Sometimes, I think the stuff I’ve read has caused me to lose brain cells. I used to be pretty good at handling some mature and complex themes, but nowadays, I want simple, dumb stuff. The new J-Novel Club publication, WATARU!!! The Hot-Blooded Fighting Teen & His Epic Adventures After Stopping a Truck with His Bare Hands!, is one of those braincell-killers. I am pretty damn sure that a monumental amount of people would hate this LN, and yet… I LOVE IT!
In WATARU!!!, the titular Wataru Ito is about to be hit by the Truck-kun that has sent many-a clueless adolescent male to another world. Due to his insane strength, he stops it with his bare hands. However, as to not kill the driver from the forced deceleration, he lets the truck hit him. Wataru is brought into another world, and sets off to fight the strongest opponent: the Demon Lord, Deus!
This… WATARU!!! is just something else. Okay, so if you’re looking into reading this, I recommend you watch two completely unrelated television shows. The first of which is The Legend of Korra. I made my case about how much of a hot mess it is, but the radio announcer guy who does the recap has a really good voice for reading WATARU!!! You see, ninety percent of the sentences are written with exclamation points, enough to put Elaine Benes to shame. It’s ridiculous and over-the-top, but I love it. The narrator even tells you how you feel, which I would normally find pretentious, but it’s done in a way that’s perfectly in tune with the LN’s personality. There’s also references to fake-real-world martial arts techniques, which the LN adds its own footnotes to. I recommend reading those in Siri’s voice to make it sound funnier.
The second show I think you should watch is Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. Not only is it one of the few anime so good that I enjoy watching without reading the source manga (because half of it is unlicensed in English at this point), but it also has a sense of its own ridiculousness. The dramatic reactions to everything, plus the appearance of onomatopoeia onscreen, have been my reference for visualizing the cinematics of WATARU!!!, and I recommend you do the same.
In case you couldn’t tell, WATARU!!!’s sense of humor boils down to being dumb and overly meta while spamming exclamation points. It’s the kind of thing that you’ll know whether you like it or not within five seconds. It relies entirely on the quirky writing style which makes a big deal out of everything. And another tongue-and-cheek thing that WATARU!!! does is having modern facilities in a fantasy world. They have rock concerts, 1950’s-style diners, and even a gothic shop called “Tot Hopic”. Half the time, Wataru ends up fighting enemies through rap and cooking.
The characters are surprisingly enjoyable. Wataru himself is Gary Sue on steroids, and it makes the over-the-topness of the whole series feel complete. However, he doesn’t beat Best Girl Aria. She comes off as a typical heroine, but ends up playing the straight-man role (while frequently getting stabbed in the forehead). Aria also has weird quirks, such as completely disregarding her parents getting kidnapped by the Demon Lord in favor of knockoff Beyblades, and playing drums with her feet.
Along with them is Résistance, one of Deus’s minions who gets the Piccolo treatment and joins Wataru’s party. She’s not as great as Aria, but she’s still a fun character. Deus himself is hilarious; he just eats his pudding. The problem with him is that he has diabetes, and yet he keeps eating his pudding despite it. I have no idea if it would offend someone with diabetes, but knowing today’s culture, it probably would.
WATARU!!! is stupid, extremely stupid. And yet… it’s a masterpiece. This is starting out as one of the best gag isekai I’ve read, and it could become one of my favorite light novel series of all time. Reading WATARU!!! is truly an experience, but it’s not for everyone. I can only recommend it to fans of stuff like Konosuba and Cautious Hero.
Last time on Cautious Hero, Rista and Seiya end up in Ixphoria, the SS Rank world that Seiya failed to save in a previous life. Rista opens a gate to make adjustments, but a werewolf breaks through. Adenela kills it, but it mutters something about having already left its mark. Seiya immediately heads to Ixphoria, saying “Everything’s going to be okay”. When they arrive, it turns out the werewolf’s attack left Seiya with amnesia, and a reckless personality. Rista manages to get him to hold back, then an old guy helps guide them to safety, where they encounter Braht, one of Seiya’s old buddies. After a bit of an argument, Seiya grabs a rusty sword and heads out to fight the boss, Bunogeos. Rista manages to turn the sword into a platinum sword, and Seiya is able to beat some of the enemies by using his high-level spells in ACTUAL combat. But Bunogeos shows up and captures them. Fortunately, Seiya is able to destroy the iron bars by headbutting them, and recovers his memory in the process. The refugees aren’t giving him a warm welcome, so Seiya beats them up (yep, he’s back alright). Unfortunately, he also hates Rista, because it was her fault that he couldn’t be perfectly prepared. He promises to defeat Bunogeos, so he changes his class to Jolly Piper, with Earth Mage as a secondary job. They sneak underground, and Seiya utilizes a makeshift spitball gun to take out the enemies. It’s super effective! They repeat this strat for a while, then seek out Bunogeos. Curiously enough, Seiya starts squealing like a pig while spying on Bunogeos. Unfortunately, they aren’t able to find a weakness before being detected, so they fight him head-on. But of course, Seiya learned the ability to change classes himself, and thus is able to make quick work of him, even when he tries to enter his second phase. When they head back to the spirit world, Seiya masters shape-shifting, turning himself into Bunogeos (the pig squealing was practice for this), and Rista into a fish beastkin. They head to Termine, where they shapeshift and join the beast squadron. Rista is sent to the former queen of Termine, Camilla (her mom), whom she is instructed to torture (she doesn’t though). The day of the ritual comes upon them, and Rista returns to her mom. However, Grandleon is there, holding a doll that Tiana (past Rista) made for her, and that’s what finally breaks her. Rista appraises it, and sees a memory of her past life. The queen is now about to be executed, and she interrupts Seiya’s ritual to get him to save her. And you know what, he decides to fight Grandleon on his own. It’s rough, but Seiya pushes his new Berserk skill to its utmost limits, and manages a narrow victory.
And guess what… there’s more where that came from! In this volume, the Machine Emperor Oxerio sends his machine corp to attack Termine. Seiya gets about as over-the-top as usual with his perfect preparedness, and disregards the public as he fortifies the city. But in addition to Oxerio, he has an evil sorceress named Celemonic to take care of in the latter half of the volume.
In fact, Seiya is more sadistic than ever. He genuinely trolls us- the readers- and shows complete disrespect towards literally everyone. When a disturbing secret regarding the killing machines is revealed, he doesn’t even bat an eye. Seriously, if you didn’t like Seiya before, then you’re only hurting yourself by continuing to put up with him. What do you think about Seiya at this point? Leave a comment with your thoughts!
As far as newcomers are concerned, we get introduced to a rogue killing machine named Kiriko, who has a kindhearted personality. There’s also the introduction of yet another goddess who continues to follow the trend of being an eccentric weirdo. As far as development of existing characters is concerned, everyone is more-or-less the same. You know the saying: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
I must still praise the author for not making the series so repetitive despite how simple it is. Seiya goes above and beyond, at one point showing us he doesn’t even need to be conscious in order to beat back his enemies. The solutions to problems get more over-the-top and creative than ever! But a seasoned reader like myself should know that this consistent rate in quality is likely too good to be true.
Cautious Hero is on fire, as always. Bu according to the afterword, the Ixphoria Arc ends next volume. MyAnimeList still says this series is ongoing, but what could possibly happen after this? Well, I suppose the only solution is to wait and find out!
Last time on Last Round Arthurs, Rintaro transfers to Camelot International High School, where he joins forces with Luna Artur to help her win the King Arthur Succession Battle. He immediately sees Luna’s Jack, Sir Kay, being used as an idol at the school, and it’s thanks to Luna- the student council president- that it could happen. This aggros the head of the Ethics Committee, Tsugumi Mimori, and the campus turns into an all-out battleground. After school, he meets her on the roof, where she lets him join her in the succession battle! The first thing they do is… break into their own school’s fantasy office to steal the answers to their midterms. But then, they’re attacked by the Ethics Committee, and someone casts a spell that sends them to the Netherworld. Luna summons Sir Kay, who goes off with Rintaro to find the spellcaster. They find Luna’s rival, Felicia, and Felicia’s Jack, Sir Gawain, waiting for them outside the school. Gawain beats Kay easily, but Rintaro is really confident that he can take on the knight. And guess what, Rintaro beats Gawain like it’s nothing, since Gawain is only at peak performance in the daytime (and it happened to be nighttime then). However, Felicia uses her Excalibur to create a dazzling light that freezes Rintaro and Kay in place, while giving Gawain his special boost. But then, Rintaro transforms into a mythic creature, which is apparently called a Fomorian (look it up). Rintaro is crazy powerful in this state, and thus Felicia undoes the Netherworld spell and flees with Gawain. Luna had apparently been watching the whole time, but surprisingly, she thinks the Fomorian transformation was super cool. Later, Felicia is attacked by the strongest candidate, Gloria. After selling some bread with a skimpy prize inside, Luna and Rintaro go out… on a date… and we learn of the real goal of the succession battle: whoever wins must stand against the Catastrophe, an event where reality and fantasy collide sometime in the future. But then, they stumble upon Gawain, who was fleeing from Gloria… a.k.a. Luna’s homeroom teacher, Mr. Kujo (and his Jack, Sir Lancelot)! He demands that Luna meets at the Central Park Hotel at midnight, or else Felicia’s life will be forfeit. While Gawain divulges his tragic backstory, about how his jealousy for Lancelot caused the fall of King Arthur, we learn that Rintaro is actually Merlin! Unfortunately, drama unfolds between him and Luna, and he quits being her vassal. Luna infiltrates the hotel with Kay and Gawain by her side. At the top floor, they end up in an illusory replica of Camlann Hill, where Kujo confronts them. Meanwhile, Rintaro has a talk with Nayuki, one of the girls from school, and learns that Luna sold her Excalibur as a bribe to protect her school from some corporation. Back at the hotel, when Luna is about to lose, Rintaro appears and hands over her Excalibur, which he stole from that company. He fights with Kay, Gawain, and Felicia to hold Lancelot and Kujo back while Luna charges up her Excalibur, but it gets ugly when Kujo wields his own, exponentially powerful Excalibur. But once Luna activates her Royal Road, based on trust between her and her vassal, it’s G.G. for Kujo. In the aftermath, Kujo awakens in a room with a strange robed girl (the same one who compelled Rintaro to join the battle in the first place)… who turns out to be Tsugumi, a.k.a. Morgan le Fay, the evil sorceress from King Arthur’s era. Meanwhile, Rintaro and Felicia’s teams form a truce for the time being.
This volume shows us a little more of the Dame du Lac, the organization behind the entire King Arthur Succession Battle. Since they created the Curtain of Consciousness that protects everyone from the illusory world, they kinda have authority over the whole world. But before we can ponder how likely they are to be totally-not-evil, our Motley crew is ordered to take out some Rifts in the Curtain.
We’re introduced to some new characters: Emma Michelle, another King, and her Jack, Lamorak. Emma knew Rintaro way back when, and she’s all over him. Meanwhile, Lamorak is literally Eris from Mushoku Tensei: red hair, loli, brash.
Most of this volume ends up being about Emma. Emma, Emma, Emma. The main conflict is not a bunch of deadly Rifts, but a shipping war, because EVERYONE loves those. It’s annoying, but at the same time, the antics that ensue are pretty funny.
But things ramp up in the volume’s second half. We get a ton of character development for Emma. Unfortunately, she ends up being another marketable waifu, but her character arc doesn’t quite resolve in the way that it usually does with girls like her. I can appreciate that much, at least.
Last Round Arthurs is still a great light novel, and more proof that there is a lot of good in modern light novels; they just don’t get anime adaptations. I’m very hyped for what this franchise has in store moving forward.
Her Majsety’s Swarm Volume 3
Last time on Her Majesty’s Swarm, Grevillea decides to infiltrate the Dukedom of Schtraut. With a Masquerade Swarm by their side, they head into Marine, the first city in Schtraut, disguised as refugees from Maluk. Their investigations show that Schtraut and Nyrnal don’t see eye to eye, and that adventurers are being sent to spy on Maluk. They join a guild to form connections. Eventually, Grevillea is invited to a party by Count Basil de Buffon. At the party, they have a run-in with a whiny noble, after which the Duke of Schtraut, Caeser de Sharon, appears. Serignan lures him over to Grevillea, who straight-up tells him that she was the mastermind behind the Maluk incident. They talk, and she tries to persuade him to let her Swarm through Schtraut to invade Frantz, and that she’ll defend his country during the inevitable war with both Nyrnal and Frantz that’s about to unfold. He leans toward her proposal, and even has her attend the International Council as a noble of Maluk… or rather have Maluk’s princess attend while controlled by a Parasite Swarm. The politics go as planned, and while the different countries are bickering, she’ll destroy them both. In order to stand up to the new threats, Grevillea makes some new heavy artillery. Meanwhile, Caesar forms an alliance with the Arachnea… if he wasn’t impeached by Leopold de Lorianne, the same mud-slinging S.O.B. from the party. Now, they have to fight Schtraut straight-up. They arrive in Marine, which has been completely destroyed. Out of a bizarre sense of respect, they harvest their bodies as meat for the Swarm. They destroy some peeps, but Grevillea ends up drinking poisoned well water, and wakes up back in the real world. She plays the game for a while, but ends up wanting to go back. Some girl appears, saying that the other world is a Devil’s Game, and swears to save Grevillea from it someday. She returns, and takes a while to remember everything. After that, they continue to destroy, further reducing Leopold the whiny noble to tatters. An army led by his younger brother, Roland, attacks next, but they too are quickly destroyed. Roland hates what Leopold did, so Grevillea offers to make him a Swarm to exact revenge. Meanwhile, Leopold’s last ditch effort is to get the Swarm on the bridge to his base, and blow it up with them on it. Fortunately, Roland knows how to steer a ship, and by extension, the Swarm now knows as well. With this, they are easily able to invade the city. They make their way to Leopold, but a basilisk comes out of the wine cellar! They destroy it easily, and proceed into the cellar to find him cowering in a secret room. Grevillea uses a Parasite Swarm to make him destroy himself. But then, she ends up back in her “room” again. That girl is here, and her name is Sandalphon. Another girl, named Samael, appears as well. They argue, and imply that Grevillea did something in her human life that resulted in her having to be judged in the game world? Well, whatever, she goes back and everything’s fine.
This latest volume shows that Her Majesty’s Swarm may be starting to enter a rut. Similar to the previous volumes, we are introduced to a new character whom Grevillea hits it off with, but then bites the dust. And just like the previous two times, she becomes a sociopath almost instantly. It was cool at the beginning, but when you have three red shirts pop up three times in a row in similar circumstances, it gets harder and harder to take seriously, kind of like Goblin Slayer.
But hey, at least sociopath Grevillea is the best Grevillea. With her sights set on the Popedom of Frantz, she’s just as conniving as she always is. The volume really ham-fists how corrupt Frantz is, and some of the things they show are pretty brutal. The plot thickens even more as far as the reason why Grevillea is in this world is concerned.
Currently, this is the shortest individual review I have ever written. I’m sorry, but I can’t say anything else about this volume of Her Majesty’s Swarm without spoiling stuff, and even then, it would be difficult for me to make this post more verbose. This is one of those franchises where it’s kind of the same thing over and over again. This isn’t the only case, but others at least have some variety that warrants discussion. Her Majesty’s Swarm has next to no variety as far as content is concerned. It’s going to need to answer some of the questions it asks fast, or else there’ll be some trouble.
The Invincible Shovel Volume 2
Last time on The Invincible Shovel, the legendary miner, Alan, saves a princess named Lithisia using the power of his shovel. According to her, a demon named Zeleburg is threatening to take over her country. The only way to fight him back is to recover the seven Orbs, so the two of them set off to grab them. On the way, they run into Lithisia’s incapable bodyguard, Catria. But she attacks Alan, so he puts her in a hole. He convinces her about his shovel by beating her, and a team of thirty other knights, with it… and thus, she joins his party. They arrive in an elven forest that’s been ravaged by Dark Beasts, and Alan saves an elf girl named Fioriel. She’s a descendant of an old friend of his, so he helps her, which takes only thirty seconds. He also whips up a massive fortress to protect the forest. After that, Fioriel becomes Lithisia’s friend. But they leave her alone in her castle so they can go through their first dungeon: the Ancient Castle of Riften. Thanks to some extensive info gathering and remodeling, they have an easy time reaching the Blue Orb. After the boss, Alice Veknarl, flees, Alan swipes the orb and destroys the castle after they leave. She attacks again, but Alan captures her easily. After some torture, he saves her from the demon’s curse, and she tags along. Now their next destination is the desert! They head to Desertopia, where Alan saves a space girl named Julia, who has water powers. When discussing her backstory, Alan surmises that her ritual was sabotaged. When they get to her village, Alan attacks the village elder, who turns out to be a Doppelganger working for Zeleburg! But of course, Alan takes care of it, and gains new followers in the process. They infiltrate the pyramid easily, but have to contend with the dragon. Alan defeats while nearly destroying the universe. With the Red Orb in hand, the motley crew looks toward a neighboring country where they can spread Lithisia’s cult religion…
Today’s next victim is the Ice Nation of Shilasia. It doesn’t take long for the story to immediately bury itself in its shovel memes. And guess what, it gets even deeper. In this volume, Alan digs up an international embassy, a house made out of avalanche, rewrites the law, and more.
We are also introduced to a character who- finally- is about as good as Lithisia. The latest beholder of Shovelism is the Ice Sage/Witch, Riezfeld. She’s a riot. Riez has a massive ego, but it gets buried deeper and deeper every time Alan performs one of his massive feats. Like everyone else, she just has to accept that he’s too powerful. Another new face is Lucrezia, a young noblewoman. Unfortunately, she’s not as likeable as Riez, which stinks, because it looks as if Riez is a one-off character for just her specific arc.
Other than that, it’s the same shovel antics as usual. This is exactly what I was worried about after reading the previous volume; that the series would get extremely repetitive. Plus, it gets harder and harder to suspend disbelief over the ridiculous things that Alan is capable of. It’s not stale yet, but that entirely depends on how much longer it’s going to go.
The Invincible Shovel is still a fun, mindless screwball comedy. Lithisia makes the story pop, as always, and overall it’s very funny. Let’s see how long it would take for it to overstay its welcome.
Last time on Isekai Rebuilding Project, a salaryman named Eiji Kazama is summoned- by a strange woman known only as the Inspector- to a fantasy world that had recently been saved by a plucky, teenage boy. This turns into a mish-mash of various eras of Japanese history and begins to destroy itself as a result. When he gets there, he is partnered with a dragon named Tiamat, who proves to be a real hoot. In the first town, a disease that previously ravaged urban Japan is working its way here, all thanks to white rice! Fortunately, all Kazama has to do is introduce pork into the town’s diet. So, he prepares to hunt this world’s closest equivalent: the gagd (hey, I didn’t come up with this name myself). The hunting goes smoothly, and they bring a good load of gagd meat back to Lishua. He also cooks some Sunday mochi as a sweeter alternative. This, naturally, grabs the king’s attention, and Kazama and Tiamat meet with the guy. He’s the descendant of the hero, who was named Shizuru Mishima. The hero ends up being Kazama’s brother-in-law, who had committed suicide six years ago. But Kazama has no time to dwell on that when he dies of poisoned tea, courtesy of the king. Back in purgatory, the Inspector tells him that the king monopolized the knowledge of “gagd” and refined sugar for himself, and went to war with another country that suffered from the same disease. Millions of people died, but due to the declining economy, people settled back to brown rice, making Kazama’s project a success. He is disgusted at this development. But when he realizes that Tiamat was not only the actual person summoned to fix the world (with Kazama as her assistant), but his own fiance, Ayano, in dragon form, he is given one final chance to save that world again.
One thing I didn’t get at the start of this volume was that he was summoned to the point in time where he’s initially summoned to the castle. So, that means the war technically doesn’t happen yet (I think?). I just wanted to put that out there because I was confused about it at first.
Anyway, the issue surrounding Azur gets resolved pretty smoothly; all it needed was a change of venue. But as we learned last time, the neighboring country of Noura has the same problem with beriberi. So, the natural thing to do is head over there.
He’s accompanied by new faces, and by new faces, I mean existing faces who use magic to acquire new faces. Tiamat, Baze, and Hieronymus (the latter two of which are the Fenrir and Cait Sith that I didn’t mention in the recap because I thought they’d be one-time characters and not mainstays) all gain human forms. I didn’t like this because up to this point, I’d been picturing Tia as Wheezy from the REAL greatest isekai ever written: Dragon Tales (*sarcasm*). There’s also the Murdock troupe, a team of circus people led by a guy named Murdock (no sh*t, Sherlock).
But hey, it’s not always politics here in Isekai Rebuilding Project. This volume’s main conflict is one that many-a fantasy character has had to deal with time and time again: goblins. The interesting thing about them is that the group of them is unusually good at various tactics that goblins wouldn’t specialize in. There’s an interesting possibility that another human was summoned to lead them… But regardless, it’s up to Eiji’s squad to stop them.
Unfortunately, the execution could be better. While the banter between Eiji and Tia is entertaining, the other characters are pretty boring. Also, the power of Eiji’s companions really don’t showcase any stakes whatsoever. Locations are still not given any personality or description, further baffling me as to how the illustrator was able to create such gorgeous art with no reference.
Isekai Rebuilding Project isn’t bad, but it’s definitely looking to be another one of those low-key, feel-good fantasy series. It still has potential to become something bigger than what it is now, so I’ll keep it on my radar.
Last time on Otherside Picnic, Sorawo and Toriko decide to rescue the U.S. soldiers trapped at Kisaragi Station. They lead the entire battalion of men through a forest and fight a giant snake lady, and the men are able to return to base in Okinawa. The girls take the opportunity to chillax at the beach, but end up on a beach in the Otherisde. After barely avoiding an assault from green babies and grey lumpy crabs, they escape by using the Hasshaku-sama hat from the previous volume to form a portal, whereas Sorawo sees the silhouette of Satsuki on the beach just as the portal closes up. Sorawo then encounters a weird girl named Akari Seto, who’s had ninja cats pursuing her. The two of them, and Toriko, end up fighting said ninja cats in the space between our world and the Otherside (similar to when the Time-space Man showed up), and escape when Sorawo uses her power to spot a strange doll inside Akari, which Toriko pulls out of her. After returning to the real world, they ask where she got it from. It turns out that she was another student of Satsuki’s, and this breaks Toriko’s heart. Later on, they get invited to the organization that Kozakura works for, the DS research lab, where Satsuki used to work. When they investigate her old room, Sorawo uses her right eye to decipher the strange glyphs in Satsuki’s journal, which causes Satsuki herself to appear and drop a cursed box on the floor, which erupts into red birds that attack Toriko. Sorawo barely manages to save her, but we still have no idea what the deal is with Satsuki, assuming that we’ve been seeing the real thing. Also, Sorawo not telling Toriko about any of these sightings is sure going to put a dent in their relationship later.
This volume starts with the title drop: an Otherside picnic! In this part, we learn more stuff about the girls than before, such as the fact that Toriko apparently had lesbians for parents. But yeah, this light novel is getting more yuri every volume. I just hope it doesn’t get so wrapped up in yuri stuff that it dangles the whole Satsuki thing like a carrot for a cringe-tastically long time. That would be very sitcom-like.
Fortunately, that has yet to occur. Otherside Picnic still maintains a sense of overall intrigue when it comes to story progression. This volume brings up a mysterious figure named Lunaurumi, who may or may not be Satsuki. But she is one thing, and that’s some Internet troll who’s been spreading the Otherside’s influence to innocent people.
Unfortunately, I don’t care about Akari any more than I did last time, even with the character development she gets in this volume. We see her relationship with her friend, Natsumi Ichikawa, but it’s kind of just there for the sake of the genre. I might have said this before, but Sorawo and Toriko’s chemistry is the only thing making the yuri aspect of this series anything above baseless girl-on-girl sex.
Based on what I’ve read up to this point, the first halves of each Otherside Picnic volume are very slow and very inconsequential. The first chapter in each book can be pretty boring, and seems to serve no purpose but to reacquaint us with the characters. But the ball always gets rolling real fast in the second half, and the fact that one chapter takes up the entire latter half of this volume shows that sh** goes DOWN. The climax is a massive turning point that I’m glad happened now instead of later, that’s for sure.
While I have some concerns, Otherside Picnic is still one of the best isekai- and perhaps one of the best yuri- on the market. I need volume four yesterday, because after what happens here, I honestly have no clue what direction it could go in.
Last time on Cautious Hero… hoo boy! Seiya defeats a big fly-like Demon with the new attacks he learns from the pervy archery goddess, Mitis, and the yandere war goddess, Adenela, and saves Rosalie Roseguard, the whiny and reckless daughter of the emperor. He is then instructed to go to a village to obtain some sacred armor, but that village has been destroyed by another Demon General, who summons an indestructible monster named Death Thanatos to kill Seiya and his friends. They run back to the spirit world and lure it to the goddess of destruction, Valkyrie, who uses an awesome absolute-surefire-kill move called Gate of Valhalla to destroy it, but at the cost of almost all of her HP. Seiya asks her to train him on all of her moves except for that one, but it’s cut short when Rista walks in on them… doing it?! After that… incident… they’re called to the capital city of Orphee, where the last Demon General is attacking. However, the emperor, Wohlks Roseguard, defeats it himself (despite being senile and reverting to the personality of a baby every so often). Double-however, the emperor, who was seduced by the Demon Lord’s words and his own envy of Seiya, tries to kill Seiya using the God Eater Sword, forged with the power of the Demon Lord’s Chain of Destruction that permanently kills a soul with no chance of reincarnation. Seiya barely manages to defeat the guy, so his team rests up for the final battle. Or DO they? Seiya breaks out of character and goes off to fight the Demon Lord himself with the Gate of Valhalla technique (which, incidentally, him and Valkyrie’s doing it was her giving him the ability in the first place). When Rista rushes over to Ishtar to ask what the hell’s wrong with him, she tells her that Seiya was previously summoned to save a different world. Triple-however, he was the exact opposite of cautious, and thus he failed (also, Rista is the reincarnation of his lover during that time. Now Seiya is officially a waifu guy. Great). Rista breaks the rules and teleports straight into the Demon Lord’s castle right in the midst of the final battle and restores Seiya’s life with her divine healing powers to offset the Gate of Valhalla’s punishment. QUADRUPLE-however, the Demon Lord is able to attempt a last-minute screen-nuke, forcing Seiya to summon a second Gate to consume him and the first gate, finishing him off for good. This breaks him (literally) beyond repair, and Rista returns to her world awaiting punishment. Her punishment… is to save the world that Seiya could not save, now an SS-ranked Dark Souls-ian world. And who better to accompany her… than the reincarnated (through some Deus Ex Machina BS) Seiya himself?
“Well that’s all well and good,” you say. “But this is just an excuse for the author to pad the series out long after it should’ve ended. Things in this arc are going to be EXACTLY the same as the previous one!” I shared your concern. But things change VERY radically right at the start of this volume.
Seiya trains for the new challenge when a werewolf appears and attacks him. It only gets one hit in, but it’s enough to give him amnesia and make him VERY reckless. Doing this effectively turns him into the same Gary Sue protagonist that tends to make isekai absolute cringe, but this version of Seiya is good cringe. By robbing us of what defines him as a character, the story expects you to yearn for him to be cautious again. Conversely, if you hated him up to this point, this version of him will probably irritate you even more.
This also puts the shoe on the other foot. With Seiya making rash moves, Rista now starts acting cautious around him. This causes a new set of reactions between them that wasn’t at all possible in the past, and is by far the best aspect of this new predicament.
Unfortunately, the amnesia ends up being resolved very early and very unceremoniously, which also increases the rift between him and Rista. This makes the whole situation seem like shock value. But there’s a silver lining! In order to face his new enemies, Seiya goes for a class change. This allows him to continue to bamboozle us (and his enemies) with even more utility than before.
This new arc shows that the author of Cautious Hero has yet to run out of steam. With Seiya’s ever-expanding arsenal, only the final boss could have a ghost of a chance of stopping him. Oh, and speaking of the final boss, I’m hoping that it ends up being just as cautious as Seiya. A battle between cautious hero and cautious demon would be a perfect way to end this series (or this arc?). But Seiya will have to GET to the final boss in order for us to know for sure.
I’ve seen a lot of unconventional ideas when it comes to subverting modern fantasy’s tired tropes, but… a shovel? Not at all inspired by a popular retro side-scrolling indie game *sarcasm*, The Invincible Shovel (published in English by Seven Seas), is even more absurd than it sounds. Let’s see if it’s enough to make it stand out.
The legendary miner, Alan, becomes incredibly powerful- and immortal- thanks to his handy shovel. When leaving to sell his latest haul, he encounters a girl who needs saving. She turns out to be Princess Lithisia of Rostir, a kingdom that’s been taken over by a demon. Since he has nothing better to do, he wields his shovel and sets forth to help her.
If you wanted any form of stakes or emotional tension, then click out of this review now, because Invincible Shovel won’t give you any of that. But it doesn’t need that crap, because Invincible Shovel is a comedy at its core, and this shows in its writing style. Everything is timed out very well when it comes to comic relief, and it’s very tongue-in-cheek about how BS the shovel’s power is. Most notably, Seven Seas tends to format light novels by left aligning all paragraphs, and inserting more space between paragraphs than individual lines. It’s actually made it difficult for me to enjoy other publications, like Reincarnated as a Sword, and Mushoku Tensei, as a result. But Invincible Shovel gets the okay because it’s just plain better than both of those aforementioned titles.
With a pretty simplistic plot, the bread and butter of Invincible Shovel ends up being it’s cast. While Alan is a pretty generic hero-guy, Lithisia ends up being Best Girl. She comes off as a typical girl who “falls for the hero guy,” but she does it in a funny way. She doesn’t fall in love with Alan; she deifies him. This results in her becoming a shovelophile, and turning her dialect and life choices into all things shovel… including, you know. Someone just created a new sexual innuendo.
Unfortunately, all the eggs seem to be in her basket. The other characters, like the Holy Knight Catria, and the elf girl Fioriel, basically exist to be astonished by Alan’s shoveling prowess, and to fall victim to Lithisia’s Shovelism.
Lastly, the art is pretty average as far as most LNs go. The cover art is the umpteenth instance of “character on white background”, and if it weren’t for the premise, this series would definitely not stand out.
Invincible Shovel has made a more than sufficient first impression. However, it shows signs of getting old fast. But hey, that hasn’t happened yet. So, for the time being, I’d recommend it for fans of Konosuba or Cautious Hero.
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.
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.
Every so you often, you get someone’s attempt at making the Magical Girl genre “edgy”. Results have varied wildly over the years, to say the least. To list some examples, Magical Girl Apocalypse went full edgy, not even trying to have a cohesive narrative of any sort, and Magical Girl Spec Ops took itself more seriously, trying to showcase the aftereffects of war trauma on people and society. But what if you just simply turned Sailor Moon’s simple premise on its head? That’s what happens in MachiMaho: I Messed Up and Made the Wrong Person Into a Magical Girl!, published in English by Seven Seas.
In MachiMaho, the usual space cat goes to seek out a chosen girl who is destined to fight a force of one-dimensionally evil demons. But instead of running into an adorable ditz that any twelve-year-old can relate to, he finds Majiba Kayo, a brash young teen whose hobbies include smoking and punching. She doesn’t even remotely want to become a Magical Girl, but her insane negative energy is attracting massive hordes of demons to her, so… She kinda has to at this point.
This premise is the kind of stupid that I enjoy seeing, and it’s even similar to a Magical Girl series I tried to write several years ago. But of course, execution is what counts, and while I ultimately scrapped mine because it sucked, MachiMaho soared to dazzling heights.
And good thing it did, because the story… isn’t really that interesting. Like I said in the premise, the demons are one-dimensionally evil, similar to Sailor Moon‘s almost indistinguishable antagonists. It doesn’t really stir up any intrigue either, other than some hints for what Majiba’s past could’ve been like.
So with a story that’s bunk, what’s left to enjoy? Well, the characters, for starters. If you couldn’t tell from the cover art, almost every egg is put into Majiba’s basket; about as many eggs as what Gaston eats every day. To put it in non-Disney terms, Majiba is the Magical Girl protagonist that we needed all this time. She’s selfish, temperamental, and cusses almost as often as she smokes. “Uh all of these make her sound like a horrible person,” you point out. If you said that, then you must be new to my blog. Some of my favorite main characters have been very… morally incorrect, to say the least, and Majiba’s no different. I love her!
Of course, there are still other characters. There’s Myu, the space cat that tends to be a punching bag that makes an intentionally overabundant amount of cat puns. We also have a rival character in Shusai Nako, a Dark Magical Girl who gets manipulated by her demon, Mon-chan, into thinking that Majiba is evil. We also can’t forget Kuwabara-wannabe Masanido Rei, who despite coming off as weak, can actually hold his own somehow.
More than anything else, the art is what makes MachiMaho so good. From the expressiveness of the characters, to the insane action panels, the art really brings out the edginess in MachiMaho. The best panels are the ones where Majiba smokes and it has the words “HOLY SHIT” written with hearts and sparkles around it. The art does seem a bit TOO similar to Magical Girl Apocalypse, but there really is no other way to draw an edgy Magical Girl series and sell it well besides this.
Current Verdict: 9/10
I daresay that MachiMaho is perhaps the greatest entry in the entire Magical Girl genre. It’s fun, stupid, and full of teen angst. I’d even argue that more girls could relate to it than Sailor Moon. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to see wild and crazy action!
Isekai has fallen into a rut of tropes lately, so naturally the way to make isekai great is to subvert the crap out of those tropes. For example, Ascendance of a Bookworm, and Otherside Picnic. However, one relatively recent isekai, The Hero is Overpowered But Overly Cautious (short version, Cautious Hero), conforms to isekai tropes so hard that it implodes and ends up subverting them in its own unique way!
In the realm of the gods, a goddess named Ristarte is charged with summoning a hero to save a world from a generic evil force. She leafs through the resumes of some average Joes when she comes across Seiya Ryuuguuin, who has great stats but a cautious personality. She summons him because his cautiousness shouldn’t at all be a problem. The story, uniquely enough, is told through the perspective of Rista, so you get to experience the cringe-inducing hilarity of Seiya alongside her.
The selling point of Cautious Hero revolves entirely around our cautious Best Boy Seiya. His personality makes him super untrusting and condescending towards others, like an edgelord without the edgelordiness! Watching his interactions with the other characters is what makes this light novel so appealing. Seiya follows through on his exploits. After every battle, he heads back to the gods’ realm to train. He also makes three of every piece of equipment, just in case (sometimes, even breaking to Rista’s room and pulling out her hair to craft better kits). He uses top-tier magic against slimes, and even against the dead bodies of enemies (just in case they regenerate). This causes him to destroy the towns he’s supposed to have saved in the first place, which he funnily enough doesn’t care about. The most important aspect of Seiya is his catchphrase, translated by Yen Press as “I’m perfectly prepared.” I’m not gonna lie, but I literally started fangushing at one point with this catchphrase, and it’s only volume 1. I love this meme and I hope it stays forever.
The only real issue (other than the usual stuff that isekai’s critics would hate) is that as a result of Seiya’s indisputable greatness, almost everyone else gets the shaft, which is a shame because a lot of other characters are also great. Rista is a good girl and a great audience surrogate with a lot of personality. We see some of the other gods, and out of all of them, Valkyrie has the most potential (plus she’s on the cover of volume 2, so I know that there’s more with her). Mash and Elulu, two companions Seiya recruits, are the blandest characters by far, but it’s on purpose because they literally exist just to carry Seiya’s massive inventory.
The art in Cautious Hero is great. The illustrator really captures the characters’ personalities in their facial expressions, which is important for a parody series such as this.
Sorry, for the short blog, but this series is as simple as a retro JRPG. You know the old phrase: “Less is more.” A simple twist to something that’s been done a million times breathes new life into the isekai genre with Cautious Hero. If it continues like this, it will become one of my favorite light novel series of all time.
Sadly, the anime is going to air six episodes by the next volume release, more than enough to adapt the first two volumes and beyond, so being a “I-was-a-fan-before-it-was-cool” hipster isn’t gonna last for much longer. But nonetheless, reading Cautious Hero is worth it at any time, and it will have you perfectly prepared for the days ahead.