My Big Sister Lives in a Fantasy World: The Half-Baked Vampire vs. the Strongest Little Sister?!

By Tsuyoshi Fujitaka and An2A. Released in Japan as “Neechan wa Chuunibyou” by Hobby Japan. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Elizabeth Ellis.

The second volume of a series like this one was always going to be tricky. The seeming big reveal of the first book was that Yuichi, the supposed “average high school student” protagonist you get in these sorts of harem stories, was not remotely average. In fact, given the oddballs we saw in the first book, I had mentioned that the closest we had to a normal person in the cast was Aiko, who happened to be a vampire but was otherwise the fairly typical “shy cute girl” stereotype. Of course, as we find in this second volume, Aiko is far from normal either, even if she towers over the other eccentrics in her family in that regard. “Half-Baked Vampire” is your first impression, and the book tries hard to make it stick at the end, but I’m not buying it.

I’d argue this book isn’t as good as the first. The character of Yuichi’s younger sister Yoriko seems to be added for the sole reason that series like these always have little sisters who love their big brother just a little too much, and she doesn’t play any role in the plot besides getting jealous of Aiko and being too clingy. (You’d think she was the “Little Sister” in the second part of the subtitle, but no, as we find out, that is not the case.) There’s a lot of rambling discussion of the nature of murder and various other thought experiments by Mutsuko, whose tendency to exposit whenever it’s needed is her worst character trait. Girl who likes isekai continues to get so little to do that I can’t even remember her name. And poor Natsuki, the villain of the first book, is now reduced to playing the straight man role that Aiko played in the first book, as Aiko is too busy being the heroine.

Where the book succeeds is in analyzing the plot and character tropes you find in “Middle School Syndrome” types and, if not exactly deconstructing them, at least making you think about them in a different way. Honestly, much of the time the book reads as if it was written by Mutsuko herself, being the sort of self-insert you get from first time fanfic writers in their teens. Mutsuko may be the most interesting character in the series, which is fitting given she’s in the main title. I loved her discussion with Natsuki of those downbeat endings that seek to be dark for the sake of gritty realism, and how much she hates them – I agree 100%. At the same time, as Natsuki gradually realizes just what training Mutsuko has given her little brother, and how little it occurs to her to wonder if this is actually abusive or insane, we begin to see a dark core to Mutsuko, which I’m not sure if the author intends or not. She gets the final scene to herself, taking out the “power behind the throne” villain with a literal railgun, as suits her personality. She’s horrible and fascinating, which is fitting given that she’s an expy of Haruhi Suzumiya, who was the same.

In the end, this is still a silly harem series, but I enjoy it best when it’s taking a look at the stereotypes of such series, or asking us to examine the characters further to see how seriously we’re supposed to take them.

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