Author Archives: aelvana

By the Grace of the Gods #1 (Light Novel)

Title: By the Grace of the Gods #1

Author: Roy

Format: Light Novel

Ryoma was an overworked salaryman who received an offer to be sent to another world after his unexpected death. With the support and blessing of three of the new world’s gods, he sets out to live a retirement-styled life in the woods, where his daily life consists of gathering food and researching slimes. Then an unexpected encounter with a group of people sets him on the path to rejoin the world at large.

This is a more slow-paced, slice-of-life novel, but I love it precisely because it follows the sort of man who thinks nothing of spending years by himself simply because he’s interested in what he’s doing and it never occurs to him to actually go out and do something else. He’s not exactly smart (although he’s not stupid), and his dedication to following his own interests leads him down a lot of paths ordinary people find hard to understand.

I’m also fond of his warm relationship with the various gods of his new world. They need him simply for the transfer itself, but they’re kind to him, and he appreciates that and responds to it. Ryoma also continues his relationship with them as well as he’s able once he’s given his new life, which starts gradually drawing the interest of even more of this world’s gods.

This is echoed in the kindness of the family that ends up more-or-less adopting him. Their relationship is full of misunderstandings of Ryoma being this horribly abused child (which, technically, may not entirely be wrong, but it certainly isn’t what they’re thinking), but their response to this is to support him in every way they’re able.

So if you’re in the mood for a comfy novel with a harmlessly obsessive protagonist, this is a great read. I rate this book Recommended.

Ascendance of a Bookworm: Part 2 Volume 2 (Light Novel)

Title: Ascendance of a Bookworm: Part 2 Volume 2 (Apprentice Shrine Maiden #2)

Author: Miya Kazuki

Format: Light Novel

When Myne learns her mother is pregnant, her book mania takes on a new goal: to create a picture book for her new sibling. To that end, she struggles to create ink, images, repeatable printing, and more. But while her monofocus blinds her to everything else, Ferdinand is trying to grow her into a proper blue robed shrine maiden. Because he’s aware, even if she’s not, that Myne holds much the nobility covets, and if she can’t deal with them on equal footing she’s liable to lose it all.

Ferdinand’s exasperation is one of the highlights of this novel. From Myne refusing to reduce her reading time to her musical aptitude to the way she can’t pick up on his attempts to be subtle, he’s often thrown for a loop by this precocious young girl. Her sidetracking him into a conversation about how to catalogue books of magic according to the Dewey Decimal System was a particular favorite (please revisit this in full later, author!).

I also love how Myne’s reaction to a device that can read her memories is to refuse to disconnect until she can do it again. The fact that she was told this is something used on criminals or suspected traitors is of far less importance than the ability to re-visit the books, food, and people of her previous life.

As usual, though, there are some heavier undercurrents to the slice-of-life plot. Myne doesn’t really appreciate what she means to this world at large, since her only focus is books, but Ferdinand and Benno, particularly, are aware of what she represents and are trying to corral this in more positive directions. But once Myne spectacularly blows her cover, even Ferdinand may not have the ability to protect her from what’s to come.

Overall this is another excellent continuation of the plot so far. Myne’s technological progress is offset by some social setbacks, and now that she’s being noticed by the wider world, her future is in question. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

Record of Wortenia War #4 (Light Novel)

Title: Record of Wortenia War #4

Author: Ryota Hori

Format: Light Novel

The war has changed yet again: after an unexpected surrender, and Lupis failing to bargain well for her win, Ryouma is simply left to mop up what’s left of the fighting. Of course, he’s intent on eliminating every enemy he can, which leads to an odd showdown with the man responsible for dragging him into the civil war in the first place.

This volume finally reveals more directly what’s been happening back home due to Ryouma’s disappearance. As expected, nobody quite knows what to make of someone of his size and training just up and vanishing—but his grandfather seems to have more knowledge than he should. And the twist here will be interesting to see play out in future volumes (although I really hope his grandfather’s presence manages to avoid the worst outcomes).

Like before, the war changes substantially from something that happens almost immediately: most of the opposition surrenders. The important thing to remember here is that this is a CIVIL war, which leaves most of the participants the option of trying to side with whomever they think will be the winner in an effort to minimize damages to themselves. So rather than focus on the last battle, this book is more concerned with Ryouma trying to tie up the loose ends.

It’s also interesting to me how the issue of reward was handled. Ryouma was nearly single-handedly responsible for Princess Lupis’s win, and nobody can deny that. But that poses a problem for their side, because Ryouma isn’t actually from their country, nor is he particularly interested in supporting them going forward. He’s too mercenary for their tastes. And Lupis, in listening to her own fears, is seeding the creation of the very thing she was trying to stamp out.

It felt a bit jerky to have the war spread out over so many books, but overall it’s a good arc, although probably one best read together. I rate this book Recommended.

Granblue Fantasy s2 (Anime)

Title: Granblue Fantasy season 2
Episodes: 1-12

Gran and his crew of skyfarers are continuing their journey aboard the Grandcypher in search of the lost island of the Astrals. But when the Erste Empire that has been pursuing them suddenly offers a truce, they decide this is one detour they can’t afford to miss. Even though everybody suspects there’s far more to this than what it seems.

Although I feel like this was weaker than the first season, I still enjoy the overall story. This season was more about digging into the various crew’s histories: Katalina and her training to become a knight, and what she abandoned to make this journey; Rackam and a childhood friend he no longer remembers, but who shaped his current life; and (surprisingly enough) even a bit of backstory for one other familiar face.

The based-on-a-game structure is far more evident here, as the Erste Empire and Gran have standoffs that just make no sense based on story logic so far (Noa’s arc in particular has me baffled that they basically let themselves be captured by ordinary soldiers instead of jumping off the balcony). That said, it still functions decently well as just a straight fantasy show, with the occasional nods to extra characters that make a bigger appearance outside the show.

My favorite piece of the story has to be Noa’s arc. Rackam is a middle-aged man who’s finally getting to live out his childhood dream—and when he meets the gentle engineer who inspired him, he learns there’s far more to even his own history than he ever guessed. Noa never spells out the details, but it’s clear that Rackam inspired him just as much as he encouraged Rackam, as the boy is the one person who never gave up on getting the Grandcypher back in the air, and who loves the ship just as much as its creator. (And it’s also sweet that Rackam, who has grown used to finding primal beasts, doesn’t reject Noa after learning he’s not human, but is willing to risk everything to save him.)

Overall, despite feeling more disjointed than the first season, I still liked this a lot. I rate this show Recommended.

Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! (Anime)

Title: Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! (Anime)

Episodes: 1-12

Mile is hiding a secret: she’s ludicrously overpowered. When she died and was reincarnated in this world, she was offered her choice of anything she wanted. She wanted to be average, for once, to enable her to make friends this time around. But “average” turned out to be the average of all living beings, not all humanity, so her hunt for an average life has all kinds of problems.

The story setup could almost read like a joke about statistics: Mile’s insufficient explanation of “average” gave her everything she didn’t want in her next life. The not-so-funny joke, though, is that Mile’s unending quest for being average ends up with a show that’s basically exactly that.

Honestly if this wasn’t the only thing airing on Mondays I probably wouldn’t have finished it.

I read enough of the web novel to be interested enough in checking it out, but the beginning cuts out the entire first arc, so we begin with Mile having a forgettable encounter with a wince-worthy villain (who insists she just wants to collect children for non-sexual purposes despite acting like a dog in heat), and then jump right to hunter training, followed by their work for the Adventurer’s guild. This isn’t necessarily bad, but nothing about the setup or the characters really stands out.

The show tries to slide in a bunch of visual jokes to boost its lackluster plot, but this only works sometimes. Despite throwing some heavy backstory in for some of the characters, none of them feel like they grew or changed at all. In the last episode everyone’s basically in the same position they were at in the first one.

Some of this could have been mitigated if Mile’s story had been told in a more chronological fashion, as we could see her learning to open up to her first friends, resolving her family issues, and so on like it was in the books. As it is, though, there’s not much here if you aren’t already invested in reading the story. I’m also not fond of how every major character, from the innkeeper to the historian, is also a young girl, but that’s technically in the books too, so whatever. A more varied cast might have helped balance things out more. I rate this show Neutral.

Ascendance of a Bookworm (Anime)

Title: Ascendance of a Bookworm

Episodes: 1-14

Urano loved books more than anything else—so after she died and woke up as Myne, the daughter of poor working class parents in an era where books are a luxury only nobles can afford, she determines to make them herself. But the road to books is a long one, and Myne’s sickly body may not hold out long enough.

This is more of a drama than a fantasy, although magic has a few crucial roles, especially by the end. If you’ve read the books, this is a very good adaptation (though I wish the last negotiation towards the end had gotten more screen time instead of just a one-sentence summary).

Myne may think she’s in it for the books, but the heart of the show is her relationships with the people around her. She’s undeniably a strange one, but with the support of Lutz, a boy next door, and Benno, a merchant fascinated with the potential profit she represents, she introduces revolutionary concepts into her world.

But these are logical and realistic “inventions”: home crafts, recipes, and the like.

And her immediate family is also a real treat. Her dad’s undeniably infatuated with his daughters (and not in a perverted way) and loves his wife. Her mom does her best to be supportive, and her older sister Tuli takes on a lot of the burden of looking out for her little sister. It’s so nice to get a genuinely healthy and supportive family, who loves Myne even though they don’t pretend to understand her.

I still think the best moments are the surprise confrontations. Lutz figures out that Myne knows way too much for a girl of her circumstances, and their conversation about it is one big highlight of the season. It’s such a rarity for stories like this to have people honestly confronting their uneasiness about this familiar stranger.

Overall, if you’ve never read the books this is a great place to dive in (though I would still recommend them to get more of the tiny character building moments that just couldn’t fit in a show this long). It can be a bit slow-paced, especially at first before Myne’s world really opens up, but the lack of action is more than compensated for with the rich character drama. I rate this show Highly Recommended.

Record of Wortenia War #3 (Light Novel)

Title: Record of Wortenia War #3

Author: Ryota Hori

Format: Light Novel

War is a chancy game. And Ryoma is learning this firsthand as a series of incidents and a single battle swing Princess Lupis from being the least influential faction to the one most likely to win. There’s far more involved in a war than who can triumph on the battlefield, but Ryoma is prepared to bring all his cleverness as well as his strength to win.

I was disappointed this volume doesn’t go through the end of the civil war arc. Because of that, it feels shorter even though I don’t think the page count is significantly less. But even though it’s a middle volume, there’s plenty of upsets in the war already. Ryoma has come out swinging, and he’s been effective enough to completely change the game for the major players. But not even he’s immune to unintended consequences, and he’s still forced to make plans based on incomplete information, so there’s never a sense this is going to be easy.

Besides, in the end he’s going up against an army, so making allies who can stand with him on the field is critical.

The assassins bit was mostly funny. Ryoma latches onto the familiar aspects to the assassin clan and completely ignores the usual questions in favor of trying to figure out if they’re summoned like he was. And he’s so happy with his new toys that it will be a blast when he finally gets to show off using them.

The fanservice elements are downplayed compared to a typical light novel but for me it still drags the story down. There’s no reason to strip a girl in front of a crowd when half of the things being checked could have just been done by rolling up a sleeve or similar. I’m also really not fond of the art style for the insert pictures, which has a heavy focus on smudged greyscale. I would prefer cleaner lines and more manga-styled shading. It’s a stupid nitpick but it would help show off the character designs better.

Overall this is a solid middle book for the arc. The next book should finish out the civil war since this one did not, but since this one didn’t leave off on quite as much of a cliffhanger, the wait will be more bearable. I rate this book Recommended.