The Extraordinary, the Ordinary, and SOAP!, Vol. 2

By Nao Wakasa and ICA. Released in Japan as “Hibon, Heibon, Shabon!” by ArianRose. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Emily Hemphill.

It has to be said, the hero and heroine of The Extraordinary, the Ordinary, and SOAP! are firmly in the ordinary category, and I feel would not be able to carry a typical shoujo romance on their own. The feelings between the two are, thankfully, resolved in this second volume, as Lucia is finally made to realize that she is the one Celes loves, and Celes is forced to admit his feelings out loud and straightforwardly rather than hoping that Lucia magically understands his heart without doing anything. This is even resolved in a pretty typical way, involving the two being separated from the rest of the cast by a brief disaster and having to make it on their own to catch up. Don’t get me wrong, they’re cute and I’m happy to see them get together, but Lucia x Celes is not the reason this got licensed. There are a couple of other reasons, the first being the premise itself.

I said this in the review of the first volume, and I still feel this way: I really like the fact that this is an isekai that takes place from the POV of someone from the fantasy world itself. Lucia, being the heroine, is of course big of heart and able to read emotions easily (I am hoping this isn’t just because she’s the only woman in the group, but yes, it probably is), but she also has her soap powers. And those powers, as it turns out, are perfectly capable of taking care of the cursed land that they brought in Maria specifically to fix. This leads to a great crisis for Maria, which I’ll get into in a bit, but it’s also a really good look at how quick these sorts of novels are to simply reach out to modern-day Japan to grab a savior rather than trying to address things on their own. It’s made even worse given that there is a conspiracy going on about the fate of Maria, the summoned heroine.

Maria is designed to be disliked by readers at first, with the theory being that we will gradually come to understand her as she grows as a character. That’s a hard hurdle to clear, however, especially with anime and manga fans, where you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Fortunately, the series plans to follow through for us, though admittedly it does so by taking Maria down even lower. Not only has she been pulled into a scary fantasy world and threatened by deadly monsters, but it turns out the nicer, bustier maid girl can actually save the day better than Maria can. When she hears the prince and his brother discussing having her killed (it turns out later she’s missing crucial information, but honestly, not that much – I worry how the return to the kingdom will go), she lashes out at Lucia with possibly tragic consequences. Her redemption might go a tad fast (Lucia is the heroine and gets the majority of the chapters), but it is there and welcome.

This series ends with the third volume, which seems about right given we’ve purified two thirds of the points we’ve been supposed tom, and the couple have confessed. Lucia and Celes may be typical, but the book they’re in has enough spiky edges to impress.

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