Weeb Reads Monthly December 2020

Well, this post’s a bit late. The reason is because the latest volume of Otherside Picnic came out too close to  the end of the year. But hey, at least I got this out on the same week as New Year’s Eve, right? Anyway, let’s do this.


Sorcerer King of Destruction and Golem of the Barbarian Queen Volume 2

I had a sliver of hope for this one. After all, it started out as a pretty lonely, post-apocalyptic isekai. However, it doesn’t take long for Nemaki to reach a town. At this point, Sorcerer King pretty much turns into your run-of-the-mill slice-of-life isekai.

If I was a more generous reviewer, I’d say it’s fascinating to see the fact that Nemaki doesn’t exactly understand Gol. She’s very trigger happy, and her clothes are more than just cosmetic. Nemaki genuinely does not know what she’s capable of, nor what makes her tick, giving a genuine sense of mystery and concern. Unfortunately, I’m not a more generous reviewer. From rubbing cheeks to looking at her underwear, Nemaki’s interactions with Gol are no different than that of a typical isekai waifu. It seems like she was made as a golem just to pretend that Sorcerer King is subversive. And with the usual stiff writing, I have little to no interest remaining in this series.

Verdict: 6.5/10


May These Leaden Battlegrounds Leave No Trace Volume 2

Before getting into this volume, I must clarify that I did not cover The Eminence in Shadow Volume 2 like I planned. First off, I ran out of money because, well, Christmas. Second off, I had too many doubts about that series. The fact that Cid’s made-up enemy turns out to be real, along with them actually skipping how his own organization comes about… It’s just plain stupid. Combine that with the subpar characters and you have another series that, in my opinion, does not at all deserve to place on the Kono Sugoi Light Novel rankings. 

I also had doubts about May These Leaden Battlegrounds Leave No Trace. Like most time travel narratives, Leaden Battlegrounds is kind of… iffy. But for some reason, I enjoyed it because I was curious as to how stupid it could get. So here we are!

The main premise of the volume is Rain and Air getting into a scuffle with some Western soldiers, one of whom is a cute girl named Deadrim, and the other person is… there. Once again, most of the volume proves to be boring, but there’s just enough intrigue at the end to make you wanna buy the next one. The only other noteworthy thing is that fact that Air should be using the Devil Bullet on Rain, but that whole aspect of their relationship goes in the direction you’d expect.

Verdict: 7.2/10


DanMachi Volume 15

It feels like it’s been forever and a day since we had a new DanMachi volume. Unfortunately, this one’s a filler volume. Sure, DanMachi has had some of the better filler in light novels, but not this time. We do get more backstory to some of our main protagonists, in addition to the backstory we already got, but it kind of feels excessive. For example, the first chapter is literally about the inn that Bell stayed at until he found out about Hestia. Do we really need that? In any case, most of the stories are pretty good, though not the best that DanMachi has to offer. 

Verdict: 7.9/10


Infinite Dendrogram Volume 13

After the relative nothing that happened last time, we finally have an event that’s been building up for a long time: a conference between Altar and Dryfe. In order to participate, Ray forms a clan with his friends and gets a new job. This new job, as always, is something wild that nobody likes which ends up being really useful for his build. In any case, it’s not even a spoiler to say that the conference goes south, and a big fight breaks out.

The one gripe I have is something that’s happened twice now in Dendro: withholding information from the reader that the main character, who’s narrating, happens to know. It’s a cheap way to build anticipation and I don’t know why any writer would ever think this is a good idea. Nemesis, once again, evolves into a new form after a small time-skip leading up to the conference. We also don’t get to see it, since this volume ends in the middle of the action. Other than that, Dendro still meets (and exceeds) expectations.

Verdict: 8.75/10


Otherside Picnic Volume 4

It feels like it’s been forever since we got some Otherside Picnic! With the anime in development, I cannot wait for yuri fans to get super toxic and scare off potential viewers. But in the meantime, we have this. As usual, it starts off [relatively] chill, with the girls going to the cult HQ from the previous volume to clear it of supernatural gook.

Other than that, it’s pretty typical stuff. Sorawo and Toriko’s relationship gets more intense, and we learn a bit of the former’s past, but that’s about it. There’s no new goal established. However, I’m fine with that, because Otherside Picnic is a CGDCT at heart, and core narrative doesn’t really matter in those. As long as the suspense is still off the rails (which it is in this volume HOLY CRAP), then I’m good.

Verdict: 9.3/10


Conclusion

Overall, we had a pretty good lineup of light novels to close off the year. Unfortunately, it looks like I’m going to be skipping this January’s Weeb Reads Monthly because there are only two volumes that I actually have interest in, excluding the upcoming debuts. February might be skipped too, because I only see ONE volume of interest on BookWalker’s Pre-Order page at the time of writing this post. Regardless, whatever I skip will all be lumped in with another month eventually!

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Volume 14 Review

Last time on Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, there was a murder, and Lyu seems to be the culprit! A witness testifies that she fled down to the 27th floor, so the group from the last volume, along with some people from Rivira, join up and head down. Again. However, Cassandra has another premonition, and it’s the usual “everyone is going to die” premonition. And like with all of those premonitions, everyone completely ignores it, except for the person who had it to begin with. Turns out that Lyu once slaughtered a Familia that attacked her old one, and she caught wind (no pun intended) of one of the survivors. Bell manages to find her attacking a dwarf named Turk, while the rest of the group finds the aforementioned survivor, named Jura. Bell chases Lyu, who went after Jura, and figures out that everything has been a setup by Turk and Jura to frame Lyu for the murder. After fighting two snakes summoned from floor 37, Turk and Jura set off a chain reaction of explosions that literally makes the Dungeon itself scream in pain,  causing it to birth the Juggernaut, a powerful monster that’s meant to defend the Dungeon if it takes too much damage. This monster was summoned in the same manner to destroy Lyu’s familia in the past, and now here it is! With some nakama power by his side, Bell manages to put a big dent in it, but Jura uses his monster taming items to try to control the beast. It fails, but the already-tamed serpent hears his final order and attacks Bell and Lyu. They survive, but end up… in the deep levels of the Dungeon. It’s time to play some Dark Souls.

For me, this volume is definitely a step-up from last time, that’s for sure. Within about five seconds, a massive Floor Boss appears on the twenty-fifth floor, and our supporting protagonists have to fight it without Bell. This is probably one of my favorite fights in the series now, simply because of the ridiculous amount of close calls there are. Even if they manage to beat it, they still have to deal with the other mobs in the area. 

Bell and Lyu aren’t doing much better. Although they are technically within the recommended level, they are absolutely exhausted and wounded after their battle with Juggernaut, which happens to still be alive and hunting them. If that wasn’t enough, the thirty-seventh floor is massive, and there are also the regular mobs to deal with.

Seriously, this is probably the most critical condition that Bell has been in yet. Usually, whenever he’s fought a tough boss, he gets to recover afterwards. But nope; this volume is like doing the Master Sword trials in Breath of the Wild with two rusty broadswords and no armor. Each skirmish genuinely conveys how close to Death’s doorstep they are, and how desperately they’re trying to escape.

I love the intensity in this volume, but for some reason, I just can’t get into Lyu’s backstory. I just don’t get it! There are even some special chapters set in her past, but I found them to be kinda boring. To be fair, Lyu wasn’t among my favorite characters of DanMachi in the first place. Maybe if she’s your waifu, you’ll like her backstory a lot better than I did.

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Verdict: 8.9/10

I’m glad that this arc was short. It’s not my favorite in DanMachi; but nonetheless, this was a powerful volume, and a quick reminder to us that Bell still has a ways to go in his character progression. Let’s just hope the next major arc will be even better than the phenomenal Xenos Arc.

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Volume 13 Review

Last time on DanMachi, Bell made it to Level 4, which increased Hesita Familia’s overall rank to D. This means only one thing: Fetch quests! Now, they have to go to the Dungeon every day, get to a new floor, and come back with a bunch of crap to prove that they actually did it! Today, they enter Floor 25, a beautiful, watery paradise. However, on this floor is an enhanced version of the rare moss huge, which has gotten stronger by gaining EXP from other monsters. It deceives the party and they get separated from Bell. Bell meets a new Xenos mermaid named Mari, and she helps him reunite with his friends in time for him to fight the kids huge head-on. He uses a new combination of Fire Bolt and Argonaut to one-shot it like a boss. With their new victory, the team begins to head out of the Dungeon. But on the Floor 18 town, someone pops up saying that there’s been a murder! This would be setup for an arc where Bell is framed for some BS reason. But fortunately, the witness saw conclusively who did it: an elf named Gale Wind…

…whom at the time, I had completely forgotten was Lyu’s adventurer name! I don’t remember much of her backstory (even though it hasn’t even been a year since I read earlier volumes. Or, heck, it might be a marketing ploy to get you to read the Lyu Chronicle spinoff), but apparently, she killed some people, and that’s why she was working at the bar (i.e. to hide). Key word “was”, for she’s also vanished at around the time of the murder. That’s not incriminating at all.

Meanwhile, Cassandra has another prophecy, this time one where everyone dies. She more or less spends most of the volume perseverating on it, which doesn’t offer any help.

Of all the characters here, Lyu is the one who gets the character development this time. Unfortunately, this is probably one of the weakest character arcs in DanMachi up to this point. This series wasn’t too great on originality, but her backstory felt particularly checklist-y (professional term) to me. I didn’t feel any strong emotions this time around, which is weird, given that I’ve known Lyu much longer than Wiene from the previous arc. You probably get better context on this whole thing if you read the Lyu Chronicle stuff, but that feels really… jerkish, especially to me, who already has enough crap to be spending money on, and cannot work spinoffs into my budget. 

Heck, even the boss battle in this volume felt like torture porn more than anything else. DanMachi is admittedly a series that’s fueled by it, but- I don’t know- something felt off about it this time. The cliffhanger ending at least shows some promise for this new arc.

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Verdict: 7.8/10

I’m sorry, but this is probably one of the weakest volumes of DanMachi thus far. Lyu’s backstory felt meh to me, and there really wasn’t that much going on. But hey, every long-running series has its bumps in the road. Plus, whatever arc immediately followed the Xenos was destined to feel underwhelming anyway. Let’s just hope that this is the ONLY bump in the road for a while.

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Volume 12 Review

Cover of volume 12

Last time on DanMachi, we finished off the Xenos Arc. All kinds of chaos ensued (including a gripping fight between Bell and Aiz) as Hestia Familia tried to help the Xenos escape from Orario. However, Hermes created a fake notebook to trick them and force Bell to kill one of the Xenos. Double however, Freya had other plans. She had Ottar direct Asterios, the black minotaur that Aiz injured earlier, to Bell. Turns out that Asterios is a reincarnation of the very first minotaur that Bell fought all that time ago. Their battle is enough of a distraction for the Xenos to escape into the Dungeon, but Bell gets his ass handed to him by Asterios. After the battle, the beast returns to the Dungeon, to train up for the last of their best-two-out-of-three-match. Bell cries for a bit, but continues to move forward as usual.

So, guys, did you know that there’s a massive, underground labyrinth called the Dungeon right underneath Orario? It’s kind of been a while since the story actually involved going there. After the incident, Bell’s rank increases to Level 4, which brings Hestia Familia’s overall rank to D. At this rank, the Guild will now send them off on regular expeditions in the Dungeon, with each ending off on a floor that they haven’t been to before. Finally! But here’s the thing, floors 25 and onward are called “the New World” (*cough* not a ripoff of anything *cough*), and this is where the Dungeon takes the kid gloves off.

The main narrative of this volume is that they end up discovering a rare monster that has grown stronger  by gaining XP from other monsters. Although it’s not Asterios, it ends up proving to be quite a challenge because it’s also much smarter than most monsters that aren’t Xenos.

Overall, it’s a good volume, but the biggest issue with this volume is the lack of further character development. It’s undeniable that the characters have grown immensely throughout the series; Bell has better judgement, Lily and Welf are better fighters, Haruhime even gets a new move, and more. The character arcs for most of these people feel more or less complete, which is both good and bad. Good because the series can focus primarily on the Dungeon like it was meant to, and bad because there’s still a lot of story left but it needs chutzpah to stay interesting. Hopefully the new development at the end of the volume will give it that chutzpah.

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Verdict: 8.5/10

Sorry for the short post today, but there really isn’t much to say here. This is a good breather volume, and one that we really needed. It doesn’t have a huge revelation or anything, but it’s still DanMachi.

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Overview (Volumes 1-11)

How did this seemingly stupid series- titled Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? (published in English by Yen Press)- utterly sweep me off my feet and win my heart?! It’s a silly ecchi series with an overpowered, self-insert protagonist has no grounds through which to actually be taken SERIOUSLY. Yet here we are, after eleven volumes, and DanMachi has become one of my favorite light novel series of all time.

DanMachi‘s premise is dirt simple. Bell Cranell, the self-insert boy, has moved to the Dungeon City of Orario to become an adventurer for the sole purpose of picking up girls. This little fart of an idea would somehow spread into a massive cloud that covers the light novel market and never goes away no matter how much you wash it.

The backbone that forms DanMachi is its worldbuilding, or rather, citybuilding. But hey, Orario alone has more engaging worldbuilding than most entire WORLDS in modern fantasy. This city is built on top of the Dungeon, a sprawling labyrinth full of monsters that are constantly birthed from inside its walls. It’s dangerous as heck. Prep work is everything when going into that place, and it shows in the series’ opener when Bell almost gets gutted by a Minotaur. 

Fortunately, people have the gods on their side. There are a myriad of gods who run little clubs called Familias, and they use a special power to record markings, called Falna, on their members’ backs. DanMachi runs on JRPG physics, and this is literally how they explain the existence of stats. The important thing to note is that characters can only gain stats by reporting to their god after gaining all the experience. There is a lot of depth to this system- including the rules and regulations regarding Familia themselves- and not letting you experience it all for yourself organically would be a disservice to DanMachi. Just note that it’s very intuitive and explained in a very engaging way compared to most other fantasy novels.

The city of Orario itself is insanely fascinating. The city has a lot of setpieces that help make it memorable. The best part is that it’s all introduced gradually; just when you think you’re familiar with the Orario, it throws you a curveball that hits you square in the bottom jaw.

But like in any city, the most important aspect of it is its people, which is my segue into discussing the large and amazing cast of DanMachi. Bell, as previously mentioned, is kind of a generic, “gotta-save-the-waifus” guy who has plot armor. However, due to the fantastic prose of the author, his nakama power actually feels like genuine accomplishments and moments of utter catharsis.

Meanwhile, we have Hestia. She’s one of the gods of Orario, and one of the worst in terms of social class. In fact, at the start of the series, Bell is the only member of her Familia! But not that far behind are Lily and Welf. Lily starts off as kind of damsel in distress, but her analytical nature makes her very resourceful when it comes to dungeon crawling. Welf is a blacksmith whose family is stained with tragedy. Naturally, both of these people enter spiritual awakenings when they meet up with Bell.

Outside of the main cast is a whole slew of important side characters. Notable characters include Eina, an elf who is charged with looking after Bell and making sure he doesn’t get killed. There is also Aiz Wallenstein, one of the strongest adventurers in Orario and Bell’s idol, as well as Freya, the goddess of beauty who is Bell’s stalker. The reason why someone like her is obsessed with Bell is actually contextualized as the narrative progresses. There are a ton of other characters but I won’t spoil them for you.

The art is the weakest aspect. It’s kind of bland and the character designs lack detail. When it comes to light novel art, I want more detail, mainly because they’re much more sparse, thus the illustrator has the time to make it stellar. But due to that sparseness, it’s not really an issue.

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Verdict: 9.25/10

DanMachi is a series that’s meant to ease you in and let your guard down before it goes for the jugular. It begins as a decent, light-hearted comedy fantasy, but starting from around volume 5, it becomes so much bigger and more intense than ever before. If you love fun fantasies that also have great worldbuilding, then I HIGHLY recommend DanMachi, provided that you can get used to some of its tropes.