The Death Mage (Volume 1): I Don’t Think This was What they Meant by “Third Time’s the Charm”

This is a crucial post, for it is my second review of something that I have received an advanced copy of, and once again, it’s a One Peace Books publication! It’s got nothing to do with The Rising of the Shield Hero this time; yes, they publish other things, such as Densuke’s The Death Mage. I decided to give it a whirl, not only because it gives me brownie points, but because it actually looks good!

The premise of The Death Mage is extremely complicated for an isekai….so here’s a TL;DR version. Our main character, Hiroto Amamiya, dies along with his classmates in a terrorist attack. Everyone except for him gets second lives complete with superpowers. With nothing in store for him, Hiroto’s second life is as a subject of experimentation with death magic. After he dies again, he’s given a third round, as a half-dark-elf-half-vampire kid named Vandal. His death magic carries over by the way (this IS an isekai after all).

So… The Death Mage is a lot. In typical isekai fashion, Vandal is a baby who still has his memories of being Hiroto. Once he’s able to use his death magic, he’s able to summon an army of undead animals. I love this angle, because it basically makes him “Stewie Griffin but a necromancer”. After his mom, Dalshia, is killed, he saves her spirit, and plans to make a hot new body for her. So… he’s not really like Stewie because he actually loves his mom.

As far as the narrative is concerned, The Death Mage is a traditional isekai with a slow start. As with the start of Shield Hero, Vandal can’t do crap, and pretty much has to rely on his army to get tasks done. Unfortunately, for the many isekai critics, XP gained by his minions is shared with Vandal, circumventing his own inability to gain XP, which will inevitably make him into your typical overpowered protagonist. Despite how edgy it feels, with all this death magic and revenge narrative and whatnot, The Death Mage isn’t too edgy. For example, he exacts vengeance on the townsfolk who killed his mom not by murdering them all, but by destroying their economy. It’s a more creative play, and helps ground Vandal’s character (and critics like grounded characters, don’t they?).

Well, since I seamlessly segued from talking about the story to talking about the characters, I might as well discuss them next! For the most part, it’s just Vandal—whom I already discussed—and his mom. Dalshia is what you’d expect from the main character’s isekai mom; hot beyond all reason, and seemingly incapable of not loving her son no matter what he does. Fortunately, because she’s dead (wow, I never thought I’d use those four words in that order), we are freed from the usual… er… tropes that come with adult characters being reincarnated as babies pretty early on. Other than that, she’s basically the exposition dump character. Exposition is more justified this time, since Vandal grew up in the boonies, and has no other way to learn about the world, since his half-vampire-ness puts a target on his back. The best character by far is Sam, a spirit who joins Vandal and possesses a carriage, literally becoming Vandal’s own talking car.

The biggest problem with The Death Mage, as with Shield Hero, is the length of this volume, assuming that it’s the precedent for the rest of the series. It’s over four-hundred pages, and like Shield Hero, there’s a lot of fat that can afford to be trimmed. Painstakingly showing the different steps of Vandal’s journey is one thing, but in isekai tradition, it has too many POV swaps that tell the entire lifestories of characters that we don’t need to hear. Sure, some of these involve plot-relevant characters, unlike So I’m a Spider, So What? which literally gives useless NPCs the floor. However, a lot of what’s told us is simple enough to derive from context. Take Sam, for instance. We know that bandits killed his daughters and that Vandal avenged them; that’s his notice for joining Vandal. Yet, later on, he goes on this whole spiel about it, even though we already know all that’s necessary to know about him at that given time. Why do isekai love pulling crap like this?!

~~~~~

Verdict: 8/10

So far, The Death Mage is a pretty harmless isekai series. It sets the foundation for a solid story, and has some good worldbuilding. I am quite interested to see how Vandal’s abilities grow, even if I may not have the time to continue the series. If you wanna experience The Death Mage for yourself, then read the first volume when it comes out on September 27th!

Once again, I thank One Peace Books for its generous offer. 

The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes: The Light Novel That Tries to be a Shinkai Movie But Ends up Being a Ghibli Movie

Okay, so I MAY have said once that light novels are a pain in the ass to invest in and that I would never cover them on my blog ever again. However, that stress factor is almost negligent for standalones; it’s just one and done. I had planned to read The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes for some time, even before the anime movie announcement (that I will probably watch if GKids or Netflix gets it). With a title as weird-sounding as that, curiosity beckoned me into its pages.

In The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes, we enter the daily life of resident nihilist Kaoru Tono. He’s got about as much of a hard-knock life as you can get; a dead sister, no mother, and a mentally unstable dad. Perfect for making emotional youth be able to connect with him! Marketing aside, Kaoru finds a mysterious tunnel that can grant any wish, but causes time outside of it to move faster. Oh, and a mysterious girl named Anzu Hanashiro is involved.

The thing that jumps out about this book is that it’s not terrible; something I rarely feel in the light novel market. Its prose isn’t as excessively verbose as its contemporaries, which is likely due to the perks of being a standalone. The story it tells in what amounts, page count wise, to a little over two volumes of a regular light novel, feels more substantial than five volumes of most longer series (okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it sure feels like it’s not with the crap I’ve read over the years).

Unfortunately, it falls for the same trap that most supernatural romances fall for: not being very supernatural at all. Most excursions into the tunnel last mere minutes, thanks to its time-altering properties, and the vast majority of the book consists of pretty standard school life drama. There are many little subplots, such as the deal with the school bully, and Kaoru’s messed up family life, but it just doesn’t seem to matter in the end, since we know it’ll end with that final trip through the tunnel.

Naturally, the characters leave much to be desired; a fatal weakness of standalones. Kaoru is, sadly, a lot like me with some of the cynical stuff he says. I don’t like myself when I’m like that, so I naturally don’t like him either. And like I said in the premise, it feels like his family’s divorce is just a marketing scheme to make people sympathize with him.

Anzu is likable at first, because she deals with bullies with force, and looks great while doing it. However, as she gets to know Kaoru, she becomes less of a rebel, and more like the idealized waifu that is indistinguishable from the female lead in a Makoto Shinkai movie. And don’t get me started on Koharu, the aforementioned bully. Her arc is alright, but it doesn’t feel like it belongs in the story at all.

~~~~~

Final Verdict: 7.5/10

The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes is not the worst light novel ever, but that’s not saying much. The book is overwhelmingly okay, with its only novelty being that you can say you knew about the movie before it was cool. To be honest, I don’t even know if the movie is gonna do too hot either. As always, there’s better fish in the sea, especially in the world of light novels.

Weeb Reads Monthly: October and November 2021

Ugh, light novels. As you might’ve read in my “There’s Too Much” post, I’ve been getting burnt hardcore by these things. I’ve even dreaded the ones I truly enjoy and really want to finish. Every time I go through the Pre-Orders at BookWalker, I feel sick to my stomach at all the stuff I have to veto (also, I’ve become way less tolerable toward ecchi and hentai, so now I have a better moral compass I guess). I should probably make use of the BookWalker notifications. Anyway, let’s see if it’s colored how I read these newest volumes, consisting of ONLY favorites… and Re:ZERO.


Cautious Hero Volume 7

This volume continues the Warped Gaeabrande Arc! And it begins with Seiya being controversial as usual. He trains Rosalie, but is extremely abusive to her, his justification being that she isn’t real. Of course, this won’t stop Rista (or you) from being triggered. Hooray, antiheroes!

However, if you’ve somehow managed to put up with him for this long, then you’ll finally get your reward. This volume is where Seiya and Rista’s values come to a head, and it’s actually quite powerful. He actually learns a lesson for once! Seriously, every time I think this series is going to get stale, something crazy happens. Hopefully, it can stay that way.

Verdict: 9.15/10


Re:ZERO Volume 17

Okay, so what happened last time? Without context, it looked like the mummy-cult-person kidnapped a child, and used her powers to make people happy at the fact that she threw said child off of a skyscraper. And as soon as the kid died, everyone in the crowd exploded. Literally. And Subaru’s checkpoint is only minutes from that mess, meaning that he doesn’t have much time to think (not that he’s ever figured any of these plot points out on his own before).

With next to no time to plan things out, the volume had some of the tightest pacing in a while. In addition to that, some of the previously introduced Archbishops make an appearance as well. But as far as the newcomer, Sirius, is concerned, I’d say she’s one of the better villains. She’s cartoonishly evil as expected for an isekai, but that personality coupled with her mummy-like look will probably make her pretty iconic if this arc ever got animated. Also introduced is Capella, the Archbishop of Lust. She’s also very cartoonishly evil, with no shortage of personality as lewd as her character design.

This arc is off to a great start! The fights are still kind of meh, but at least they go faster than they did before. For the first time in a while, I actually find myself excited for the next volume.

Verdict: 8.5/10


Konosuba Volume 15

The main conflict of this volume is to deal with Seresdina, a dark priestess under orders from the Demon King. She has an uncanny ability to control people, and gains a large number of followers… including Kazuma! However, due to Kazuma being Kazuma, Seresdina ends up regretting her life choices.

It’s another straightforward volume, with a lot more drama than laughs. I admit I’m getting burnt out with Konosuba, which is a shame since I’ve loved it for such a long time. I’ll try to make a push for the remaining two volumes, but I’m not making any promises.

Verdict: 8.25/10


Infinite Dendrogram Volume 15

This volume is set at the same time as the previous volume. In case you forgot, another war against Altar has broken out, with the summit and Altar itself being attacked at the same time. We finally get to know what happened with the latter in this volume!

For the most part, this is a pretty standard Dendro volume. Not to say it’s bad of course; there is no shortage of high-octane battles and even more ridiculous Embryo abilities, in addition to a great fight where Tian soldiers take on a Superior player. The most important thing in this volume is that we establish, of all things, the final boss of the series. It’s a very unexpected twist, however, it’s a very light novel-y twist. To say it in the least spoiler-y way possible, the final boss is in a dormant state, which basically means the author can pad out Dendro as long as they want. Hooray… Overall, it’s a great volume.

Verdict: 8.75/10


Otherside Picnic Volume 6

This volume starts with the tired trope of amnesia. Fortunately, Otherside Picnic doesn’t sell out like that. Sorawo’s amnesia ends pretty quickly, but this volume is about dealing with the guy who caused it: a boy who calls himself Templeborn. 

With only one big chapter, this is the most focused volume thus far. While it sounds like bad pacing to spend the entire volume hunting down one guy, don’t worry; Otherside Picnic does it right. There are plenty of twists and turns, ending off in a climax that meets the series standard. Every time I finish a volume, I want the next volume immediately!

Verdict: 9.45/10


Conclusion

Light novels are hard. But somehow, I managed to work in these volumes. One pro-tip is that it’s a lot less stressful when you handpick only the ones you actually care about. I am aware that I failed to notice the impending release of The Executioner and Her Way of Life Vol. 3, so I’ll have to cover that later. With all said and done, see you next month!

Magistellus Bad Trip Volume 1: SAO Meets GTA Meets Monopoly Meets Ready Player One

I hate myself so much. I swore off all light novel series I haven’t read (and some I haven’t finished), yet this one—Magistellus Bad Trip—beckoned me into its world. It wasn’t even the cover art that got me, but the premise. It was something so inherently appealing that it couldn’t possibly suck. Despite having read a lot of LNs with fool-proof premises that end up sucking, I took the plunge once more.

In Magistellus Bad Trip, Suou Kaname is filthy rich in the world of Money (Game) Master, a VRMMO where your worth is measured in stonks and bonds. As good as he is, however, he’s not satisfied with his currents setup. No, he wants to track down the Legacies, which are ridiculously OP equipment left behind by a legendary player. Can he do it? Probably. It’s just a matter of when.

What immediately makes Magistellus Bad Trip appealing is its setting, Money (Game) Master. It is an open-world sandbox game where you buy properties, and make bank by utilizing the world’s wildly fluctuating stonk market. Of course, you can blow up in-game facilities and other players to give yourself an edge. But since every VRMMO series is morally bound to have some allegory to our actual society, the in-game currency in Money (Game) Master has ramifications in the real world. And with the Legacies in hand, one can effectively rule over all mankind.

However, the real world isn’t much better. In Magistellus Bad Trip, A.I are on their way to assuming full control of the world. And while low-income families are funded by these A.I., this effectively makes them slaves until their debts can be paid somehow.

Of course, good writing and storytelling matters the most. Fortunately, this is one of the better-written light novels I have read. There is a lot of thought put into the nuance of the world and its logic. Plus, there is no shortage of over-the-top action, which can be compared to the spectacle of Platinum Games.

And, for once, the characters aren’t completely unremarkable! Kaname is the best character for sure. While his uncanny sense of danger comes off as an overpowered protagonist trait, the stuff he does fits within the logic of the game world. Oh, and by the way, every player has an A.I. partner, the titular Magistellus. His is a succubus named Tsileka. And while her character design is what you’d expect, she actually has a fun relationship with Kaname that isn’t at all sexual. Unfortunately, that’s about it. The other plot-relevant characters are pretty meh, especially Midori, the sister of the legendary player that created the Legacies, who fulfills the role of waifu that needs protecc-tion.

~~~~~

Verdict: 8.75/10

I’m actually glad I gave Magistellus Bad Trip a chance. The series promises to be intricate and engaging; a rarity in the light novel market. It’s also one of the scariest cyberpunks I have read, since it expands upon stuff that already exists right now. Let’s just hope I can figure out how to juggle it with the rest of my life.

Weeb Reads Monthly: August 2021

Well, here it is. Another irrelevant monthly post because it isn’t August whatsoever. But hey, at least being super picky with light novels means that I’m going to have glowing reviews of all of them, right?


Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit Multi-Target Attacks? Volume 10

This could’ve been the final volume. But NOPE. Instead, for the penultimate installment, we get a bunch of filler stories. But like other filler volumes, the final chapter alone is actually plot relevant, so you can’t skip it! The filler chapters aren’t bad, but it’s the principle of the thing. As I’ve said numerous times, this is an expensive and time-consuming industry. Well, whatever. 

Verdict: 7.25/10


Eighty-Six Volume 8

Right at the start, we get our goal for this volume: to capture some base somewhere, which will have some information about the secret base that has the secret shutdown code that can end the war. Oh, right, Frederica is a princess for some reason that may or may not have been properly foreshadowed (knowing light novels, probably not), and she’s the key to all this.

Clocking in at two-hundred-seventy-seven pages on BookWalker, I believe this was one of the longest volumes… and one of the weakest. Even when things ramped up in the second half, it just didn’t feel engaging. I just couldn’t get a sense of 3D space in the base they went to (I could’ve just been tired though). Also, this area really has zero purpose. The ghost operating the boss of the volume doesn’t even have a name or character. I see no reason why they couldn’t push for the hidden base. They could’ve spent the whole volume training for it, and I would’ve liked it better.

Also, spoilers here. The volume has a fake death, along with a Deus Ex Machina… either that or I was just REALLY tired (or bored) of it. Nothing quite says “I tried to be cynical but I failed” more than a fake character death. I swear, if the final arc doesn’t start with the next volume, I might end up dropping what I had originally considered one of the best light novel series out there.

Verdict: 7.5/10


Otherside Picnic Volume 5

It’s business as usual here in Otherside Picnic; episodic chapters where weird stuff ensues. It’s surreal and creepy as always. Well… not exactly “as always”. I took a week-long break from reading stuff, and it felt really nice. So, it might be the stress of having to keep up with this stupid and expensive market that’s coloring my impression of today’s volume of Otherside Picnic.

But regardless, it might just be one of the weaker volumes. And that’s mainly because it’s not really that creepy compared to previous installments. The odd-numbered chapters in particular were very unceremonious. Weird stuff happens, but they’re situations where the protagonists weren’t in danger. Runa Urumi regains consciousness in this volume, but as huge as that sounds, it’s put to the wayside. Fortunately, the even-numbered chapters are as weird and scary as expected. This was not a bad volume by any means, it’s just that half of it doesn’t meet the series’ standard.

Verdict: 8.65/10


Durarara!! SH Volume 2

Now that we established the main premise, it’s time for Durarara!! SH to start in earnest. Unlike most light novels, time isn’t wasted as our new unlikely trio investigates the disappearances. It’s obvious that Celty didn’t do it, and she arrives to tell them that right off the bat. Also… I effing love Celty. 

Basically, this volume concludes the arc that was established in the last volume. We get some more development with Yahiro and Himeka, and more teasers as to whether or not Izaya is still alive. I don’t know if it’s the aforementioned stress from reading, but I didn’t enjoy this volume as much as the first one. Due to the sequel curse, SH is destined to not be as popular. I wouldn’t consider it bad, though. It just came out at a really bad time for me.

Verdict: 8.65/10


Conclusion

I’m really letting the stress get to me, aren’t I? It’s already stressful keeping up with an industry like this that has no subscription service dedicated to it. Part of me wants to swear off light novels forever. Even the ones I really, really love. But in better news (at least for me), there are no light novels I care about being published this month! If one or two happen to sneak by (because Yen Press likes dropping release dates short notice), they’ll be covered in the October 2021 installment.

The Haunted Bookstore: Gateway to the Shallowest Shinto Portrayal I Have Ever Seen

This is another light novel series I really wanted to read. I mean, LOOK at that cover art. Also, the description implies that it’s stuffed full of Shinto folklore, i.e. my kind of jam. For the love of Amaterasu, The Haunted Bookstore: Gateway to a Parallel Universe had better be a banger!

In The Haunted Bookstore, an ordinary woman named Kaori Muramoto lives in an extraordinary place: the spirit world. Despite the title, our titular haunted bookstore is an establishment within said spirit world; it’s not actually a gateway TO it. She lives there with a cranky old oni named Shinoname, and helps all sorts of people. But one day, a weird exorcist boy named Sumei appears, and ends up lodging with them.

The thing that makes this inherently appealing is the commitment to Japanese mythology. If you’re knowledgeable about this stuff, you’ll see some familiar faces. And if you’re an American who’s struggling to find accurate research material for it, then The Haunted Bookstore has you there as well. 

Uuuugh, as much as I wanted to love this, I have to say “that’s about where the positives end”. Being a slice-of-life isekai, everyone and everything is super-grounded, and there’s never any reason to feel tension whatsoever. While this can be done well in certain (rare) cases, The Haunted Bookstore is one of those that “pretends” to have heightened tension with numerous action sequences that just aren’t exciting because, by nature of the subgenre, we KNOW that everything will have to turn out all fluffy in the end. 

The book also does a slice-of-life isekai trope that I hate: arbitrarily trying to wax poetic. One example is a side story where Kaori looks after a pair of cicada spirits who have a similar situation to Hikoboshi and Orihime, but in the form of dying and reincarnating over and over again. It’s supposed to make you cry, but… they just come back, so what’s the point of the feels? The universal theme of the series is a big philosophical question of whether or not humans and yokai can coexist. They make a big deal about it, but you just need to look at real life to know that it’s a ham-fisted thing. In the context of actual Shinto, humans and yokai live together whether we like it or not. It could be brushed off as a creative liberty, but it’s not like yokai have completely cut themselves off from humans in The Haunted Bookstore; in fact, there are plenty that live in the real world just the same. Also, I’m gonna have the gall to criticize a Japanese person for being inaccurate, but… the author categorizes jorogumo as a type of tsukumogami, which I’m pretty darn sure is wrong, since those are limited to household objects, while jorogumo is a spider yokai. 

The writing could also be better. For how enchanting the cover art looks, stuff is described with about as much heart as expected in a standard isekai; i.e. the bare minimum of what you could call a description. It’s a real shame, especially considering that this world is supposed to be the appeal of the whole darn series. 

As usual with me, the characters are what I really can’t stand. They are all boring. While they have some semblance of personality quirks, the subdued nature of the series means that no one can really express themselves in a way that has oomph. Kaori is kind of tomboy-ish, but she’s also super special and entitled for no reason, given her ability to live in the spirit world. Suimei is a garden variety kuudere; by living with Kaori, he’s forced to experience feelings for the first time in his life. Shinoname is a grumpy old man and that’s about it.

The characters from Japanese mythology were also not very engaging. No matter what their personalities are in the actual legends, they are all equally as dull here. Also, there were no kami present whatsoever. I feel like it would’ve mixed things up, but nope.

~~~~~

Verdict: 6.5/10

What a disappointment. I shouldn’t have expected a straight-up masterpiece, but I at least expected something that wasn’t just as mediocre as a standard isekai, especially with the legitimately cool ideas at work here. It’s not the worst thing ever, so I’ll try to keep up with it. But to be honest, there isn’t much appeal with The Haunted Bookstore. At this stage, I wouldn’t even recommend it to a fellow weeb.

Weeb Reads Monthly July 2021

Yen Press just HAS to publish their new light novel volumes at the end of every month, don’t they? This month was particularly bad because several volumes dropped on the day that this would’ve been posted otherwise. Because of that, I had no choice but to post this in the wrong month, making it irrelevant! And guess what: this is probably going to be the case with every single one of these monthly posts forever! Hooray (am I cursed or what?)!

So I’m a Spider, So What?! Volume 12

Light novels and YA novels seem to have something in common, and it’s that you can have a story arc that is—for all intents and purposes—supposed to be action-heavy. And yet, when you actually get to that part, it turns out that there’s next to no action whatsoever. That’s this volume.

It’s at least better than Julius’ volume. However, don’t rejoice in Best Girl White’s return as narrator. You see, her POV is only in the first and last chapter, and the rest are each taken over by a different character. And boy oh boy… I forgot who almost all of them were. The author does include an overly large bio of each person at the start of their chapter, but I still found myself not caring about them (regardless of if I remembered them or not), and it royally killed the pacing. This is the climax of the series, and you waste our time with backstories that don’t contribute anything to the current moment.

Also, it’s not much of a climax since our protagonists are so stupidly powerful. Furthermore, merely remembering what happens in earlier volumes (which the series is now caught up with chronologically) kills any form of, you know, not knowing what’ll happen. It really shows that the weird timeline storytelling was kind of a shallow gimmick.

Verdict: 6.5/10


Combatants Will Be Dispatched! Volume 6

This is a pretty random volume, to be honest. It’s just various shenanigans that don’t seem to have any real connection to each other, from exploring more of the planet to apprehending a weird criminal. As with Konosuba, focus was never meant to be the core source of appeal anyway.

The aforementioned weird criminal, Adelheid, is as bizarro as you can expect. Despite not being one of the high-and-mighty Heroes from the real world, she sure acts like one. In that classic way of subverting “good guy protags”, she causes mayhem and is completely oblivious to the fact that she is doing harm. And, well, that’s about all there is to cover. Shenanigans and over-the-top action are abound as always.

Verdict: 8.5/10


DanMachi Volume 16

It’s been sixteen volumes, and it’s finally time for Syr to have a character arc! It’s been blatantly clear that she had something to do with Freya, given the fact that they both love Bell, and she’s finally going to make her move. In fact, she proposes a bet with Freya to see who can win his heart first at the Harvest Festival. 

Overall, it’s a solid volume. There are a lot of cute interactions between Bell and Syr that have been long overdue. There is also a huge reveal at the end, which is something I saw coming since the beginning of the series yet caught me off guard at the same time. In fact, I’m still not sure of the logistics behind it.

Verdict: 8.5/10


The Executioner and her Way of Life Volume 2

It feels like it’s been forever since the follow-up to the really awesome first volume of this series. I’ve been chomping at the bit to see what Menou plans to do with Akari, as well as what other insanity is going to take place. And, well, it’s not like I save the best volume of the post for last or anything… but I have a feeling that this one’s gonna slap.

The strange duo find themselves in Libelle, which has a nice view of one of the other Four Major Human Errors: Pandemonium. We get a preview of it in the prologue, and it’s more-or-less the setting of Torture Princess scaled down to a small archipelago with a nasty fog covering it. Not a fun place.

Anyway, due to a lack of travel funds (and the author wanting to find an excuse to put out a self-contained conflict given the nature of the light novel medium), Menou has to solve a classic drug trafficking issue. And, well, it’s pretty telegraphed who the culprit is: Manon Libelle, the daughter of the guy in charge of the town. She’s very unrealistically evil for a teenage girl, but that’s just the kind of series Executioner is. 

Also, it looks like we get some context as for Akari’s suspicious behavior at the end of the previous volume. She indeed knows that Menou is trying to kill her, and furthermore, the events of the series as we’re perceiving them aren’t even Akari’s first experience in this world. Time travel also seems to have given her a weird split personality… or something. 

Overall, this is a phenomenal volume, which further cements Executioner as one of my new favorite light novel franchises (for someone who doesn’t particularly like dark stuff, I sure like all the effed up light novels for some reason). To top it off is a crazy climax and some big developments. Next volume when?!

Verdict: 9/10


Conclusion

Boy, this market is so overwhelming. I don’t know how other people can keep up with this stuff when I can barely keep up with the things I’m dead-set on finishing! And now thanks to release timing, I’m probably never going to be able to make these posts in the correct month ever again. Oh well!

The NPCs in This Village Game Sim Must Be Real! Volume 1: A Really NEET Light Novel

Okay, sooooo I kinda said that I wouldn’t be covering light novel debuts for a while. However, at the time, I had completely forgotten that I was looking forward to The NPCs in This Village Sim Game Must be Real! (along with one other series). Look, Japan puts out thousands of these every year; I’m not the only one to completely forget something I knew I wanted. So, after this and that other series, I’m DEFINITELY not covering any light novel debuts for a while. I think?

In The NPCs in This Village Game Sim Game Must be Real!, a NEET named Yoshio receives a strange package, containing a game in its alpha build: The Village of Fate. He must test the game, but the fact that it’s classified is really weird. That, and the fact that it has the most realistic graphics ever despite how well it runs on his older computer. Oh, and the fact that the characters seem all too human. 

Right off the bat, Village Game shows a lot of promise. The author clearly put a lot of thought into the game mechanics, but it’s definitely not something most people would play. Basically, imagine a village sim roguelite, which sounds pretty kickass just from that description. However, there are some things that seem like utter BS, and intentionally so. For starters, Yoshio gets only one run, and the game permanently soft-locks, in addition to the permadeath that can happen to the NPCs. Also, he cannot directly control them. The only way to command them is to write a prophecy as the villagers’ god. And this feature only refreshes once every twenty-four hours of real time. He can accumulate Fate Points (FP) to unlock powerful and necessary upgrades, but the upgrades are expensive, and—here’s the real kicker—the game has micro-transactions. 

This series seems to be setting up a character study that can—hopefully in an intellectual manner—examine people and how easily they can lose their sense of reality to that of a game world. And in addition to that, Yoshio undergoes some real growth that most characters of his ilk do not. Since he’s stuck in the real world, he has to face his insecurities head-on. As questionable as The Village of Fate is, it has compelled him to go outside. He even has to get a job because, as expected in a game with microtransactions, The Village of Fate is pay-to-win. And I don’t even mean that from the standpoint of making a grindy game less grindy; it is simply impossible to gain enough FP to keep up with the crap the game throws at you.

The problem lies within The Village of Fate itself, and I don’t mean how intentionally sadistic its design is. The game’s worldbuilding and denizens are about as bland as any substandard isekai. Our cast of the game is a family of three, whose little daughter has an unhealthy crush on a fourth main character named Gams, a significantly older man. They’re… there. I don’t see how Yoshio got so invested in them outside of how realistic they look in the game. 

~~~~~

Verdict: 8.9/10

I didn’t expect The NPCs in This Village Sim Game Must Be Real! to be good at all. And yet, it pleasantly surprised me. I highly anticipate how much more advanced the game will get as more stuff happens, and Yoshio’s character arc is very engaging. I recommend it not to isekai fans, but slice-of-life fans, since it’s pretty grounded for a fantasy series.

Over Already?!: Last Round Arthurs — Volume 5

This, I hope, is the first post where I cover the final volume of a light novel series. The reason why I’m unsure is because BookWalker doesn’t list Last Round Arthurs as “Completed” on its page. This might be a Yen Press thing, since it doesn’t say Silver Spoon is completed either. But based on what happens here, the afterword literally saying “the series has come to an end”, and it literally saying “FINAL” on the cover, the fifth volume is the finale of Last Round Arthurs, so let’s review this thing already!

When we last left off our intrepid heroes, Luna’s team just found the Holy Grail, while leaving Rintaro to fight his dad. When they get back, however, things aren’t too pretty. It’s more-or-less the end of the world, actually. There’s only one thing to do: whoop butt!

As the finale, there really isn’t much to the plot at all. Basically, we establish King Arthur himself as the real villain (as if that’s never happened in edgy retellings of his legend), and he’s just nonchalantly going to destroy the world. We get the full backstory for everything, including Morgan’s motive. This takes just about thirty to forty-ish percent of the volume.

And the rest is pure action! Without wasting any time, we just go, go, go straight towards the final battle. As always, Last Round Arthurs excels in its combat, and this series of fights is no slouch. You can expect the detailed descriptions that somehow don’t nerf the pacing, as well as the hype battle shounen moments. 

Unfortunately—this sounds cliché—but the finale is a bit rushed. I initially thought that the series was axed, given its relative unpopularity. But nope; the afterword says that this was meant to be a five-volume series. Everything resolves without plothotles, but the whole establishment of the climax is VERY sudden, and King Arthur being a baddie comes way out of left field.

Verdict: 8.5/10


Final Thoughts

Last Round Arthurs is one of the most underrated light novel series, but it still has some of flaws. It felt like Rintaro had a whole “face his inner demons” scene about eighty times over the course of the story, and it got quite repetitive. Also, despite how awesome Luna is, she ended up being his damsel in distress numerous times. Furthermore, I concede that Luna and Rintaro are the only really good characters in the whole series.

Fortunately, I enjoyed it immensely due to its sheer entertainment value. The action was always over-the-top and fast-paced. I could picture what was going on, and it looked phenomenal because of how well-written it was. An anime adaptation would probably not be capable of doing this series justice, but at the very least, it would only need one season to be a complete adaptation. I’d recommend Last Round Arthurs to battle shounen fans who don’t mind protagonists with a massive ego.

Final Verdict (Whole Series): 8.85/10

Villainess Reloaded Didn’t Blow ME Away, That’s for Sure!

Perhaps my least favorite subgenre of light novels—even more than the notorious isekai—is probably whatever you call “the main protagonist is suddenly inside a visual novel for no reason”. Events tend to happen exactly like in the game, so the main character ends up being more overpowered than any isekai protag simply by knowing the future and avoiding all the problems that they already knew about. More importantly, their appeal lies in a very neurotypical fascination with realistic human relationships, as well as for you to be easily invested in whether or not two fictional characters do it. I hated pretty much every single one of these I’ve ever tried to read… but one title by the author of Her Majesty’s Swarm, which I’m assuming got axed or J Novel-Club lost the licensing or something, caught my eye: Villainess Reloaded! Blowing Away Bad Ends with Modern Weapons.

In Villainess Reloaded!, a college student whose name is never mentioned is reborn in an otome name as its main antagonist: Astrid Sophia von Oldernberg. Despite having been forced to play it by a friend, she nonetheless got every ending, and knows that Astrid is fated to die. As such, she plans to use her military knowledge to create this game world’s equivalent to modern weapons.

The appeal of this is seeing a loli unloading an AK-47 on people with no remorse. Coming from the author of Her Majesty’s Swarm, this is no real surprise. Even at age four in the game, she wastes no time learning magic and producing her own guns. At age four. Here’s the thing, though; since guns weren’t invented yet, there are no gun laws in this game world! So, technically, what she’s doing is entirely legal. 

The immediate problems, however, rear their ugly heads right off the bat. For starters, she asks her father for permission on early magic lessons, and the way she convinces him isn’t by giving him a kiss on both cheeks, but by listing several sociopolitical reasons why it’s for his benefit, all while using words that a four-year-old couldn’t possibly know. Of course, this is a fantasy world with no regard for realism, so I could let that slide.

However, it doesn’t end there. When Astrid gets her magic tutor, he just nonchalantly teaches her subjects magic that only the most advanced wizards are supposed to learn. This includes blood magic, which is the equivalent of dark arts and something a child—in the context of this world—shouldn’t be allowed to learn. Being an LN protagonist, Astrid does all this pretty much perfectly. And the cherry on top is that everyone is just casually okay with it! Even when someone does show concern, it’s very swiftly swept aside.

This volume consists of the usual slice-of-life stuff that happens in pretty much every LN of this kind that I have read. It’s no different from those LNs except with the occasional use of guns. I guess this is supposed to be a slow burn, since the flash-forward prologue implies that Astrid gets three fairy familiars before wrecking stuff, and at this point she only has one.

The characters are pretty much the typical, grounded shoujo tropes you’d see in your garden variety visual novel. Astrid, despite being a sociopath, isn’t that fun to enjoy, even with her crazy monologuing. The others are, well, I don’t like them.

~~~~~

Verdict: 5/10

Villainess Reloaded! did not at all get me to like this subgenre of light novel any better than before. It was boring and unremarkable, and the gun gimmick seemed like a marketing hook more than anything. I guess if you like romance and visual novels, then you’ll like this as well.

And with that, I kind of have some lousy news for my blog moving forward. For whatever reason, I’ve been very close to being in the red when it comes to my money. In fact, I can barely afford to buy the light novel volumes of the series I actually care about. So, for the time being, I will not cover any light novel debuts no matter what. This will last until I finish a good enough number of the ones I’ve been currently working on. Hopefully that’ll be sooner rather than later, since light novels are kind of what I started this blog on!