Seirei Gensouki: Spirit Chronicles, Vol. 1

By Yuri Kitayama and Riv. Released in Japan by Hobby Japan. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Mana Z.

Ooof. Despite the fact that this combines the hot new trends of the last few years – reincarnation into a fantasy world AND going to a magical academy – the first volume of this series felt older than its 3 or so years, like something that came out in the dregs of the late 00s. Sadly, I use the word ‘dregs’ deliberately, as I did not really enjoy this book very much. It has almost no humor, which doesn’t help. In fact, the author seems to have decided that since they’re going to be writing a hero who is overpowered and also has the ladies falling for him, the way to balance this out is to make his entire life as miserable as possible. The reincarnated hero finds out that his childhood sweetheart he promised to marry seems to have forgotten about it.. and then she disappears anyway. He’s then killed in a bus crash. And put in the body of a 7-year-old orphan working for a group of thugs. Who are then all murdered. It’s that kind of life.

The cover features the disappeared girl prominently, which is surprising as she never appears in this new world as I expected her to. It’s possible she’s in the memories of one of the other girls we see in this book, but if so she’s hiding it well. Our hero ends up in the body of Rio, and his own memories and Rio’s merge together to create one of the more staid, boring heroes I’ve ever seen in a light novel – and I’ve read Black Bullet, for God’s sake! The new merged Rio sees that his life is a constant parade of crap, and the cynicism and knowledge he gets from his Japanese part allows him to stoically endure everything. He ends up rescuing one of the princesses… only to be tortured because they think he was in on it. When cleared, he’s sent to the magic academy… filled with nobles, so everyone hates him. He works hard and doesn’t make waves… which really doesn’t help, because the first time a scapegoat is needed when a noble screws up, guess who gets blamed? It’s wearying.

So what does Rio have going for him? Well, the heritage of his parents, who were from the fantasy equivalent of Japan before being murdered (we’re in fantasy Europe, no doubt) allows him a different type of magic from the others, and it lets him enhance his body physically. His older self did kendo and the like before getting killed, so Rio is also an excellent swordsman. Everyone praises him for being mature, because, well, he has the knowledge of a whole other person in his head, and he also doesn’t get mad. Or happy. Or anything in between. Oh yes, and his teacher Celia, who’s five years older than him, has fallen in love with him in a sort of cliched anime way. As has the princess he rescued. We’re also introduced to the older princess and the class president, who haven’t fallen yet, but it’s only a matter of time. Usually there’s at least one guy introduced to be a token friend (see: Demon King Daimaou). Not here. He’s Valentino, men fear and hate him, women adore him. Or will once he grows up, he’s still only 12. But such a mature 12!

The book ends with him leaving the school (as he’s been scapegoated – again) and setting off to his parents’ homeland. An assassin is being sent after him, but she’s cute and female, so I’m not holding out high hopes. This has quite a few volumes in Japan, and there was the occasional time I was almost interested – mostly when around the teacher, Celia. Sadly, the hero is such a dull, depressing blank I can’t really recommend going any further.

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