Author Archives: aelvana

Suppose a Kid from the Last Dungeon Boonies Moved to a Starter Town #1 (Light Novel)

Title: Suppose a Kid from the Last Dungeon Boonies Moved to a Starter Town #1

Author: Toshio Satou

Format: Light Novel

Lloyd Belladonna is finally achieving his dream of leaving his small village and going to the city to be a soldier. He wants to be something other than the weakest person around. But this meek and gentle boy has no idea his standards of “strong” are nonsense to the average citizen . . .

I first found out about this through the manga, and unfortunately I think that’s the better presentation of this story. The prose in the prologue is particularly choppy, with the narrator interjecting parenthetical comments every few lines, and although it does get better in the first chapter, it’s still only serviceable at best.

The story is entertaining, though. Lloyd has grown up in a village of former heroes, at the very edge of the world where the strongest monsters lurk. He can’t even do basic chores because even something like cutting wood or catching fish involves a fight with your life on the line (the bit where he insists he’ll be fine because fish in the capital have no horns or fangs says it all, really). So when Lloyd sees a twelve-foot locust, his reaction is “oh, there’s a bug” and squashes it, when everyone around him is screaming in terror.

In terms of characters, only Lloyd, Marie, and Chrome get much development. Marie is running from who she used to be, and trying to untangle the plots that might destroy the country. Lloyd drops into her life, and slowly everything she thought was impossible works out. And it’s her determination to protect him and keep her promise to his village chief that forces her into a hard choice.

The others are more comic relief at this point. Selen’s tendency to write her own romance with Lloyd can be amusing, but also feels a bit overplayed. Riho is more there to give reactions to the insanity surrounding her. And so on.

Overall I like the story, although it may come off better in the manga (or potentially the upcoming anime next year), where the bits of awkward prose won’t get in the way. I rate this book Recommended.

Favorite quote:
“He’s a former royal guard. Now he runs a cafeteria for the cadets: The kind of place where the portions are huge, the price is right, and the flavor is questionable at best.”
“He had one job! He’s failing at the single most important part.”
“See, he insists if it tastes too good, it’ll ruin them for field rations.”

 

I’m the Evil Lord of an Intergalactic Empire! (Web Novel)

Title: I’m the Evil Lord of an Intergalactic Empire!

Author: Mishima Yomu/Wai

Volumes 1-4 (series ongoing)

Link: https://www.novelupdates.com/series/im-the-evil-lord-of-an-intergalactic-empire/

After a miserable life and untimely death, a man is offered a second life. He reincarnates as Liam Sera Banfield, who inherits his parent’s house as a Count at a young age. But believing this is going to be a blessed second life, Liam somehow continues to turn misfortune into fortune, all the while holding on to his real goal, which is to be an evil overlord. Somehow everyone misunderstands him as a righteous young lord.

This is caught my interest for the usual reasons—it’s a bit of a fantasy/sci-fi hybrid, with the misunderstanding between Liam and his noncorperal “guide” one of the biggest plot drivers. But it does one thing I really like, which is the key misunderstanding. Liam doesn’t know his previous life and this one are under attack by his guide, who is a demonic force that feeds on evil and is hoping to crush him utterly. Instead, Liam believes the lie that this is going to be a better life—and his faith, and most especially his gratitude, end up turning the guide’s deceptions into reality.

This IS a blessed life for Liam. Because he’s always thankful.

I can safely say I never saw THAT plot twist coming. The fact that his gratitude literally tears the guide to shreds is a funny side note the reader is privy to that Liam can’t see. The guide grows ever more desperate to stop Liam from being thankful to him, but since every scheme ends up benefiting Liam in the end, Liam sees it all as machinations to bless him, and responds with even more thanks.

Other jokes fall more in line with Liam’s utterly failed attempts to be an evil overlord. He likes doing things like raising taxes, but since he raises taxes with no idea how he’s going to spend it (he just wanted to tax people), and lets his far more competent staff invest those extra funds, it ends up working out that his staff is spending those taxes to better the lives of the people. So even though he’s raising taxes, he still enjoys a lot of support among his populace.

On the other hand, his idea that he’s an evil lord allows him to make the sensible decisions in all sorts of places where stories usually have protagonists falter—like cutting off his parents, who passed off all their debt to him but come back to relieve him of his future earnings.

I’m not fond of the harem aspects. The major girls all end up fairly brainless in their pursuit of him. I did like how his attempt to win Rosetta came back to bite him—he wanted her simply because she said no to him, but once they’re engaged it starts looking like he’s the one trapped in a relationship he didn’t want.

Overall this is a light, fun read. I hope future novels do more with his friendship with Kurt, and give him more friends who aren’t just trying to get in his pants. I rate these books Recommended.

Ascendance of a Bookworm #3 (Light Novel)

Title: Ascendance of a Bookworm #3

Author: Miya Kazuki

Format: Light Novel

After her worst episode yet, Myne is forced to confront the illness that’s bound to kill her if she doesn’t do something. The problem is that her choices are extremely limited—and the best option for survival involves giving up the one thing she finds she isn’t willing to lose. In the time left to her, she’s determined to do as much as she can . . . and finds that sometimes opportunities come in surprising packages.

After where the last book left off, this one immediately resolves the worst of it, while presenting Myne with a grim prognosis. It’s interesting to see how this struggle has left Myne aware of what’s really important to her—and that isn’t only books.

I like how this book fleshes out Lutz, Benno, Frieda, and other secondary characters too, as they all deal with the news in their own fashion. I also like how Lutz in particular is holding on to his dreams. They are HIS dreams, even though Myne is the reason he’s achieving them.

Even with the serious undertones, there’s plenty of humor. Myne has a tendency to get wild ideas about things she wants to do and go about doing them, disregarding whatever upsets she might cause along the way. This has particular implications closer to the end, when her baptism ceremony shows her something she never thought she’d see.

One thing I haven’t touched on so far are the illustrations. The art is gorgeous, and I particularly appreciate how the male characters also get plenty of focus, which allows me to see what the whole cast looks like instead of just the girls.

I also want to say, for the record, I am completely on Benno’s side when it comes to the Guildmaster. Benno accurately perceived his actions as wanting to take over Benno’s family store, because regardless of what the Guildmaster says, that’s what would have happened. And the fact that the Guildmaster wouldn’t let it go, and then obstructed Benno out of petty spite on various issues because he couldn’t take being told no, and he mostly wants to stop Benno from selling various things because he’s determined Benno runs a CLOTHING store and nothing else . . . I really hope Benno drives him bankrupt.

Overall this closes out the first major arc of the story. The way it sets up the future hints at a lot of amusing situations to come, and it will be fun now that Myne has a whole new set of people to drive crazy. I rate this book Recommended.

Ascendance of a Bookworm #2 (Light Novel)

Title: Ascendance of a Bookworm #2

Author: Miya Kazuki

Format: Light Novel

Myne has taken the first major step towards realizing her dream of creating books: securing the venture capital to fund her creation of paper. With a few months to create a prototype, she and Lutz need to try to recreate the fuzzy steps she remembers. But Lutz is growing suspicious of how much knowledge she possesses . . .

I’m going to say up front that you should probably have the third book on hand for when you finish this one, because the cliffhanger is brutal.

Myne is still sickly and weak, but with Lutz’s help, she’s able to do more. A lot of this book is the process of creating a sort of paper from scratch—and it’s a lot of work. Much of the rest is her deepening relationship with Lutz.

I really like how Lutz eventually confronts her, and how that resolves. From his perspective, he’s trying to do the right thing, but he has no idea what he’s actually asking her to do. For Myne, it’s her chance to come clean, to have one person with whom she has no secrets, which makes him an even better ally than her supportive family.

I also like how the supporting characters are being built up. Benno is a merchant through and through, but you can see him warming up to them over the course of the book, and not just because they stand to make him a lot of money. Otto gets a lot more development too. His relationship with his wife is hilarious, especially because Myne totally picks up on the subtext of why she’s getting kicked out.

Overall this is building on the strengths of the first book, and expanding the world as Myne develops the strength to move around more in it. I rate this book Recommended.

Ascendance of a Bookworm #1 (Light Novel)

Title: Ascendance of a Bookworm #1

Author: Miya Kazuki

Format: Light Novel

Urano was a girl who loved books more than anything else. But just after landing her dream job as a librarian, she dies when an earthquake topples too many books on top of her—and reincarnates in a world where books are far out of reach of her new status as the daughter of a gate guard. Now named Myne, she’s determined to create her own books if that’s the only way she’ll ever have one.

This is a different kind of book. Myne is the typical modern Japanese person reincarnated into a vaguely fantasy, European-styled middle ages, but she’s young. Extremely weak. And although she has a clear goal from the beginning, it’s one impossible roadblock after another. I was particularly amused at the failure of her clay tablets. It is surprising she never knew about kneading clay to remove air bubbles, but it does make good drama.

Myne can come across as annoying in the beginning, when she’s complaining about lifestyle that was normal for people of her family’s stature. Things like accusing them of being dirty, when bathing to any extent involves carrying water up five stories (and although it isn’t explicitly stated, may have been believed to cause illness instead of cure it, if this is supposed to follow this world’s history).

However, as she adapts to life here she directs her complaints more at figuring out ways to address her issues. The strong bonds her family has are a lot of fun, especially her relationship with her big sister Tuuli. I like how her family clearly loves her, yet treats her like the sickly child she is, and often refuses to let her have her way. And Myne generally accepts their judgement and moves on to something else rather than look for a way to be sneaky around them.

I also really like Lutz, one of the neighboring boys who ends up good friends with Myne. Childhood friendships are such simple things sometimes. Myne, with her more adult outlook, often over-complicates things. For Lutz, she’s someone who feeds him and looks out for him and that’s good enough to excuse any number of oddities.

There is a currently-airing anime for this, which is one reason I got into the series. It’s pretty accurate to the books, and a good alternative way to experience the story, but as always the book has details a visual medium just can’t convey, so I think there’s value in both.

Overall this was fun, but the change of pace does mean there isn’t a lot of action to speak of. Most of the struggle is internal as Myne fights with her body and her world to carve out what she considers the ultimate happiness. I rate this book Recommended.

Chosen (The Brindle Dragon #1)

Title: Chosen

Author: Jada Fisher

Series: The Brindle Dragon #1

Eist is determined to be a dragon rider. Despite losing both of her parents, despite her grandfather’s warnings, she knows this is what she was destined to become. But the academy is not an easy process, and even passing all her classes doesn’t guarantee she’ll end up with a dragon.

This was decent, but a little too straightforward and short. Although it sets up the foundation, it’s only about a third of what I would expect from a book. That means it has enough time to introduce the major characters and set some details about their world and problems, but nobody really has a character arc. I can’t really count the ending as resolving much because even if the title and the cover image didn’t clue you in, nothing really shakes Eist’s belief that this is her destiny and she just has to get there.

The closest this comes to conflict is her periodic confrontations with a bully. Laying aside the fact that it throws some doubt on the moral part of this school’s evaluation when he keeps sabotaging her during events under observation, the teachers don’t seem terribly involved in this struggle on either side. One person looks kindly on a physical marker that showed up after an illness (it feels unnecessary to call it a mark of the gods, though), but otherwise they’re entirely hands off. I don’t mind that Eist has such a firm belief in her own destiny, but the only time her destination is really in question is when she starts missing classes, and that resolves without much fuss.

I did like that the main character struggles with a disability, which will be obvious to the reader very early on, though she doesn’t admit it until the end. The professors having nothing but good things to say about it was a little weird though. She will have issues, especially since dragon riders seem to be part military or police-focused. That’s not to say she can’t also do the job, but it seems premature to say this won’t impact her ability to do the same job if she just works harder. Hard work won’t make a crowded street any less noisy or confusing in the middle of an emergency (presumably the dragon’s senses can substitute?).

Overall I liked this well enough that I would probably read the rest of the series if I had Kindle Unlimited. I’m a bit leery of the more serial format, and I wish there was a bit more to the characters to make them more than “nice guy she likes” and “taciturn girl from a foreign country.” I rate this book Recommended.

Demon Slayer (Anime)

Title: Demon Slayer
Episodes: 1-26

Tanjiro lost his family to a sudden demon attack—all but his sister, who was infected to become a demon herself. Determined to get revenge, and protect his sister, Tanjiro trains hard to become a demon slayer. But the road to mastery is long, and the demons are powerful . . .

It’s so nice to have a protagonist like Tanjiro, whose main personality trait can probably be summed up in “big brother.” He’s kindhearted enough to care for everyone around him, and he never loses sight of the fact that the demons he’s killing were at one time victims themselves to the same curse that infected his sister. But underneath that kindness is a steel determination to save the only family he has left, and he won’t back down from anything that tries to separate him from his sister.

If I have one complaint, it’s that Nezuko, his sister, has a very small role. She’s mostly either asleep or acting cute in a way that makes her feel more like a pet than a person. Hopefully future seasons will flesh her out more.

Inosuke and Zenitsu are two other novices that eventually join Tanjiro on his missions. Although both of them have annoying traits, they also both quickly show deeper backstories, and both of them contribute a lot to the more humorous moments. (Although Zenitsu is at times extremely annoying, as his main schtick is being a wailing  coward whenever he’s awake.)

Ufotable did a wonderful job with the visuals. The fight scenes are sharp, and the special abilities are done in traditional Japanese art style, which makes them look surreal and beautiful. It’s also a real treat to see Tanjiro go from a countryside that looks like a historical drama to the electric lights and trains of the big city. The modern citygoers have no room for “demon slayers”, not even realizing that the demons are walking among them.

Overall this is one of the standouts on nearly every level. The story is compelling, the art is fantastic, and I can’t wait to see where this is going next. (A movie is already announced for the next arc.) I rate this show Highly Recommended.