Tag Archives: shapeshifters

Infinite Competitive Dungeon Society

Title: Infinite Competitive Dungeon Society

Author: Toika

Translator: FudgeNouget

Chapters: 354 (Complete)

https://www.wuxiaworld.com/novel/infinite-competitive-dungeon-society

Shin is following in his father’s footsteps of exploring a mysterious dungeon whose depths are invite-only. Meanwhile, Earth is drastically changing as monsters start appear, followed by dungeons of their own. But Shin isn’t concerned about the new ability users or monsters. He’s determined to conquer the depths of the dungeon.

It’s hard to give this one a good summary because it is a very long story, so there’s a lot going on. On a surface level, at the beginning there are two plot threads that rarely intersect: the Two Moons incident that caused Earth to gain monsters, magic, and little dungeons, and the giant extra-dimensional Dungeon that Shin is working his way through.

It takes a good while before the full story comes out about why both the big Dungeon and the little ones exist, and I like how this takes a familiar trope and twists it a bit, and then goes on to break out of it completely. Heroes defend their world, and monsters invade, but there are reasons behind why all of this is going on, and it’s a lot more grey than it first appears. Shin is stubborn and passionate, and even though Earth is in a very bad situation, he’s looking beyond the immediate problem and towards the bigger picture. Because Earth isn’t the only world facing these kinds of problems. And some of those other worlds have already lost.

This is a litRPG, but it twists away from skills and stats by the end. Actually, it was fascinating that the whole “dungeon” concept is an abstraction, and Shin eventually tries to tackle things at a deeper level. I liked that Shin has actual experience as a spearman from training with his father (and I also like that he’s using a less-common weapon), which makes his progress in the dungeon more believable. He picks up or creates a number of skills and abilities, but I like that after a certain point the concept of a skill can’t overcome actual knowledge/training in how to fight with his chosen weapon or technique.

A large focus of the fights isn’t so much the stats but the strategy. Some of that is tied to skills and their cooldowns, but more of it is about evaluating his enemy, trying to interrupt their dangerous moves, and most importantly not getting hit. Despite his rapidly increasing power, he’s also got enemies far stronger than him—and also a father who is determined to win in any competition against his son.

The one downside for me is unfortunately a rather big one. I don’t like any of the girls. They’re all introduced by hair and eye color, height, and breast size, and every single one falls in love with him and competes to be his wife. They have only the most minor personality variations because of this. They’re flat, uninteresting, and clearly there just to pander. Which makes the harem ending unsurprising but also annoying.

I kept hoping that he’d meet at least one girl that either hated him for real or just wasn’t interested, or could get more of a focus than trying to jump him. In the same vein, all of the elementals are female, all of the tamed monsters are female, and even his sister’s relationship with him is less than platonic (for a while I was hoping she was just playing up to his crush on her to extract benefits from him, but no luck). Even Daisy, who initially appeared to be sane, eventually joins in the “marry me too, please” crowd.

So that being said, I found Ren, Walker, Leon, and Lin way more interesting. Ren is a hotheaded beastman who can’t always live up to his own expectations, but gives his all however he can. Lin is half-dragon and a blacksmith who takes over the dungeon floor shop when Loretta gets a vacation. His grumpiness hides a sharp mind. He’s unwillingly friends with Shin, who keeps toppling his expectations (and thus creating more work with every bet he loses). And so on. The men manage to have better character arcs, and they aren’t spending every other sentence trying to get down Shin’s pants.

The chapters are a bit longer than the other web novels I’ve read so far, so it took quite a bit of time to finish, but the story is complete. I’m on the fence about recommending it, though, as the girls all harping on Shin gets really tedious, even though the fight scenes and the idea behind the dungeon was great. I rate this book Neutral.

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That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime (Manga)

Title: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
Format: Manga
Volumes 1-7

I’m not going to bother recapping the story review since I just posted the first three novel reviews, and the manga so far only touches those three volumes.

In terms of story, it’s impressively similar. There are certainly bits dropped, but it’s mostly Rimuru’s technical explanations of various matters (which I enjoy, but I realize not everyone might), and there’s some slight reordering of events to make the trimmed version cohesive. So if this is the only version you care about, you’re still getting pretty much everything. And the visual gags can add some additional humor.

The art is fantastic. This story was going to be a challenge to draw purely due to the number of monster characters, but the visuals are for the most part very good. I think the lizardmen are the weakest, but even they have recognizable differences in design so characters are visually distinctive. Of course Benimaru and Souei were my favorites (the panel showcasing Souei’s smiles made me laugh so hard . . . He really does look super irritated when he’s grinning).

Rimuru’s human form is also spectacular. I like how androgynous he is—he still thinks in somewhat male ways due to his past life, but the body he mimics was originally female, and in any case is genderless when he mimics it since slimes have no gender. So the scenes where he’s being dressed up by the girls, or where he’s pulling on a suit and tie for treaty talks both look natural.

Kodansha’s not skimping on the release, either. Not all of the volumes have color pages up front, but the ones that do are presented in color, which I appreciate because not all publishers will.

My absolute favorite thing about the manga, though, and the one item that absolutely makes them worth buying if you already have and like the light novels, is Veldora’s diary entry at the end of each volume. Did you ever wonder what happened to Veldora after Rimuru swallowed him with the promise of both of them working on the seal? The novels leave you to assume Veldora is diligently throwing his all into breaking free . . . and his diary quickly dispels that notion. The incredibly bored dragon has found a number of new sources of entertainment—Rimuru’s memories (especially his human ones), whatever Rimuru is up to at the moment, and, eventually, Ifrit. (Poor Ifrit.) Add in a bit of meddling from the Great Sage (or Veldora trying to use the Great Sage for his own ends) and it was impossible for me to get through more than a few sentences without laughing. And oh, is Rimuru in for a surprise whenever he finally gets Veldora out . . .

Overall, I would consider this a solid investment, whether you’re only intending to follow the manga or whether you want it as a companion to the anime or light novel. I rate this series Highly Recommended.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime #3 (Light Novel)

Title: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime #3

Author: Fuse

Format: Light Novel

With the orc lord defeated and his army disbanded, Rimuru is turning his attention back to building a town. Or rather, it’s starting to look more like a nation. With their first treaty signed, he’s moving onto a bigger stage. But the demon lords have also taken note, and have sent their own investigative team . . .

I like a lot in this book, but since I’m not really fond of Milim, that takes it down a notch for me. (And that cover. Ugh. Talk about books I am glad I got digitally because it would be too hard to explain in public.)

I enjoy reading about the little details of building a town. In this case, the various sanitary improvements Rimuru is trying to implement in his monster town. Toilets. Showers/baths. All very difficult when you neither have a good way to pressurize plumbing (if you can even lay all the piping) and no obvious way to heat the water. Rimuru himself may not need to use some of this, but his formerly-human sensibilities demand a much higher level of cleanliness than anything this world can provide. To be honest, I wish the books had gone into this level of detail on some of the other things too. I love the nitty gritty of working out these engineering issues with magic and a very primitive technology.

I also find it hilarious how Rimuru mentions his town is getting really GOOD at the whole “drop everything and evacuate” routine because of all the ridiculous monsters that have been showing up spoiling for a fight.

There’s also a good look at some of the various major powers in the world, from the demon lords to the dwarf king, and how they’re reacting to the gathering power in Rimuru’s town. For the demon lords, who are themselves extremely powerful, this is just something to keep an eye on to make sure it doesn’t get out of control. But for the dwarven/human kingdoms, Rimuru’s pace of development is frankly insane, and worrisome. And both groups would be happy to trap Rimuru in various schemes if they can, so he’d better learn to be a politician quickly.

The big bad in this one feels less like an immediate threat and more like a chess piece. We have a mysterious organization that may or may not be working on behalf of a demon lord, the demon lords themselves, and Tempest caught in the middle. Given Milim’s presence, though, it’s hard to put as much tension here as there was in the battle against the Orc Disaster.

Overall this is a solid continuation of the story. I rate this book Recommended.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime #2 (Light Novel)

Title: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime #2

Author: Fuse

Format: Light Novel

Rimuru and his allies are busy laying the groundwork for the city that will become their new home. But something is stirring in the Forest of Jura. An army is on the move, displacing monsters and devouring anything that they can catch. It’s Rimuru’s first real taste of war . . . and can his small group of followers conquer such a vast number of enemies?

It’s just one thing after another for Rimuru ever since he left the caves where he was reborn. This time around, a massive army of orcs is advancing into the forest, which is upsetting the local monsters. And these are no ordinary orcs. They’re being held together by an all-consuming power that has turned them into a single-minded swarm bent on only one thing: devouring everything in an attempt to fill their insatiable hunger.

I really like this arc for a number of reasons. The orcs, lizardmen, and ogres show a broader view of the Forest of Jura—and in the case of the lizardmen, a bit of civil unrest as the war creates divisive opinions on how to fight.

It also shows how names, something Rimuru takes for granted because of his memories as a human, can totally change the course of a monster’s life. Perhaps in keeping with the game-like mechanics behind skills, a named monster is more powerful than its unnamed kind. And something Rimuru totally fails to notice is that a named monster is ALSO loyal to the one who named it. So in handing out names because he can’t otherwise figure out how to talk to specific monsters, he’s single-handedly evolving pretty much every monster he meets . . . and creating an ever-growing group of allies willing to help him with his dreams of civilization. Titles also work to boost skill—the monsters Rimuru calls “king” and “lord” grow right into that.

There’s a lot of work that’s going into the town Rimuru is creating, but I like that for now much of it is still so preliminary that they haven’t constructed much. He’s determined to do things right from the ground up.

I’m also hugely amused that Rimuru, who naturally has no sense of taste in slime form (nor, if the magic concentration is high enough, even a need to eat at all) is a real foodie. Now that he has human form, he wants to enjoy all the dishes he liked before he was killed. Figuring out how to recreate them here is problematic from a number of angles, and I like seeing how he starts to work through them.

Then there are the orcs. This large-scale war and its accompanying complications provide for a lot of great fights, not only by Rimuru but also by his allies. I’m particularly fond of the first battle in the book as well as the final battle. Rimuru’s solutions shows he’s growing and adapting–and also that at his heart he’s just someone who wants real peace.

Overall this is a fun read, and a good continuation of the story. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime #1 (Light Novel)

Title: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime #1

Author: Fuse

Format: Light Novel

Satoru Mikami had just gone out to meet a coworker for lunch, but a thug wielding a knife put an end to his ordinary life. As he’s dying, he hears a strange voice responding to his thoughts . . . and when he wakes up, he realizes life is going to be very different from now on. He’s no longer human, and the various abilities the voice had mentioned are now his to command. This begins his adventures as a slime . . .

I saw the first few episodes of the anime and got intrigued about this, and too impatient to wait for the rest of the episodes to come out to learn what happens next.

This is a game-flavored story for sure, but it doesn’t lean too heavily on those mechanics. The skill system seems to be run by some gigantic computer-like entity, but other than that more of the story proceeds like a fantasy than like a game.

I really enjoy watching Rimuru (Satoru’s new name, eventually) learn about himself and his environment. He’s still got all his human memories, but now he’s got a body where none of that applies anymore. He doesn’t breathe, doesn’t really eat, doesn’t excrete, and obviously has no limbs to speak of. So he enters this new life blind and confused, and his explorations often have comical results. As a migrant soul, he’s definitely got some overpowered skills, but he’s still figuring out the best ways to use them. (And unlike similar types of series like Overlord, most people who arrive or reincarnate from another world get overpowered skills, so he’s not the only one with an ace up his metaphorical sleeve.)

And Rimuru can use a mimic skill on things he’s eaten, so he gets a number of fun transformations as he confronts various monsters. His reaction to some of their skills as a giant NOPE was funny too.

Rimuru is also a pretty cheerful main character, eager to explore, and easily talked into helping out the various monsters he encounters who are in trouble. One thing I also appreciate about this book is that the majority of the focus stays on the monster characters, whether it’s the dragon Veldora, the goblins, etc. Ranga was my favorite, because giant storm wolves for the win. Humans exist, but they’ve got a more minor role so far.

But this isn’t a novel about everyone fighting. It’s actually got quite a bit of construction as Rimuru and his new monster allies work on building themselves a place to live. I liked reading the details of how they intend to set up a town, and the various people they recruit to try to make it work. He certainly isn’t planning on something small, but given his propensity to recruit powerful allies, everything’s more or less working out.

Overall this is a fun story that opens what looks to be a promising series. If you want a bit of a different twist on a story about traveling to another world, this would be a good book to check out. I rate this book Recommended.

Trash of the Count’s Family

Title: Trash of the Count’s Family

Translator: miraclerifle

Chapters: 28 (ongoing)

Location: https://www.wuxiaworld.com/novel/trash-of-the-counts-family

One day a young man fell asleep reading a series of books, and woke up as one of the characters. Unfortunately, the identity he was given was that of the wastrel son of a Count, and his destiny is to be beaten up by the main character in the first book and then never be heard from again. Cale hates pain, and decides to use his knowledge of the events to come to position himself in a better spot . . .

This is hilarious. Cale is unabashedly self-centered (although maybe not as much as he wants to credit for himself), and very much interested in staying completely out of the events described in the books he’d been reading. Unfortunately, there’s only so much he can do to stop the plot from rolling along—but he’s determined to influence what he can, where he needs to, in order to live his dream of being a couch potato unaffected by the catastrophes to come.

Naturally, Choi Han would be doing the battling. Why would Cale even try to fight when such a strong person was next to him? Cale thought paper-cuts hurt a lot, so he didn’t want to even think about getting cut by a sword.

But his little machinations are already having bigger ripple effects. Take the dragon. Cale’s main goal is to stop it from rampaging, as well as get a little revenge on the noble who’s torturing it. And everything goes more-or-less as planned, except for one major thing: the dragon isn’t interested in following Cale’s version of the script.

It’s likely Cale’s attempts to keep himself out of the spotlight will only put him into it. And he might start having problems holding on to his bad reputation now that he’s proving he’s far more competent than anyone gives him credit for.

It feels kind of short right now because of the low chapter count, but this is already a very promising series, and one I’m looking forward to immensely. The updates should be pretty frequent for now, which will help. Highly Recommended.

Parasyte – the maxim – (Anime)

Title: Parasyte – the maxim –

Episodes: 1-24 (complete)

Shinichi wakes up one night reflexively slapping at a bug that then proceeds to burrow into his right hand. Only quick thinking saves his life . . . but in the morning, his right hand starts talking to him, and he realizes he’s now unwilling partners with a bizarrely intelligent parasite. But Migi isn’t the only parasite that’s shown up in Japan. And most parasites eat humans.

I liked this a lot more than I expected. Shinichi changes a lot over the course of the series: from a nervous, wimpy guy who freaks out easily to a shell-shocked survivor of extreme situations to someone who takes everything that happened and actually comes out stronger.

I do disagree with Shinichi’s assessment of himself being unable to cry as a sign he’s not human. It’s very clear why he would believe that, but this also strikes me as an extremely normal reaction to the kinds of violence he’s been exposed to and involved in. He comes off to me more as a state of shock or PTSD, where he’s gone numb in self-defense since he doesn’t have the luxury of breaking down if he wants to survive.

The violence is mostly short, sharp, and brutal. A lot of the messier scenes are more implied than shown, and Shinichi and the others exposed to it are dealing with the consequences long after the actual events are over. I really liked the drawn and haunted look Shinichi has after a certain major event—he’s physically, mentally, and emotionally at the end of his rope, and you can tell just from looking at him.

And Migi is great. I loved how his viewpoint differs so drastically from Shinichi. They may share the same body, but they’re complete opposites. Migi is powerful, coldly logical, and only interested in his own survival. Migi sees nothing wrong with killing anything that gets in his way. Shinichi keeps flailing around with what the definition of being human actually is, and trying to prove he’s different from Migi’s criticisms. But the show isn’t about proving Migi right with his animalistic evaluation of humanity. Migi makes some good points, but so does Shinichi, and both of them end up adopting parts of the other’s viewpoint.

I can’t say I found Kana to be compelling, though. I hated her from pretty much the moment she shows up, as she’s standing there with a bored expression watching her friends beat the crap out of some poor guy, and then joins them in mocking Shinichi when he ineffectually tries to get them to stop. Even if Shinichi weren’t trying to explore a relationship with Murano, I would’ve been mad if he’d started dating Kana, who clearly has her own self-interest ranked much higher than any kind of empathy.

So when Kana makes a stupid decision in episode 12, I found this hilarious rather than heartbreaking. All the romantic comedy shenanigans between Murano and Kana are mixed with the slasher-horror story that is Shinichi’s life, and that kind of crossover was hugely entertaining for me. Especially since Shinichi is responsible for a fair amount of the killing himself. Or rather, Migi is. So the typical girls-getting-mixed-signals is not because the guy can’t choose between them, but because a lot of people are dying and Shinichi can’t extricate himself from bad situations.

I’ve heard complaints about the later half of the series, and I don’t entirely agree. The show as a whole does stumble a bit at several points, in both halves. It’s a bit too focused on over-explaining some things, some characters die in pointless ways, and the random serial killer at the end was out of the blue. But it’s not as though I wasn’t engaged during the second half of the series, and there were still some very good moments (Shinichi’s confrontation with Gotou particularly…. He’s shocked by what ends up working, and I was laughing hysterically). Actually the thing that bugged me the most was Migi’s decision at the end. It felt like a bit of whiplash with him in the last few eps, and hearing what he decides makes little sense.

But for all that, I was still looking forward to each episode, and I enjoyed my time with the show.

Overall, this is definitely a series for more mature viewers who don’t mind a bit of violence. I think the series handles this without glorifying all the slaughter, as it keeps coming back to the negative effects on those who encounter it. And for all that it can be a brutal series, it manages a mostly-happy ending, so it comes off more as dark fantasy/dark sci-fi than horror. I rate this show Recommended.