The Adventurers Guild Trilogy: Social Commentary for Kids!

Sometimes, the title of a series is so generic and unremarkable that I almost feel like it’s a red herring. I ask myself, “It’s trying so hard to look boring, but does that mean it’s actually legitimately good?” That’s a gambit that I hoped would pay off when I read through The Adventurers Guild series, written by Zack Loran Clark and Nicolas Eliopulous.

A half-elf boy named Zed and a typical human named Brock are ready to join one of Freestone’s many Guilds. They are picked for the Mages and Merchants Guilds respectively; however, this series isn’t titled The Adventurers Guild for nothing. Alasabel Frond, the leader of the titular Guild, yoinks them right out of their respective Guilds and drafts them into the Adventurers Guild. Now they have to protect the world from monsters known as Dangers, and like true warriors, they get nothing for it!

The Adventurers Guild isn’t quite as generic as it looks (key words: “quite as”, but we’ll get to that later). They at least put some good effort into the magic system. Each element is tied to a specific spiritual plane (or something), and they all have a signature that Zed can detect. The writers also pull no punches when it comes to the Dangers’ designs; get used to tentacles coming out of faces and other areas. The prose is also all-around great, but V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic taught me that good writing and good storytelling are two completely different talents. 

A lot of things irked me about The Adventurers Guild. One is that—like every modern fantasy and its grandma—there’s social commentary on a lot of bad -isms in society (none of which are commercialism). In addition to my problem with how heavy-handed it gets, The Adventurers Guild makes it unrealistic. And while I normally don’t mind a lack of realism, this case isn’t merely “Ooooh, magic! What is physics again?”; it’s a clash with the human mind itself. 

You’d think that people’d get their sh** together to fight a one-dimensional evil alien threat to the whole species. And yet, the bad -isms are still in effect in the world of The Adventurers Guild! Every authority figure in Freestone tries to get Frond arrested because of sexism. And when a group of elves seeks refuge at the start of the second book, they’re treated with unconditional racism. It felt so arbitrary, that the bad -isms were only there for the sake of bad -isms. I’ll acknowledge that the hatred against Zed is justified to an extent. A half-elf warlock is what caused the Dangers in the first place, giving the whole race a bad rep. But that doesn’t excuse the cases of sexism or anything else, really. 

Alright, alright. For the sake of argument, let’s just take the bad -isms at face value: a conflict in the story that needs to be resolved. But what is there to talk about? The thing with The Adventurers Guild is that beyond the social commentaries, the main plot really isn’t that interesting. Dangers are out there, go kill ‘em. That’s really it. 

But it damn well tries to be different, that’s for sure. It succeeds to an extent in the two main characters, Zed and Brock. These two both have secrets that they keep from each other, and it’s all “Ooooooh” and stuff. Unfortunately, they have very plastic and flat personalities. The rest of the characters… are just as flat. They’re relatable, which—if you’re not anal about writing—would make them super-duper amazing and lovable. But besides the occasional dumb “kid-like” interactions they have with each during their down time, a lot of their dialgoue feels forced. For someone like me, who has grown to love narcissists like Senku from Dr. Stone, I couldn’t care less about the cast of The Adventurers Guild. I had to do ridiculous things like picturing a character as Lord Don’ator to not fall asleep! The third book does introduce a pretty witty new character, who exists for sarcastic comments, and shows up too late to offset everyone else. 

And speaking of the third book, let’s talk about it in the least spoilery way possible. Remember when I said “beyond the social commentaries, the main plot really isn’t that interesting”? Well, that shows. Night of Dangers completely does away with social undertones and becomes a tedious slog that’s just as cliché as anything else, despite how the trilogy desperately tried to avoid it. The only saving grace is the admittedly enjoyable climax, but saying that it offsets everything else is a stretch. One character even deflects from the main issue super intentionally and it’s never explained why. 

Speaking of intentionally, that word is everything wrong with The Adventurers Guild. Virtually none of it felt natural; each story beat was 110% deliberate. As much as having a plan for the narrative is good (in fact, it’s essential), you can’t plan literally everything. You need to have a stream of consciousness effect when writing, which allows some aspects of the story to tell themselves. And if you end up needing to pull something out of your ass, go back and edit earlier parts so that it has proper context. I can’t describe exactly why, but I just felt in my writer-brain that this whole series was… wrong.

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Final Verdict: 6/10

The Adventurers Guild tried a lot of things, and it all felt flat to me. In the end, I have no idea what the takeaway of this series is. Is it that racism is bad, or that you shouldn’t keep secrets? Whatever it is, there’s definitely something out there that’s conveyed it better. While this isn’t the worst series on the market, it is still just about as bland as its name implies.

A Witch’s Printing Office First Impressions (with an Important Announcement)

As I come upon my first whole year of managing this blog (by myself, by the way), I have been battling against a lot of stress. I don’t just have this to manage, but a full-time job as well. Plus, there’s way too much media that comes out. Even when I pick and choose what I absolutely want to cover, there’s too much. I can also imagine that you get an aneurysm trying to keep up with my three posts a week.

Fortunately, there’s going to be some changes, effective today, August 4th, 2020. Posts will be back to how they were in the very beginning: every Tuesday and Saturday. As a result, there won’t be as many First Impressions of manga, not unless I’m certain my opinion will sway wildly once they’re complete. For example, I have a Jujutsu Kaisen First Impressions written already (I’m just waiting for the anime to air so I can mooch off of it). It’s a battle shounen; those are chaotic by nature and wildly inconsistent in quality at times. While I enjoyed what I read so far, that can change over the course of a single chapter.

Light novels are going to be handled differently. If you’ve read some of my light novel reviews, you’ll have seen my struggles to write something of substance in some of them. Even if I love them, a lot of them are pretty formulaic, such as Cautious Hero and Konosuba. I even did the stupid recap thing solely to extend the reviews. As such, I will now save most light novel posts for one long post at the end of a given month, where I’ll just put a small blurb for each. Exceptions will be for the first and final volumes of a given series (assuming I get far enough for the latter). For example, I plan to post a review of The Eminence in Shadow Volume 1 when that comes out. Since it’s brand new, that’ll be its own post, but all subsequent volumes will be in the monthly post, which I’ll name “Weeb Reads Monthly” or something similar. Another exception will be any series I’ve been doing arc-by-arc, which just applies to Monogatari and Sword Art Online.

So yeah, hopefully this’ll help both our sanity. Do you like the new schedule that I’m implementing? Hopefully you do, because I really didn’t like the old way at all. Anyway, I don’t want this post to just be a dumb announcement, so below is the post I was planning to have done normally…


A lot of critics complain about isekai for being the same thing over and over again. Even the new, slice-of-life variants that are the exact opposite of typical, action-driven-harem isekai are becoming common to the point of redundancy. Now it’s at the point where the subversive isekai need to subvert themselves, and a manga (not a light novel) by the name of A Witch’s Printing Office (published in English by Yen Press) is one such subversion.

In A Witch’s Printing Office, a girl named Mika Kamiya has been reincarnated into a fantasy world (as you do). The manga kindly skips all the formalities and goes well into her career at a book printing firm called Protagonist Press. But in addition to working at a printing press, she also runs Magiket: a popular magic-themed convention!

Immediately, this manga shows off its social commentaries, not on politics, but on real world conventions (and I mean event-conventions, not social protocol). The fact that the setting is called “Akivalhalla”, based on Akihabara in Japan, shows just how creative this manga is. It even opens when these Akivalhalla Knights defeat the Overnight Fiends: literal monsters that parody those who camp outside a venue before it opens. 

But a slice-of-life isekai is still a slice-of-life isekai. While Mika implies that she wants to go back to the real world, she seems perfectly at home in the fantasy world. Most of the story are self-contained narratives, which are based around managing the convention and printing books. There is continuity, like when they introduce another person from our world into the story, but it usually hard cuts to something completely different after the fact.

Fortunately, all the chapters have their own unique charm to them. When they are not running the printing press or the convention, Mika has all sorts of funny adventures. From taking a holy sword just to use as a paper cutter, to getting unwittingly possessed by an evil mage, this manga has a lot of variety to it; it’s not just “Praise me for how chill and low-stakes I am” like most other slice-of-life isekai. Plus, the humor is really on point.

I tend to dislike most slice-of-life isekais’ casts, and while this manga isn’t quite an exception, I at least enjoyed A Witch’s Printing Office’s cast marginally better than most others of the genre. Mika comes off as a ditzy moe blob, but she shows a bit of a greedy side that makes her more interesting than most ditzy moe blobs. Sadly, her two friends, Clair and Kiriko, seem to just serve as two pairs of large breasts (and I really hope they’re legal adults for no particular reason related to my perverse imagination). A lot of the minor characters end up being pretty likeable, but they’re called minor characters for a reason.

The art for A Witch’s Printing Office is so good, that I’m willing to believe it was done with Clip Studio assets. There is so much life, detail, and texture to every panel, yet it’s still easy to tell what’s going on. The landscapes are absolutely beautiful, and I’d hate to see a hypothetical anime adaptation undermine the whole thing. There is a lot of charm and personality poured into it that I could spend minutes gawking at any given page.

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Current Verdict: 8.95/10

Like many, many truly great franchises, A Witch’s Printing Office does not get the hype it deserves. It’s a fun and unique take on the isekai genre (that critics will probably find some way to pick apart but I digress). I recommend it to anyone who truly appreciates otaku culture at its finest.

Ascendance of a Bookworm Volume 3 Review

me

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

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

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

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

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

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Verdict: 7.6/10

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

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

Ascendance of a Bookworm Volume 2 Review

Cover of volume 2

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

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

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

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

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

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Verdict: 7.25/10

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