The Ideal Sponger Life, Vol. 12

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.

You don’t see it quite as much these days, but, especially in the 1970s and 1980s, there was a thing called a “backdoor pilot”. The creators had a show they wanted to get on television, but knew it did not quite have the pull with the networks to get it there on its own. So what would happen is that you’d be watching, say, The Golden Girls, and the episode would instead be devoted almost entirely to a new cast, with the members of The Golden Girls basically serving as a cameo. (See: Empty Nest, as I’m using a real example). Now, sometimes this did not work, and what you ended up with was one of the characters of your hit show meeting a whole group of people, introducing all their plot points and characters, and then we simply never see them again. I mention this because boy, this 12th volume of The Ideal Sponger Life sure seems like it’s a backdoor pilot to show off adventures here in not-Poland.

Freya, Zenjirou and company are making their way slowly back to Uppasala, but they can’t just said there on a non-stop boat ride. So they dock for a few days in the country of Złota Wolność, which is sort of like what Poland would be if it was France. There they try to relax, but are almost immediately caught up in something, as a young orphan boy has big news to tell the priest who came to his (now destroyed) village a year or so ago, and in order to see the priest, he needs people with clout. People like Zenjirou. What they find is that the port is about to be invaded, and they’ll need to rally forces to have a hope of fending it off. Fortunately, they have a royal on their side, who drops in – literally – to help them. Naturally, this has the added benefit of helping her own fight for the throne…

In many ways, The Ideal Sponger Life also reminds me a lot of Bookworm, in that Zenjirou and Rozemyne both seem to casually upend everyone’s lives without even realizing it. I imagine that Aura, like Sylvester, is going to be rubbing her head to ward off the migraine when she hears about what happened. Honestly, Zenjirou does quite well here given the circumstances – despite his “I’m just an ordinary vice-commander… erm, royal consort” talk, he’s quick enough to spot that Anna has an ulterior motive behind all of this. Unfortunately, he and Freya are not quite quick enough to pick up on how she plans to draw them into it, though this will affect Freya more than it does the Southern Continent. There’s also some very interesting history dropped into the conversation at a party which ties in to Francesca’s people, though given that she stated she won’t talk about it till they return to Capua, it may have to be put on the back burner.

All in all, the most inaccurately titled light novel ever continues to trundle along, even as this volume feels like it wants to be the start of some other series set in the same world. Next time we should actually reach Freya’s homeland.

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