Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 3 Manga Review: New Friends and Foes

The bliss of reading Natsume continues in volume 3. While I’m still encountering stories that I’m familiar with from the anime, seeing them play out in this slightly different form remains a really fantastic experience.

If I was looking for an overall idea in this volume it would be one of meetings and partings. A lot of the characters and events in this volume really look at the transient nature of meetings and the people who come and go from our lives. It gives the book a vaguely melancholy feel even as there is plenty in here to celebrate.

Again I’m going to look at this volume story by story because each one has a slightly different feel about it even as they work together to continue to craft the characters and world I came to love through the Natsume anime.

Chapter Nine: Sensei, How Do You Like Being Black?

This story is one I really enjoy watching in the anime and the manga doesn’t disappoint. This chapter introduces another yokai trapped in a cat form who steals the Book of Friends from Natsume and leads Natsume and Nyanko Sensei on a chase into the forest where they encounter Benio and a pack of yokai planning to attack some humans.

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Here we start to get a sense of the true distance between humans and yokai as various yokai reflect on the short and fleeting lives of humans including Nyanko Sensei choosing once again to stay by Natsume’s side, at least for this passing moment.

There’s a lot of characters packed into this story but the ones who are important feel like they are given enough time to leave their impression. Much like with the anime I’m left feeling a little wistful that these characters move on so quickly but that’s kind of the point.

The returning of the yokai’s name is suitably beautifully illustrated and it remains one of my favourite scenes ever (both in the anime and here in the manga). Really enjoyable read and glad I had the chance to read this story.

Chapter Ten: Glowing in the Dark

Chapter ten is perhaps one of those rare cases where watching the anime first has kind of spoiled this story for me. As beautifully told as it is here, I just remember how lovely this looked in anime form and how much I enjoyed the music that went with the episode and unfortunately reading it couldn’t give me that kind of experience. That isn’t to say this chapter isn’t well done, because it is still lovely, but this is one where I think I’d prefer to watch the anime episode.

That said, the chapter title page is gorgeous. Just look at that.

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Still looking at this idea of transience and passing encounters, Natsume encounters a human sitting by a pond looking for fire-flies and learns that the man could at one point see a yokai. However, as he aged, he lost his sight and the yokai who had formed quite an attachment to him was left alone.

There is a really beautiful story here about the characters moving on and making their choices but as with most stories, it comes back to Natsume at the end. That’s one thing I love about this series is that whatever encounter Natsume has he uses it as an opportunity to learn. In this case, we see him reaffirm his connection to Nyanko-Sensei even though they both know that perhaps even their partnership is just a point in time.

One minor criticism of this chapter is that there are a lot of close ups on faces and eyes and they aren’t always quite right particularly with Natsume. While the overall look of the chapter is quite lovely, these small details are noticed in this chapter and they don’t help in drawing the reader into this story. Fortunately there’s plenty going right for this chapter so it is overall a great read.

Chapter Eleven: The Meeting of Exorcists

We’ve already met Natori and now he’s becoming quite the reoccurring character as he helps Natsume and then invites him to a meeting. However, as with every case we see Natori, there’s a constant wonder about what his real motives are in getting close to Natsume. In this instance however, Natsume is very curious about meeting humans with the same ability to see that he has and he’s also drawn because of a yokai that Natori is hunting.

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It is amazing how Natori can come off as incredibly shady and yet as soon as we meet the other exorcists he starts to actually look like a really good guy. The nuances in these characters and their level of hate/disdain for yokai is really well handled as is the introduction into the world of exorcists. The reader, like Natsume, is new to this environment, and here we are plunged into the midst of a meeting where there’s also a yokai on the loose that needs to be captured.

We are also introduced to the Matoba clan here through Nanase. She’s an interesting character in her own right and has a connection with Reiko in the past. She’s also quite interested in Natsume when she hears he’s Reiko’s grandson. However, the greater thrill in meeting Nanase is in knowing we’re getting closer to Matoba himself being introduced and that’s something I’m really looking forward to reading.

This story plays out well and is a little more action focused than some stories. However, what I love about this one is that Natsume went to the meeting looking for people like him and what he realised is that just being able to see didn’t necessarily make them friends or allow them to understand each other. It’s a big lesson for Natsume and one that seems to hurt him a little to realise and yet he accepts it and moves on his own path.

Chapter Twelve: A Chick Hatches

I did not think there was anyway for this story to be cuter than it is in the anime but here it is in manga form and I’m totally hooked on how cute they make Tama. But seriously, he was pretty adorable in the anime.

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This one is an adorable and heartbreaking story as we see Natsume and Nyanko-Sensei raising an egg that hatches into Tama. However, we all know that this story is going to end with heartbreak because birds leave the nest. That’s what they do. And Tama is growing very fast and is also being hunted by another yokai.

Seeing Natsume and Nyanko trying to raise Tama and defend him is heartwarming and sweet. Which makes the ending even more bittersweet but so affective. While all the stories have elements of characters meeting, touching on another’s life and moving on, this chapter is this idea played out explicitly.

And that’s actually a good place to end this write up. Needless to say, I’m still absolutely loving Natsume’s Book of Friends in manga form and I’m very much looking forward to reading and reviewing the next volume.

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Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Level 6 + 7: Biting Off More Than They Can Chew

Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Level 6

The review below contains spoilers for the previous books and there will also be spoilers for level 6 as it directly leads into the events of level 7.

Review:

It has been awhile since I reviewed book 5 of this series and I finished reading this one ages ago and immediately went into book 7 so I feel a little bad about taking so long to write the review. Part of the issue with level 6 of Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash is that unlike every other book in this series so far, book 6 didn’t finish within its own volume. It literally just leaves us hanging at a fairly critical point and I’m not the biggest fan of completely unresolved stories so naturally had to read the next book before I could even think about reviewing it. While level 7 also doesn’t bring things entirely to an end, it does at least resolve the crisis they were facing and I felt it was a nice resting point (which is good considering I’m waiting for the actual release of the next few novels in the series. But this is all just kind of meandering around the point of what books 6 and 7 bring to the table.

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Considering the world of Grimgar has always been deadly to the characters with their inherent weaknesses and inability to survive without assistance, upping the stakes in the story is actually kind of challenging. We know that these characters can die from something very small if they just let down their guard or have bad luck so they don’t really need to escalate things very much to have us in a life or death situation. With that said, the way these two books bring another level of tension to the story is actually fairly solid.

The characters are still exploring the Dusk Realm with the Tokkis but now many other teams have joined in. And it is this increased number of people that leads to the problem. The Dusk Realm starts fighting back with much larger giants and more threats than ever before. Which is what also leads to the single stupidest decision ever made in Grimgar and we see the issue with Haruhiro and the others inherently following the leads of the other teams. Soma and the Daybreakers, as well as a bunch of other teams decide to try their hand at taking out these new enemies. And to be perfectly frank it all falls apart very quickly.

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We also get a lot more relationship drama with Haruhiro being the standard mopey protagonist who bows out from pursuing the girl he likes just because he thinks she’s with one of his other team members (without ever actually asking her or confirming anything). It isn’t exactly Haruhiro’s finest moment as either the leader or a character, but what it does do is set the scene for some of his best growth yet over the course of these two books. Yes, he makes mistakes. Yes, he is mopey and whines a lot. And yes, he doesn’t get his team out of the dusk realm pronto when things start going south.

However, Haurhiro’s greatest strength is that he learns from each mistake. They might cost a lot but they are lessons that he burns into his very soul and resolves to avoid making again. Level 7 finishes with one of the best moments for Haruhiro. He isn’t suddenly some amazing leader and fighter, but he overcomes a challenge that really should have left him dead and he does it almost entirely alone.

Basically, Haurhiro is a character I can get behind. Right from the beginning he’s been weak and he’s full of faults, but what he achieves despite all of his weaknesses is amazing. The fact that he’s still trying and hasn’t just laid down to die is incredible. And the story presented here showcases all his faults and his greatest strengths and it is incredibly satisfying.

The inclusion of Lala and Nono in these two volumes is a bit more of a mixed bag in terms of characters. On the one hand, they are important catalysts and unlike other teams they don’t baby Haruhiro and his group and they certainly aren’t going to carry the weak with them. On the other hand, they just aren’t developed enough for their characters to really feel like they are anything more than plot devices at this stage. They point the way at the end of level 6 and show up in level 7 mostly to deliver an interesting moment where Haurhiro faces a moral choices and makes a choice that most people would say is probably right but it leaves the group in significant trouble.

I kind of get why these two characters are presented the way they are. The story is primarily told from Haruhiro’s point of view even though it isn’t in first person and Haruhiro does not understand these characters or really know what to make of them. It makes sense that the audience is also left with that impression. However, considering their significant impact on the plot at the end of both books, these two characters needed a little more.

The rest of the team really do get sidelined though in terms of development. They each have their moments, and the group dynamic as a whole really gets explored during level 7 when they don’t know if they’ll ever get back to Grimgar, but as individuals they all just kind of blend into the group. It really feels like this story exists to push Haruhiro in his role as leader and while the rest of the team are growing their achievements aren’t as interesting and aren’t focused on.

I really enjoyed the two volumes and the story presented here. Level 7 ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger but it does feel like enough is resolved that I was happy with that as an ending point. I continue to really enjoy spending time in this world with these characters so even my complaints aren’t really complaints as much as areas that might have been a bit stronger. I found these books very easy to read and there is a nice mix of action and reflection over the two volumes. If you’ve read up to this point, these two are definitely a fine addition to the series.

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Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 2 Manga Review: Expanding The World

Natsume’s magical journey continues in this second volume of the manga. This time around we have new characters, new friends and new partings. All of it feeds into the overall feeling that is Natsume’s Book of Friends which is one of pure bliss and reading this volume was a fantastic experience.

Like volume 1, we are given four stand alone stories that are connected through the growth we see in Natsume. Still, you can easily pick up any one of these stories as a one off and truly enjoy the experience. And, not going to lie, volume 2 introduces my very favourite character of the series so I was super excited to read it.

One thing I really noticed while reading this is that the yokai always seem to appear larger than life and more rich and detailed than the human characters. It really helps distinguish the yokai, even the human looking Hinoe seems more detailed and comes to life in a way the human characters can’t match while reading.

The other thing I noticed in this volume was how often butterflies are associated with Natsume. While butterflies have a lot of different meanings, they are closely associated with metamorphosis and transformation which is kind of what the whole story of Natsume is built around so I kind of liked that particular detail.

Okay, let’s look at each of the stories.

Chapter Five: The Spook in the Old Schoolhouse

This was never one of my favourite stories in the anime, even though haunted school house sounds like it should be great fun. The story is well told as Natsume and his class mates attempt a test of courage and are attacked by a yokai who has pretty much fallen into evil because he’s more or less had enough of how humans have treated him. It is an interesting exploration of how monsters are sometimes made rather than born, but it still doesn’t make for the most interesting of story when compared to some of Natsume’s tales.

I was surprised at the conclusion of the story where a character leaves. This is quite different from the anime and where there had been differences in the previous stories, these were more cosmetic whereas this character leaving has some implications for future stories being considerably different to how I remember them from the anime.

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All and all, this was a decent chapter and did what it needed to do. The spooky atmosphere is well portrayed though the chapter ends up being quite dark (visually) because of the sheer amount of shading and the like.

Chapter Six: Natsume Summons a Yokai

Natsume Summons a Yokai is a great story. It is easy to forget in some of the stories that Natsume is facing regular life-threatening danger. The slice of life tone of the series kind of down plays that aspect. Stories like this one remind us clearly of the risks Natsume faces in being able to see yokai and after encountering a particularly nasty one he ends up cursed and being pursued by a shadow that intends to eat him.

As a result, Natsume uses the Book of Friends to summon Misuzu who ultimately send Hinoe to his aid. This is the first time we’ve really seen Natsume actively use the book to reach out for help and it is great to see him growing in what he can do even if he doesn’t really wish to use the book this way.

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We also get to meet Hinoe who was a blast in the anime and comes across just as interesting on paper. She’s a great supporting cast member who in the anime showed up in many stories so I was really excited to see her enter the story here.

The other thing thing story does is really puts Natsume into that difficult place where he has to lie to the Fujiwaras which is something he doesn’t like doing but he feels he can’t tell them the truth. That conflict guides a lot of Natsume’s actions and just makes this story feel a bit more believable than some where kids just go and save the world without their parents wondering why they didn’t come home that night.

Chapter Seven: He Can See

It’s Natori!

Okay, I was really excited to get to this chapter and to read the story of Natsume’s meeting with Natori and this did not disappoint. I actually feel Natori is a little more morally ambiguous in the way he’s presented in the manga than in the anime and I loved it. The conflict between Natori wanting to exorcise yokai and Natsume seeking a more peaceful solution is well played here.

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However, this story has far wider implications with Natsume getting his first glimpse of humans who can and do interact with yokai. With the introduction of exorcists so many possibilities have been opened up for future stories and I know from watching the anime that these are among my favourite adventures with Natsume so I really look forward to reading more of these later.

Chapter Eight: Asagi’s Lute

To end this volume we get another case of yokai possession, though this time the yokai possessing Natsume didn’t really want to. Her friend put her spirit inside Natsume in order to fulfil her last wish and Natsume is now stuck helping to find the materials to build a lute so that she can play one last time.

This story works very hard to humanise the yokai and their feelings of loss, regret, love and friendship and helping Natsume to see that they have dreams and goals just as humans do. Otherwise, the story is pretty standard for Natsume and while there are some hints of danger along the way, for the most part this is just a case of yokai passing through Natsume’s life and leaving a small change in him in their wake. It is a great way for the volume to end and it consolidates the changes we’ve seen in Natsume already over these first two volumes.

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But, we’re going to have to keep going so volume 3 review coming soon.

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Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 1 Manga Review: Magical

It isn’t news to anyone who regularly reads my blog that I am seriously in love with Natsume Yuujinchou as an anime. It is my go to binge watch when I’m needing just some calm bliss in my life and I’ve come to love each and every moment of the emotional journey Natsume takes the viewer on. That said, I was a little cautious about diving into the manga. Once you fall in love with something seeing it in a different form is sometimes hard to take and I couldn’t imagine a book could capture the same wonder as the anime had.

Well, I’ve never been so happy to be proven wrong.

Review:

This was a new reading experience for me in a number of ways. I don’t read a lot of manga and this is certainly the first episodic manga I’ve attempted to read. In volume 1 we are given 4 stories and while they are connected through Natsume’s character as they are in the anime, realistically you could read any one of these stories in isolation and have a great time. It means there are some good resting places and you aren’t driven to complete the entire thing in one sitting allowing you to savour each story and contemplate it before making some time to sit down and read the next one. The volume ends and while I was gleeful to go on to the next book I didn’t feel unsatisfied with the stories I had read.

As such, I’m going to do some general notes about the manga and then I’m going to look at each story individually as they each had strengths and weaknesses worth mentioning. That said, I was already familiar with each of these stories given they all appear in the first season of the anime and are ones I’ve watched many times so it was more just experiencing them in a different form.

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Overall, there are some beautiful illustrations in this volume. The start of each chapter and some of the larger panels are glorious to lose yourself in. And in most stories there’s plenty of space with quite a few panels depicting the sky or light. Where it is less appealing are in the tighter panels that focus on characters as many of these just didn’t really appeal to me. I will admit, as I kept reading, the character designs grew on me and I got used to the style, but that was probably my biggest complaint with the volume.

Chapter One: Nyanko Sensei’s Grand Entrance

 This first story is great fun as we meet Natsume running from the yokai and ending up at the shrine where he accidentally frees Madara (Nyanko Sensei). There’s a genuine sense of danger as Natsume is trying to fend off the yokai who have mistaken him for his grandmother and we get Natsume’s backstory or at least a bit of it and it is enough that it begins to sketch in the very lonely boy we are encountering.

It is a great introduction to the overall narrative of Natsume inheriting the book of friends and taking on the task of returning the names in it. But it is also a great story by itself as we see Natsume take his first steps at dealing with yokai rather than running from them.

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However, while the plot and characters are great, this is where the art work is probably its weakest. There are a lot of dark and shaded panels, for good reason, but it ends up making pages look cluttered, and some of the facial expressions are just odd. There’s one in particular where Nyanko Sensei is hit by Natsume and his head is so distorted you can barely tell which character it is.

Still, by the time I’d finished this first chapter I knew I was hooked with this manga.

Chapter Two: The Dew God

The Dew God is a great follow up story because where the first story introduced us to violent yokai, this second story introduces us to the calm Dew God who simply lives in his shrine and is happy to hear the prayers of the one person who still comes to leave offerings. He comes to Natsume to request his name be returned, but to do so they also have to find the yokai that Natsume’s grandmother Reiko challenged after the Dew God as their names are stuck together.

It sets a very different tone from the first story and these two do an excellent job of setting up the contrasting tones in Natsume. We do have dark and scary moments but we also have peaceful days and yokai who mean no harm. It is important that this is established so early and it means that the audience will never be sure when we meet a new yokai what we’re going to get.

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We also have the idea of the different time yokai live compared to humans emphasised. This was raised by Nyanko Sensei in the first chapter where he commented that he hadn’t realised how much time had passed and that Reiko would be gone, but here we see the real loneliness that can come of this as the Dew God has watched over Hana for her whole life and seen her age and now sees her ready to die. It’s a fairly powerful follow up and one that I think I loved reading even more than watching.

Chapter Three: Natsume vs Human

Chapter 3 introduces us to a bunch of characters who will be sticking around in this narrative for a long time to come. Having safely established Natsume and Nyanko Sensei over chapters one and two, we are now introduced to the mid-level yokai, Misuzu and to Tanuma. The story that unfolds is one where the yokai feel they are threatened by a human and wish to recruit Natsume to exterminate a human. Needless to say Natsume refused but he does agree in the end, after much nagging, to look into the matter.

This story, other than bringing a plethora of new characters into the mix, does an excellent job of letting us see the impact humans have on yokai even inadvertently. While it is fairly easy to paint the yokai as tricksters and monsters, in this case the yokai are genuinely the victims and being driven out of their place and we see Natsume begin to sympathise to an extent with them. This trait will continue to grow in Natsume over time and it is one of the things that distinguishes him from other human characters who have regular interactions with yokai.

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I loved all the character interactions in this chapter and while it might have been harder to follow if I wasn’t familiar with the story, I felt each character was given sufficient introduction in this story and they’ll get fleshed out more over time.

Chapter Four: The Swallow Underwater

The last story was my favourite and that is because I found this story incredibly sad when I watch the anime and reading it just gave the whole thing even more impact. This is the first story where we see Natsume possessed by a yokai and it definitely reminds us that even though we’ve been encountering some harmless yokai, they aren’t all that way. In this case, the yokai possessing him simply wants Natsume’s help to meet another human she knew long ago. Recognising her loneliness, Natsume agrees, and we see a fairly bitter sweet journey because there was never any other way for it to end (other than tragically).

However, we are also reminded that there are in fact yokai that just want to eat Natsume and in the process of helping one yokai he is tricked by another. Fortunately Nyanko Sensei actually lives up to his bodyguard title or things may have ended quite a bit worse.

I really enjoy the stories that focus on the human emotions yokai feel and Natsume working toward understanding himself and others through his encounters. I was really happy with this final story in the volume and was really glad I decided to read this manga. Anyway, onto a volume 2 review shortly.

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Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest Light Novel Review – I Dare You To Call the Protagonist Overpowered

Arifureta Volume 1 Cover

This one a novel I picked up off a recommendation from the Book Depository when there happened to be a sale and I had 10% off. I hadn’t heard of the title or read anything about it. As a result, it ended up fairly low in my read pile and I passed over it a number of times before I finally decided one day to start it over a long weekend. Well, a day and some eye strain later I’d devoured it, but was it actually any good?

Review:

Look, if you have an issue with isekai stories, stories where the weak guy suddenly becomes an unstoppable killing machine, or stories that insist on making the vampire girl look like a pre-teen and finding any excuse for her not to be wearing clothes, right now you already know that this book isn’t going to work for you. This book definitely ticks off pretty much any trope you want to throw at the isekai genre and it does it with a smug sense of ‘look what I did’. Yet that is what probably works in the book’s best interest. It doesn’t try to hide its genre or shy away from it. It isn’t ashamed to be exactly what it was trying to be and as a result this is a story full of excitement, danger, slightly uncomfortable moments when turning a page and finding a fairly unclothed vampire girl staring at me, and generally a lot of fun.

So what is Arifureta about?

Essentially Hajime is your standard protagonist for these kinds of stories. He’s an otaku who likes to sleep during class and doesn’t have many friends. Then his entire class get summoned into a fantasy world where they are tasked with saving it. And they all have powers, only Hajime’s is considered pretty lame and useless and he ends up being beaten up by some of his own classmates.

So far, so standard, and only some fairly decent writing managed to get me into this story. It isn’t exceptional, but considering some of quality of writing in some of the light novels I’ve read in the last year, it is perfectly readable and occasionally there’s some very nice description thrown in amongst what seems to be a fairly hefty exposition dump setting up the scenario.

Despite that, the story manages to draw you in as the students deal with some fairly real challenges with suddenly gaining power but having no training or actual skills and dealing with a world most of them thought only existed in stories or games. There’s a lot going on with the political situation of the world and plenty of what is happening in these pages is set up that could potentially be very interesting further down the line though remains fairly underused in this volume.

Page 106 is where it all just decides its had enough of the play nice with the class where the biggest issues involve avoiding being bullied. Hajime is literally tossed under a bus by one of his own classmates in a misguided fit of jealousy while the teens are training in a dungeon and the next thing he knows he’s sent plummeting to the very bottom level far below where anyone even realised the dungeon reached. It’s a pretty tragic event and one that isn’t over.

See the next 250 or so pages deal very much with Hajime climbing his way back out of the dungeon. There are impossibly tough monsters around every corner and our protagonist is not getting off unscathed. I may have warned you earlier about the nudity, but here’s a warning about the violence. In a very early monster encounter Hajime has his arm torn off and eaten. No joke and no get out of jail free card for the kiddo. He’s just traumatised and it takes him a fair while to do anything after that event. However, it is a magic based world so at least he doesn’t die and he does find the mean to begin rebuilding himself into the nastiest thing to ever crawl out of a dungeon.

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And that’s where this book does distinguish itself quite well. Other than the occasional flashes to what the rest of the class are up to, we spend the rest of this adventure watching Hajime fight for his life and develop the tools he’s going to need to become a seriously overpowered hero. In the process he’s going to lose most of what made him human. Some things are ripped from him (like his arm) but others are things he willingly discards in a quest to become something that can survive in this world.

In that, his meeting with Yue becomes pivotal because it was possible Hajime would become something totally unrecognisable and relatable but the vampire girl manages to reawaken some of the humanity inside of him. The dynamic between the pair might be awkward at times but it was most definitely an essential development in this journey.

Overall, there’s a lot of fun to be had in this adventure and it clearly isn’t done with volume 1. There’s ridiculous amounts of world and lore still to explore and the characters have clear goals to continue to work towards. While this is hardly the best thing ever written it was incredibly bingeable and I most definitely added the next book to my wish list as soon as I finished this one.

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Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in A Dungeon Light Novel Volume 5 Review

At long last I have reached the end of the first season of the anime. This was kind of exciting as it meant the next volume would be new material. But first I have to answer the question of whether the danger and excitement of Bell and his party getting trapped in the dungeon before the over-sized boss fight was actually as interesting as it was in the anime. Clearly spoilers for both the novel and the anime below.

Review:

Firstly, this sequence of events, Bell, Welf and Lily getting caught in the middle levels of the dungeon after a ‘pass parade’ was pretty tense in the anime but never quite reached the exciting heights of Bell facing off against a Minotaur by himself. It was a case where bigger wasn’t better and while watching a lone adventurer face off against a monster that had previously nearly killed him was a truly thrilling battle, seeing the ongoing wearing down of the party before the lull of the ‘safe’ level before finally getting another sensational boss fight that just seemed to drag on too long just never quite captured the same spirit. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the ending to the anime and the anime in general, but I was curious to see how this book would read because it wasn’t something I was overly interested in revisiting.

But I’ll take that back now that I’ve read it.

Right from the start of this book, the writing works hard to make us view Bell’s party as still being young, inexperienced and in over their heads. There might be three of them and they might have had some successes, but they are very much sinking before the first chapter is even done. The sense of claustrophobia and desperation comes through loud and clearly and the reader is genuinely carried along with this tone for a fair while despite the book jumping perspectives to fill us in on the events going on outside of the dungeon. Despite knowing the fate of these characters, at least from this adventure, I was still genuinely concerned for their well-being at times and that made me really happy as I was drawn into this book.

The other thing I really liked is that Hestia and Hermes both get a lot more time here than the anime gave them. While Hermes character is still a bit of an enigma (as he is supposed to be), there’s a bit more insight into his character and purpose that is clearly setting up future events. Hestia as well is given a bit more to do than simply be the hysterical goddess and her decision to go into the dungeon feels a bit more genuine here than in the anime where it just seemed like a whim. Likewise, Lyu is given a lot more depth and time and while in the anime she was a character I was aware of and she played a pivotal role in this sequence of events, I never really thought much about her. After reading this book, I actually see her in a far more positive light and I’m a lot more interested in her.

Is it wrong to pick up girls in a dungeon volume 5

I actually went back and watched the final two episodes of the anime again after reading this and I realise just how important Lyu is and yet it was something that prior to reading the source I just never really paid attention to. Yet she’s quite a wonderful character and one that I hope gets further development in this series.

However, and there had to be a however coming, the final fight itself drags. It dragged in the anime as well because just making a boss big doesn’t make it particularly scary or interesting. It barely moved in the anime and while attacks inflicted massive damage, it was hardly a dynamic or interesting battle. Tragically reading it doesn’t make it all that much better. While the characters come out a bit better and there is more attention paid to the contributions of Lyu, Asfi, and Mikoto, nothing changes the fact that ultimately this fight takes too long to wrap up and while it is a great moment for Bell as an adventurer, it can’t rival the Minotaur fight that we’ve already read.

But I do recommend reading the source for this one. If you at all enjoyed the anime, reading these five volumes has just added so many small details to the rich world that already existed. Plus, reliving some of those great moments in the anime from a slightly different perspective has been quite fun. Now however I am eager to read material that I haven’t seen the anime for and I’m looking forward to what comes next. Never fear, the last sale I went on a bit of a blitz with this series and I have quite a few volumes ready to read and go.

I’d love to know your thoughts on this book or the anime. Please leave me a comment below but try not to spoil the light novels for me because I’m definitely reading on.

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Karandi James
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The Isolator: Sect.002 The Igniter Light Novel Review: Crazed Villain Verses Super Powered Youngsters

Previously I reviewed Volume 1 of this series and was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable the story was even if the villain seemed a little weak and the basic idea a little cliche. Alas, with the high cost of the hard cover volume, its been a fair while between books for me but volume 2 finally came down in price during a sale and so here we are. How did this book go?

Review:

While it was established in volume 1 that there was an organisation working with those who received jet-eyes to fight the menace of those with ruby-eyes, it never really felt overly real given we only saw the two agents and one was a fairly young girl. Still, volume 2 takes us into the organisation as Minoru begins his work for them in his quest to ultimately be forgotten by everyone.

The inherent paradox in making connections with people in order to sever your connection with the world is not lost on the characters either, though I will point out the overall lack of subtlety about Minoru’s personality and choices is probably one of the more grating aspects of this particular volume. While he remains an interesting enough protagonist and his goal, which is not to become the strongest, is at least novel, the execution and the way the plot forces him to still actually become the strongest in order to achieve that goal pretty much undermines any novelty that may have been found. That said, I quite like like him as the lead because I can kind of relate and despite gaining power and a sense of responsibility toward others, he isn’t abandoning his original ideals even if he is letting circumstance dictate some of his choices.

Then again, as we meet more members of the organisation, you have to wonder if there is anything other than generic at work here. There is almost zero chemistry between the various members as each is so far more or less a one-trick pony who exists in this story to be introduced, show off their power, and to be all amazed when the newbie essentially swoops in and saves the day after, despite their experience and preparation, they very nearly fail the mission. It is incredibly predictable and while that in itself isn’t an issue, the lack of any spark or interesting personality amongst this support cast, that are apparently going to be in it for the long haul given they all come out unscathed, is more of a problem. Future books might develop these characters and certainly the relationship between Minoru and Yumiko gained strength in this volume, but that doesn’t help the mostly flat dialogue and various set ups that this volume delivers.

Igniter2

I know it sounds fairly negative but despite all of that, I still had some fun reading along. The abilities of the characters are interesting in their own way as is the speculation about where the eyes come from. We are introduced to an opposing faction that are in contact with our villain this time around but they aren’t directly involved in most events which leaves a nice way for the book to resolve the conflict of this volume and leave plenty of room for a sequel. And while nothing was overly surprising here, it was all done well enough even if I might have wanted more from the characters.

However, like in the first volume, the villain kind of lets things down. While at first he seems more together than the Biter, Igniter quickly becomes just another thug with a grievance against society amplified by the power of the Ruby-Eye and while his power is fascinating and quite the challenge to overcome, he himself is not.

Overall, I’m left wanting to read the next book but not really willing to pay full price for it yet again. Once again I’ll wait for a decent sale and try to pick this one up. And once again, taking the jacket off of this book will leave you with a truly hideous blue cover. I really wish they’d either pick a better colour or give us some kind of pattern or something. I really dislike picking on a book for its look, but this one is ugly, and that is a shame given the jacket is quite pretty when it isn’t sliding off while trying to read the book.

That said, I’ll finish up and turn it over to the readers. Have you had a chance to read The Isolator Volume 2: The Igniter? If so, what did you think?

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Karandi James
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