Konosuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World!: The Lich’s Proposal

By Natsume Akatsuki and Kurone Mishima. Released in Japan as “Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku o!” by Kadokawa Sneaker Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Kevin Steinbach.

It is the nature of a long-running series that it tends to accrue supporting cast members. The longer the series, the more cast members it has to support. Now, KonoSuba has never made it a secret that it is, at heart, a story of four people: Kazuma, Aqua, Megumin and Darkness. Now, this series has a bit of an advantage over many others in that it is popular enough to have scored a slew of spinoff books. We’ve seen one of them, which focuses on Megumin and Yunyun before and during the events of the series. There’s another, unlicensed series (by a different author) that follows KonoSuba through the eyes of Dust and his party (which also has a large helping of Yunyun, who is pathetic enough to get entangled in Dust’s life). But really, though we’ve learned a bit about her past, there has not been a huge focus on adorably pathetic shop owner Wiz. That changes now!… though this does not really mean Wiz will come off looking good.

As with a large number of KonoSuba books, the actual main plot does not really start up till about halfway through the book. There’s also a fake plot – Yunyun has to take the test to be the next chief of the Crimson Magic Clan, and wants Kazuma’s help. Megumin refuses to let this happen, of course, and instead helps Yunyun herself – with offscreen results, but results you can probably guess. There’s a treasure hunt to clean encrusted jewels off a turtle’s shell, and Darkness once again tries to seduce Kazuma, who makes it clear that he’s only willing to go through with it if he’s forced, so he can blame her. (They’re both caught, of course.) That said, the main plot is what folks are here for – a mysterious stalker… erm, stranger arrives and seemingly proposes marriage to Wiz! Or at least that’s what Kazuma and Wiz herself believe. Only Vanir knows the truth,m and he finds it absolutely hilarious.

As you might gather, fans of Kazuma being a complete scumbag will be well-served here by his behavior here, though again this is the slightly less appalling version we’ve seen from Vol. 9 and later. I was highly amused where Megumin offers to sneak into his room and he, having just gotten laid via succubus sex workers, indicates he’s not in the mood – the joke being Megumin was unaware men could EVER be not in the mood. The main plot itself is amusing, but if you aren’t a fan of the series kicking Yunyun when she’s down, you may not enjoy it as much, as Wiz is absolutely an airhead here, getting completely into the idea that someone has proposed to her and acting like a lovestruck maiden. Vanir heaps abuse on her, probably because all her love-love feelings are making him cranky. That said, spoilers, but Wiz does not get married. Sorry to ruin that for you hopeful readers.

Speaking of Yunyun, the cliffhanger involves that she will finally drag the main cast back to her chieftain trial, which is at its third (and presumably final) attempt. We’ve got four more books to go after this one, so you can see the series starting to dot its I’s and cross its T’s. This is not really as deep or heartwarming as some prior volumes, but it’s a lot of mean, kick-them-when-they’re-down fun.

In the Land of Leadale, Vol. 2

By Ceez and Tenmaso. Released in Japan by Famitsu Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jessica Lange.

Last time I jokingly said that the series was “Overlord meets Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear”, and I was not expecting that to be doubly true in the second volume, which features Cayna serving as a guard/guide to students going out in the woods for the first time (Kuma Bear), but also searching for other “players” and starting to discover that she is not the only one who ended up in this supposed game world far into its future (Overlord). Surrounding this are scenes of Cayna getting pissed off when getting called “grandmother”, Cayna having absolutely no knowl4edge of current currency at all, and Cayna one-shotting various terrifying monsters that would normally take 15 high-level people to take out. In other words, it’s a slow life series without the actual slow life. It FEELS like a slow life series in both the meandering pacing and Cayna’s somewhat blase personality, but there’s far, far too much going on here, and too many mysteries still to be solved. It is a lot of fun, though, and very quotable.

We pick up where we left off, with Cayna arriving at the capital of Helshper to deliver a message for Mai-Mai. The message turns out to have been a ruse, as it was going to the leader of the largest merchant house in the world… who is also Mai-Mai’s son, and thus Cayna’s grandson. Oh yes, and her granddaughter is a member of the city knight brigade. Cayna doesn’t like surprises like this (she’s also not fond of being called grandma given she still feels like a 17-year-old), but hey. The city is having a bit of a bandit problem, and as Cayna helps with it, she finds out that yes, there ARE other players trapped in this “post-game” world, though whether they think it’s a game or real depends on the mindset. Elsewhere, she gains a small fairy helper, continues to go to the other top player bases, and, to the disappointment of her children, decides to settle and build a house somewhere AWAY from the big city.

So yes, Cayna is not alone in being in Leadale as a gamer, though she does seem to be late – the other players have been there for years, and it’s suggested this might have something to do with the fact that she died in the real world before the game shut down. That said, she’s still far and away the most overpowered person in the entire world, and we see examples of that throughout this book – anyone who dislikes overpowered characters… well, should stop reading Japanese novels, really. Cayna’s delivery continues to be a treat, be it when she’s angry, happy, or otherwise, and I like how her priorities are simply nothing like what anyone else expects them to be. She finds out that another of the top players she knew had an NPC daughter who wants to meet her , and her reaction is “sounds like a pain, so no”. Keina spent half her life in bed on life support. As Cayna, she has absolutely no fucks to give.

So yes, another enjoyable volume in the series, and I definitely recommend it more to those on the Kuma Bear end of the spectrum rather than the Overlord end, though there is a suggestion of malevolent things going on in the epilogue. Cayna’s a treat.

Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear, Vol. 5

By Kumanano and 029. Released in Japan by PASH! Books. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Jan Cash & Vincent Castaneda.

Apologies for the slang here, but as I was reading this volume of Kuma Bear, I kept thinking about recent discussion of ‘gap moe’. Sure, I’m certain there are some people who read this series for the cute girls doing cute things, or for Yuna being stupidly overpowered, or even for the food descriptions. But I think the best reason to read it is for those moments where Yuna’s deadpan, staid character is forced to actually react to things – usually embarrassment, but not always. As I’ve said before, her desire to not take credit for anything she does is starting to feel like a complex, and people are beginning to notice – even kids like Fina. That’s not to say it works all the time, as her Bear Tunnel shows us. What’s more, Yuna gets as uncomfortable with the rough, spiky parts of this world as the reader does, and would much rather try not to think about the whole thing – though she does help out in the end. She hopes by thinking of herself as dull and normal, it will rewrite reality.

Most of this book is devoted to the seaport Mileela, and the aftermath of Yuna wiping out the bandits and boiling the kraken. Returning to normal is not something that can happen as fast as the anime implied it. The town is still pretty much devastated by the last few months, the foreign ships don’t know that they can start sailing there again, and while they would like to ally themselves with Cliff’s city Crimonia, but there’s still that huge mountain in the way. Fortunately, they have Yuna, who once met common sense in passing but promptly went somewhere else. Now there’s a huge tunnel connecting the two areas. Problem solved! Well, except it needs lights. And air. And monster cleanouts. And guards. Yuna may be an overpowered bear girl, but cleaning up after her remains a very exhausting job.

Not sure this counts as ‘gap moe’, but the scene that intrigued me the most, as I implied above, is when Yuna is asking the innkeeper’s daughter Anz to run her new shop. Anz asks if she can have some help in the form of the young women Yuna rescued from the bandits last book – that is to say, the ones whose families were killed and were raped by said bandits. Unsurprisingly, they find still living in the town incredibly uncomfortable. It’s these sort of scenes that you really would not see in this cutesy bear and girls sort of book – indeed, the anime tries to gloss over this – and the fact that it comes up over and over again, ever since Book 1 (where, you’ll recall, Yuna in Japan paid her parents off to go away and leave her alone) just won’t let me go. That said… the majority of this book *is* Bear does OP things” “Bear hangs out with cute kids”, “Bear comments sarcastically on events”, etc.

We get setup for what I assume is the next book near the end, where Yuna is asked to guard a bunch of pampered royals as they journey to the forest to hunt some low-level monsters. It is implied that Yuna’s sharp tongue may be more devastating than any monsters, but we shall see. Till then, this remains a cute, if sometimes more disturbing than expected, book. (Oh yes, and LOL at Yuna accidentally walking around in the white bear outfit one day, which she compares to walking outside in her pajamas.)