Weeb Reads Monthly: October and November 2020

This was about the most stressful installment of Weeb Reads Monthly thus far. At first, I was going to have about six light novels to read, all releasing on October 20th, including High School DxD and In the Land of Leadale. But for some reason that’s probably related to Covid even though they’re digital releases, Yen Press moved a bunch of those to November, leaving me with only Re:ZERO and Konosuba to discuss for October. In any case, I (should have) recovered from the general toxicity of the digital world that I am forced to be a part of in order to manage my blog. So now, I bring you a hellishly long Weeb Reads Monthly.


Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- Volume 14

This volume made me mad at first, but not because of the volume itself. Apparently, the entire anime community of Re:ZERO already knew the content of this volume before season two of the anime was even announced. For some reason, White Fox decided to make an OVA about Emilia’s backstory even though it was technically spoilers for much further down the road. Well, in my defense… I was probably one of the few to experience it the proper way! Anyhoo, enough rambling, because this volume’s lit.

With no beating around the bush, we jump right in to Emilia reliving her own backstory via the Sanctuary Trial (co-starring Echidna as the witty peanut gallery). This does answer a lot of questions, despite the author’s amazing ability to make straightforward developments feel incredibly convoluted, and it’s very cathartic to see. Unfortunately, it raises a lot of new questions because we see some things that don’t exactly make sense, such as the existence of a secret eighth Witch. Furthermore, there’s a new development that makes me hate Garfiel right after I started liking him. He doesn’t turn a 180 for the tenth time, but it’s kind of a withholding information thing that really shows how much the earlier parts of this arc were blatant padding. But overall, I loved this volume, and it looks like we’re finally about to finish up the stupid Sanctuary.

Verdict: 8.65/10


Konosuba Volume 12

This was the first thing I read following my post-Disney depression for this year, and boy, did I need it! If I hadn’t made it apparent already, Konosuba has been one of my favorite light novel series of all time, and volume eleven’s cliffhanger left us with a startling development: Darkness has a daughter! I just HAD to know what was up with this…!

And it turns out that it was all a jape. The new loli, Sylphina Ford Dustiness, is not Darkness’ daughter, but her cousin. So yeah… that’s anticlimactic. But worry not… things get spicy! Konosuba has been teasing the Kazuma and Megumin ship for a while, and this time, they finally try to do something about it. Usually, making one specific ship canon in these settings is like asking for death threats, but Megumin was probably the best call because she is the Best Girl. It’s basic science.

But we can’t have Kazuma settle without hearing from everyone, and by everyone, I mean Darkness. She comes clean about him in a very uncharacteristically emotional scene, and it’s really awkward and weird. It’s cliché, but interesting to see the cast of Konosuba actually showing visible change instead of reusing the same jokes. 

Overall, the volume is kind of all over the place. In just one hundred fifty-odd pages, we go from meeting Darkness’ cousin, to characters opening themselves up emotionally, to a new tax law in Axel, to helping this orphanage (Hang on, weird orphans!). With five volumes left, I have doubts that the author entirely knows what they’re doing. Konosuba seems to be on the brink of becoming a cringe-inducing shipping war, and that would be the worst way to end it. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

Verdict: 8.45/10


Rascal Does Not Dream of Logical Witch

When we last left off our intrepid testosterone-factory, we saw Shouko Makinohara, the girl from Sakuta’s past who basically started it all. However, she’s a bit younger than she was then. And for some reason, she becomes a freeloader at his house. From a writing standpoint, I think that her sole purpose here is to cause controversy. Since Shouko is twelve now, and Sakuta is sort of still attracted to her because of his past, her relationship with him is borderline creepy. Furthermore, since he has Mai as his girlfriend, this case fringes on straight-up adultery. Throw his jealous incestuous sister into the mix and you have Western-drama levels of sin in the Asuzagawa residence. I don’t really care about any of this stuff in the context of fiction (since it’s not real), but as a writer, this really supports my initial impression of Rascal Does Not Dream intentionally being as scandalous as possible in a vain attempt to look intellectual.

As curious as fans are likely to be in the case of Shouko, she is put aside for this volume. The real issue is our Hanekawa wannabe, Rio Futaba. Due to quantum entanglement, there are two different versions of Rio at once. It’s up to Sakuta to figure out what the problem is and solve it using his husbando powers! Just like last volume, it’s all symbolic of very simple and relatable human insecurities blah blah blah. And since this is a Rio volume, Shouko’s character arc is a very rushed one-and-done kind of deal that I felt was put there just for the sake of making you cry. If it weren’t for the genuinely charming prose, I would’ve dropped this thing by now. Well, let’s see what happens next time.

Verdict: 7/10


Eighty-Six Volume 6

I love Eighty-Six, but boy, it is not as amazing as it thinks it is. At this point, the series seems to be getting rather formulaic. For the past several volumes, the first halves have been bombarding us with pretentious and ham-fisted semantics about racism and war as if the author was the first person in human history to ever come up with those notions (with a few brief operations to keep us on our toes), while the second halves are full of action and despair, leaving just enough intrigue to make us want to buy the next book. I’ll admit it’s effective, but that doesn’t mean it’s not annoying.

Sadly, this has been the weakest volume in a while. All that stood out to me was some new character development for Shin. Beyond that, we just have Lena and Shin battling their inner demons while we are repeatedly told how tragic the Sirins are. The second half, as expected, is quite intense, but there really isn’t anything else to say about it. Fortunately, the next volume looks like it’s gonna be a big one, given how things stand at the end of this one.

Verdict: 8.15/10


So I’m a Spider, So What? Volume 10

Last time, we were met with the revelation that our girl is not actually Hiro Wakaba, but a fake created by D, the real Hiro Wakaba (or something). Shockingly enough, this changes nothing of the core content, which is actually something that takes a lot of talent. In fact, she doesn’t even recap the twist at the beginning of the volume, which really shows how inconsequential it is. 

The premise of this volume is some kind of rebellion or something (I don’t know anymore). Over a hundred pages are just White giving us exposition dumps on different mechanics of the world, which don’t matter because the protagonists are so damn powerful they can pretty much end anyone in an instant. Things get interesting in the second half since we FINALLY start converging with characters from Shun’s chapters (remember those good ol’ days?), but it only shows Ms. Oka at this juncture.

Overall, I’m at the end of my rope with this series. It has so many good ideas, but it’s been stuffed with padding and information dumps since the beginning. I also don’t really care about the moral ambiguity aspect, since I only ever sympathized with White. I’m still going to give it a chance, because the end of the volume seems to set up for the endgame, which promises to be nonstop butt-whooping. Fingers crossed!

Verdict: 7/10


Last Round Arthurs Volume 3

Well, here’s another volume of this underrated series. It opens up with a startling development: Rintaro is confronted by his Id, who’s all angsty and stuff and disables his Fomorian Transformation. Unfortunately, this feels like it was done for some unnecessary pot-stirring, because the gang is immediately attacked by two new Kings. One of them is really annoying and not even worth discussing. The other is named Reika Tsukuyomi, and she’s an interesting case who actually gives us more insight on King Arthur himself.

One major concern I have is the new direction for Fuyuki. Early on in the volume, she’s revealed to be a former Dame du Lac person, and is incidentally the one who screwed over Rintaro during the time of King Arthur. However, he doesn’t remember that she’s the person who did it, which makes for a really aggravating case of dramatic irony. Other than that, the action is still as pulse-pounding as ever, even if it’s stuffed with clichés. The climax is insane and stupid and I love it.

Verdict: 8.85/10


Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit Multi-Target Attacks? Volume 7

Sometimes, you need a vacation, and that’s the premise of this volume. After participating in some gimmicky contest, Mamako wins the party a trip to a fancy resort. However, shenanigans ensue and they end up crashing into a deserted island. While it would be a vacation in its own right, well… Amante and Sorella are there too, of course.

The usual antics abound in this volume, but we also introduce a third Heavenly King: Fratello. He pretends to be a good guy for a while (even speaking with a bit of Southern drawl), and takes advantage of Masato’s issues. But between him and his coworkers, he’s my least favorite of the three. Beyond that, we get some great character development for Masato, and a sneak preview of the Fourth Heavenly King, who happens to be the Libere Rebellion’s leader. I’m not sure if I properly understand who the person is, but if I do… OH GOD.

Verdict: 9/10


Cautious Hero Volume 5

In this volume, Seiya now has to deal with the Death Emperor and his army of ghosts. In order to damage them, he gets spiritual training. It goes the way you would expect. But I’m sure you saw my thumbnail with the cover art just now, and are immediately curious as to why there are two Seiya on it. Well, that’s simple. They encounter an alternate reality version of Seiya, you know, like you do. The interactions between the two Seiyas are amazing, but despite being the front cover, they take up a disappointingly short percentage of the book.

This volume also concludes the Ixphoria Arc, which is cool. The final battle against Ultimeaus is excellent, but there’s a development during it that feels like shock value, as it doesn’t affect the story moving forward. Other than that, we get to see just how much Seiya bottles up under his abrasive surface (kind of makes him sound edgy, doesn’t it?), which will probably not be enough to curb the vocal critics’ opinions. Oh, and the volume lays the groundwork for the next arc, which leaves me wanting more very badly. 

Verdict: 9.35/10


Conclusion

Well, that took a while. Overall, there were some good volumes these past two months (at least as far as ongoing series are concerned). I still wanted to cover The Eminence in Shadow and May These Leaden Battlegrounds Leave No Trace, but I ended up not meeting my budget for them. Hopefully, I’ll get to them next month, because a lot of the next volumes I plan to cover come out at the tail end of the year. Hooray!

Weeb Reads Monthly – September 2020

I definitely like this new monthly format for light novels. In fact, I’m going to keep at it for… er… ever. Since I’m doing this right out of the gate, there should be a lot more books to discuss in this post. So, bear with me as we tear through the month’s newest releases!


So I’m a Spider, So What? Volume 9

I discussed this series a long time ago, in a post where I compared it to Overlord and That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime. Since then… it’s been the only one of the three I haven’t dropped completely. The series has kind of been in a slump for me lately; after the twist in volume 5, we finally know what’s going on, but after that it’s been a bit of a trudge to get to the good stuff. Looking at the table contents, one chapter towards the end stands out like a sore thumb. Maybe this is when it gets its act back together?

Sadly, the first half of the volume is not particularly exciting. They FINALLY reach the demon realm, and they just cozy up in Ariel’s house. In fact, the interludes seem to have more plot relevance than the main story, such as some side chapters featuring Mr. Ogre-boy from the last volume.

Other than that, Spider is kind of hit-or-miss as always. The volume’s climax is a battle against Ogre-boy, but it’s marred by exposition, and I—to be honest—never really understood what his point in the story is. Anyways, like I mentioned earlier, one chapter stands out, and there is definitely a revelation. Buuuuuut, when we get the whole story, it’s kind of stupid (our girl even reacts as such). And as things stand at the end of the volume, it seems like the next one is going to be back to our regularly scheduled mundanity. I will not be counting these eggs before they hatch!

Verdict: 7.5/10


The Invincible Shovel Volume 3

Alright, it’s time for some more Invincible Shovel! This is about the point where the series ends up becoming repetitive. But if there’s one thing that’s interesting, it’s Catria of all people. She has fought tooth and nail to not fall victim to Lithisia, who has basically evolved into a half-human, half-shovel entity. Her sword has literally become a shovel. But in this volume, Catria starts to do shovel techniques, while still trying to deny that she’s getting shoveled.

Another interesting thing to note is that Invincible Shovel seems to be setting itself up for the endgame. MyAnimeList still says it’s publishing, but it could be wrong. I have a theory as to what a future arc could be, but we’ll have to wait for that point to find out. Otherwise, it’s the same shoveltastic comedy it always is!

Verdict: 8/10


Deathbound Duke’s Daughter: Erika Aurelia and the Angel’s Crypt

I gave the previous Deathbound Duke’s Daughter volume a lackluster score, but I had some semblance of hope for the future of the series. It had a very whimsical world, even if the characters were just about as plastic as any slice-of-life fantasy.

In this volume, Erika goes to Ignitia where she meets the city’s charming prince, August. The really long first chapter is basically to introduce us to the city and the fact that there’s this titular Angel’s Crypt. Erika knows that she is to be murdered by this beast in said Crypt, which August thinks can grant his wish to be better at dragon riding.

Overall, I felt like this volume was slightly better than the previous one. Once it picked up, things got pretty fast-paced and adventurous. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s good enough. August is a typical “bastard child trope”, and felt so manufactured to me; he has absolutely zero hesitation in selling his soul to a demon in order to get his wish. Also, they try to hide who the villain is even though the color pages straight-up tell you who it is (but it’s still predictable regardless). 

Verdict: 7.55/10


Combatants Will Be Dispatched! Volume 4

I’ve been loving Combatants Will Be Dispatched!, but the biggest issue with it has been trying to write a substantial review of the newest volumes. Fortunately, with this new format, I can put in a short blurb and it’ll be fine! Let’s see what Six’s latest adventure has in store for us.

This volume serves one purpose, and that’s to properly introduce a new waifu: Lilith. If you recall, she’s one of Six’s superiors; the mad scientist of Kisaragi. Sadly, she’s my least favorite protagonist so far. There’s nothing wrong with her, but she just falls short of Best Girl Alice and Besterest Girl Grimm. A lot of her lines are just her having straight-man reactions to how ridiculous the fantasy world is and not much else.

Overall, this is sort of a slice-of-life volume (as slice-of-life as Combatants can get). It’s funny, and there’s some good character interactions, but nothing much actually happens. The climax makes you think that they’re finally going to make a move on the Demon Lord, but it ends up getting put off. Maybe they’ll follow up next volume?

Verdict: 8.35/10


Torture Princess: Fremd Torturchen Volume 5

This has been one of my favorite isekai of all time. I won’t defend anyone who says it’s edgy, superficial, and trashy, but it has such chutzpah that I love it. The previous volume had the least amount of gore, yet it raised the bar for the story moving forward. Since I made sure this was the final volume we cover today, I saved the best for last! 

Volume five is even more of a departure from the over-the-top gore, and caffeine-fueled villains than volume four. Right away, Jeanne establishes a new goal: kill the Saint so that Diablos can never awaken. But since we have no idea where she is, the only choice is to ask the Saint’s BFF: the Butcher. Of course, it can’t be that easy; in fact, it takes most of the volume to reach the booger.

Just from reading the volume, I can easily assume that this is the point where people would really start hating on Torture Princess. I’m still loving this story, but the way things play out in this current arc really smells like milking the series (which is odd because I don’t think Torture Princess is that popular in Japan). It’s still relatively straightforward for now, but there’s no telling what it’s going to be like in the future. Furthermore, there’s a big scene at the end that will likely come off as contrived and/or predictable (which, let’s be honest, we critics only use those words when we’ve genuinely fallen for a plot twist and we want to write an excuse for it). But as far as this volume’s concerned, Torture Princess maintains its same sense of quality… for what it’s worth to you.

Verdict: 9.15/10


Conclusion

“There should be a lot more books to discuss in this post,” he says… yet he only discusses one more book than the last time. Well, that’s definitely going to change next month, especially if I can go to Disney this year (in which case I’d have to do a mega post for October and November). Anyway, good books this time around. Leave a comment for some feedback!

Overlord VS TenSura VS So I’m a Spider, So What?

Cover of each book's first volume

Prior to starting this blog, I had already written three separate reviews for Overlord, That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, and So I’m a Spider, So What?, all of which are published in English by Yen Press. However, I realized that my feelings regarding all three of these are very similar. So, in this unusual blog entry, I’m going to review all three of them… simultaneously. For reference, I have read the following volumes at this point; 10 for Overlord, 6 for TenSura, and 6 for Spider.

All three try to subvert modern isekai conventions, and whether or not they succeed changes depending on who you talk to. The main characters of each are transported to the series’ respective worlds in unusual forms: Overlord‘s Momonga in the form of his lich-like avatar from a dead MMO, TenSura’s salaryman who gets named Rimuru upon his reincarnation as a slime, and Spider‘s unnamed main protagonist in the form of a spider. All three end up revolving around these characters exploring their worlds and becoming stronger over time. 

On paper, they have their own satisfying, JRPG-like progression system, where you feel genuinely cathartic once they have entire nations at their whim. But in practice, it doesn’t work out so well. In Overlord, Momonga- a.k.a. Ainz’s- avatar is already at maximum power, and all the custom monsters that his minions created are already devoted to him with every fiber of their being. The problem is that the author tries to have Ainz in a struggle of ideals, where he doesn’t want to kill anyone, but also doesn’t want to disappoint his minions. The latter is a moot point (because his minions already love him no matter what), and the former is kind of toggled on and off like a switch. As often as he tries to be “diplomatic” to gain new allies, he mostly ends up just brute forcing it and killing people violently and theatrically in spite of himself.

TenSura is similar, but more light-hearted. Rimuru at least has more interesting powers in that he absorbs creatures and learns their abilities, but when he gains the ability to assume a human shape, he uses it all the time and defeats the purpose of the Slime gimmick. In the end, though, the light-hearted nature of TenSura backfires. Rimuru is written as an utter saint and is never questioned when he murders in cold blood; at least Overlord TRIED to have an existential crisis, as moot as it was given its context.

So I’m a Spider, So What? had the best potential. The main character is reincarnated in a dungeon filled with powerful enemies that could kill her in one hit. As a result, she has to use clever strategies and status attacks to chip away at big enemies’ HP and kill them very unceremoniously. By the time the second arc starts, she conforms to the OP protagonist trope, but it feels like she earned it.

My ultimate complaint with all three of these series is their characters. Ainz is likable when he’s a super badass, but that’s very rare. As cool-looking as his minions are, Shalltear is the only one whose company I enjoy. The rest of the characters in Overlord are villagers and warriors who end up on the receiving end of Ainz’s boot. They exist to have you sympathize with them in order to push the moral ambiguity angle, but the characters themselves are incredibly unremarkable. 

TenSura isn’t much better. The only character I liked is Milim, a character that shows up in volume 3, but- of course- tends to spend a lot of time offscreen, at least up to where I left off at volume 6. Everyone else is just as boring as Overlord, sometimes even more so.

Out of the characters in Spider, the titular protagonist is by far the best. Despite how her chapters are written in monologues, she has a sassy personality that makes Spider a joy to read. However… notice how I said “her chapters.” The story alternates between her and her classmates, who also got reincarnated. In particular, the human chapters focus on Shun, whose new name is Schlain. Schlain is a straight-up human, which defeats the subversiveness of the spider gimmick. He’s at least not overpowered, but that ends up turning him into a whiny YA protagonist who basically has to passively do what his reincarnated class teacher says. The others are almost worse. A male classmate (forgot his name) gets reincarnated as Katia, a girl, which seems like a ham-fisted attempt to comment on gender identity without actually commenting on gender identity (sort of like in Levithan’s Every Day, my second least favorite novel of all time). Hugo is one of the first major antagonists, and basically a clone of Seifer from Final Fantasy VIII. The biggest problem with these characters is that they are introduced poorly. The prologue immediately starts with the class getting blown up and reincarnated, thus you do not get to see any of what they were like prior. As a result, the story expects you to feel the emotions of Schlain as he sees his classmates’ new forms without ever seeing their original forms. If you have that level of sympathy, cool. I don’t.

The writing styles of these light novels are vastly different from each other. Overlord has a very poetic D&D quality to its writing. However, it only gets good when SOMETHING ACTUALLY HAPPENS. A lot of it is other kingdoms discussing various politics that you know mean nothing because Ainz is just gonna smash everything, and it bothers me so much. On the flipside, it makes the few good sequences feel cathartic. TenSura, however, is the most boring. Action scenes could be good, but go by quickly and unceremoniously, which sucks because the author is actually pretty good at building up to major fights, and it all goes to waste. I don’t need tension, especially not for isekai, but novels like Cautious Hero are able to be enjoyable despite having no tension thanks to straight-up great writing. Spider is polarizing to read, because it feels like it’s by two different writers. As previously discussed, the spider’s chapters are great, and Schlain’s are tedious beyond all reason. Most notably, Spider‘s plot is structured to where the spider’s events happen decades before Schlain’s, but it doesn’t seem to serve any real purpose. In fact, the structure almost backfires; we get what I presume to be a preview of the climax of the entire series at the end of volume 5, which makes everything in the subsequent volumes feel like padding since we all know how it’s going to unfold in the first place. Well… it’ll only be a problem if this thing publishes into the double digits.

Lastly, let’s compare the art. The illustrations for all three books are incredible, in their own unique ways. Personally, I think the illustrations of Overlord take the cake, though, as they are gloriously detailed and look almost hand-painted. Spider’s is a more vibrant take on Overlord’s, and TenSura’s is super charming and cartoony.

~~~~~

Verdict: Overlord 7.65/10, TenSura 6.5/10, Spider 8/10

These three light novels have taken the community by storm over the years, and I personally don’t understand why. While I think So I’m a Spider, So What? is by far the best of them, it has its own glaring issues. Overlord and TenSura could’ve been really good, but their authors just seem to be at a crossroads with committing to the best ideas they had for them. I don’t think they’re the worst, but I think they are easily outclassed by other isekais that I’d recommend, like Cautious Hero, Torture Princess, and Otherside Picnic. If you enjoy power fantasies in general, then there wouldn’t be any harm in giving them a try.