Yashiro-kun’s Guide to Going Solo

By Dojyomaru and Kou Kusaka. Released in Japan as “Yashiro-kun no Ohitori-sama Kouza” by Overlap Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Andria Cheng-McKnight.

Authors, of course, read other authors, and are influenced by them. The book in, say, isekai books, or villainess books, etc. is not JUST publishers trying to milk the latest cash cow, it also stems from authors reading a title and thinking “what would happen if I tried this instead?”. And it’s the same with the author of How a Realist hero Rebuilt the Kingdom, who notes in the Afterword that he wrote this book heavily influenced by titles like My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected. Though honestly, it reads more like a Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki. Our male lead is a loner who sits by himself in the classroom. We also have the popular girl, part of her cool clique, etc. you know the two of them are going to be the focus. Which is… sort of accurate. Because this is not really a story, it’s more of a thought experiment. How much you enjoy it might depend how much you like those.

We are in a world where so many people have been reading high school “fix it” romcoms that the power balances have shifted a bit. Suddenly loners are admired for their ability to not conform, and the popular kids are seen as having to force themselves to fit in. Yashiro is one of those loners, and he’s approached by the popular girl Kanon. She’s been forcing herself to fit into her group seamlessly, and it’s not working well. She wants to learn from him how to enjoy doing things by herself. Despite being somewhat baffled by this, he agrees, ans the two of them start confabbing on things like studying at a karaoke place, going to really nice public baths and soaking by yourself, etc. Then her sporty friend Ido approaches Yashiro, at first to make sure he’s not trying anything weird with Kanon, but then to get her own lessons in enjoying time by herself. Then a new transfer student arrives… when does this end?

As a book, without its main conceit, this is just OK. The world feels like a bizarre, conflictless alternate universe (it’s by the author of Realist Hero, and indeed a crossover available to J-Novel Club subscribers indicates this happens at the same time as Souma is going to high school there). However, as I read it I began to notice someone else outside of the field of the book’s vision. It did not take me very long to realize what was going on, but it’s not the sort of trick where the joy is in guessing it, it’s the sort where it works better when you’re in on it. The “missing” character became my favorite in the book, which is why I was happy when (and the author has done this before) the afterword was actually a midword, and the 2nd chunk of the book was a retelling of the series from their perspective. It also shows that the author was reading more than just Oregairu, because the 2nd part of this book is the current wave of “sugar sweet romance” types, and boy is it sweet.

This is a single volume – it wouldn’t work as a continuing series. And you have to make a few logical leaps to get to the “Oh, nerds are admired and cool kids are pitied” worldview it takes. But overall, I really loved its lead couple, and the trick behind them.

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