Kokoro Connect: Asu Random, Part 1

By Sadanatsu Anda and Shiromizakana. Released in Japan by Famitsu Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Molly Lee.

Here we are, folks, the final arc of Kokoro Connect. (There’s another short story book after this, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s more of a victory lap than a plot mover.) This one is big enough to be divided into two books. When you finish it you will see why. Everything that the Club has been doing for the last year and a half – every victory, every heartwarming moment, every time they managed to win out and not completely lose it – has now turned into a liability, as it turns out that they’re simply TOO STRONG for Heartseed. And so there are new dangers on several fronts: other students are now suffering bodyswaps/emotional rages as they once did; people are finding out about the Club’s real activities, particularly their families; and there are now FOUR Heartseeds, some of whom are (supposedly) good guys now, and some of whom are determined to erase everyone’s memory of the last eighteen months. Even if that means destroying lives.

These books have always had a high amount of teen drama, and this one is no exception, though for once our main heroes aren’t actually part of it. By design. (Actually, I was rather surprised that the two main couples didn’t reflect more on the fact that their budding relationships might soon be completely undone, but to be fair they’ve got a LOT going on.) Indeed, all their secrecy is now coming back to haunt them, as it’s fairly easy to see them as the cause of the problem. There’s also a lot of brainwashing in this book, to a disturbing degree. Everyone has heard rumors of the school vanishing, but no one knows where from. The teachers don’t seem to care that everyone’s skipping class… or not there at all. Even Iori’s mother and Taichi’s sister, tho literally go to the school to investigate, end up being influenced. And then there’s Misaki, who serves as the test case for what’s going to happen to everyone – after talking with the Club, she loses her memories, and is mow merely casual acquaintances with her former best friends. It’s scary.

If this sounds a bit over the top and unrealistic, well, the Club points that out as well, as to how big an undertaking it will be to do this and not have the world notice. What’s also interesting is that they have not one, but TWO former enemies seemingly on their side – I say seemingly merely because Heartseed, as always, is deeply untrustworthy, be in the first or the second one. But they admit what I’ve been suspecting for a while – the reason they’re doing this so much is to see the emotions that humans have, and the Club has been influencing them more and more to try to retain their observations and emotions. As I said, the Club is simply too good at being emotional wrecks, in both good and bad ways. Now the entire school is in anotehr dimension, along with most of the first and second years, and it’s up to our heroes to rescue them.

Will they do it? Probably, though if any series was going to play with a tragic ending it would be this one. We’ll see what happens in the 2nd part. In the meantime, get reading for a shipfull of feels. (Speaking of ships, is it me or does polyamory feels REALLY natural with these five?)

Suppose a Kid from the Last Dungeon Boonies Moved to a Starter Town, Vol. 2

By Toshio Satou and Nao Watanuki. Released in Japan as “Tatoeba Last Dungeon Mae no Mura no Shonen ga Joban no Machi de Kurasu Youna Monogatari” by GA Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Andrew Cunningham.

The good news is this is still a very fun series with a lot of laughs and big goofy characters doing silly things. The bad news is that it is not a series that lives and dies on its character development, so I can see myself having trouble stretching reviews out to 500+ words as we go along. Lloyd is still stupidly strong and overpowered and completely unaware of it. He gathers yet more women into his orbit in this book, without remaining remotely aware of it, of course. Marie, the other seeming “main” character from the first book, is sidelined so hard and with such humiliation here I was tempted to call her Yunyun. The closest we get to serious characterization is Riho Flavin (yes, that’s still her name, a fact I will never get over), whose past catches up with her and whose days may be numbered. That said, this is a very silly comedy. Don’t expect it to kill off major characters.

The main cast remain the same as last time. Lloyd and Marie I mentioned. Sadly, the village chief comes back as well, and she’s not any less annoying. Selen is a mind-blowing yandere, but unlike most of this type, is actually funny. The plot is that there’s a magic tournament that’s located in their hometown this year. Unfortunately, their hometown is filled with muscles, not magic. No one would even want to participate expect Riho is being blackmailed by her childhood friend-turned-archenemy Rol Calcife, who seems to have become a Bond villain, and a pair of sisters. Mena is the sort of girl you’d expect in any other series to be the reporter girl looking for scoops, and she talks a lot. Her sister Phyllo is stoic and also a martial-arts master, looking for the one enemy she isn’t able to defeat. Guess who she finds that fits that bill? So Riho. Selen and Lloyd end up in the tournament after all.

Everything is secondary to the comedy here. Including Lloyd, who after starring in the first volume plays more of a supporting role here. He’s become the big gun that’s pulled out when an instant win is needed. As for the cast additions, my guess is that Phyllo will be the major one going forward. She’s amusing, as seeing Lloyd take her kicks without even reacting (she did break his ribs, but he doesn’t give that away), she is now almost as much a yandere over him as Selen is, just in a stoic way. It gets to the point that when a serious plot point is introduced at the very end, when we see that Rol may not have been fully in control of her evilness, that it feels out of place. We don’t really want this book to get any darker. We want it to be Big Goofy.

That said, this is still predominately great fun, with an excellent translation to match, which gets the book’s ‘no one is above humiliation’ style dead on. If you’re missing KonoSuba and looking for similar zaniness but wish Subaru and Wiz switched personalities, this is right up your alley.

The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter, Vol. 1

By Meguru Seto and Takehana Note. Released in Japan by Kodansha Lanove Books. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Tiva Haro. Adapted by Cae Hawksmoor.

As I was commenting on Twitter about reading this book, I kept calling it “trash”. And it really is. But wait, it’s not actually bad. In fact, you could do far worse than this kind of trash. But – it’s still trash. The lead is a stock light novel hero, the sort referred to these days as “Potato-kun”. He gathers together a group of young women, all gorgeous, all who are either already in love with him or fall for him almost instantly. His powers essentially rewrite reality to a certain extent, and aren’t powered by MP but rather LP, which means he can do more provided he gorges on delicious food, makes love to beautiful women, etc. It’s not actually an isekai (he’s the son of a baronet, and genuinely from this world), but isekais have happened here before, so there’s soy sauce and miso. I was expecting it to hit the plot/character beats that would cause me to groan and drop it in annoyance. But… it didn’t.

Our hero is Noir, and as I mentioned before he’s the son of a Baronet, which means he’s nobility but the lowest rung, meaning nobles don’t give him the time of day. He has a great ability where a voice in his head tells him the solution for any problem… but it gives him crippling pain to use. And the job he had lined up for adulthood was given to a higher noble’s son. All he has is his adoring busty childhood friend who clearly is in love with him but he hasn’t caught on to this. She discovers that the pain of using the skill is lessened by kissing, and this in turn leads him to a dungeon no one has found, and an adventurer who’s been trapped there for 200 years. From there, he’s ready to become an adventurer, go to Hero Academy, save the lives of cursed young ladies, and… yeah, you get the picture. This is trash.

So why is it good? It knows its boundaries, and knows when to push and when not to. For all that his skill is powered up by sexual acts, hugging, lap pillows, and the like usually suffice – the closest this gets to 18-rated is the instructor who decides to reward him by sitting on him. He gets a skill that is called ‘lucky pervert’, and after falling into his friend’s boobs and seeing an old lady’s panties, he quickly rewrites the skill so that it happens ‘very rarely, and never in a serious situation’. For a generic guy, he’s a bit smarter than most (still dense, of course). In one epilogue, he sees a bunch of kids bullying a boy for “hanging out with a girl”, and very quickly tears apart their logic – aside from mentioning Emma’s chest a lot, there’s little of the stock sexism we see in these books. Heck, there isn’t even any slavery (and it makes me sad that this is so rare I’m happy to note it). Even the little sister in love with him is restrained compared to others.

So basically, if you bought the book because you wanted it to be a nice, friendly OP fantasy with a lot of cute girls in a harem, this is a good book to buy. It hits all those buttons, and isn’t appalling. It’s also getting an anime soon, so you get in on the ground floor. It’s trash. Embrace that.