Monogatari Series Review, Part 1 of 3

Cover of volume 1 of Bakemonogatari

The Monogatari light novel series is one of the few that have been adapted, in their entirety, into anime form. However, I heard that the show uses an artsy directing style that sounds really distracting and pretentious, so I’ve been reading the light novels instead of watching the anime. Published in English by Vertical Inc., only the first “season” is available digitally. Therefore, I’ve been borrowing volumes from a friend. At the time of this writing, I’m a little bit into the second “season”, according to MyAnimeList. In the meantime, let’s review the first season.

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Bakemonogatari

For those fans who know that Bakemonogatari isn’t the chronological first installment, I’m tackling the light novels in published order. Sorry.

Anyhoo, Bakemonogatari is a setup arc that serves to establish all of the major players by following a distinct formula. The main protagonist, an angsty, existential teen named Araragi Koyomi has to help cute girls who are possessed by various spirits, called aberrations. The aberrations are all representations of actual, real-life human issues, and the solutions to remove them are roughly the same as actually dealing with them in real life.

Since Monogatari is a character study, the characters are of the utmost importance. Best Girl Senjogahara Hitagi is a super tsundere who carries a stapler around. Her insults put a lot of other tsunderes to shame. Hachikuji Mayoi is also a charming character; she roasts Araragi and intentionally mispronounces his name in spectacular ways. Kanbaru Suruga and Sengoku Nadeko aren’t the most remarkable at this juncture, but the former is at least a weird, jealous lesbian. Hanekawa Tsubasa is- at a glance- a Mary Sue and a know-it-all, but the story gives a preview to a much darker side of her at the end of the arc.

Speaking of pretentious, the dialogue of this series had me- scratch that, it STILL has me- at a crossroads. The vast majority of the series is written in an unconventional and very wordy style.
And.
Also, a lot.
And a lot.
Of crap like this.
Right here.
Yeah, I’m not kidding.
Sometimes the dialogue goes on and on and on, where over half a volume can be spent just talking about random stuff. Araragi himself even points that fact out in the actual story. They talk about things from panties, to sexuality, to existence itself. I find some of the dialogue funny, some pretentious, but the sheer amount of it tends to make this series tedious to read at times. And to top it off, there are no page breaks except for the ends of chapters. Get ready to read 30+ pages without rest!

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Kizumonogatari

This is the chronological first volume of the series, and it showcases how Araragi became a vampire (oh yeah, forgot to mention that part in the review of Bake…). It’s a very long volume and it follows a monster-of-the-week formula.

I also forgot to mention the best man, Oshino Meme. Meme is a cool and nonchalant gentleman who serves as an exposition dump for whatever issue is occurring. He always manages to know the problem and the solution before it even occurs, and this chronologically first meeting is no exception.

Kizu is the proper introduction of Shinobu, the vampire whose fate is attached to Araragi, and goes by a much longer name in this volume. When the conflict gets resolved, she becomes a deadpan loli who speaks in “old-timey” talk. I like her, but not as much as some of the the other people.

This volume is the first one that really showcases Araragi’s emotional insecurities. If you’re fascinated by that stuff, get ready for a treat!

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Nisemonogatari

This two-volume-long arc deals with Araragi’s sisters and also questions the meaning of “real” and “fake” as far as identity and existence goes. Personally, I find these types of arcs to be tedious because there is no way to arrive at a clear-cut conclusion to this quandary. Last time I checked, Morpheus doesn’t exist to give you that clear-cut conclusion. It is at least something you can have an endless debate over if you enjoy that kind of stuff.

But regardless of philosophical mumbo-jumbo, the arc introduces some awesome new characters. The Araragi’s Fire Sisters are quirky and strange. Beware, there are a lot of incestuous interactions between them and their brother. Normally, I don’t have a problem with incest in fiction (because it’s, you know, FICTION), but this instance doesn’t add anything to the narrative and tries to justify itself by having the characters explicitly say how wrong it is, while still doing it anyway.

The other newcomers are the first antagonists of the series, such as Kaiki Deishu. But, this blog’s gotten long enough, so I’ll let you experience these awesome character for yourself.

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Nekomonogatari: Kuro

This is the chronological second volume. It delves into Hanekawa’s background and gives you a true introduction to her character arc. It’s a bit lengthy given the actual content of the plot, but that’s nothing new with this series. The only real issue is that content from it is spoiled too much in the last chapter of Bake.

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Verdict: 8/10

It’s a decent enough first impression, even if it’s a bit verbose. Having read some of the subsequent volumes, I already know that it gets much better from here. If you love the human psyche and generally weird stuff, then this light novel is for you!

Renegades Review

The cover of the book.

Hello and welcome to the first Western media covered on this blog! Since this is also the first YA novel on the blog, allow me to give a quick background on my experience with the genre. Over ten years ago, in my teen years, I loved that novel- The Hunger Games– just as much as the next guy. Then I read its sequels, Catching Fire… and Mockingjay… and let’s just say that third book was a real letdown. It was so disappointing that I abandoned all YA novels and instead used old Hollywood movies, like Citizen Kane, and challenging science fiction novels for adults, such as those by Isaac Asimov and Greg Bear, as vessels for my teen angst. Fast forward to last year, I started getting curious about YA again. Since it seemed that most YA novels are popular among adults as well, I decided to give the genre another try. In the past year, YA has consistently disappointed me, with my top 3 least favorite novels off all time ALL being YA novels. There are only a handful of them I flat-out enjoyed: The Chaos Walking trilogy, The Illuminae Files trilogy, and… The Lunar Chronicles quartet.

So, given my harshness towards YA, I wanted to start off on a good note, so I made sure I covered a novel from an author whose previous works I already enjoyed. As you can tell, it’s a review of Renegades, published by Square Fish, and written by the author of the aforementioned Lunar Chronicles, Marissa Meyer. Does this new series give as strong of a first impression as Lunar Chronicles‘ first book, Cinder?

For starters, just exactly HOW similar to My Hero Academia is this premise? In the city of Gatlon, people born with Quir- I mean- superpowers, who are called prodigies, are oppressed by society because that’s what humans love to do when they’re scared. A group called the Anarchists, led by Ace Anarchy, caused an uprising, naturally. A ragtag group of heroes called the Renegades took care of it. Ace Anarchy is now dead, and the OG Renegades run Gatlon as the Council.

Not angsty enough? Well, get this. The main protagonist is Ace’s niece, Nova Artino, who fights Renegades under the alias of Nightmare. On the flipside, we have Adrian Everhart, the adopted son of the most powerful Renegade in the world, All Mi- I mean- Hugh Everhart. He lives secretly as a renegade Renegade named the Sentinel, and is the rival of Nightmare, but ends up fighting other Renegades just about as often. And here’s the icing on the cake: Nova goes to Renegade academy as a spy and… gets recruited to Adrian’s own squad. Because of course.

Naturally, you’d expect it to be a dystopia, where the “heroes” are a corrupt governing body and the “villains” are the heroes. And it is, at least according to the narrative, which conveys this by constantly telling us over and over again about how corrupt the Council is but never showing us. From the actions we do see, the only corruption comes from random Renegades being high school bullies, but that instance is implied to actually be AGAINST Council regulations. In fact, the Council itself is the reason why Nova and Co. aren’t rotting in jail just for being Anarchists themselves. It’s contextualized poorly, and because of that, I’m willing to bet that there’s inevitably going to be some kind of massive conspiracy that makes the Council the corrupt governing body that Nova actually says they are. It’s still better than Scythe, which had an interesting premise of hired, legalized murderers in a world of immortality, but copped out by having a cackling madman of an antagonist that didn’t blur the line of good and evil, but made everything very black and white.

In terms of the actual writing, Renegades still has that Meyer touch. Similar to the Lunar Chronicles, I’m able to visualize characters and settings easily, however, the action scenes are a bit hard to imagine in terms of telling where people are in 3D space. The story starts off slow, but picks up at around the halfway point.

The characters are pretty generic. Be forewarned, however, that I am much a harsher critic of Western fiction than Eastern for some reason, even on the novels that I find really good. Nova is not as much of an utter snob as most of her YA cousins, but there’s definitely enough time to develop Stockholm-Syndrome-love with Adrian, and turn her into one of said cousins. Speaking of Adrian, he’s alright. He’s got a strong sense of goodwill but he’s also a bit reckless. Nova’s friends are the snobby YA cast incarnated as side characters. Ingrid is a really annoying Bakugo-type (literally; her Quirk is the same as his) who often causes contrived conflicts, and Honey, Phobia, and Leroy are more inconsequential than My Hero‘s Class 1-B. Adrian’s friends, Oscar and Ruby, are very unremarkable and exist just for there to be a second couple. Speaking of couples, Nova and Adrian’s relationship is going to be my least favorite aspect of the whole Renegade series because they spend so much time with each other while not realizing that they’re the very enemies that they’re each trying to find dirt on. It’s a trope that I didn’t like in American Dragon, and I still don’t like it now.

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Verdict: 7.75/10

If you’ve enjoyed Red Queen, Shadow and Bone, or Divergent, then you’ll probably love Renegades. It doesn’t have the same chutzpah of The Lunar Chronicles, but it’s at least leagues better than most of what’s available on the YA market. The whole “teen-is-forced-to-be-something-that-they-are-not-for-some-reason” schtick carries a lot of inherent appeal.

The fact that the teaser at end of the book implies that the sequel, Archenemies, is going to be the “conclusion” to this story, when there’s a third installment on its way at the time of writing this blog, leaves me very concerned. But for now, Renegades is more than good enough if you want an angstier, Westernized My Hero Academia.

Ascendance of a Bookworm Volume 3 Review

me

Last time, on Ascendance of a Bookworm Volume 2, Myne and Lutz get their job with the merchant, Benno. They use magic to sign a contract allowing them to mass produce paper and for him to sell it at whatever price he wants. Meanwhile, Myne also establishes a market for the shampoo and hairpin that she made for her sister, Tuuli. Myne meets the guildmaster’s granddaughter, Freida, and learns of the Devouring, the disease that she herself has. However, the cost of the cure is great, so she’ll need to really earn those fat stacks. Lutz finds out that Myne is possessed by another person, but it bizarrely doesn’t lead to any quarrels between the two. The two kids are taught valuable lessons about advanced economics, and things are overall looking great for their future. This is the perfect time for an arbitrary tone shift (i.e. Myne’s disease overtakes her, and Lutz is alone)!

I never understood why some feel-good, low-stake slice-of-lifes tend to have a sudden turn for the dramatic that ends just as suddenly. Bookworm proves to have no tension as Myne is immediately nursed back to health thanks to Freida. It is a temporary fix, but do you REALLY expect Myne to actually get killed off? Fortunately, Bookworm at least makes the Devouring itself a very important factor in the narrative for this arc, which is a pleasant surprise.

Speaking of important factors in the narrative, I must apologize and redact my statement in the volume 2 review about the magic being frivolous, at least in the case of the contract. The nature of the magic contract versus a regular contract is actually examined here and proves to be VERY valuable information in the story. I also must redact my statement of the side stories not being plot relevant, because the author states in the afterword, that the side stories (at least the ones that take up a WHOLE THIRD of this volume) WILL be plot relevant. This is just one of those consequences of doing a review volume-by-volume.

As far as character development does, Myne is kind of growing on me a little. I don’t think she’s fangush-worthy amazing, but I do like her, especially when she compares the culture of Bookworm‘s world to that of Japan’s. I guess you can call me out for being on the receiving end of pandering, but I literally have been researching Japanese culture very extensively lately. On the flipside, viewers who don’t know much about Japanese culture- or get the reference to a certain location in Japan- will probably find her commentary as boring as the usual exposition dump. But in my case, that particular chapter of the story would’ve been forty times more boring without it.

Meanwhile, Lutz is shaping up to be a real good kid. I’m not hemming and hawing over him, but I can definitely see why people in general would. He’s real devoted to his dream of becoming a merchant, in his own right, in that pure-hearted, childish, battle shounen protagonist way. I personally prefer a number of actual battle shounen protagonists over him, but I at least don’t resent him.

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Verdict: 7.6/10

This concludes the first arc of Ascendance of a Bookworm. It’s definitely much better than I expected it to be, as I’m not a big fan of these more low-key series. It’s definitely the characters. I don’t get the appeal of characters who feel like just regular ol’ Joes. I’d rather have characters with more bombastic personalities. However, Bookworm is still looking to be one of the better chill series out there.

However, I need to warn you. I only have so much money to buy books, and only so much time. The latter is the real issue. SO much crap is coming out from Kodansha, Yen Press, Seven, and some newer publishers such as Sol Press already, and J-Novel Club has just opened the door even wider, which I freakin’ LOVE them for. But, there’s only so much TIME to actually read stuff. If I have to pick and choose between what to prioritize, then Bookworm will be among the first to go. I can damn well try to cover as much stuff as possible, but I can’t promise anything!

Torture Princess: Fremd Torturchen Volume 1 Review

The cover of volume 1

Welcome to the first Thursday blog! I’m hoping to include Thursday evenings in the regular schedule from here on out. Today is my review of Torture Princess: Fremd Torturchen, published in English by Yen Press.

The issue of gore and inhumane crimes’ presence in entertainment has always been a subject of much controversy. In the anime community, shows such as Elfen Lied and Goblin Slayer have ignited wildfires on message boards. Torture Princess has the potential to cause a volcanic eruption. And what a beautiful eruption it would be!

Torture Princess shows it’s edginess in its premise. Sena Kaito is summoned to another world in the body of a golem- after he is strangled to death by his father- to serve Elisabeth la Fanu, a lowly sow who has committed a ton of crimes and whose punishment is to hunt thirteen demons. As Kaito helps her on her quest, he learns about her and the cruel world she lives in and is slowly changed during his new life there. The events taking place in this volume are consistently violent and unsettling, but that’s not a surprise given the title of the series.

The characters, however, end up being a big surprise. I expected Best Girl Elisabeth to be a one-dimensional sadist and for Kaito to be a one-dimensional masochist. However, this volume quickly proved me wrong. In the case of the titular torture princess, Elisabeth is a strange combination of several dere types that somehow manage to work. She’s a two-sided coin where one side is the sadistic badass you’d expect, but on the other side is an emotionally insecure waifu that you just want to offer your shoulder for her to cry on.

Speaking of emotionally insecure, Kaito is one dark and disturbed kid. Who wouldn’t be, with a father like that? Although the numerous illegal practices of his father are a bit over-the-top, the mere presence of an abusive parents makes Kaito much more relatable to audiences than his Goody Two-Shoes cousins in other isekai. He’s also got a snarky personality, which leads to some great interactions with Elisabeth.

The third major player is Hina, an autonomous doll girl who ends up taking the role of yandere. I admit that she’s the weakest link out of the trio so far, but in terms of sheer personality she is one of the better yandere I have seen.

All of this wouldn’t be possible without the author’s prose. Torture Princess doesn’t try to pull off its angst with a straight face and end up falling apart; it embraces its angst and doesn’t care what you think. The prose portrays violence with elegance and grace, which is suitable to how Elisabeth looks when she takes down her foes. One of the few concerns I have is that the dark pasts of both Elisabeth and Kaito seem to be tackled in their entirety in this volume. I have no idea where it’ll go from here, but I’m going to put faith in the author.

I really like the art in this one. Elisabeth looks awesome on the cover, plus I commend anyone able to draw chain links and still have a hand attached to their body.

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Verdict: 9/10

Torture Princess is– surprisingly- one of my new favorite isekai of all time. I found it very immersive, and difficult to put down. It’s no Berserk, but you can probably count on actually being able to READ the conclusion to this one.

If you cannot stand things like blood and murder (of children, among other things), then STAY AWAY from this. If Goblin Slayer went over the line, then that line is a dot to Torture Princess!

But if you DO read it, I recommend reading it on Barnes & Noble’s nook app, just for the ability to change the style to white font on black paper. I decided to try that out halfway into the volume and it legitimately helped with the immersion!

Ascendance of a Bookworm Volume 2 Review

Cover of volume 2

Last time on Ascendance of a Bookworm, Motosu Urano is killed in a collapsing heap of books, and reborn as a frail child, named Myne, in a startlingly realistic fantasy world. Her family is poor, and thus without the ability to read, write, and own books. After a number of failed attempts to make some paper, she at least succeeds in making shampoo, and that lands her a job working for a bigshot merchant with her friend (read as: future love interest), Lutz. However, magic is in this world apparently? And Myne is slowly dying of some kind of magic deficiency disease? Wow, that came out of left field.

The story is at least picking up in this volume now that we’ve established all the major aspects of Bookworm. The series gains a Spice and Wolf-y atmosphere in this volume when she has to start negotiating with Benno, her new supervisor, and deal with her first clients. However, the economics course isn’t as… er… dense as it was in Spice and Wolf.

As opposed to volume 1, we have magic properly contextualized during this volume. However, this instance seems like the first real use of traditional isekai tropes. Most magic in isekai- and modern fantasy- is kind of just an excuse to justify having inconsistent world logic (I, for the record, am fine with that as long as the end result is entertaining). The issue with it in Bookworm is that it seems frivolous. Since this world has already been established as perfectly realistic, there’s no need to make a magic system in the first place. So far, the magic in this world is used to do various tasks that could be just as easily accomplished with the actual technology of the time, such as signing a contract. It seems to have been made just to look cool, and for shock value in the case of Myne’s affliction. Speaking of said affliction, it doesn’t take long for Myne to find out about in this volume, due to her meeting with a rich guy’s granddaughter, so Bookworm isn’t going to do one of those dramatic-irony-cringe things this time.

In other news, we get some interesting developments with Myne and Lutz. Lutz actually starts to notice that his friend is not actually the original person, but possessed by someone else. However, it ends up not being as big of a deal as it’s made out to be.

The last thing to note is that the side stories are so far proving to be wholly irrelevant. I never talked about the side stories in the first volume because of this. They show some other POVs outside of Myne, but a lot of them happen out of sequence from the main plot and are confusing, as opposed to Infinite Dendrogram or DanMachi where they actually introduce new, plot-relevant characters and actually effect the main plot. You can read the side stories if you’re really into Bookworm, but otherwise they seem pretty meh.

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Verdict: 7.25/10

Things are picking up now that we’ve established all of the ground rules. However, I still don’t see it as the “end all, be all” isekai. So far, it’s turning out to be a quaint, chill series.

Combatants Will be Dispatched! Volume 1 Review

Cover of Combatants Will be Dispatched! Volume 1

To those of you who have read my first two reviews, thanks for coming back. I’ve been busy reading and planning my next couple of reviews. I hope you enjoy this one!

Since I have not covered Konosuba on this blog yet, let me give you a quick preview of my thoughts on it, as I will- naturally- be comparing it to this light novel, Combatants will be Dispatched! (written by the same author and published in English by Yen Press). Konosuba is an utter masterpiece that parodies isekai, right at the point where it was starting to become popular, with a morally ambiguous main character and a harem of attractive, but unruly girls. Those same attributes are present here in Combatants, but in a way that still feels fresh.

As stated in my clickbaity Twitter post promoting this entry, Combatants‘ premise is like a Konosuba-y Overlord. With the powers of big business, the Kisaragi Corporation has achieved near total domination over humanity. With the Earth conquered, the heads of this company have their sights set on a fantasy world. Combat Agent Six is sent to gather information on this world and establish a portal for the Kisaragi army to follow up with the real attack. And like in Konosuba, everything acts against the main character’s intentions.

In order to talk about the bread and butter of Combatants, I need to talk about the main characters introduced in this volume. Agent Six is Konosuba‘s Kazuma, if he was actually powerful for once. Throughout his exploits in the fantasy world, you’ll recognize the same arrogance and perverseness that was ever-present in Kazuma. The other interesting thing to note is that although his life at Kisaragi has definitely influenced how he behaves, he’s not entirely happy with his job. That shows in this volume and could have repercussions moving forward.

The harem is as lovably loathsome as ever in Combatants. I grew attached to Best Girl Alice very quickly. She’s a high-spec pretty-girl android, which sounds as useless as you think. Her skills in battle basically amount to using microtransactions to send Six some Kisaragi equipment from our world (in a very Wile E. Coyote and ACME fashion). Most of the time, she’s roasting Six (and everyone else too) with every chance she gets, and I love her for it. She has so much personality it really makes you forget that she’s a robot.

Snow is a denizen of the fantasy world. She comes off as the righteous and morally correct royal knight at first, but since this book runs on Konosuba rules, we know that isn’t the case. As expected, she turns out to be very pretentious and not as morally uptight as she seems. She later recruits two rejects, Rose and Grimm, into Six’s party. Rose is my least favorite character so far, as she seems to merely be a cute monster girl who only thinks of eating. This is only volume 1, so she still has a chance. Grimm is great, though. She comes off as a real asset to the team with her assortment of dark magic and curse abilities, but due to her terrible sleeping habits, she ends up nodding off 99.99% of the time.

The overarching story has more focus and purpose than Konosuba, at least for now: The main cast’s goal is ultimately to defeat a Demon army, but this time it’s to wipe out competitors as opposed to being able to live a leisurely life. The writing is just as strong as Konosuba as well. The only real flaw so far is that it seems to switch POVs without any indication, so be wary of that.

The art is alright. It’s got nice textures and expressive faces. Although different in style from Konosuba, the two could go hand-in-hand.

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Verdict: 8.75/10

It is incredibly simple to recommend Combatants will be Dispatched! to someone. I can’t logically see how anyone who loves Konosuba wouldn’t also love this. And if you haven’t read Konosuba at all, then I will have a confused look on my face, followed by a strong recommendation to read both it and this!

And who knows? Maybe Combatants will SURPASS Konosuba someday.

Ascendance of a Bookworm Volume 1 Review

This is my first volume-by-volume review of a light novel series. Therefore, this review will be much shorter and simpler than the review of Dendro.

It seems you can’t be a member of an online anime community without coming across heated discussion over the quality of the isekai genre. Particularly the relatively new trend of fantasy isekai that have been the subject of controversy due to a one-dimensional, overpowered male protagonist, flanked by dozens of one-dimensional cute girls. A lot of isekai, such as Overlord and That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, do try to subvert the established tropes of the genre, but end up falling right back into the rut. However, Ascendance of a Bookworm– published in English by J-Novel Club- might actually have succeeded.

The premise for this series is simple. A bookworm named Urano gets crushed under a collapsing shelf of books and dies. She is reincarnated as Myne, a sickly little girl living in- surprise, surprise- a fantasy world. The catch is that her family has no books because they’re poor, and thus she resolves to make books herself with what little resources she has.

Right out of the gate, it is impossible not to notice the almost complete lack of modern isekai’s tropes. I’ll list off some examples.

First, the setting is REALISTIC. Similar to actual ancient civilizations, commoners don’t just lack money, but also education and health. Myne is constantly getting sick all the time, plus nobles are the only ones who actually know how to read and write. I’ll admit that there really isn’t much consequence to being poor in most other fantasies; it’s just a means of mass appeal, if anything. But here, it’s the entire crux of the main conflict.

Second, the main character can fail. Although she is technically still overpowered due her retaining her modern knowledge, she has trouble trying to create makeshift writing materials. Plus, her frail body makes it all the more difficult.

Third, there is almost no sexualization at all. Almost. There is no fanservice or ecchi as of volume 1. However, Myne does have sort of a reverse harem in the form of these three boys that she’s friends with. Since they’re kids at this point, there is zero sexual tension between them. But zero sexual tension has not stopped any fandom’s overly active imagination before and it probably won’t now.

As far as the overarching narrative goes, there really isn’t much to say except for the epilogue. There is a development brought up in the epilogue that causes a huge tonal shift. Whatever it is, it seems like nothing more than shock value. But hey, this is only volume 1.

My biggest problem with modern isekai in general has always been the abundance of boring characters. I don’t mean one-dimensional, I just mean boring. That also includes characters who are very chill and behave like regular people. In Bookworm‘s case, that’s almost the entire cast of characters. Myne is the only exception. Due to Urano maintaining her teenage brain, she still has that sass when she’s reborn as Myne. She’s very driven and diligent, and her exasperation when things don’t go her way actually feels fun to read. The others, however, are very down-to-earth to the point of being wholly unremarkable. I can’t really describe them other than that they’re just normal, average Joes. There is appeal to characters like this, but they’re just not my type.

The art is pretty average too. It’ll probably be leagues better than the anime, as you’d expect, but most other light novel illustrators have this one beat.

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Verdict: 7/10

Depending on how you feel about the isekai genre as a whole, you will probably know right away if you like Bookworm or not. Once I upload more reviews, you will see that I can enjoy “traditional” modern isekai at times. So… I feel a bit mixed about this for now. It’s pretty charming to say the least.

Although this one isn’t quite my cup of tea, I’ll at least finish the first arc of the story. However, before I do… if you’ve been following English light novel releases, then you know what just launched today. Expect a review of THAT to be dispatched this Saturday!

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Anime Reception Prediction: Divisive

I’m new to this blog thing, so I’m trying stuff out. Since this light novel’s anime adaptation is coming out next month, I thought I’d try to predict what the anime community will think about the adaptation when it airs. Although I have no proof of the following claim, I was VERY accurate in predicting the reaction to Goblin Slayer after reading the novels.

Bookworm, due to how much the source material deviates from isekai tropes, seems like an anime that will be mostly ignored by the general community but loved by a small circle of people who resent a lot of the isekai that end up becoming the most popular anime of a given season. This will probably cause a bigger fight between the general community and critics than ever before due to how different it is.

What do you think about the idea of me predicting the community’s reception to upcoming anime? What do you think will happen when the anime airs next month?

Infinite Dendrogram Overview (Volumes 1-9)

Welcome to my first “serious” blog post on Weeb Revues. Today, I’m starting with one of the best and most underrated light novels on the market, Infinite Dendrogram, published in English by J-Novel Club. This is an overview of volumes 1-9.

Infinite Dendrogram is truly a case of not judging a book by its cover. At first glance, it looks like a shameless knockoff of Sword Art Online, complete with an overpowered protagonist and a harem. However, there’s actually a lot more substance and personality in Dendro.

The first thing that makes this no ordinary light novel is the concept revolving around the titular VRMMORPG, Infinite Dendrogram. The game is probably the most advanced application of VR ever; unlike what was essentially a JRPG but with the VR gimmick, Dendro is programmed to feel like a REAL world (in a way that’s more substantiated than in SAO‘s Alicization Arc). The NPC’s, called tians, have no idea that Dendro is an RPG, and the existence of human players- masters- is programmed into the game’s lore. The tians are all dynamically programmed to live and grow like real people, and actual history takes place within Dendro completely out of devs’ control. The other thing about tians is that they permanently die if destroyed. This isn’t like your JRPG where you can get that quest to find medicine for some girl’s grandma early on, forget about it, then remember 50 hours later and it’s all fine. In Dendro, that girl’s grandma is dead, and furthermore, that girl will hate you for your neglect.

The other important aspect of Dendro is the Embryo system. Along with the traditional job system of most JRPGs, you have Embryos, which are basically Stands from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure in Dendro form. When Embryos hatch, their appearance, and abilities are based on the personality of its user and their preferred battle style. Unfortunately, the golden rule of Embryos is that there are no rules. This aspect will probably be a turn off to a lot of people. However, look at these positives: 1) No creative restrictions means an “infinite” variety of abilities and battles, and 2) The Embryos at least behave within their own individual rules once established… for the most part. Embryos also have several stages of evolution that can happen anytime and with unpredictable results. This system was basically put in to give the author several justifiable ass-pulls whenever the main protagonist is thrust into a scenario that they cannot power out of with what they have.

However, more often than not, the fights in Dendro are actually some of the most legitimate and “videogamey” out of any fights I’ve seen in light novels. The author’s prose makes them impactful and thrilling. Furthermore, fights rely more so on preparation and knowledge of game mechanics than good ol’ nakama power.

If there is any flaw with the writing, it is the fact that there are a lot of exposition dumps. In fact, a lot of them happen right in the heat of battle, and some of them are entire flashbacks of stuff. However, unlike SAO, these dumps are much shorter and more engaging, and actually, have plot relevance to the story, or at least explain characters’ abilities.

This is all well and good, but what keeps making me come back to Dendro is its surprisingly varied cast. However, the worst character is, sadly, its main protagonist, Mukudori Reiji, known in-game as Ray Starling. He’s about as Gary-Stu-Goody-Two-Shoes as it gets. Dendro tries to justify it by having characters make fun of him for doing things as stupid as trying to save a girl at Level 0; so weak that brushing up against someone almost killed his avatar. But even then, it gets old, especially after his reaction to an overly obvious reveal in volume 9.

The real color is in literally everybody else. From Ray’s pun-making brother, Shu, to his maiden-type Embryo, Nemesis, this thing has got some characters with great personalities. I don’t want to talk about anyone else due to spoilers, but they’re just so lovable. Dendro also does a great job of building up to characters. Most of the cast of characters are alluded to early on, as opposed to having them show up for the first time with no context while the main character gets chastised for not knowing about someone SO FAMOUS, which makes the world feel that much more organic.

The last aspect of Dendro is the art. I’m not going to be talking about the art much for light novels because it’s not that important; however, I can at least give a brief blurb about it. The art is neat and stylistic, but there is still better LN art elsewhere.
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Verdict: 9/10

Overall, Infinite Dendrogram is an incredible light novel series, and I recommend it to anyone trying to get into light novels; EVEN Sword Art Online‘s critics.

This marks the end of my first blog entry on Weeb Revues. How was this first review? Sorry it was overly long, but there was a lot of ground to cover in this one.

Introducing Weeb Revues


Hello, and welcome to my new blog, Weeb Revues. This blog will mainly be covering light novel reviews, but I’ll probably do manga and Western literature as well. Normally, the reviews would be split volume-by-volume. However, I’ve already starting reading a lot of stuff before I had the idea to start a blog, so the first blog entries will be a bit longer, covering more content at once.

I’m planning to post on Tuesday and Saturday mornings, but it might not entirely be the case all the time, especially starting out. I hope I can make this into a very professional blog someday.