Log Horizon Volume 3 Review

Last time on Log Horizon, the group returned to Akiba with Serera and Nyanta (while learning how to cook real food). But meanwhile, some old friends of Shiroe’s are in a bind: the twin newbs, Minori and Touya. They are kind of being held hostage by the guild, Hamelin, and forced to work their butts off. Shiroe responds by forming his own guild, the titular Log Horizon… and they raise money by selling food. Some clever negotiations help the business boom. But the real battle is when Shiroe attends a meeting with all the other guild leaders, and proposes that they form a governing body. Shiroe sways (i.e. blackmails) them by announcing that he purchased the guild center. Meanwhile, the operation to free the twins commences at the same time. While that goes down incredibly smoothly (as you’d expect), Shiroe brings up the secret to Snack Shop Crescent Moon’s success, as well as the revelation that anything can be invented by hand, such as steam engines and radios. He also proposes human rights laws for both players and People of the Earth. With this, his proposal for the new government- the Round Table Council- is approved with unanimous decision.

This volume tackles what I think is one of the hardest things to do well in the fantasy genre: in-universe politics. Most “plebian” folks will find politics, at first glance, to be absolute nonsense and rubbish, and writers can use that to justify wasting a lot of time in a fantasy narrative. There are times when fantasy politics can be good, like in One Piece‘s Reverie Arc, but most of the time, it’s just boring banter between unmemorable characters who will never appear again.

But hey, Log Horizon did have a great political meeting in the last volume. Shiroe was real clever buying out the guild center in order to sway the meeting, and it utilized an established mechanic of Log Horizon to boot.

Unfortunately, the politics in this volume are less than stellar. Basically, as a result of Akiba establishing a governing body, the Round Table, right next to the territory of Eastal, the League of Free Cities, Shiroe and others are invited (read as: demanded) to come to the Ancient Court of Eternal Ice to discuss their policies going forward. This was some seriously boring crap, and I was not engaged with anything happening at all.

But hey, there’s some action in here somewhere. While the politics are happening, Minori and Touya go with Noagutsu and some other people to a forest dungeon to train. Here, you see just how newbish they are in combat, and how long of a road they must traverse to not be baggage protagonists.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t too engaged by this stuff either. I get that the psychology of fighting with your physical bodies is much more intense than a traditional JRPG; that much was demonstrated in volume 1. But, in all honesty, the fear factor became a non-issue rather quickly, once Shiroe fought those PK’ers. So it stands to reason that it’ll be the same case for these kids, once the author decides to sprinkle on that nakama power. But to be fair, that’s kind of realistic with JRPGs in general, at least for me. A lot of times, I think I understand the rules, but then I notice some nuance, and I think, “Wow, I could’ve been doing this really helpful thing since the beginning of the game? Man, I’m an idiot!” But to be unfair, it just makes watching these kids struggle feel like watching a YouTuber’s blind playthrough of a game that you know really well.

As much as it sounds like I didn’t enjoy this volume, it still has some merits. The story goes from 0 to 100 towards the end, when this guy tells Shiroe the entire backstory of Elder Tales‘ world. This leads to a big revelation that’s, to be honest, kind of expected for Log Horizon, but no less important.

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Verdict: 7.15/10

Is there something wrong with me? I was so excited to finally get to read Log Horizon, and so far, I’m on a very gradual road towards ultimately disliking it. From what I had heard, it seemed like an intellectual and well-built isekai, which it is for the most part. But the characters are still as bland, and exposition is as heavy, as any isekai. Also, the fact that all the events in this volume happen in conjunction with a beach fanservice subplot really bothered me. I did not think Log Horizon would do something like this (even if the scene does segue into plot relevant content in the next volume). I know that I’m like a twelve-year-old inside, but I have been known to love some very non-mainstream stuff. Well, there’s still plenty of volumes left to convince me otherwise!

Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- Volume 12 Review

Last time on Re:ZERO, we learned that Subaru has WAY too much to do to get through this arc. First off, Emilia has to pass this trial at the sanctuary so that they can get through the forest, and even though Subaru got through the first part with no problem, Emilia is the one who needs to pass it because reasons. However, at the same time, Elsa- back from volume 1- attacks Roswaal mansion, where the comatose Rem is. Oh, and if they take too long with either, their camp will be ravaged by a hive-mind of demon bunnies created by the Witch of Gluttony. I should also mention that Beatrice is potentially a Witch cultist, since she has a Gospel-looking book in her room. But when Subaru presses Roswaal, he’s real adamant that she isn’t. And after he returns to New Best Girl Echidna’s place for advice, the camp gets attacked by-!

Holy crap, finally! It’s mother-effing Satella! As I mentioned in my overview of the series, my curiosity of what Satella is like has been my driving force to commit to Re:ZERO. Unfortunately, you don’t really get to see much of her personality, other than that yandere crap that she’s been displaying in all of Subaru’s previous encounters with her. But hey, it’s freaking Satella. Beggars can’t be choosers.

Minor spoilers; Subaru dies again, which further compounds the layercake of conflicts in this arc. Now, he has to: help Emilia get through the trial, deal with Garfiel, save Rem from the attack of Elsa and her cohort at Roswaal Mansion, the attack from that rabbit demon, AND the subsequent attack from Satella! Have fun, Subaru.

I never got to talk about this arc properly in the original overview, so I’ll sum up my thoughts on it up to this point. I wasn’t too into this arc at first. Garfiel felt like a very arbitrary antagonist, just stuck there to be annoying, and Echidna came off as merely a replacement for Rem; someone for Subaru to confide in.  It was also agonizing that they’re just stuck in this stupid Sanctuary in the first place.

Also, as far as the story as a whole is concerned, Re:ZERO is as padding-happy as ever. The reason why the previous arc, with Petelgeuse (or whatever his name is), was my least favorite thus far was because it just took forever. 

But right at the start of volume 12, I finally got to enjoy this arc for the first time. The story went from nothing happening to everything happening all at once. There are so many huge moments, from Echidna’s backstory, to a powerful scene between Subaru and Beatrice of all people, to Roswaal finally coming clean, and the proper introduction of Satella, volume 12 cranks it up a notch and then some. And that scene at the end… holy crap. We are likely on the cusp of a big turning point here.

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Verdict: 9.5/10

This volume was lit. Scratch that, this is my favorite volume in Re:ZERO to this point. It was completely worth getting to read this far ahead before the second anime season! Let’s hope that it continues to get better from here.

Log Horizon Volume 2 Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Verdict: 7.5/10

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

Log Horizon Volume 1 Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Verdict: 7.75/10

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

The Night is Short, Walk on Girl Book Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Final Verdict: 7/10

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

Outer Ragna Volume 1 Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Verdict: 6.75/10

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

Monogatari Series Review, Part 2 of 3

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


Nekomonogatari: Shiro

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

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


Kabukimonogatari

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

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

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


Hanamonogatari

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

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

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

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


Otorimonogatari

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

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


Onimonogatari

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

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


Koimonogatari

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

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

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

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

Isekai Rebuilding Project Volume 1 Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Verdict: 8.75/10

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

Torture Princess: Fremd Torturchen Volume 3 Review

Last time on Torture Princess, Elisabeth and Co. went to Vlad’s castle to find information on the remaining demons. Kaito pockets a strange orb, but otherwise they have as much luck as two Spaceballs combing the desert. Later, they get invited to the castle of a new demon, the governor. Upon arrival, they see a gruesome scene where innocent people are gorging endlessly on poison foodstuffs. Elisabeth puts them out of their misery, and they go to the Governor’s bedroom where they find him already dead. Suddenly, the guy’s heart ruptures and Elisabeth is afflicted with some spell. Then, another new demon, the Grand King Fiore (female), shows up. Apparently, she has the ability to control other demons, and set this all up for Elisabeth. They manage to escape, but Elisabeth’s magic is heavily drained. However, the church immediately makes her fight two more demons that are attacking the same area. But before that, Kaito discovers that Vlad’s orb contains his spirit, and he teaches Kaito how to use some magic. With this, they’re able to fight the demons, but one of them is used in the same spell again, and Elisabeth is in even deeper doo-doo. What’s worse is that the Grand King, in control of two MORE demons, is attacking Elisabeth’s HQ directly. Desperate to help, Kaito forms a contract with Vlad’s Kaiser. Hina finds out, and he involves her in a plan. Hina uses a weapon that makes Kaito feel the pain of all the minions that are killed in order to power up his Kaiser. By the time he shows up, she’s got her arms and legs burnt off.  Unfortunately, Kaito’s magic isn’t enough to fight off the Grand King in her final form. But he has a backup plan. He stabs himself and uses the blood- fused with the Kaiser’s- to cure Elisabeth, and she whoops the Grand King’s booty. YEAH! YEAH! BEST GIRL ELISABETH IN THE HIZ-OUSE! However, they barely manage to restore Hina’s limbs before they get an emergency summons to the capital city, which is seriously getting wrecked.

Unfortunately, Hina’s “gears have to realign” or whatever, so she’s not actually IN this volume. But hey, given that volume 2 was all about the S.S. KaitoHina, this volume is all about the S.S. KaitoElisabeth. It’s about freakin’ time, am I right? 

Anyway, the situation in the capital is about what you’d expect. The three remaining Demons have fused together into a giant flesh blob, and it sucks in people, turning them into mutants that throw other people into it and repeat the cycle. The description of it, as well how Elisabeth dispatches the mutants, is about as excessively violent as you’d expect.

This volume gives us a new girl named Izabella Vicker, a commanding officer of the paladins who are sided with the church. She’s your typical hyper-morally-correct Mary Sue who wouldn’t be caught dead doing something dishonorable. But she’s an extreme case; in order for them to not have to rely on Elisabeth, she chooses to bathe in sin by killing the innocent people who’ve been turned into mutants. She’s my least favorite character so far, but there’s a good chance she’ll have a bigger role to play later.

Despite this volume centering around an entire battle, this is actually the least action-packed volume so far. Normally, I would be like, “Ugh… more boring crap where nothing happens,” but Torture Princess once again shows its surprising strength in character interactions. There’s an entire chapter of Kaito and Elisabeth just hanging out together, and it’s a really good chapter. Their relationship is probably one of the best that I have ever seen; much better than the BS from the actual romance genre.

But of course, what we all want to know is what happens at the end of the volume. After all, as established in volume 1, Elisabeth’s only reward for defeating all these demons is public execution. I personally saw it coming, but that doesn’t mean it’s not something entirely predictable. You’ll have to read this volume and see.

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Verdict: 9/10

This brings us to the end of the first arc of Torture Princess. I have no clue of how things are going to play out moving forward. But as long as it’s edgy beyond all reason, I’ll see it through to the bitter end.

Her Majesty’s Swarm Volume 1 Review

Many isekai lately have been trying- and failing- to have genuinely dark undertones. The most successful attempt thus far is probably Torture Princess. But as much of a masterpiece as it is in its own right, it is essentially a typical wish fulfillment fantasy with a slathering of blood on it. J-Novel Club has just published a new Overlord wannabe called Her Majesty’s Swarm. Will it be able to handle dark themes well? Let’s find out.

Her Majesty’s Swarm stars an unnamed girl who gets summoned to an alternate world. This world, similar to Overlord, behaves like her favorite MMO, which has players build armies and conquer their enemies. This girl is the queen of the evil Arachnea, a race of spiders that serve her.

So far, Her Majesty’s Swarm seems to be how I described it in the beginning: an Overlord wannabe. Instead of immediately launching a merciless world conquest, she decides to build her army “properly”. She negotiates with locals and only kills criminals. Fortunately, the spiders all share their thoughts with her, so she has no need to be Ainz, who must pretend to be evil in case his loyal minions stop being loyal even though their programmed to be that way.

But all that changes around the one-third mark. Certain individuals attack other certain individuals that she cares about, and as a result, she declares an all out war. Suddenly, she’s building an army with the express purpose of killing, murdering, and slaughtering. While the writing in the fight scenes aren’t as good as Overlord, it looks like it will at least be more consistent. 

But like Overlord, the characters have a lot of room for improvement in the everything department. The Queen is definitely meant to be the fan favorite. While she is a very smart and cunning leader when it comes to RTS, her shift from a sympathetic queen who buries and mourns one dead spider to a heartless queen who doesn’t hesitate to sacrifice thousands of them is VERY out of left field. She also has an existential crisis somewhat similar to Ainz, in that she doesn’t know if her ambitions are her own or that of the Swarm’s eroding her conscience, but it becomes a non-issue pretty quickly.

The only other character worth mentioning is Serignan, a special type of spider with a human torso (and a female one of course). She’s about as loyal and bland as any of Ainz’s minions, and comes off as a knockoff of Hina from Torture Princess.

The art in Her Majesty’s Swarm is lacking. And by that, I mean literally lacking; there are no illustrations in this thing! The only artwork we get is the cover and a bare-bones basic map. The cover art has a nice desaturated color palette, and the honeycomb pattern in the background looks cool (even though she’s with spiders and not bees).

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Verdict: 7.8/10

So far, Her Majesty’s Swarm is a decent enough slaughterfest. The story can go either way moving forward, so I’ll have to give it another volume before I really know what to think. You can read it if you like edgy fantasies, but something like Torture Princess beats this by a long shot.