Solo Leveling Volume 1 Novel Review

Review Solo

One moment can change your world.

It’s final a light novel: Solo Leveling Volume 1.

I first heard about Solo Leveling from a very exuberant fan of the manwha (that he was reading fan translations of through an online app) and after his repeated insistence that it was this legendary story that I absolutely had to experience I did in fact cave and read a fair bit of it online after which we had some interesting discussions around the protagonists progress throughout various parts of the series.

However, I could never really get lost in the story. Largely because of the varying levels of quality available to read and because graphic novels just aren’t my preferred thing to read. I know I love the Natsume manga and there are a couple of others that I’ve really gotten into, but my preference is always for either watching an anime or reading a novel and alas this one wasn’t available in English.

Until now.

Karandi Happy Transparent
Happiness is receiving a pre-ordered book in the mail.

Yes, colour me thrilled when I found I could pre-order volume 1 for delivery early 2021 and even more excited when it finally arrived in the mail. I loved the cover with its bleak and fairly minimalistic style and I was absolutely ready to dive into this story.

What is Solo Leveling Volume 1 about?

For those that aren’t familiar Solo Leveling starts out as a typical zero to hero narrative with a low-ranked hunter, Jinwoo Sung, getting in over his head when a raid he’s a part of in a dungeon takes a turn for the terrifying. However, due to Jinwoo being a little bit observant, lucky, and pretty determined, he manages to save the lives of some of the other party members though this does in fact result in him being injured and finally left behind in the dungeon where it is expected he will meet a sticky end.

Yet, as is the case with such protagonists, while he does experience some very real pain and terror in this situation, a last minute plot device offers him a new start and he is turned into a ‘player’, which then introduces a raft of game mechanics into Jinwoo’s life allowing him to essentially level up when the world he is living in essentially declares hunters to be fixed in rank after they awaken.

Thoughts on Solo Leveling Volume 1
For a story device that is pretty effective.

This works significantly better than a character who suddenly just gets a massive power boost for a number of reasons. Firstly, Jinwoo has to work for every level and skill he gains. While he can now work harder to gain strength (a path that didn’t exist to him before), it isn’t freely given and the rewards he receives are always commensurate with the danger he faces.

Whether it is a party of treacherous hunters trying to kill him, an unexpected fight against a three headed dog, or an assassin trying to cover his tracks, Jinwoo has got to work hard and while the reader knows that the protagonist is realistically not going to get killed off, the story manages to make it seem like there’s real danger in each of these scenes, largely because Jinwoo remains a fairly cautious person who is well aware of his own limitations and definitely concerned about being able to continue living.

Secondly, because Jinwoo didn’t instantly get strong, it means that even though the initial incident was investigated, the change in Jinwoo was over-looked because he didn’t change in strength according to the tests done at the time of the examination. This means he doesn’t instantly come to everyone’s attention but rather has time to put his own plans into place and work on gaining strength in more or less secret throughout most of this first novel (though there’s definitely more than a handful of people starting to realise that he isn’t exactly just an E-Rank hunter anymore by the end).


Finally, this device is working because Jinwoo figures out throughout the messages he receives from the ‘system’ that there is some purpose behind him being given the ability to level up. This establishes an ongoing bit of mystery for the reader to anticipate some kind of revelation at a later date and considering Jinwoo gains nothing without paying for it (and some of the prices have already been pretty steep) you just have to wonder just what it is the system ultimately wants from him by granting him so much potential power.

Karandi Confused Transparent
Curiosity will definitely keep you reading.

Granted this isn’t exactly an original concept and weak characters gaining strength after being abandoned or betrayed has become a very common trope, but Solo Leveling manages to keep things feeling fresh, gives us a character we can genuinely get behind and generally creates a world that fuses modern day life with the fantasy of appearing dungeons and the bureaucracy of the government and associations that mange these threats. It isn’t perfect by any means but it certainly is an enjoyable piece of escapism.

For me, personally, I really like the protagonist here. He’s a very practical person who awakened as a weak hunter and probably would never have gone on a raid given the likely danger except that he has bills to pay for a sick mother and a sister he wants to put through school. Even when the first raid goes horrifically wrong and it is pretty clear he’s probably not going back alive he realises it will work out because the association will pay out the insurance money to his family so it won’t be for nothing.

Karandi Sad Transparent
Okay, he’s also materialistic and goal oriented so it isn’t like he’s some kind of saint, but still I really wanted him to win.

I also like that while he acknowledges some of the other hunters did abandoned him initially he doesn’t become all vengeance consumed. Instead he becomes more cautious in dealing with others and a little bit more closed off – he certainly expects to get something back for his actions – but he isn’t on some quest to pay back someone or get back at the world for dealing him an unfair hand.

His goals remain around being able to look after his family and getting stronger is simply his process for ensuring he is able to do that. It makes a refreshing change in this kind of story to see a character who isn’t forgiving of those who have stabbed him in the back but is also not tunnel focused on something that ends up being pretty petty.

Volume 1 covers an array of dungeons fights, we learn quite a bit about the leveling up system, and basically watch Jinwoo feel his way around his new powers. Side characters are introduced and we start getting a bit of a look at the guilds and the association but these are very much just setting up future plot points. If I had any real criticism it would be that the book just kind of stops. There’s no real sense that we’re at the end because there’s no particular climatic scenario or any kind of closure. Instead we get two further future plot points set up and then you just run out of pages to read.

I really enjoyed reading this story and basically devoured it in three sittings. Now I have to wait for the release of volume 2.

Cover Image: Solo Leveling Vol 1. Author. Chugong. Yen Press. 2021.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

WorldEnd Volume 1 Light Novel Review

WorldEnd Review

500 years changes everything and nothing.

WorldEnd was one of those very strange anime that I was reluctant to start because the mouthful of a title and the excessively cute character designs just kind of screamed that this was another light novel adaptation just trying to grab some quick attention and at the time I’d been burned a few too many times. Despite that, the anime series “WorldEnd: What do you do at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us?” ended up being a bit of a mixed viewing experience with some great highs and lows throughout and realistically left me wondering about the story and whether there was a better was to experience it.

And so it was I eventually picked up volume one of this series and after it sat on my shelf for a fair while in my to-be-read books I finally picked it up to read. A few hours later I went online and ordered the next book.

WorldEnd Light Novel - English Cover
English Cover

Now, I’m not going to claim that this is a perfect masterpiece and realistically I went in knowing what was going to happen having watched the series. The first volume actually only gets partway through the series and having a look at the other books it looks like there’s a couple more that were adapted into the anime. So this wasn’t a case of being amazed by plot twists or revelations and honestly most of the information here was in the anime.

For those who don’t know, WorldEnd is the story of Willem, the last ‘human’ who takes on a job to pay off a debt he has incurred. The job involves looking after a weapon warehouse but the weapons are actually all young girls (faeries actually). These girls are sent to fight beasts who roam the earth making it more or less uninhabitable (so all the lizardmen and other creatures that survived the end of the world live on floating islands).

In reading this volume, I came to really appreciate Willem as a character. A lot more than I did when watching him go through more or less the same actions in the anime. Perhaps it is hearing some of his inner thoughts, or maybe it is that the pacing is a little smoother in the novel allowing his moments to sit a bit better, but really in the anime Willem comes off in most scenes as a fairly passive character and one who serves partially as an audience stand-in as he learns about the girls and their role. In written form he really comes to life and actually carries the story well (which is probably just as well as this volume very much focuses on Willem for the majority of it with Chtholly – the oldest of the weapons – only getting the focus a few times toward the end).

I also felt that I had time to take in the world building and some of the smaller details that actually probably were in the anime but were lost in the rush to get to the next scene involving a bunch of cute faeries running around.

Definite appreciation goes to the translator, Jasmine Bernhardt here. With some translated light novels there’s a stilted kind of flow at times, particularly to the dialogue, whereas here it flows very naturally. Actually, the whole novel just flowed well which made it really easy to get absorbed into the story.


There’s a real balance in this story of darker and more reflective moments for the characters and the slice of life moments where they allow themselves to forget for the time those things they would rather not remember. The story doesn’t lurch jarringly between these moments but rather allows each to come naturally into the story and then pass onto the next. There’s only really one moment in the story that feels a little rushed when one of the younger girls gets injured but that’s a fairly minor criticism.

Another thing I appreciated on reading this story is that the author clearly wanted a protagonist who was the ‘stranger in a strange land’ and yet resisted the urge to isekai a character. While Willem is out of time, he is very much a part of this world and his history has real ramifications outside of some useful knowledge. His past very much defines his present self and he’s a much stronger character because of it.

WorldEnd isn’t going to change the world but if you are a fan of fantasy stories that have a little more going for them then being a generic medieval setting, you’ll probably have a fun read here. Meanwhile I’ll look forward to the second book arriving so I can see if the story continues as strongly in the next volume.

Cover Image: WorldEnd Vol 1. Author. Akira Kareno. Illustrator. Ue. Yen Press. 2018.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Magical Girl Raising Project Light Novel Review Volume 1

Magical Girl1

Death and Magical Girls

I’m going to be honest and point out that even now I still haven’t finished the anime of this story. As much as the concept appealed I just found the anime too abrupt and that I didn’t have any time to get to know the characters or care about them before they died. So, I decided to check out the light novel and see if it told the story in a more appealing manner. Admittedly, I made this decision a fair while ago and then the book that I received from another blogger as a prize ended up in one of my travel bags and was only unearthed during my recent work trip. How that happened I’m not quite sure but the book has now been read and I’m ready to review it.

Read each and every death in Volume 1: Available from the Book Depository
Magical Girl Raising Project, Vol. 1 (light novel)
Affiliate Link

I think the first thought I have around this book is surprise. I’m surprised by the fact that the whole game plays out in the one volume and we meet the characters very quickly before they are consequently knocked off. In that respect it is very much like the anime. I am however really curious about how there is a whole series when the story seems pretty concluded here. Admittedly, there are ideas that could lead on to future stories, but for all my interest in this story things are nicely wrapped by the last of the 192 pages here and so my overall desire to go onto volume 2 is fairly low.

The characters are perhaps the weakest part at play here though. It isn’t through any fault of their own but there are just too many magical girls, too many scenes to write and too many deaths to play through for any of them to have any real impact. At times I was left confused as to where a certain character came from and whether we’d encountered them before or if I remembered anything about them and before I really had time to reconcile those thoughts the character would be dead.

It also doesn’t help that a lot of the characters end up coming across one note because of how little time they get. Each one seems to have one defining trait or characteristic that is repeated in the narration whenever they appear as if to try to make us remember them but that is about all we get from them in terms of character. It makes any connection with them difficult and it makes it difficult to really emotionally invest in the game they are playing. Even Snow White has appearances scattered throughout the pages and it is really difficult to get any kind of feel for who she is as a person.

The story though kicks off and doesn’t really stop until the end. While death matches are nothing new, and magical girl stories seem to be very fond of taking cute young girls and crushing their spirits through edgy disasters, there is something compelling about this journey. The characters are granted powers and use them in a variety of ways but it is interesting learning about Fav and the magic kingdom and all the behind the scenes aspects that underpin these characters killing one another.

With stronger or more developed characters this plot and the way it rolls out would be incredibly compelling. As it is, it is very bingeable and I found it hard to put down for a break as the events flow from one to the next with a sense that we are driving toward something.

The writing itself, at least in the English translation, is nothing special but nor is it intrusive. The chats and online conversations are a little awkward at times but otherwise it is unremarkable. Likewise the few visuals scattered throughout the book, which are usually a highlight of light novels.

Want more? Try Volume 2: Available from the Book Depository
Magical Girl Raising Project, Vol. 2 (light novel)
Affiliate Link

This probably wouldn’t be my first recommendation if someone said they wanted to start reading light novels, but at the same time I didn’t actually dislike it. The book was a quick and simple read, told a decent story, and didn’t feel overly bloated. While I wanted more from the characters and felt that this didn’t get me emotionally invested enough, I still enjoyed the read.

Have you given this book a go? What did you think?

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Didn’t I Say To Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! Light Novel Review Volumes 2 – 4

Cover Art

The Crimson Vow Facing Hunters, Bandits, and Family Members

For those who missed it, I reviewed Volume 1 of this series two weeks ago. And yes, I did in fact buy and read the next three volumes pretty much immediately on completion of that review. So needless to say the first book left a positive impression and it was exactly the kind of fun and silly adventure I needed right at that moment. But now we need to talk about the next three volumes and where the story goes because whether you jump into this series or not will probably depend on whether you like the direction it takes.

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

Now there were a number of things I really loved about the first book of this series. Most notably that the protagonist seemed a bit different from the standard isekai fare and there was a cute exuberance to the story. The protagonist is still different from the normal teenage loner male that we see so often in these stories and the story is still working on that cute exuberance as we pull into volume 4, but I’m going to be honest and say that mid-way through volume 4 I was starting to find it all a little too repetitive.

This impression isn’t aided by the number of times the novels have to remind you that other characters think Mile is an airhead, or the number of times it explains how her ‘storage’ magic works, or even the number of times it reminds us of the perils of hunters getting a failing mark for a quest. It seems if it has told us once they then need to tell us at least half a dozen times and honestly I started to wonder if the books are written for people who routinely bang their heads into walls and forget key details.

Equally, there is a problem that Mile is not a developing character. She reincarnated and worked to find her groove in the new world and now she’s done that. She may pull off a new spell or try some new way of using the nanomachines to do something weird (like make soy sauce) but essentially she hasn’t changed or moved as a character since about three quarters of the way through book one.

Conversely, things we actually need reminding about just pass us by. For instance a character introduced in book one is mentioned again in book 3 without any lead in or context and we’re just expected to remember he was the guy Mile helped back in hunter school. Given everything else they repeatedly hammer us with it seemed like a slightly better lead in would have been welcome.

didnt i say ln banner

That doesn’t mean these characters aren’t delightful. To be honest, the chemistry between the members of the Crimson Vow is incredibly well written and maintained. These girls really feel like a genuine group of friends. However, after three books of the girls being friends and defeating all foes including dodgy business owners as C Class Hunters (ask how many times they remind us they are C Class) you kind of feel like some more direction in this plot might be nice.

See, book one set up the whole Mile running away from her home kingdom and the King and Princess looking for her. While this plot line kind of continues with rare glimpses of the Wonder Trio of friends making their own way into the hunting world in order to one day reunite with Mile, basically it has become irrelevant and there’s no sense of urgency or that anyone is seriously pursuing Mile.

Now for those who like their cute adventure girls who go on adventures and are cute, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the plot as delivered in books 2 – 4. However, it all feels more like filler in an avoidance of a central plot. Like the author is almost afraid that if they actually wrote the main story line they’d have to then come up with a new idea rather than just sending the group of girls out again and again. Though this criticism could be levelled at a large number of long running books series (not just light novels) that seem determined to forever throw new obstacles in the path of the heroes in order to continue on indefinitely.

And the end of book 4 looks like they are going in pursuit of yet another goal that may or may not have any overall consequence.


The enjoyment part comes from whether you actually like this material and what it adds to our understanding of these characters and the world. On this note, book 3 is probably the best of the bunch as the conflict the girls face directly involves the families of two of the members of the Crimson Vow (Pauline and Mavis). While the end result is exactly what you would expect, it did do some nice fleshing out for these characters and their perspectives.

Book 4 though at least brought in some interesting inter-kingdom and inter-species politics as well as a fight with a wyvern and then an elder dragon so it is hard to say that nothing of consequence happens. These challenges do push our main group and even though it seems almost assured they’ll be fine (largely because like everything else they tell us a million times that as long as people aren’t killed healing magic can fix most things) there’s some fairly tense moments in these fights.

I’ve had a lot of fun with these books and to be honest I’ll probably continue the series at some point. However the absence of a clear direction (or the absence of any kind of desire on the author’s part to pursue it) means that the need to rush into the next book has kind of faded. Still, these were very easy binge books and despite my complaints I found it very hard to put them down in order to actually go to sleep and was playing the ‘one more page’ game for nearly an hour one night and then just finished the book.

There’s definitely a lot of potential fun in reading this series so far and the characters remain delightful even if they seem fairly fixed. I might wish the writing was a little less repetitive but it flows reasonably well and the overall tone of the books is highly enjoyable. If you aren’t needing a driving plot then you will probably find a lot to enjoy about this series and for those who like a plot it isn’t as though it doesn’t seem to have one. Each book reminds us of past events and seems to be positioning people and ideas for future use. It is just a matter of when they’ll actually capitalise on all that set up.

Continue Crimson Vow’s Journey in Volume 2: Available from the Book Depository
Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! (Light Novel) Vol. 1
Affiliate Link

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

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

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Durarara!! Volume 1 Light Novel Review: Everybody Has Some Story To Tell


I’ve mentioned this before, but the anime of Durarara is one of those that I’ve tried repeatedly to watch and repeatedly walked away from. It’s never managed to really grab me but I just keep thinking that maybe if I’m in the right mood it will work. However, still having not watched the anime I finally decided why not try the light novels? What’s the worst that could happen? And so I dove into Ikebukuro district with these characters for a spell and now I have to wonder what I thought about the story.


The problem is, much like with the anime, I think I should like this. The ideas are interesting, the characters are pretty interesting, everything about it seems like it should work for me. And yet, I found myself regularly putting this volume down and at one point I even read two volumes of the Natsume Yuujinchou manga before returning to finish this story. I wanted to see how it ended but at the same time I found reading this really tedious.

Normally when that happens it is because of the style of writing. However, the writing itself isn’t really a problem. It is descriptive enough without tripping over itself to use flowery speech. Events move along and a good enough pace. Again, it all seems like it should work.


I think what ultimately does this story in for me is I don’t feel I can relate to any character in the story. They all have goals and motives but I don’t seem to find myself caring what they do or whether they accomplish their goals. Even the climax of this volume, which is actually a really nice culmination of lots of events and stories all coming together and should be quite satisfying is more just kind of there and I closed the book feeling more like a burden had been lifted.

Still, there is plenty I can recommend about this book to others.

There’s a large cast of characters who all have their own idiosyncrasies which I think most people would find someone of interest. Even though there is kind of a protagonist, the story isn’t told from any single character’s perspective and chapters chop between the different groups and individuals helping many of the cast members feel more fleshed out and realised than they might have been.


As I mentioned before, the plot builds nicely to a climax. Even though early on it feels like a lot of events are random or of no consequence, everything does come together in the end and there is a sense of resolve about the whole volume despite it leaving plenty of loose ends to come back to in future stories. It really does feel very nicely planned out.

If you were thinking of picking up a light novel, and you really don’t want it to be an isekai, Durarara!! seems like it might be a fairly decent place to start. As for me, I’m probably not continuing this series. The feeling of utter indifference to each and every cast member means that no matter how quirky they are or how well constructed the plot is, I’m kept an arm’s length from events emotionally and I just can’t get into the world being described here.

But how about you? Have you read Durarara!! and if yes, what did you think?

Affiliate Link:
If you’re interested in reading Durarara Volume 1 it is available on the Book Depository.

Or, use one of my product affiliate links.

Black Bullet Volume 1 Light Novel Review

black bullet1

I previously reviewed the anime of Black Bullet and I found it fairly problematic but enjoyed the underlying story. I decided to try the light novel to see if it left a better impression. The answer… well I’m still on the fence.


There’s a lot to like about this light novel. The characters are interesting, the world we’re plunged into is tragic and yet feels like it could be a potential yet horrifying future. There’s action and drama and social commentary on a whole range of issues. Really it should work beautifully and be right up my ally.

For those who have never watched the anime, Black Bullet follows Rentaro and his partner Enju. They are civil security officers which essentially means they hunt down creatures that are infected with a virus called Gastrea and wipe them out. Renatro is fairly young still being in high school but Enju, like all civil security officer partners, is a child. One of the children born infected with the Gastrea virus making them not quite human enough to be given actual human rights but useful enough that they are employed to help humans. At least until they cross a certain infection threshold.

It’s a bleak kind of world we’re dropped into as it is after humans have already lost the war and the survivors live in cities surrounded by monoliths that keep the Gastrea out. Despite that they are still facing an ongoing threat and Rentaro and Enju are kept busy from start to finish in this book.

However, I feel my problem with this book is more or less the same as the problem I had with the anime. That is, we have a lot of characters and a lot going on but so much of it doesn’t feel fully utilised or necessary. Perhaps if the whole thing was expanded or if we weren’t spending so much time following Rentaro and we gave these other characters sufficient time to be fleshed out and made to feel more real the story would sit a lot better but as it is it feels like names are thrown at you, characters appear for a scene and then vanish before they suddenly return and are seemingly important.

Black Bullet 2

Then there’s the nature of the story. Admittedly, the links between the different events that Rentaro and Enju get caught up in are better explained in the light novel than they were in the anime, but the overall impression while reading is that we’re jumping from event to event. The ‘and then this happened’ approach to plotting almost as though the story can’t bear to put the brakes on for even a moment to deal with some of the ideas its already thrown at its readers.

Still, there are plenty of readers out there who will love this approach. The book moves quickly through the events never getting bogged down on details for too long. The characters are given enough description and characterisation but again the story doesn’t linger. The action is fun, the escalation of tension works, and the final sequence really sticks the landing. For those who like that sort of pacing in their stories, this is a really great read.

Which is why I’m sitting on the fence. I get that this book actually works quite well and there’s a lot to like about it, and yet I couldn’t get into it. This was one I constantly put down and found other things to do rather than completing and it took me nearly two weeks to actually get to the end of the story (and in that time I devoured several other books that I picked up for a break).

I’m leaving this one to personal taste. If you like your stories to just get to the events and keep moving then you will probably have a great time with this one. The plot that you get is solid  and there’s some fairly decent action sequences to be be found.

Affiliate Link:
If you’re interested in reading Black Bullet Volume 1 it is available on the Book Depository.

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

Arifureta Volume 1 Cover

Arifureta is 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?

Arifureta Vol 1 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.

Arifureta Volume 1b

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.

If you are interested in my thoughts on the anime you can find my season one review here.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Yona of the Dawn Volume 1 Manga Review: The Story Begins


This is a manga I’ve been recommended endlessly and I’ve actually really wanted to give it a go because the anime just kind of left me wanting the rest of the story. That said, there’s a long way to go before I get to anything new so how does volume 1 go at making me want to read on?

Anime Review: Akatsuki no Yona


Shoujo isn’t really my style and while there are a handful of romances near and dear to my heart, it isn’t exactly a genre I go out of my way to track down. Yona of the Dawn as an anime I found interesting, but I’ve never been the die-hard fan so many have become and in terms of red-headed heroines I would have taken Shirayuki over Yona any day. The reason for this I outlined quite clearly in my anime review. The story wasn’t finished. What we got was a very long introduction into what seemed like an amazing tale and then we never found out where it went. That kind of soured m overall enjoyment of it as it all just felt incomplete.

That issue isn’t solved by reading volume one of the manga and I knew I was committing to a far more long term project when I decided to try this manga but I don’t think I was prepared for how little would be covered in this first volume.

We meet Yona, Hak and her father and all three of these characters are as interesting as they came off in the anime and their relationship is interesting to see in action before Su Won comes along and pretty much crushes Yona’s world in an instant. It’s great to read and visually this manga is really quite gorgeous to look at, one of the few times I actually think I prefer the visuals here to the anime as there is a real richness to the detail in so many of the panels that seemed lacking in the anime.


However, the first volume ends and we’ve barely seen Yona and Hak escape the palace and they haven’t even really gone anywhere yet. This pacing may very well kill my enthusiasm for finding out what lies beyond the end of the anime if it continues this slowly. Then again, it isn’t as though the book feels empty.

The anime did an excellent job of bringing these characters to life, but like with the visuals, there’s just a little something extra in the manga. A more nuanced approach to each character that makes them feel a little more real and a little more grounded, and all and all it was quite the pleasure to read.

If I had any disappointment it would be the book ended and I kind of felt I hadn’t got very far into a story I really do want to reach the end of at some point. Of course, if I’d read this without knowing the anime, I’d probably be equally disappointed in the heroine. She doesn’t come off looking all that great in this volume. And while I know that she is going to undertake a fairly wonderful tranformative journey, this starting point might have seriously put me off if I hadn’t gone in with the knowledge that this weak Princess was going to grow.

Hak on the other-hand comes off as a great character from the word go and Su Won remains a character I am endlessly intrigued by. I’m really hoping future volumes flesh out both of these characters more than the anime ever did as I really am keen to know more about them.

That said, I should thank everyone who has pushed this title at me as to be honest I’m pretty sure I will love reading forward. I have the second volume already though I haven’t read it quite yet (I have quite the stack of reviews to get through first of other books I’ve read), and depending on how that goes I might try to get two or three more volumes covered by the end of the year, but again, I’ll see how it goes.

I’d love to know your thoughts on this manga but please don’t spoil future volumes for me as while I’ve read heaps about this story already I’m trying really hard to take each volume as it comes.

Thanks for reading.

Karandi James


Consider supporting the blog by:

Buy Me a Coffee at
x click but21

Kieli Volume 1 Novel Review: Finding A Place To Be You Is Always Hard


Kieli is a lonely girl with only a ghost roommate for company until the day she meets Harvey, an undying soldier who is being pursued by the church. These two unlikely companions will travel together and may just find what they are looking for in one another.


I have to admit, there was something interesting about reading Kieli even if I’m not thrilled enough to go looking for a second book. For me, this story was great to read and I loved watching Kieli and Harvey interacting with the commentary of the ‘corporal’, a ghost who lived inside a radio they carried. But I’m also kind of feeling that for me this was enough of that story. Certainly there are wider implications and more that can go on in the world, but I liked where this story chose to finish and felt a sense of completion from it. So I am going to recommend reading this book even while I decline to read any further in the series at the moment (I may eventually change my mind).

There’s a lot of fairly familiar antics going on in Kieli with the orphan girl who is a bit different getting picked on by others in the school and being the target of mistaken charity from others. Even her interactions with Becca, the ghost roommate, are all pretty much what you would expect. However, the familiar set-up is taking place in a world that is fresh and new even while it reflects a lot of what we’ve seen before.


Set on a world colonised long ago and all but out of resources after a devastating war, there’s a sense that everything here is coming to an end and the people are just going through the motions of living because there’s nothing better to do. From a technological point of view there’s a strange mix between old and new as there are weapons and machines left over from by-gone eras that are pretty fantastic, and then there are things more reminiscent of more of the 19th Century. The mix works well to create a world that feels fresh even while a lot of what it presents has been done before.

Where it really missed a chance to distinguish itself was in the main antagonist of the novel, the controlling church and the bureaucracy beneath it. While religious organisations and dictatorship governments are pretty easy targets for dystopian settings, it felt like Kieli could have really tried something different if it wanted to given the nature of the setting and the history, and yet it does make perfect sense that the people did fall back to a theocracy of sorts.

Despite the intriguing setting, this is very much a story about Kieli and Harvey and while they are both products of the world they live in, they are first and foremost people who have been deeply hurt and for various reasons have cut themselves off from others. Despite Harvey’s secrets and the fact that they both see ghosts, they are both characters that it is easy to emphasise with and that is one of the greatest strengths of the story.

Some decent action sequences, including a train escape, and some supernatural goings on with the ghosts all make for a fairly interesting plot while we watch the two characters slowly come out of their self-imposed shells.

As I said, I really enjoyed reading this book and found it quite interesting, but for me the end point it enough. It’s like getting to the end of a movie and the characters get their happily ever after and then you realise there’s a sequel where they just kind of mess everything up for the characters again. I’m happy where this ended and where the characters are so for now I’ll leave Kieli and Harvey alone but if you are looking for something a bit interesting to read, than Kieli might just be what you are looking for.

Affiliate Link:
If you’re interested in reading Kieli Volume 1 it is available on the Book Depository.