The Ideal Sponger Life, Vol. 4

By Tsunehiko Watanabe and Jyuu Ayakura. Released in Japan as “Risou no Himo Seikatsu” by Hero Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by MPT.

One of the reasons I really enjoy this series despite its unrecommendable premise is that it really seems to want to dig into the nitty gritty of everything. The genetics of magic are in full force here, and we see how that can also be political for various reasons, and also how it’s likely to affect Aura and Zenjirou’s marriage down the road. The stuff Zenjirou brought from Japan is also proving to be both very good and also very dangerous, as he gets to impress a princess (who’s really a science nerd deep down), but also manages to upend the power balance by explaining concave and convex lenses to her, something that is a huge thing but also so obscure he has to explain to his wife why he screwed up. All this and their newborn son has come down with fantasy world measles. The baby has a 90% chance of surviving… which means a 10% chance of dying, something that makes no one happy. Do they have to use another rare healing stone?

Despite the occasional break in the storyline to fight raptors (who are far more numerous than expected), the bulk of this book is taken up with the arrival of Prince Francesco (who is basically Tamaki from Ouran Host Club) and Princess Bona (no close relation, she’s his minder and the aforementioned science nerd). Dealing with Francesco is somewhat exhausting, especially as they’re trying to figure out why he’s not in the line of succession… and also how much of his airhead act is just an act. Princess Bona is high-strung, but much easier to deal with… possibly a bit TOO easy, as Aura notices immediately that she and Zenjirou seem to naturally bond. That said, it’s their child’s illness that brings them all the answers they want, as Francesco reveals his background and magic abilities… something that also is going to make it even HARDER for Zenjirou not to take a concubine.

You know it’s a good Sponger Life when even the maid side-stories, usually the low point of the book, are interesting. The three goofy maids are busy playing video golf, which is the funny part, but the narration also points out that by learning about birdies, par and bogies, and the value of each, they’re being taught zero and negative numbers, something well outside what they would normally learn. That said, they’re all airheads, so I’m not sure if it will actually crop up later on. I also enjoyed seeing Aura fight (mostly successfully) against her jealousy. She points out that she worries constantly about making Zenjirou angry, as unlike everyone else in her kingdom, he doesn’t really WANT anything, so can’t be bribed to get back on his good side. Fortunately, despite his good relationship with Bona, she’s highly unlikely to be a concubine (the book seems to be pairing her and Francesco, though it’s subtle).

By now I imagine every reader who was hanging around waiting for more sexytimes has abandoned ship, leaving those who love the series’ political intrigue. This is a very good volume for that, and makes me interested in the next book, which… does NOT have Aura on the cover! Gasp!

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