Didn’t I Say To Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! Light Novel Review Volume 1

Cute, Smart Girl Becomes Cute, Smart and Over-powered Girl?

You would think there would be some cap on the number of stories of average Japanese teens dying tragically, meeting god and being reborn in another world, but no there is not. And I’m kind of happy about that. As much as some of these stories are derivative nonsense without a speck of originality, care or talent behind them there are also stories that really make something of the basic premise. It is like all those ‘boy meets girl’ stories and how some of them can really distinguish themselves and others end up stacked on the pile of mediocre genre stories and still others rot in the pile of substandard and uninspired crud.

This latest series I picked up to read after a recommendation came up through The Book Depository and I read some reviews on other blogs is Didn’t I Say To Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! which is a marathon of a title and uses excessive punctuation to boot. Throw in the generic cute character on the front cover and the magic circle she’s standing in and all and all there’s a million warning signs that this is going to be dribble and yet it manages to defy all expectations and became one of the more enjoyable stories I’ve read for awhile.

I certainly jumped it to the top of the to be reviewed stack which is on the edge of reaching 20 books that I’ve read but have yet to type up my thoughts on.

There’s plenty to unpack in this story but my overall thoughts are that it is pure enjoyment to read. That doesn’t mean it is some hefty literary work that is going to take the world by storm. It is nicely written (or at least the translation effort was nicely done as most of it flows really well), the story moves along at a good clip, and the characters are entertaining enough. However it isn’t exactly trying to shatter the mould or blow our minds with its genius narration so just open up the book and start devouring the story.

Didn’t I Say To Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life is Available on the Book Depository
Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! (Light Novel) Vol. 1
Affiliate Link

The biggest downside of this book is it takes awhile to get going. As usual with this kind of plot we have to kill off our main character in one life and have her reborn. It takes about 30 pages of so to get through the basic set-up before our reincarnated protagonist lands at her first academy and the story really kicks off. Fortunately, once it kicks off it doesn’t really stop or get bogged down again and when you get the end of the volume it gives sufficient closure for the moment but leaves you wanting more.

Or at least, I certainly did and ordered the next couple of volumes already for future reading. While it might run out of steam in a couple of books, this is a fairly promising start.

Possibly one thing that really did help me get into the story was that our protagonist wasn’t a loner male. Kurihara Misato was a little bit isolated in her former life because of the expectations placed on her by others, but she wasn’t another shut-in gamer. Admittedly, they do play on her social awkwardness and inability to read others a bit too much early on in this story, but she’s a fairly up-beat heroine making the most of her situation.

I also like that there is no demon-lord in sight so far. Throughout this whole volume Misato/Adele/Mile faces many challenges but these include social status, socialising in general, friendship, and finding a place for herself in the world. No evil demons to fight or world ending terrors existing just to be terrors. Admittedly, there’s certainly room for political intrigue and other issues to blow up into larger issues in future volumes, but this was very much a low stakes story but with every decision being vital to the protagonist as she desired to fit in and anything that could risk that was seen as a threat there was an ongoing sense of purpose and direction for the story.

The supporting cast is quite large as the story carries from Adele’s home life, to her school, to the bakery where she works for a time, to the first village she runs to, and then to the academy for hunters she attends, but all of the characters we encounter are fun and interesting. Their interactions and responses to Adele/Mile as she goes about pretending to be normal despite obviously not being so is pretty entertaining, and by the end of this volume there’s a pretty cool group surrounding our main character.

There’s also a lot of very funny moments in the story. I’m not huge on comedy and a lot of jokes fall flat for me, but this book had me chuckling on more than one occasion as the protagonist’s plans blew up in her face or the other characters let her get away with something even though they all knew exactly what was going on.

As I said earlier, it is just a fun little book. With a delightful protagonist, overpowered or not, a plot that never seems to get put on hold even as there’s not a lot of clear direction to it as of yet, and a supporting cast that have been fun to get to know, Didn’t I Say To Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! is one of those books that will just make you smile and try the one more chapter game until you fall asleep while trying to complete it in a single sitting.

Try Volume 2: Available on the Book Depository
Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! (Light Novel) Vol. 1
Affiliate Link

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
avatar
Three great ways you can support
100 Word Anime:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Advertisements

Natsume’s Book of Friends Manga Review Volume 16

Helping Our Friends

We’re back with the next volume of Natsume’s Book of Friends and I absolutely loved this one. Okay, I love all of them, but this one seemed extra-special. Natsume always feels like he is taking without giving anything back, which isn’t true but it is how he feels, and he’s incredibly grateful for the friendships he has create with Taki and Tanuma even while he tries to look out for them and keep them safe.

This volume focuses very much on these relationships with the first two chapters dealing with Taki and the second two dealing with Tanuma. Both stories are absolutely glorious and then we get a really nice extra story at the end in case you haven’t had enough Natsume (and let’s be honest, there’s never enough Natsume).

Chapter 64 and 65

Naturally Natsume gets involved and at first fears the yokai aims to harm Taki but soon realises the yokai wants to thank her but doesn’t really know why. Once again the different time spans of humans and yokai comes into play as the yokai realises the futility of a friendship with a human yet still feels drawn to Taki.

It has been awhile since Taki has featured as anything more than just someone in passing and it was great to get back to her story and her house. This time she has helped a yokai leave her house after it got confused by all of her grandfather’s spells and the yokai now wants something to do with her, but isn’t quite sure what.

There’s also some other yokai in the house which leads to a really fun couple of chapters. it also makes Natsume think once again about his position and his relationship with Taki. While he tries not to keep too many secrets from her these days there are still some things he just can’t say and that keeps a small distance between them.

If you’ve been waiting for more of Taki this story will certainly give you exactly what you wanted.

Affiliate Link – Book
Natsume's Book of Friends, Vol. 16

Chapter 66 and 67

After the joy and breath of fresh air that was Taki’s visit, we move straight into a trip with Natsume and friends (Tanuma, Nishimura and Kitamoto). They are visiting a place Tanuma went to often as a child and they soon encounter a mystery with a yokai and a mask. Tanuma helps Natsume by keeping Nichimura and Kitamoto out of the way while Natsume tries to uncover the identity of the yokai.

Once again this story makes it clear that even though Tanuma doesn’t have the gift that Natsume has, a lot of his childhood experiences are quite similar. He saw weird things as a kid and was also sick a lot which meant he didn’t have a huge number of friends. It turns out, one of the ‘friends’ he had wasn’t all she appeared to be.

Again this story focuses very much on the distance between Natsume and others and the reasons for the secrets and lies that build the walls around him. While Tanuma is the closest thing to a true friend Natsume has ever had, there’s still a barrier between them even if Tanuma has been given a lot more access to Natsume’s true self than most people.

Again, it is a really fun story and one that builds on what we know about these characters in the best possible way. There’s also some really lovely art in this one, particularly when Tanuma smiles at the end. It is so precious.

As usual, I can’t wait to get into the next volume of this manga. This series continues to build from strength to strength and while I love the stories that focus on the exorcists, this volume focusing on Natsume’s school friends was a real delight.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
avatar
Three great ways you can support
100 Word Anime:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Goblin Slayer Review Light Novel Volumes 5 + 6

The Endless Cycle of Rookie Mistakes

I don’t normally review volumes together unless they are clearly two parts of the same story with no resolution in between, however when I finished reading volume 5 of Goblin Slayer I was kind of at a loss as to what to write and so I simply stacked the book to the side and waited. Many months later I read volume 6 and suddenly felt a need to write about the books so here we are.

Goblin Slayer is Available on the Book Depository

Goblin Slayer, Vol. 5 (light novel)
Affiliate Link

Volume 5

I’m going to point out that volume 5 is actually quite a good story. The reason I’m saying that straight up is that it is probably going to sound very soon like I didn’t enjoy it but to be honest most of my issues with it are issues with the series as a whole that have been building and have nothing to do with the individual volume.

The story focuses on Noble Fencer who was out on a job to take care of some goblins and completely stuffed it up by underestimating goblin resourcefulness and sneakiness. As a result, her party has been killed and she’s taken captive by the primitive cult of goblins in the north. Naturally Goblin Slayer and friends are recruited to go rescue her.

As I said, nothing wrong with the story. The problem is, that this is almost the same story as Priestesses introduction only spread out longer and with more tenacious goblins thrown in. That’s kind of the point. Goblins keep doing the same things over and over and adventurers keep underestimating them. Yet while I appreciate the point I found the basic story less enjoyable because there just isn’t enough novelty five volumes in to keep this feeling fresh.

Still, the action is solid, the characters within the party continue to bounce well off one another, and the story concludes well within the volume so there’s little to really complain about. That said, I was contemplating leaving this series here feeling I’ve taken all I can from it.

Volume 6

After my mixed feelings around volume 5 and whether this series had anything more to offer, I went into volume 6 with a little bit of hesitation. I am really glad I did go into it though.

This volume turns its attention very much onto the Priestess as she’s now been with the group for a year. Her growth over that time has been impressive and she’s been in some very dangerous situations. Despite that, this volume begins with her missing out on advancement at the guild as there’s the thought that maybe all the strong adventurers she’s travelling with are actually carrying her through these encounters.

So begins an effort to give the Priestess opportunities to show her own strengths including having Goblin Slayer and the others take orders from her during a mission.

It is a minor shake up to the usual formula and yet it is enough. Not to mention, Priestess as a character has experienced the most growth (as all the other characters were fairly well developed when they were met and Priestess was such a rookie) and so seeing her get the limelight was very nice.

While it might seem trite, I also liked the inclusion of the Wizard Boy. His older sister had died a year ago on a quest to kill goblins and he’s very much out for revenge. It is pretty clear that the older sister was probably one of Priestess’ original party members that got wiped out but they don’t make a big deal of that. Instead, this volume focuses on teaching Wizard Boy, and indeed many of the rookie adventurers, how to stay alive.

That becomes particularly necessary when the newly built training grounds get attacked by a goblin horde at night.

With the training grounds having been built on the site of Goblin Slayers home village there’s more than enough personal drama and stakes in this story to really lift is beyond just basic goblin slaying and while the basic formula established in this series hasn’t changed, this volume seemed to breathe a bit of life back into it.

Anyway, it was enough that I’m going to read the next one as I’d really like to know what happens next.

Goblin Slayer is Available on the Book Depository

Goblin Slayer, Vol. 5 (light novel)
Affiliate Link

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
avatar
Three great ways you can support
100 Word Anime:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 15 Review

Striving Toward Impossible Goals

With most of my reviews of the various volumes of Natsume’s Book of Friends I’ve tried to find a common theme that links the stories or ideas. Unfortunately I came up short in volume 15. Not because the volume isn’t great, but because each story has its own distinct tone. That said, I had a great deal of fun reading this volume and not just because the first three chapters deal with Natori.

Natsume’s Book of Friends is available from the Book Depository
Natsume's Book of Friends, Vol. 15
Affiliate Link

Chapters 60 – 62

I remember how great this story was in the anime. It was the ‘oh no’ moment where Natori overheard the yokai talking to Natsume and finally learned a little bit about what Natsume was keeping from him. With Natori’s ambiguous character where we are never really sure if he’s a good guy or not, this has great emotional impact and leaves you on egg-shells waiting to find out what comes from this situation.

However, that’s the end of the story. This one mostly focuses on Natsume helping Natori out with a job. A retire exorcist’s home is being attacked and it turns out that two of the servants have been trapped outside the house and have become enraged believing their master shut them out. It is another reminder that human and yokai relationships won’t last forever but for now Natsume is just trying to help the best he can.

There’s some great moments between Natsume and Natori, some darker moments where Natsume looks be to in danger, and as usual a calm that comes at the end. It is a nicely written story and I loved how they spread it over three chapters giving it the time it needed to develop so that the ending really hit home.

Visually, these chapters seem a little less impressive than previous ones. Even Natori doesn’t bring his usual sparkle to the scenes. However, the story more than makes up for it and so it was great to read.

Chapter 63

We move on to a stand alone story about a small yokai who wants to join a parade but isn’t strong enough. This one is interesting in that it is the yokai who learns from the experience rather than Natsume, though it seems like at first the yokai might betray Natsume and hand him over as a tribute even though Natsume has been helping him. Nyanko-Sensei does nothing as he expects Natsume to learn from the experience, but instead the yokai has a change of heart.

Given we’re so often told that yokai don’t change this was a really cute story and an interesting one as we see immediately how Natsume’s interactions with the yokai have changed him. It would have been nice for Natsume to take something from this encounter as well, but there was enough going on here.

Special Episode: Touko and Shigeru

Now despite this being an ‘extra’ this story was my favourite of the lot in this volume. I also loved this story when we saw it in the anime. The Fujiwara’s took Natsume in but we so seldom get a full story focused on them. The rare ones we do see are always mine-fields of rich emotions and just full of love and healing energy and to be honest when I read this I really needed it at the time.

It doesn’t hurt that this is one of the prettiest stories in the volume with the passing of time depicted beautifully through various scenes looking at the sky. Touko and Natsume’s relationship is slightly redefined by the end of the chapter and it just makes you realise once again how much love and warmth the Fujiwara’s have enveloped Natsume in.

Absolutely lovely read and I fully recommend reading this volume.

Natsume’s Book of Friends is available from the Book Depository
Natsume's Book of Friends, Vol. 15
Affiliate Link

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
avatar
Three great ways you can support
100 Word Anime:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

So I’m A Spider, So What? Volume 4

And now the timeline makes sense.

So I’m A Spider, So What has jumped back and forth between the events in the Great Elroe Labyrinth and the events surrounding Shun, the newly titled hero, through the previous volumes. While I always had a sense that the events from the spider’s point of view were not in quite the same time as the events Shun was describing, it wasn’t until volume 4 where the reader is given a clear answer to exactly when both sequences are occurring and the relationship between them. It is a credit to this story that it has managed to come out of the reveal relatively neatly and with the story clicking nicely into place rather than becoming unravelled.

And just for those who are still utterly confused as to what happened first or the actual sequence of events that we’ve been told about but never saw first hand, this volume handily contains at the end a timeline of the events so that you can see the full sequence very quickly and help reconcile any further confusion. It isn’t intrusive and doesn’t add anything that couldn’t have been picked up through a return read but it just helps straighten out the whole affair.

Now if this time disparity was just another gimmick, like the protagonist being a spider, then I’d have to wonder if it was worth the effort, but realistically it has really helped to set up the different characters and their relative experiences before things start coming together.

That is where volume 4 of So I’m A Spider, So What? really starts to shine. While the spider story-line an the human story-line still haven’t actually collided, they are clearly on a collision course. With so many other reincarnated characters already assembled, the war in full swing, and everything about to come to a head, it is just a matter of time now. Where previous volumes I’ve found the spider grinding amusing but not overly purposeful at times and I’ve enjoyed the story of the goings on in the human world but we’ve only seen glimpses, volume 4 gives us some fairly specific purposes to the spider’s activities and the human story gets, if not equal space, at least equal weight in this volume.

My previous criticisms though of the intrusive nature of the game mechanics do still stand. As much as this volume actually starts revealing the reason why the world they reincarnated into seems so much like a game, there’s only so many times you can come across a page that is nothing but stats and skills after a monster has been appraised before you just stop looking at them and flick to the next page to get on with the story. It isn’t as though the spider doesn’t then point out the most significant stats in her next bit of narration anyway so reading the page is utterly pointless.

Affiliate Link – Buy on the Book Depository
So I'm a Spider, So What?, Vol. 4 (light novel)

That said, while the execution of stats and skill lists may be intrusive, the basic function within the story is fairly purposeful. Not to mention, the spider is really using those skills and stats to their advantage and being quite innovative. On more than one occasion turning a one-sided battle into quite a thrilling nail-biter because of how they’ve used the level system to their advantage.

Which is why I can’t stop reading this series of books. As much as they rely on gimmicks to try to distinguish themselves from an overcrowded field, and as much as the game mechanics right from the beginning have been heavily weighing down the story, there’s a real cleverness at times to the way these standard elements are employed. While once or twice it really looks like they are over-reaching in order to extract the spider from an incredibly dire situation, they usually manage to make the events fit within the established rules and patterns of the world, even if that world is incredibly unfair and a lot of those skills and stats are clearly over-powered and close to cheating (Immortality? Really?).

While the spider gets the fun battle and exhilarating saves and victories, the humans are on the run after the events of book 3 and end up the elven village where the other reincarnated kids have been kept. This plot line is subdued, even dull in terms of events, by comparison, and yet we learn a lot through the course of the book and honestly I’m really looking forward to finding out what the next steps are for these characters with the new information they’ve acquired.

Needless to say, I am going to read the next volume in this series. It will very much depend on the individual as to whether or not they’ll enjoy this series though. I think most people who enjoy isekai stories and don’t object to game mechanics being used as the basis of a narrative will find a lot to like here but for other readers while there are some brilliant moments they probably won’t offset the parts of So I’m A Spider, So What they don’t like.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
avatar
Three great ways you can support
100 Word Anime:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 14

What is precious to you?

Another volume of Natsume and another delightful read. This volume focuses very much on losing things which are precious to you, or trying to protect them, and the result is a lovely and warm read as we see once again how Natsume has to balance his life in dealing with yokai who mistake him for Reiko, whether he helps yokai, or defending his very human world from unwanted yokai intrusion.

Chapter 55

The first story starts off more or less as many stories do in Natsume. He’s more or less minding his own business and yet is attacked by a pair of yokai who steal his voice to prevent them from calling their names or for help. He manages to escape from them but is picked up by another yokai who mistakes him for Reiko and unfortunately he can’t explain the situation.

There’s something very sad about this story as we see another yokai who has patiently waited for Reiko to return only she never will. It isn’t the first time we’ve been in this situation or that Natsume has felt sorry for a yokai for this reason, but as usual, the emotional impact hits hone. Not to mention Nyanko once again shows that he isn’t just treating Natsume like a snack anymore and comes to collect him.

All and all, it is a nice lead in to the volume and a fun story to read even if it isn’t particularly stand-out from the series (it is very hard to be stand-out when the stories are so consistently good).

Chapter 56

Natsume’s Book of Friends then brings us another standard set-up but makes it feel fresh through seeing how Natsume has changed in his approach to dealing with yokai. In this story a young looking girl yokai, she’s actually pretty old, has lost her towel and he returns it to her. However, it turns out the towel belongs to a human and she wants to return it. So begins Natsume’s efforts to reconnect two people whose times are very different.

The difference between a yokai life and a human life has also been a recurring theme in Natsume, and this story really makes it hit home that while for a yokai only a little time had past almost an entire human life had gone by. It makes you wonder how it will be for Natsume one day or for the yokai he’s befriended as sooner or later the reality of their lives is going to intrude.

This story is adorable and it was equally adorable in the anime.

Affiliate Link – Buy on the Book Depository
Natsume's Book of Friends, Vol. 14

Chapters 57 – 59

Then we get to the pointy end of the book where we see Natsume face off against a yokai in a pot who declares that if he doesn’t return what was stolen she’ll steal what is most precious to him. Such a threat back at the beginning of this series wouldn’t have had anywhere near the weight given Natsume’s lack of attachment to people or places. Now however that thought is terrifying to him even though it would be difficult to decide exactly what that most precious thing might be. Certainly difficult for a yokai to determine what it would be and it would have been interesting to see what was stolen but this time we just have to imagine it.

With the help of Nyanko and other yokai he meets along the way, Natsume eventually pieces together the story of Reiko and her encounter with the yokai. Once again we see how Reiko was shunned for most of her life and we can see that while Reiko and Natsume are similar, there are distinct differences and those largely exist because of the connections and friendships Natsume has managed to create and holds onto.

While not the strongest of stories overall, it is very affective and is a nice way to complete this volume.

Only, there is also a special story about the mid-level yokai finding some medicine for Natsume when he is sick. Even they know their attachment to such a frail human is foolish and can only end in tragedy and yet they cannot sever the ties between themselves and Natsume at this time. It is nice to see Natsume isn’t the only one aware of the strings that tie all these characters together at this point. Not to mention, this story is really pretty to read.

Anyway, as usual, I’m loving these books and eagerly awaiting the opportunity to review the next one.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
avatar
Three great ways you can support
100 Word Anime:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in A Dungeon Review Light Novel Volume 11

MY HERO ACADEMIA - 2018 ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
Affiliate Link

The higher the rise, the harder the fall.

Bell’s reputation took a serious hit at the end of volume 10. The people of Orario saw him stand between adventurers and monsters and in the end they now see him as someone who puts his own needs above protecting them from monsters. However it isn’t just Bell who has been affected as his whole familia is now on the back-foot with everyone wanting to take their shot at the family that rose to fame so quickly.

It is a really interesting turning point in the series as prior to this Bell was looked down on for being small or inexperienced. Then he began his rise to fame and gained respect from so many people and other adventurers that while there was jealousy and some hostility, for the most part Bell has had a steady climb in status over the previous 10 books.

Volume 11 turns the tone of the series on its head. Seeing Bell despised is actually kind of hard, particularly when as the reader you know what bell was actually trying to do and you also know that even if he explained it very few would listen to him or take his side. And that’s the strength of this volume. Bell is in a position where he has to gain back some of the trust that has been lost or it is more or less the end for his familia, but at the same time he can’t turn his back on the xenos. This conundrum nearly paralyses him and makes any action seem more or less impossible. Harder still when even those in his familia are starting to wonder if the cost of helping the xenos was too high.

That said, Bell has drawn the attention of quite a number of gods through his meteoric rise and they aren’t happy to leave things as they stand either. The question is, will their meddling make things better or worse and will Bell be happy with the outcome?

While earlier books in this series were fun and exuberant as Bell launched into new adventures and took on new foes, volume 11 brings a much more serious tone to the entire story. It is no longer a simple matter of monsters bad, kill the monsters, and Bell as a character is forced to grow beyond the naive youth he’s represented previously.

The situation also strains a lot of the pre-existing relationships and forces characters to question the basis of those relationships and whether or not they can continue. Particularly strained is the relationship between Ais and Bell as Bell put himself directly in Loki familia’s way during the previous volume and the conflict between them isn’t over as Loki familia works to restore the status quo.

On the one hand, I kind of preferred the light and energetic tone in earlier volumes but on the other, I really enjoy watching Bell grow up. This volume gives him a lot of time to really question his goals and what he wants and I feel in terms of the greater narrative it does an excellent job even if it wasn’t quite as fun individually to read.

Despite the more contemplative tone, volume 11 does deliver a thrilling climatic battle on par with any that we’ve seen so far. Bell is going to get pushed to the limit physically and emotionally before this book is done and while this volume does bring a nice conclusion to the current arc, it also leaves you wanting the next book.

Clearly I enjoyed reading volume 11 of Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon and I’m looking forward to seeing Bell after this book to see what lasting impact these events have had.

Affiliate Link:
If you’re interested in reading Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon Volume 11 it is available on the Book Depository.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
avatar
Three great ways you can support
100 Word Anime:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com