About Sean Gaffney

Sean Gaffney has been reading manga since 1996, writing fanfiction in the manga and anime world since 1996, but only decided to start a manga blog in 2009. No one is quite sure why, as talking endlessly is one of his favorite things. He’s also written guest posts at Erica Friedman’s Okazu. His favorite manga things to discuss are shoujo with cheerful yet oblivious heroines, defending angry tsundere girls, and pretending he doesn’t ship. His favorite non-manga things to discuss are classic cartoons from the 1930s to 1960s, William Shakespeare (and other Elizabethan/Jacobean playwrights), and Frank Zappa. But really, he’ll happily talk about anything, even if he has to Google it first to pretend he knows all about it. He lives in Connecticut.

Fake It to Break It! I Faked Amnesia to Break Off My Engagement and Now He’s All Lovey-Dovey?!, Vol. 1

By Kotoko and Esora Amaichi. Released in Japan as “Konyaku Haki o Neratte Kioku Sōshitsu no Furi o Shitara, Sokkenai Taidodatta Konyakusha ga “Kioku o Ushinau Mae no Kimi wa, Ore ni Beta Boredatta” to Iu, Tondemonai Uso o Tsuki Hajimeta” by SQEX Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Stephanie Liu.

If I’m being honest, as a romance novel this one felt like a bit of a chore. It’s another in the line of Japanese books that I’d summarize as “communication is important”, as we first meet our main couple when they are having the most awkward lunch ever, not even bothering to look at each other. Then we get, well, the title, and after that there’s a lot of lies piling up, on both her side and his side, and the subsequent “falling in love again” part mostly happens because of said lies. This can be a bit hard to take. On the bright side, I did find myself interested throughout the book, as the reader gets no backstory at all before things start, so we’re as much in the dark as Violet supposedly is – how did things get as bad as this? The book is a mystery.

Violet Westley is currently miserable. She’s been engaged to her fiancee Phillip since birth, owing to a debt owed by one family to the other from over a century ago. Unfortunately, Phillip is quiet, reserved, impassive, and uninterested in conversation, and Violet is also shy and awkward. Then one day she’s in a carriage accident and doesn’t wake up for a week. When she does, she has a “brilliant” idea – she’ll fake amnesia, and use that as an excuse to end the engagement. Unfortunately, Phillip runs over to see her the moment that he’s heard she’s awake, and tells her all about their relationship – they were madly in love with each other and very doting. Violet stares – what the hell is he lying for? Why has he suddenly become vibrant and outgoing? Is this really her fiance?

The best part of the book is gradually tracking down what Violet and Phillip’s past was really like, and how the two of them came to be the way they are at the start. Part of it is the usual romantic misunderstandings (Violet hears a staged conversation meant for someone else), and some of it is just down to Phillip being a giant introverted dork in a genre which needs its romantic leads to not be giant introverted dorks. Once you realize what his real feelings are like, they actually feel a bit heavy – s I said, the romance part of the book is not that great, and he feels a bit too obsessed and overdramatic post-amnesia. As for Violet, she doesn’t really have a strong enough personality beyond “the reader” – she’s the equivalent of those isekai protagonists who are all “generic guy with black hair”. Even her faults – well, aside from the lying – are “cute” faults, like being a terrible cook and a terrible embroiderer.

If this was done in one volume, I’d say it was all right. It has a second coming out, though, and I worry that it will feature more annoying misunderstandings. I may stop with this one.

The Ideal Sponger Life, Vol. 14

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.

And so the author has finally achieved his dreams. We’re 14 volumes into a series that began with the idea that our hero was being isekai’d solely to impregnate a queen for the sake of the country, and he never would have to do anything else. Now, 14 volumes later, the sex is basically absent, there’s not even any action in this volume, and the entire book is devoted to political wrangling, all of which needs to be done by Zenjirou, because Aura can’t exactly go gallivanting all over the world. We are now finally in complete, 100% opposition to the title of the series. Fortunately, in this case that’s a good, thing. The worldbuilding is stepping up its game, and we’re also (finally!) seeing a lot of Aura in this volume, and seeing how she is stating to deal with Freya now that she’s married to Zenjirou and living in the same palace. It actually goes pretty smoothly, though now that Freya has gotten her man her eccentricity is more pronounced than ever.

Everyone is back in Capua, at least for the moment. That said, there’s a lot still to do. Lucretia is still trying to become Zenjirou’s second concubine, and while she’s changed her approach to be more mild, she still doesn’t really get him, and does not understand why “I have no actual wants or needs beyond what you have for me” is a bad thing. Aura, meanwhile, hears a secret from the Twin Kingdoms that is potential dynamite – they were once part of the White Empire, long long ago. And there’s a high chance that some people still hold a grudge about it. This is also stunning news for Freya, who realizes that she may have accidentally gotten her little Northern country involved in a massive global conflict by her marriage. And then Zenjirou gets a very odd invitation…

There’s some very funny jokes in this book, most of them involving Freya. Having seen in the previous book that she is thought of in her own country as “that out of control lunatic”, we get to experience a bit of that here, with her having to be literally dragged away from the fridge in Zenjirou and Aura’s room and also declaring that she’s moving in with them when she sees the air conditioner. (Aura says no, sorry, threesome fans.) There’s also her twin brother, who is basically her as a man, and this is emphasized by the color artwork, showing each of them throwing the exact same tantrum when being told they can’t do something they really want to do. Mostly, though, this book is setup for the next major arc. Zenjirou is at a point where he has to accept Lucretia as a concubine, but it makes him unhappy, which will not help anything. And then there’s his mystery invitation. The next book should be really exciting.

Hrm? What’s that? We’re caught up? It’s been over two years since the last book in Japan? Ah well.

From Old Country Bumpkin to Master Swordsman: My Hotshot Disciples Are All Grown Up Now, and They Won’t Leave Me Alone, Vol. 1

By Shigeru Sagazaki and Tetsuhiro Nabeshima. Released in Japan as “Katainaka no Ossan, Kensei ni Naru: Tada no Inaka no Kenjutsu Shihan Datta noni, Taisei Shita Deshitachi ga Ore o Hōttekurenai Ken” by SQEX Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Hikoki.

It can be difficult when writitng a book to keep the reader’s attention. Conversely, one little mistake may make you lose all the goodwill you gained. A little ways into this book, there was a description of a character that was saw jaw-droppingly awkward that it took me right out of the book. The first thing I thought was “oh boy, this book is going to be A CHORE”. Now, I kept going, and honestly, the book turned out far better than I would have expected – the description really was just a one-off, not the sign of worse things to come. But it did mean it took till the final long chapter for me to appreciate that this book wasn’t making the mistakes that a lot of books in this genre make, but was instead basically doing what Der Werwolf does, and making fun of the Japanese habit of humility to ridiculous levels.

Beryl has spent the last twenty-odd years teaching kids in his father’s dojo. He likes to think he’s done a good job, and is quite happy to live his single life out in the boonies. But then he gets a request from one of his old students, Allusia. She’s now the commander of the knights in the royal capital, and she wants Beryl to go there to teach the other knights his swordsmanship. This is fine with Beryl’s dad, who kicks him out of the family home and tells him not to return until he’s married. So Beryl goes to the capital, and keeps running into old students of his, who all happen to be beautiful young women. That said, why are they all so interested in his teaching swordsmanship? He’s just a normal, average, everyday guy. Who can, um, win a battle against the second-in-command of the knights, the top-ranked adventurer in the country, and the top mage in the country. Yeah.

I picked up this series because I wondered if it would be similar to S-Ranked Daughter, and it is and it isn’t. It isn’t because, with no family to deal with here, all the girls he’s taught clearly have massive crushes on him. But it is because, to my surprise, that’s not the point of the book. The romance is actually ignored for the most part, and the focus is instead on Beryl being one of the greatest swordsmen of his generation but being totally unaware of it. This actually extends to every aspect of his life – he does not pick up on any of the signals other women give that they’re into him, and he even talks about his home village being “way out in the boonies, far from the capital” when it’s less than a day’s carriage ride away. How much you enjoy this depends entirely on how much you can tolerate “excessive humbleness” to the point of parody.

But yes, there were no annoying characters, the fights were cool, and I’ll give the next volume a try. Just please never say ‘She looked like a handsome man with breasts” ever again, I beg you.