Fushi no Kami: Rebuilding Civilization Starts with a Village, Vol. 3

By Mizuumi Amakawa and Mai Okuma. Released in Japan as “Fushi no Kami: Henkyou kara Hajimeru Bunmei Saiseiki” by Overlap. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Maurice Alesch.

It’s rare that you suspect that an author feels that his series has too many readers, but that seems to be the case with Fushi no Kami, which is really going to be pushing the limits of reader tolerance here in just how much the cast can praise every single thing Ash does. It really is ridiculous, and that’s not even counting Maika and Arthur, who are in love with Ash, or the maid that he gains in this book, who clearly is also falling in love with Ash. Now, to be fair, in their eyes Ash is this weird combination of Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, and God, so I suppose it is perfectly reasonable in some ways. Adn yes, Ash is trying to bring back many of the ancient civilization’s conveniences, as well as ruthlessly fending off assassination attempts. Still, I would love it if in future books he gets a complete failure or two under his belt.

We start off with Ash finding a new outlet for his creativity, and this time he isn’t alone. Fellow study group friend Hermes turns out to have an obsession with planes, and has built a model that is being made fun of by the local bullies. Naturally, Ash is over the moon about this, and decides to help him build, if not a full-sized passenger plane, at least a working model. Ash is also getting rewarded, as he gets a medal for taking out the demon monster in the previous book… which promptly gets stolen, leading a vengeful Maika to do some investigating. In the most serious story in the book, some spies have been snooping around from the capital city, and they are looking for a girl. Given this is happening at the same time as Ash’s class is doing survival training, he has to protect said girl while also drawing away the spies turned assassins who have been ordered to kill her. Which… sounds like a fairly sedate book for Ash, given the previous two.

Frustratingly, we still don’t quite get all of Arthur’s backstory here, but we get enough to know why they have to unfortunately return to the capital, though I’m sure we’ll be seeing them again in the future. Much is made near the end of their rivalry with Maika, and I agree they share wonderful moments of closeness, but let’s face it, Maika is going to be married to Ash eventually, he just doesn’t know it yet. I would not necessarily call her a yandere, as she doesn’t really fit the criteria, but she’s certainly obsessed with Ash to the point where it’s almost disturbing, and moves heaven and earth to make sure that he stays by her side for future books. The book’s chapter titles all deal with planes, which makes it a bit frustrating that we only get proper plane building in the first section – I hope they return to this again. More to the point, the cast have now graduated and are essentially adults… how much more can Ash actually pull off now?

As noted, these books require a lot of patience in terms of the cast calling Ash the greatest thing since sliced bread. There’s also what amounts to a torture scene about 3/4 through the book, and the fact that Ash does not realize what he’s doing does not really make it any less (deliberately) creepy. That said, Fushi no Kami remains resolutely readable, which is one of the best qualities in a book.

Outbreak Company, Vol. 17

By Ichiro Sakaki and Yuugen. Released in Japan by Kodansha Light Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Kevin Steinbach.

One thing that has always remained reliably on brand about this series is how all in it goes on its otaku evangelism. The author is clearly just as bad if not worse than his lead character, and it shows, as the books are littered with references to anime, manga, books, films, games, etc. And what’s more, this is shown in a (mostly) very positive light, with people who would otherwise be indifferent to if not hate each other bonding over their shared obsessions. This particular volume seems to really lay the references on thick – it trusts that readers will not only know what Area 88 is, but also buy into the extended Star Wars riff that comes at the climax of the book. It even affects the plot, as the Americans who show up in Eldant towards the end are somewhat stunned to see the princess swearing at them, as she’s quoting the cliched stock American from Japanese media. That said, the guys who show up in Eldant very much DO feel like stock characters – Outbreak Company is not only a huge fan of cliches, it’s also a client.

We pick up where the last book left off, after a brief prologue from the POV of Shinichi’s family showing how things are going back in Japan. Not well. The hyperspace tunnel is starting to really go to pieces, which is leading to lots of natural disasters. As such, Japan has decided to punt, and tells Shinichi and company they’re pulling out of Eldant in five days. Needless to say, the cast are varying levels of upset by this – Minori is pretty cool with just going back, Hikaru suddenly realizes his own feelings for someone else in the cast, and of course Shinichi is still waffling about what love really is and if he’s in it with anyone. If he stays behind, lacking any ability to either import or create anime and manga, isn’t he just useless? If he takes a girl back with him to Japan, won’t they just be captured and experimented on? And then suddenly the USS Nimitz appears on top of a forest in rival nation Bahairam, and everything gets blown to hell.

As is typical of this series, Shinichi can be thick or clever when the situation demands it, as with his being unable to understand why Petralka seems to be OK with him leaving forever, missing the subtleties of her response as well as her own true feelings. We’ve still got one volume to go, and it’s possible that he won’t pick anyone, but I’d still lay odds on Myusel, who also has a bit of a love revelation in this book. As for the subplot, it’s basically pure action movie – the book makes many references to the 1980 movie The Final Countdown, as our heroes have to infiltrate Bahairam – again – and try to stop the war breaking out between their country, already upset about losing the Dragons Den, and some very jumpy naval officers. Can Shinichi talk everyone down? Can they figure out how to return a battle carrier to its proper place in the world? And can we actually get anyone to confess their love at all without being under the influence?

The next volume is the last, though there’s also a short story collection that I’m not sure is licensed. Fans of the series should enjoy it, though I suspect, like me, they’re happy it’s finally drawing to a close.

Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 4

By Nozomu Mochitsuki and Gilse. Released in Japan as “Tearmoon Teikoku Monogatari” by TO Books. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by David Teng.

We’ve now had three books filled with Princess Mia doing something for either selfish or silly reasons (or, increasingly, because she is a very nice person) that ends up misinterpreted by everyone around her as pure brilliance, and we get plenty of that here as well. But we’re starting to also see the rest of the cast accomplish things away from Mia and have their own subplots. No, alas, I don’t mean Miabel, who’s still pretty much the mascot character of the series, and gets left behind for the second half of the book while the rest of the cast have a cruise. Instead, it’s Ludwig, thinking of some offhand remarks of Mia’s as well as what he thinks she would be doing in his place, that leads him to uncover a web of political intrigue that could end up crippling the Empire if things do end up happening the way that Mia predicts they will. His investigation and detective work is a refreshingly sedate part of this book. That said, rest assured there’s still a lot of Mia vs. reality here to love.

As with a couple of other Tearmoon books, the main plot is divided into two large chunks. The first picks up where the previous book left off: the school Mia had planned to start up is floundering, as ,most of the teachers and the headmaster have left. The answer is sadly obvious: Mia may be a very atypical noble now, but most nobles are far more like what Mia was in her previous “life”, and they are not having which this school where horrible farmers will be taught. To solve this, Ludwig suggests bringing in his former mentor, an eccentric old man whose grumpy tendencies and dislike of most nobles play right into Mia’s hands. After this, she is invited on a sea cruise to a tropical island by fellow noble Esmeralda, who IS like most nobles are – you will expect her maid to stab her in the face before the book finishes. Accompanied by Sion, Abel and Keithwood, all of whom supposedly go to “guard” Mia, they sadly run into a typhoon, leaving them stranded on an island that no longer looks as fun.

To get a big negative out of the way first, there is a subplot here about Mia getting a swimsuit for the cruise and realizing that she has tummy bulge, which unfortunately leads to a bunch of fat jokes, though Mia does end up losing most of the weight before the cruise itself. It’s not welcome. The rest of the book is filled with Tearmoon shenanigans, as most of the cast are content to listen to what she says and then make the most amazingly wrong conclusion imaginable, usually to the benefit of everyone involved. The semi-exception here is Keithwood, who knows Mia can be a flake, and is irritated with her mushroom obsession (especially as most of them are poisonous), but still regards her as a force for good. Which, honestly, she is. The narrative may frame Mia’s actions much of the time as self-interest or cowardice, but more and more we’re seeing Mia just be really nice to everyone – and get irritated when other nobles are not, as her anger towards Esmeralda’s treatment of her servant shows. Mia may be no Great Sage, but if things continue to go like this, she may make a very good leader.

The books are getting quite popular in Japan – the author talks about a stage play being made, and a 2nd one is due out this year – and it’s not hard to see why. Mia is fun, the books are exciting, there’s some good politics, and each book is long enough that you get a lot of bang for your buck. Hopefully fewer fat jokes next time, but otherwise still essential.