The Ephemeral Scenes of Setsuna’s Journey, Vol. 1

By Rokusyou, Usuasagi and sime. Released in Japan as “Setsuna no Fūkei” by Dragon Novels. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Andria McKnight.

Theoretically, every new light novel series is someone’s first light novel. You could have a reader who has never read an isekai, who knows nothing of Japanese RPGs, and who would easily get lost in the world unless it’s laid out before them. Theoretically. In reality, everyone has read about 800 of the things, and we all know how adventurer’s guilds work, at least in the broad strokes. And this particular series starts off very badly by abusing “tell, don’t show” for the first hundred pages or so, having various NPCs walk the player character through what he needs to do in order to play this game. Except the player character is our hero, and this is a book, not a game. As a result, it’s mind-numbingly tedious much of the time. Fortunately, the book improves greatly in its second half, and it does feature a very clever premise, so it has my attention more than other slow life isekai otherwise would.

Setsuna is a young man who’s had major health problems his entire life, and has mostly been confined to a hospital bed. But then, he’s transported to another world, to become a hero!… wait, he’s just transported, not reincarnated. Which means he’s still slowly dying. He’s shoved in a room and ignored for a year or so, with the implication being that once a new hero is summoned he will be quietly killed. Then he’s visited at his bedside by the 23rd hero, who is there to give him powers from two different heroes, which will a) heal him, and b) let him do whatever he wants. Setsuna, who has rarely left his hospital bed, decides that he wants to travel the world and see the wonders of it. So, after escaping, he joins an adventurer’s guild, which is a decent first step.

I feel this book is warring against the premise it wants to tell. It’s supposed to be about Setsuna and his apprentice wandering the world and experiencing it, and those few scenes we get are among the best in the book. Getting there takes forever, though, and the relaxed slow life jars heavily with the sheer awfulness of the kingdom that summoned him, who use hero summonings as basically “free slave!” and apparently killed everyone who took care of Setsuna after he “died”. It’s not helped that, in a side story, we meet the 5th princess of the kingdom, who seems mostly ignorant of what is going on and is living in a completely different light novel series. Honestly, I wonder if the writers had three ideas – summoned but not healed, guild adventures with an OP hero, and man and his adopted son wandering the world – and decided to try to combine them all into one book for extra content. It just feels sloppy all round.

As I said, the scenes between Setsuna and his adopted apprentice are the best of the book, and that appears to be what the series will actually be, so that’s good. Good luck getting there, though.

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