just because it’s not the worst or not bad, doesn’t mean it’s a straight-up masterpiece either. If actually read chronologically, this would’ve been a horrible way to “end” the series. Also, I don’t get the point of this examination of Kanbaru. Unlike with Hanekawa, where I actually started to view her differently as a person, I didn’t feel any differently about Kanbaru. Sure, we learn about an aspect of her past, but unlike with previously established characters, I didn’t understand what aspect of her insecurities was explored via this volume’s conflict. Maybe I brain-farted on this one or something. 

Nonetheless, NISI made a good call publishing the finale when he did, instead of actually publishing it at the end. He saved himself from a lot of salt that way! Unfortunately, Araragi’s presence in this volume gives him plot armor for the rest of the series. Great!


Otorimonogatari

Making her first appearance in what feels like forever, Nadeko takes the helm in the strangest installment in the series thus far. Did she always alternate between referring to herself with a lowercase “i” and her own name in the third person? I feel like I would’ve realized that sooner.

The premise is that she becomes possessed by a strange white snake, which is supposed to represent the guilt of her chopping up snakes back in the first arc. The theme seems to have something to do with how Nadeko is a horrible person who tries to victimize herself or something… I’m not quite sure. But regardless, Otori showcases just how much of a basket case she is!


Onimonogatari

A strange phenomenon threatens to engulf Araragi and the town, and it has something to do with Shinobu. The main appeal of Oni is the telling of Shinobu’s backstory with her previous thrall. 

Unfortunately, her story is kind of boring. It doesn’t really give her any meaningful character development, and the dude doesn’t even have a name. Plus, like the troll that NISI is, no information in the backstory actually contributes to solving the conflict of the volume. This is probably my least favorite volume of the second season.


Koimonogatari

I presume this is originally meant to be the final published volume, for it is set around Araragi and Senjo’s graduation; the date that the final boss is meant to kill them, which is established in a previous volume of this season. It stars Kaiki, of all people, who is hired by Senjo to trick the person into sparing our two lovebirds.

It was a great call making Kaiki the narrator for this one. For one thing, his personality and world views are so eccentric and fresh that it makes him one of the best characters in the series. The other thing is that using him saves this volume from being utter ass. The whole thing is basically Kaiki talking to the final boss over and over again until he can tell them that Araragi and Senjo already died. But at this point, I was no stranger to NISI creating big buildup just to have it culminate in the most anticlimactic way possible.

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Verdict (Average of All 6 Books): 8.45/10

Monogatari is still kicking butt. If all goes well, I should be posting the finale of this review series towards the end of this year or the start of 2021. Peace out!

Isekai Rebuilding Project Volume 1 Review

Isekai has definitely entered a new era of subverting its own tired tropes, all with varying success, and with each one seemingly more ambitious than the last. To that effect, J-Novel Club has just published the most ambitious attempt to subvert the genre yet: Isekai Rebuilding Project, the sequel of every bad isekai.

“Wait, how can it be the sequel to multiple things at once?” you ask. Well, you see, Isekai Rebuilding Project stars a successful salaryman by the name of Eiji Kazama, who’s on his way to his fiance’s when he’s suddenly summoned to another world to save it from an evil, corrupt influence that’s spreading its way across the world. “Oh boy, all-powerful Demon Lord again…” Actually, no, it’s something worse than the usual Demon Lord; Kazama has to save the world from the unwitting damage brought to it by the generic, idealized teenage boy who had saved it from said Demon Lord in the first place.

“Wh-what? What the hell’re you talking about?” Let’s use the main conflict in this first volume as an example. In the first town that Kazama visits, he notices people eating white rice, a Japanese food introduced to the townsfolk by the hero. Unfortunately, due to science, the excessive carbohydrates from the white rice is causing their bodies to lose large quantities of an essential vitamin, resulting in a fatal disease. See where I’m going now? The path to hell is paved with good intentions, after all.

Isekai Rebuilding Project is the most literal deconstruction of isekai ever. A lot of the dialogue is just making fun of isekai tropes, and how impractical a lot of fantasy business, such as adventurer’s guilds, are. Mel Brooks said something like, “You can only spoof something that you love,” and it feels like these roasts are coming from someone who deeply loves isekai.

Based on this volume, Isekai Rebuilding Project could also be called Trivia Murder Party 2: Japanese History Theme. Kazama knows a lot of obscure stuff, such as the mortality rates and lifespan of the Japanese population throughout every era. His knowledge is a bit too bottomless, to be honest, despite how “normal” he’s supposed to be.

The only characters worth discussing are the two lead protagonists, the first of which is Kazama. He is established as a wholly unremarkable man, and I don’t exactly know how to feel about him yet. Normally, I’d shut down protagonists like him, but he’s at least smart, and respects the fact that he’s engaged to get married in the real world. The other main protagonist is Tiamat, a female dragon that is assigned to help him on his quest. She’s real sassy, and the dialogue in the series is at its best when these two are firing shots off each other.

As for the art, there are only two pieces: the front over, and a landscape version of it that was shot from behind. Seriously… it is gorgeous, almost excessively so. I have no idea how this artist was able to draw such detailed and whimsical artwork, practically out of a Studio Ghibli film, when the author doesn’t even put much emphasis into describing things in such detail. If I’m pumped for anything, it’s what later volume covers will look like.

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Verdict: 8.75/10

Normally, I don’t like “grounded” stories. Nonetheless, Isekai Rebuilding Project had a great first volume. But it’s so stinking short, I have no idea what to make of the series as a whole. This is something that has potential to be really great, or really terrible. But with only one volume out, we have no choice but to wait and see. I’d recommend this to anyone who likes slice-of-life fantasies, such as Ascendance of a Bookworm.