logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: japanese-light-novel
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2019-11-02 18:19
If It's for My Daughter, I'd Even Defeat a Demon Lord, Vol. 1 (book) by Chirolu, illustrated by Truffle, translated by Matthew Warner
If It's For My Daughter, I'd Even Defeat a Demon Lord, Vol. 1 - Chirolu,Julia Truffle,Matthew Warner

Dale is a skilled 18-year-old adventurer who's been traveling and defeating monsters since he was 15. One day he comes across a little devil child who's had one of her horns broken off, something that would usually be considered a sign that she was a criminal and had been banished from her people. She's so young that Dale can't think of anything she could possibly have done. The devil who was apparently her father or guardian died not far from where Dale found the girl, so Dale, not knowing what else to do and unwilling to kill or abandon her, takes her with him.

He can communicate with her a little, and she's a fast learner. He soon learns that her name is Latina. She doesn't seem to want to talk about her past much, but she takes well to Dale, as well as to Rita and Keith, the couple who run the inn where Dale had been staying up to that point. Dale also takes instantly to Latina, and it isn't long before he decides to become her adoptive father. Meanwhile, Latina learns to help out around the inn, improves her language skills, makes a few friends, and encounters anti-devil prejudice.

I bought this because it looked sweet and I'm a sucker for adoptive parent slice-of-life stories. I somehow forgot that it's usually a good idea to do a bit of research and spoiler-hunting prior to getting at all invested in these, especially when they're "single man adopts adorable little girl" stories. This first volume, at least, was pretty decent.

The writing/translation was a bit awkward, but I've definitely seen worse. The only time it got a little confusing was when the author elaborated on the details of how things like customer accounts at the inn worked - I had a feeling that the translator couldn't follow along well either and just tried to get through those bits as quickly as possible. One thing I really liked, though: this is one of those rare third-person POV light novels.

I rolled my eyes a bit at how very cute Latina was, tottering around with trays of food while scary-looking adventurers silently wished her well and melted at the sight of her. She was, of course, well-behaved and quiet, and she rarely caused any problems - basically perfect for a single father whose job meant that he couldn't always be around to watch over her. Still, I go into these kinds of series expecting ridiculously cute and generally well-behaved children, so it wasn't exactly a surprise, and it helped that Latina was actually a little older than she appeared to be. One thing that irked me, though: even as Latina's language skills improved, she continued to speak (and even think!) about herself in the third person. I suspect that this was another effort to make her seem cute, and for some reason it got on my nerves more than the multiple pages devoted to her learning to carry food to customers at the inn.

Readers were repeatedly told that Dale was a cool and experienced warrior who was known to be touchy about how others perceived him. In his homeland, he was considered an adult at age 15, but in this particular area he'd only just barely legally become an adult, and there had apparently been instances of folks treating him like a kid or a newbie adventurer. Readers never actually got to see any of that, though, and Dale was so completely and utterly head over heels for Latina that he failed to notice anything that might be perceived as insulting comments about his age and abilities. He also hardly got any opportunities to show off his supposedly awesome adventuring skills. The person Dale was supposed to be didn't match at all the Dale that readers experienced on-page.

Still, I liked this overall and was looking forward to reading more about this little adoptive family. What happened to Latina in her hometown? Why had Dale moved so far away from his people in the first place, and would he continue with his adventuring life or would Latina prompt him to settle down a bit? Who else would they meet and befriend in town?

But a little detail early on in the book bothered me.

It was shortly after Dale found Latina and took her back to his room at the inn. He was helping her bathe and found himself thinking "Could it be...that this girl will be a real beauty someday?" (25) Which was a weird thought to have about a starving, traumatized little girl. He then worried that, if he didn't take her in, some pervert would view her as prey - her broken horn meant that even her own people wouldn't protect her. So I was willing to let that weird original thought slide at first, but found  myself thinking about it again when I considered buying and reading the next book. So I did some spoiler hunting.

It's not difficult info to find - apparently it crops up as early as book 3 or 4. Even the positive reviews of the later books mention it, and there seem to be quite a few folks who are fine with the direction the series takes. However, I started reading this series because I wanted a sweet story about a young man who suddenly decides to become the adoptive father of a little girl, and that's very much not what the later books will be giving me.

(spoiler show)

For that reason, I won't be continuing on with this series.

Extras:

Four pages of full-color illustrations (which are gorgeous), several black-and-white illustrations throughout, and an afterword written by the author.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2019-09-13 06:33
Ao Oni by Kenji Kuroda, illustrated by Karin Suzuragi, translated by Alexander Keller-Nelson
Ao Oni - Kenji Kuroda,Karin Suzuragi,Alexander Keller-Nelson

Content warning for the book: suicidal ideation, gory descriptions of severed body parts, on-page bullying.

Shun, Hiroshi, Takuro, Mika, Anna, and Takeshi are all students at the same middle school. Takuro is one of the most popular kids at school. He's also a bully who may have been involved in a past student death and who is currently tormenting Shun. The few bright spots in Shun's life are the computer game he's creating in his spare time, his friend Hiroshi, who's smart and doesn't seem to care what anyone thinks of him, and Anna, the class president and one of the few people who's friendly towards him and encourages him. Mika and Takeshi are Takuro's friends (or, more accurately, his lackeys), although they're not usually involved in the worst of the bullying. Takeshi is a coward, and Mika secretly wishes her emotionally distant parents would spend more time with her.

One evening, Takuro, Takeshi, and Mika cart some boxes over to an old mansion that Takuro's father supposedly bought. The mansion, now nicknamed the Jailhouse, was supposedly last inhabited 20 years ago by a young couple and their daughter, who used a wheelchair. Shun, Hiroshi, and Anna all end up going inside with Takuro, Takeshi, and Mika, and the six kids suddenly find themselves trapped in what appears to be a haunted house. If they can't figure out how to escape, they may all end up as food for the giant blue monster that roams the halls.

I haven't played any of the Ao Oni game versions, although I did watch parts of a few "let's play" videos. I didn't really expect all that much from this, but it actually wasn't bad. I'm curious as to the intended audience, though - it read like a Middle Grade book, and yet included gory scenes that would have been a better fit for older readers.

As seems to be the case with pretty much every J-Novel Club title I've tried so far, the writing was occasionally awkward and clunky. One example:

"Shun noticed that the bags under her eyes - something he ordinarily found charming about her - were darker than normal." (34)

This sentence is structured in a way that makes it seem like Shun found the bags under Anna's eyes to be charming, when in fact it was probably her eyes that he found charming.

The overall story might have been scarier had the writing been better, but there were still parts that I thought worked extremely well and were genuinely creepy. My top two favorite moments were the "this is why you can't hide in a closet forever" scene, which featured a really effective use of illustrations, and one of the last deaths, when the few survivors tried to figure out whether the person was still alive (even though they almost certainly were not, and it was foolish to check).

Takuro was 100% horrible - of all the characters, he was the one I was most hoping would end up dying. Takeshi didn't really make much of an impression on me, Hiroshi struck me as being fairly creepy (although it turned out that there was more going on than I realized), and Anna was annoyingly underutilized. I cared most about Shun, who'd been ground down by Takuro to a depressing degree, and Mika. Yes, Mika had opted to side with a sadistic bully, but she'd done so because she'd convinced herself that he could provide her with the love her family didn't give her. I felt bad for her, even though her willingness to forgive Takuro just about anything made me grit my teeth a few times.

The ending was...weird. Most of the book was slight creepiness, gore, and occasional appearances from a ridiculous "blueberry-colored" monster. Then it all took a sudden "very special message" turn at the end, morphing into a suicide prevention story. This would have been fine, although heavy-handed, but the steps the story took to get there felt like a cop-out. I had been wondering how the series was going to continue, despite everything that had happened, and I wasn't pleased with the answer.

Still, I liked this well enough to want to continue on. I also tried to hunt down some "let's play" videos of Ao Oni version 3.0, the one this book was based on. Unfortunately, I have yet to find one done by someone whose voice/sense of humor I'm able to stand.

Extras:

  • Prior to the start of the book, there are a few manga pages depicting a later scene.
  • Several black-and-white illustrations.
  • An afterword written by the author.
  • A brief note written by the illustrator.
  • Two pages of the illustrator's initial character designs.
  • A couple color illustrations.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2019-09-02 02:02
Log Horizon, Vol. 1: The Beginning of Another World (book) by Mamare Touno, illustrated by Kazuhiro Hara, translated by Taylor Engel
Log Horizon, Vol. 1: The Beginning of Another World - Mamare Touno

The basic premise of the series: right after the release of a new expansion pack, all players currently logged on to the MMORPG game Elder Tales woke up to find themselves living in the bodies of their avatars, trapped in what appeared to be a blend of the Elder Tales world and the real world.

This first volume introduces Shiroe, an Enchanter who's an incredibly gifted strategist, Naotsugu, a Guardian with a bad habit of talking about panties, and Akatsuki, an Assassin who's really into roleplaying her character, right down to referring to Shiroe as her liege. The three of them figure out how to use their magical and fighting abilities, learn the rules of this new world, encounter player killers, and go on a quest to rescue a young girl named Serara from a town that has turned hellish ever since the Catastrophe that resulted in everybody getting trapped in the game.

I really wanted to like this book. I loved the anime so much that I ordered the first few volumes of the light novel series before I'd even finished it. Based on my feelings about this first volume, that was probably a mistake.

I still love the premise, and that Touno opted to focus on the nitty gritty details of rebuilding a functional society rather than on battles and action, although the series certainly still has some of that. And this book provided some interesting details that either weren't included in the anime or that I'd missed. For instance, I loved the class and subclass table. And the detail about abusive players using the game's "friend" function to aid their harassment of other players made me wince because it was such a perfect example of the ways people will take something that was intended to be a helpful feature and figure out how to use it to hurt others.

Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to love this, it was bogged down by its massive amount of detail and bad writing/translation. The writing problems ranged from unnecessarily obvious statements to just plain awkward phrasing. A couple examples:

"Online games are played over the Internet." (15)

They are indeed. I suspect that this painfully obvious statement was the result of some of the translation issues discussed in Clyde Mandelin's "Redundant Translations in Games & Anime."

Later on, Shiroe was referred to as the "Tea Party strategy counselor" (25). The Debauchery Tea Party used to be a well-known party filled with high-level players who took on difficult enemies. It would have been better, and less awkward-sounding, to refer to Shiroe as their strategist, rather than strategy counselor.

I could come up with other examples, but what it basically came down to was that I much preferred the anime's English subtitling to the book's English translation. Still, I soldiered on, hoping for some good additional content that didn't get included in the anime.

From what I could tell, the anime was actually a pretty faithful adaptation of the book. It inherited the book's pacing problems and initial lack of a decent story, but managed to improve upon the book by cutting down on its panty jokes and level of Elder Tales world details. Yes, the book somehow had even more panty jokes than the anime. And boob jokes, once Marielle was introduced.

I'll continue on, since I already own the next few books, but I doubt I'll end up reading the full series, especially since it looks like nearly all of the currently available light novel content has made it into the anime.

Extras:

A couple color illustrations on a large folded sheet, several black-and-white illustrations throughout, character profile information (Shiroe, Naotsugu, Akatsuki, Marielle, Serara), tables listing many of the various Elder Tales main classes and subclasses, and a short afterword written by the author.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2019-08-31 20:00
Outbreak Company: The Power of Moe, Vol. 1 (book) by Ichiro Sakaki, illustrated by Yuugen, translated by Kevin Steinbach
Outbreak Company: Volume 1 - Ichirou Sakaki

Shinichi has spent the past year holed up in his room in his parents' place, doing nothing but playing games and reading manga. His parents are otaku themselves (his dad writes light novels and his mom used to be an artist for erotic games), but even they've had enough. They tell him he either needs to go back to school or get a job, or they'll wipe all his game accounts and his hard drive. Shinichi opts to go job hunting and stumbles across something that seems tailor made for him: a position at a company called Amutech. The job pays well, and the only requirement seems to be that applicants must be otaku.

When Shinichi suddenly wakes up in another world, he learns that there may be more to this job than he thought. A year ago, the Japanese government learned of a portal that had opened up in Aokigahara Forest. It led to another world, one with magic, elves, lizardpeople, and dragons. The Japanese government sees an opportunity to establish a foothold in this new world before any other governments in our world are even aware of it. It's initially difficult to find something in our world that's small enough to be brought through the portal and that the Eldant Empire would even want or understand, but it turns out that otaku culture may be the answer the government is looking for. They want Shinichi to spread otaku culture throughout the Eldant Empire. (Why didn't the hire someone who's actually in the business of marketing and distributing manga and anime, you ask? Well, supposedly they'd prefer someone like Shinichi, who's less likely to be missed, although I personally didn't buy that his parents wouldn't go looking for him after a while.)

Right, so this wasn't initially on my list of J-Novel Club titles to try while my membership is still active. The cover and description made it seem particularly geared towards a male audience, the sort that loves adorable maids who cutely stumble their way through their jobs, flashing their panties. I gave it a shot after seeing it mentioned in a forum post written by someone looking for light novel recommendations that would be more appealing to female audiences, or at least not actively unappealing to them. Supposedly, this was a surprisingly appealing series that got better as it became more serious.

The bulk of this book did not fill me with confidence. Shinichi was a stereotypical "nice guy" socially awkward otaku. There were lots of scenes that showed that he could act like a decent, non-slimy guy, but then something would happen and it was like a switch was flipped. He'd practically vibrate with excitement over being in the presence of an actual flesh-and-blood maid, or completely lose it because he was in the same room as a pair of large breasts (Shinichi kept saying they were Japanese F cup, US DD, but confusingly Minori's breasts in the illustrations were nowhere near that size).

The scene that irked me the most was when Shinichi was introduced to Empress Petralka an Eldant III. He'd been told to be as quiet and respectful as possible, but when he saw her this is what happened: "'IS THAT REALLY AN ARCHETYPAL LITTLE-GIRL CHARACTER?!' I shouted, jumping up and clenching both my fists." (63) The guy was an idiot who kept treating the world around him as though it were some kind of otaku paradise he'd been dropped into and could go all fanboy over without any consequences. He even viewed his interactions with others in terms of manga/anime tropes. The cute female characters wanted to be with him, so clearly some sort of love triangle/harem situation was brewing. When they started to be nicer and friendlier towards each other it was a possible sign of a yuri (f/f) relationship. When Counselor Garius, a handsome man with silver hair that went to his waist, showed signs of beginning to respect and maybe even like Shinichi, Shinichi's mind immediately jumped to "oh no, is he falling for me? because I don't swing that way."

I wouldn't mind all of this quite so much if there was more evidence that the author planned to subvert Shinichi's expectations and set him up as an unreliable narrator. Unfortunately, Petralka and Myusel's behavior around Shinichi really did look like the beginnings of a possible love triangle, and even Minori, Shinichi's bodyguard, seemed to think that it was possible that Garius was developing romantic feelings for him (although if Minori was really a fujoshi, her opinion couldn't necessarily be trusted either).

Things did take a more interesting turn in the last 15 or so pages, though. Shinichi viewed Petralka's apparent jealousy of Myusel (man, I hate that name, it makes me think of Mucinex) as something not really worth worrying too much about, and only started to become more concerned when Minori forced him to look at the situation as it actually was: Myusel, a half-elf, was discriminated against by the Eldant Empire's more dominant group, humans, and Petralka, the Eldant Empire's human Empress, very openly disliked her and was about to fire her. The likelihood that this would turn out well for Myusel was very low, no matter how much Shinichi liked her (in fact, him liking her seemed to make things worse). His inability to see the seriousness of the situation until it was almost too late could have left Myusel a homeless outcast, or even dead.

On the one hand, I had issues with the protagonist, and the stereotypical love triangle apparently brewing between him, the loli Empress Petralka, and the adorably clumsy and submissive Myusel irked me. And I really could have done without the passages on the appeal of breasts/chests of various sizes - the part where Shinichi tried to pacify Petralka, who was sensitive about her childlike appearance (she was actually 16), by going on and on about the appeal of flat chests/small breasts made my skin crawl. Petralka was an actual person Shinichi was talking to, not a character in one of his games, and he basically told her that her small chest was perfectly fine and attractive because, hey, lots of people are into lolicon. Man, I feel gross even just typing that.

On the other hand, I liked the author's focus on the practical aspects of spreading Japanese pop culture in a completely different world. Shinichi had to consider the issue of electricity - since the Eldant Empire didn't have any, his best bet was to put off anime and games for now and focus on print media. Language differences were also an issue. Special magic rings helped Shinichi understand spoken words and be understood, but those rings couldn't translate words on a page. Also, only nobles possessed them, and Shinichi wanted otaku culture to be available to all, not just the Eldant Empire nobility. Which then brought him up against the issue of this world's class system, and what the task the Japanese government had given him might accomplish on a wider scale, beyond getting a few real fantasy world humans and elves to love Spice & Wolf or whatever. The sociological aspects of this series could be really interesting.

But I'm going to need more than 20 or so pages of content directly focused on the practical aspects of Shinichi's job and a lot less "look at those boobs! look at that elf! wow, that girl over there is so moe!" for this series to really work for me. It also bugged me that most of the on-page action was devoted to the stuff I didn't like, while most of the more serious/practical issues stuff was relegated to the narrative (which gave the unfortunate impression that Shinichi was basing most of what he knew about the Eldant Empire on conjecture, overlaid upon what his vast knowledge of anime and manga told him about how a world like this should function).

Reviews for the second volume indicate that it's an improvement upon the first, and continues on with some of the series' more serious aspects. There's a possibility that I'll read on, but for now I think I'll check out another title on my list of J-Novel Club works to try.

Extras:

Black and white illustrations, a few color illustrations, and a fairly lengthy translator's notes section. I really liked the translator's notes, which included a few Japanese cultural details I hadn't known about but realized I'd noticed in various anime and manga series over the years.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2019-08-19 02:23
My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, Vol. 1 by Satoru Yamaguchi, illustrations by Nami Hidaka, translated by Shirley Yeung
My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, Vol. 1 (light novel) - Satoru Yamaguchi,Nami Hidaka,Shirley Yeung

When Katarina is 8 years old, she bumps her head and suddenly recalls her past life as a 17-year-old girl in our world. What's more, she realizes that she is now living the life of the villainess in Fortune Lover, the otome game she was playing before she died. To her horror, she realizes that the Katarina of the game had absolutely no good endings. If the game's protagonist got a good ending, Katarina was usually exiled, and if she got a bad ending, Katarina was usually killed. Katarina would like very much not to die, so she comes up with new strategies to avert her bad endings each time she meets a person she recognizes from the game. What she doesn't realize is that she has managed to change the story enough that all these characters who were originally her enemies or neutral towards her now have begun to care for her.

If all of this sounds familiar, it's probably because I recently read and reviewed the first volume of the manga adaptation of this series. Now that I've read this light novel, I can say that the manga was an even better adaptation than I realized. It managed to cover the events of this entire first novel without feeling rushed or overly confusing.

It also neatly took care of one of this novel's biggest weaknesses: its repetition. This book really, really should have been written in the third person. Instead, the author opted to write parts of the story from Katarina's POV and then switch to the POV of (usually) whichever character from the game she'd just met, rehashing everything that just happened but with a few extra scenes, a more fleshed out backstory for the otome character, and all the subtext that Katarina missed or misinterpreted turned into text.

While I appreciated some of this - the bit where Alan and Jeord talked to each other was great, Jeord and Nicol's reactions in a few parts were suddenly much easier to understand, and a few details came up that were basically my romance catnip - it resulted in a lot of repeated dialogue. It got to the point where I was skimming for actual new and useful content. The manga cut out all of the otome game character POV sections, except for maybe a few lines here and there, and trusted readers to use the clues in characters' body language and dialogue to figure out what had been left out. For the most part, it did an excellent job.

Since I'd already read the manga, parts of this book felt like the "extended and bonus scenes" section of a DVD. Katarina's mother and father reconciled on-page (it was really pretty sweet), as opposed to the hasty and vague mention in the manga. And rather than having to guess that Mary

was in love with Katarina, I got confirmation that, yes, she absolutely was in love with her (and wanted to carry her off somewhere and marry her).

(spoiler show)

Sophia, on the other hand, was angling for a sister-in-law, which made sense considering her original storyline in the game.

I was surprised at how differently I felt about some of the characters in the manga vs. in the book. In the manga, Katarina was, hands down, my favorite character. In the book, my top favorites were Jeord (so amusingly frustrated with Katarina) and Mary (the scene where she verbally sparred with Jeord was fabulous). I also found that I liked Katarina's mother more in the manga.

I'm really looking forward to reading the next volume, which should feature all-new content for me. I'm just crossing my fingers that it's less repetitive (please, Yamaguchi, don't spend the entire book showing us a scene and then repeating the same scene from a different character's POV) and a lot fewer uses of the word "abode."

Translation-wise, it was smooth enough that I was able to finish the whole thing in less than 24 hours, but there were definitely some awkwardly phrased sentences and more typos than I expected.

Extras:

Several illustrations, an afterword written by the author, and an interview/Q&A with the translator (in which even the translator admitted "the repetition really does have a tendency to drive me insane" (150) - ouch).

 

Rating:

 

I probably shouldn't give this such a high rating considering how bad the writing was, but since it hooked me enough that I didn't want to stop reading, even though I technically already knew most of what was going to happen, eh, 4 stars it is. Consider it 4 "forgiving of enormous light novel flaws" stars.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?