One genre I did not expect to consistently blow me away was yuri; a genre that mainly focuses on a romantic relationship between two women. I just kept getting bombarded by these super entertaining and engaging stories. Murcielago, Otherside Picnic, Sexiled, and ROLL OVER AND DIE! have been real pleasures. So when Seven Seas published their edition of I’m in Love With the Villainess, and it became a #1 bestseller on Amazon and BookWalker, I was excited. However, like with virtually all media I’ve consumed other than One Piece…
I CANNOT LIKE ANYTHING POPULAR.
In I’m in Love With the Villainess, a girl named Rae is transported into the setting of her favorite otome game, Revolution, with literally no explanation. She can date anyone she wants, but chooses the main antagonist, Claire Francois. Since Claire is a conceited noble girl, “tsundere” doesn’t even begin to describe her relationship with Rae.
From the first chapter, all the way to the end, I was flabbergasted. First off, the writing was abysmal. They don’t even go out of the way to describe the setting, not even in enough detail for you to get a sense of 3D space. Heck, I couldn’t even find a description of what Rae looked like; you literally have to take the part where it says Clair is blonde, and deduce that Rae has black hair by looking at the cover art and using the process of elimination! And despite being yuri, I felt no sexual tension between them, even when they’re naked.
And boy, the relationship between those girls was just lacking in… everything! Most of their interactions consist of Rae showering Claire with compliments, who responds by shouting witty comebacks. I understand that this comedic style is common in Japanese media, but it was so frequent that it literally felt like 19/20 of their interactions. Not even D-Frag!, which makes fun of it, was that bad.
The other bad thing was that the entirety of I’m in Love With the Villainess is Rae being in love with the villainess! “Well, duh,” you say, “it’s yuri.” No, you don’t understand. The other yuri I’ve read up to this point have something more. Murcielago had over-the-top gore and visual spectacle, Sexiled was crazy committed to Feminism, and both Otherside Picnic and ROLL OVER AND DIE! had high-tension suspense and action. Rae does kind of resort to tricks, like making up ghost stories just so Claire can cling to her, but compared to the sociopaths I’ve seen, that amounts to mere childish pranks. The only real scheme I could gather from I’m in Love With the Villainess was that Rae tries to build a ship between Clair and some guy. I’m anticipating that she’s doing this just to break them up, then swoop in and take Claire for herself while her guard is down. Even if that does happen down the road, it still leaves much to be desired compared to the other examples.
Do I even need to discuss the characters? They’re all as flat as boards. Rae’s doting on Claire comes off as childish and annoying instead of seductive and sexy, plus she has no other personality quirks to speak of. Claire is just a boring tsundere; Rae even says that she never goes over-the-top. There’s also these three princely brothers, and why are they even in this LN at all?! This is yuri for crying out loud!
I’m in Love With the Villainess is an empty husk of ideas, none of which are executed well. I am absolutely astounded that something like this has been so commercially successful compared to the other yuri series I mentioned. At this point, I have come to question the genre’s sense of quality. Was this series the exception, or the rule? In any case, just save yourself the pain and read any yuri series other than this one!
If you’ve read some of my previous posts, then you’ll be aware that I have not had the best track record with Seven Seas’ light novels; they just so happen to license some of the worst material I have ever read. The only one I’ve liked is The Invincible Shovel, and that’s in danger of becoming seriously repetitive. Other notable releases tend to be incredibly controversial, which would be good guilty pleasure, but some of them (such as Buck Naked in Another World) are so bare-bones and boring that I can’t enjoy them even for that! As a result, I had low expectations for one of their newest licences, a little series called *takes deep breath* ROLL OVER AND DIE: I Will Fight for an Ordinary Life with my Love and Cursed Sword. This was the needle in a haystack that I needed.
In ROLL OVER AND DIE (sorry, the official title is in all caps), a girl named Flum Apricot is chosen, among others, to defeat the Demon Lord. She has an ability called Reversal, which has all her stats locked in at 0. As a result, her party members treat her like crap until one of them sells her off as a slave. Just when she’s at the depths of despair, she stumbles upon a cursed sword, which- thanks to her ability- reverses its adverse effects and grants her massive stat buffs. With this power, she escapes captivity with a slave girl named Milkit, and sets off to live a normal life.
Critics have a word for scenarios in which an author tries so hard to make an underdog that it comes off as over-the-top and gratuitous: “torture porn”. That term is incredibly apt for ROLL OVER AND DIE. Flum is constantly called weak, is unacknowledged by society, and is- multiple times- seen as a sex toy by random jerks. Everyone is out to get her, and when someone tries to be nice, it’s actually a Shield Hero-style ruse. It’s shock value, sure, but similar to stuff like Eighty-Six, it’s executed really well!
But a light novel is still a light novel. Instead of actually earning her keep through hard work like a real underdog, Flum has power thrown into her lap, free of charge. And it’s not only the sword; she frequently stumbles upon more cursed equipment by sheer coincidence. The story also does a good job at giving her plot armor. In one early fight, she’s literally cut to ribbons, but the reversed curse effect can heal her even from that. Typical OP protagonist stuff.
Despite this, there is one thing that saves ROLL OVER AND DIE from being your usual power fantasy romp, and it’s the fact that Flum is a girl. Let’s go over the basic premise again: Flum Apricot is given phenomenal cosmic power by pure happenstance. She befriends a slave girl named Milkit, who calls her “Master”, as if Flum owned her as a slave. Imagine Flum being a boy, and the whole tone of the LN completely changes. Because of how society is, we are more willing to sympathize with a woman who’s overcoming torment, but as a boy, she’d be a cringe-inducing overpowered protagonist. We’re more willing to look at a girl owning a younger female slave as two sisters, but as a boy, she’d be a misogynist taking advantage of an emotionally distraught young woman. Now you see just how important it is for Flum to be a girl!
Unfortunately, Flum being a girl doesn’t make her particularly interesting. For some reason, I have a track record of coming down hard on characters, and ROLL OVER AND DIE is no exception. Everyone involved is your typical fantasy trope, with not much personality, especially Flum’s ex-party members. Milkit is probably my least favorite character because she seems to only exist to be the dime-a-dozen “tortured waifu” that makes everyone cry when she says things like “Nobody’s given me positive feedback before” (so her name is Milkit because she milks the audience!). Her inability to contribute to battle seems to further cement this. The saving grace is a loli named Sara, who speaks in a Southern accent, and wields a mace even though she’s ten. She’s both cute and capable!
To offset the fairly lackluster cast, the plot has some serious momentum. It’s fast-paced, and neatly divided into “Episodes”. Developments that would normally be reserved for several volumes down the road are thrown at you right out of the gate. The tone of the whole series changes just as you’re getting acquainted with it, that’s for sure! There are a lot of genuinely great action and suspense sequences. And to top it off, excessive gore really brings the fun ridiculousness of the story together.
I’ve finally found a light novel series that I think Seven Seas made a great call with licensing! ROLL OVER AND DIE is starting out to be a deceptively great franchise, and one that seriously needs an anime just to annoy people. Between this, Otherside Picnic, and Murcielago, I’m starting to consider the possibility that yuri is this secretly amazing genre… Anyway, I recommend ROLL OVER AND DIE if you fancy yourself some girl power!
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.
Last time on Otherside Picnic, Kamikoshi Sorawo finds a doorway to another world, where she is henceforth attacked by a strange creature called the Kunekune. She is saved by Nishina Toriko, a cool girl who came here in search of a missing friend, Uruma Satsuki. They return to the real world, where she meets Kozakura, another friend of Toriko’s and a researcher of the mysterious world, called Otherside. They go back to fight another Kunekune, but get afflicted by it; Sorawo in her eye, and Toriko in her hand. However, they still manage to fend it off and obtain its core. They have other adventures (one of which involves the American military and a haunted train station), and learn that they have been given some strange powers: Sorawo can change realities with her eye (which, in Layman’s terms, means that she can see through illusions), and Toriko can touch strange things in the Otherside with her hands. After the incident with the military, the two girls have an argument, and Toriko goes to the Otherside on her own to find Satsuki. Sorawo and Kozakura end up searching for her, despite the warnings from some strange, middle-aged men who seem to act as guardians of the Otherside. While postulating the existence of the Otherside and about the science of fear, they find Toriko in a weird, abandoned village full of plants. Using the power of her reality-shifting eye, Sorawo manages to save Toriko from an illusion of Satsuki, and they make it back home safe and sound.
It felt like I’ve been waiting a year for this volume to come out. In the time leading up to it, I was more scared of it sucking than of the disturbing imagery in the actual story. And perhaps… I could’ve scared myself into not enjoying it as much as the previous one. But at the same time, the first volume was likely to have been exceptionally good for the same reason that caused Made in Abyss to become popular; the element of surprise. I don’t know about you, but this series definitely did not LOOK scary on the cover. So, when we read volume 1, it was like, “Holy sh** this is so freaking scary!” Now that we know what to expect, it loses the chutzpah from before.
Anyways, let’s actually talk about the content, shall we? One review I read of volume 1 (don’t worry, it has to do with the matter at hand) called Otherside Picnic a yuri series, and I was like, “Whatchoo talkin’ ‘bout, dude?” However, this volume definitely seems to be where the yuri stuff comes in. I kinda realized it when they pulled the classic “here-let-me-caress-you-with-my-entire-body-while-I-instruct-you-on-the-proper-posture-for-using-this-thing” schtick that they do with romantic couples. I know that yuri can get pretty contentious in this community, so proceed with caution if you’re sensitive to fanservice and stuff.
Similar to the previous volume, the chapters are all self-contained episodes that slowly build up a semblance of an overarching story. The first chapter is a rescue operation of the US soldiers from the first volume, and the chapter after that is the “beach-vacation-so-we-can-see-the-girls-in-bathing-suits” trope. The third chapter introduces a new character Akari Seto, whose main personality quirk is being good at karate. I don’t know if she’s going to become plot relevant or what…
But if there is anything relevant, it’s the continuing escalation of intrigue in this volume! More signs of Satsuki start popping up, but only we and Sorawo catch wind of them. She elects not to tell Toriko about any of this, presumably under the assumption that she’ll go after Satsuki alone and almost get wrecked again. But if this really is a yuri series, it could also be because Sorawo doesn’t want Toriko to be in another woman’s bed. My biggest concern is that this could get escalated to sitcom-like proportions, but we won’t really know that until the future.
While it might lack the fire of the first volume, Otherside Picnic’s second volume proves that this series is still one of the best new isekai on the market. With so many new plot threads established, I need to have the third volume yesterday. Hopefully, the wait won’t feel as long this time around.
Looking back on human history, I’d say that women’s rights have made some good headway over the years. Now that it’s the 21st Century, their universe is no longer the diameter of the kitchen! But as we close in on the second decade of this century, feminism has once again become a very controversial topic, especially in art, where creators get crap either for including any amount of men at all, or for including only women. Why am I bringing this up? Well, let me tell you. Sexiled: My Sexist Party Leader Kicked Me Out, So I Teamed up with a Mystical Sorceress!, published in English by J-Novel Club, is aaaaaaaaaaaaaaall about the infallible greatness of women! Men SUCK.
So, here’s what happens. Tanya Artemiciov is a young mage who is removed from her squad, which is led by the misogynistic Ryan Daars. Enraged, she fires off more Explosions than Megumin could ever hope to imagine, and frees Laplace, an all-powerful Sorceress who had been sealed for three hundred years. The two agree to extract their revenge on Ryan, and presumably, every man on the planet.
The elephant in the room is obviously the ham-fisted feminism, and that’s emphasized in the extremely biased cast of characters. As you’d expect, the female leads are the main selling point of the series thus far. Tanya is insane, perhaps even more so than a certain loli in the military. She doesn’t just pack a ton of powerful magic, but a powerful vocabulary as well. She curses her goddamn motherf***ing sh**ty ass off (like in this demonstration), and it’s f***ing hilarious for some reason. The writing is so tryhard and I love it!
Laplace is the Best Girl. With her being so powerful, she’s got a massive ego. She can’t stop reminding everyone that she’s an all-powerful Sorceress, even though she’s not supposed to reveal herself as one to begin with. Nadine is the weakest link. She’s a super-low level and is solely recruited because Tanya and Laplace’s average levels were too high for them to be allowed to enter a tournament. Laplace and Tanya are definitely the “Emilia or Rem” of this series (wow, what a comparison to make).
The guys are the actual scum of the Earth, especially the aforementioned Ryan Daars. Most guys in Sexiled don’t have names, and they all have the exact same personalities as Ryan himself; they’re all one dimensionally sexist and don’t think women are ever capable of anything. In fact, the explanation for Sexiled‘s use of the JRPG trope of skimpy female armor is literally because men designed it to be that way. The biggest source of catharsis in this series is seeing Tanya and Laplace continuously one-up the different men of this world and remind them that women are phenomenal and far better than men.
Along with all of that glorious feminism, there is also some lesbianism as well, a.k.a. yuuuuuuuuuuri. Well, at least according to the genre tags. Despite this being a yuri series, this volume of Sexiled only has three smooch scenes and nothing else. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if these girls form their own lesbian brothel and completely boycott men from existence, or better yet, start enslaving men (since that would be so controversial, the reaction would be priceless). But the thing is… this could be a case where the author has the characters vomit feminist dialogue ad nauseum, but use it as a red herring to get women to enjoy a series that will live entirely off of male titillation. I heard that was the whole marketing technique behind Wonder Woman (key word: ‘heard!’ I don’t actually know if it’s true, so don’t quote me on that), so it wouldn’t be that much of a surprise if it was the case for Sexiled as well.
The art for Sexiled seems to have more manga-y style despite being a light novel. It’s good, but since this IS yuri, it’s not gonna hold any water until they start illustrating some of said yuri.
Sexiled is shaping up to be a very controversial light novel series. Probably. Even though the actual writing and the setting aren’t too remarkable, the over-the-top feminism, Tanya’s putrid vocal chords, and Laplace’s narcissism make it hilarious just the same. I can’t tell if it’s by an actual feminist, or by someone who wanted to comment on society’s current state of affairs. Regardless, I whole-heartedly recommend Sexiled if you want to see some actual, legitimate girl power, and not YA’s pretend girl power.
PS: If they actually have Tanya and Laplace fall in love with guys later, I’m going to drop this series like a brick.