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.

The Invisible Wallflower Marries an Upstart Aristocrat After Getting Dumped for Her Sister!, Vol. 1

By Makino Maebaru and Murasaki Shido. Released in Japan as “Kon’yaku Haki Sareta “Kūki” na Watashi, Nariagari no Dan’na-sama ni Totsugimashita” by Mag Garden Novels. Released in North America by Cross Infinite World. Translated by piyo.

It’s all about looking for the jagged edges. That’s a very good rule of thumb when reading these books, especially the ones written for women that have a tendency to amount to “Cinderella story” or wish fulfillment. It also helps me when I’m trying to get past a beginning that might seem less than ideal. The start of this series is excruciating, with Iris, our heroine, getting dumped by her sneering fiance, mocked by her shallow sister, and sold off to a noble who is seemingly buying her for money by her abusive father. All the while she carries in her inner monologue a refrain of how she’s “dull and plain”, and everyone compares her to air. It’s a good portrayal of an abused noble, but you also want to throttle her. Fortunately, the moment she leaves everything about her life comes up roses. The jagged edges, though, remain throughout, and show off hos this world really is not a very nice place at all.

So yes, Iris has spent her life training to be the wife of the Marquis’ son, but he likes her sweet, blonde sister better, so she is instead dumped on Lucas Stock, a merchant recently made a baron, who wants her to be his wife on paper so that she can train his staff and employees on how to better interact with nobles, as they’re all commoners like he was. She takes to this with aplomb, quickly managing to win over everyone by generally being nice, intelligent, and unlike most other nobles, while still managing to convey how to deal with other nobles anyway. And, of course, she and Lucas gradually come to realize that they quite like this marriage thing, and would not particularly mind if it became genuine, though honestly they’re both too pure for that to happen right away. As for the Marquis’ son and Iris’ sister… let’s just say I’m torn between whether Mikhail is merely a rapist or whether he’s also a murderer.

See what I mean about jagged edges? Everything about Iris’ plotline in this volume is sunshine and roses, showing her learning to love herself and how she blooms when around other people who actually value her. Everything ELSE in this book ranges from vaguely disturbing to downright dark – the scene where Airia, Iris’ sister, is making out in the garden with Mikhail and sees a shoe in the bushes, which he quickly distracts her from, is absolutely chilling. Iris’ lady maid, Kiki, has a fear of nobles that is hinted to be because of physical abuse, and she’s very careful to wear clothing that does not show skin below her neck. Lucas’ benefactors, while happy that he’s made a name for himself, cannot help but emphasize over and over in front of Iris how he was once their servant, and that as far as they are concerned he still is. Meanwhile, Iris holds a food festival.

The book ends with Airia, in a letter, begging her sister for help, though I do not trust little sister one bit. Those jagged edges may be more visible in the next book. Till then, plow past a beginning so cliched I made fun of it on Twitter – there’s a lot more to this than just plain girl has her dreams come true.

Since I Was Abandoned After Reincarnating, I Will Cook With My Fluffy Friends: The Figurehead Queen Is Strongest At Her Own Pace, Vol. 5

By Yu Sakurai and Kasumi Nagi. Released in Japan as “Tenseisaki de Suterareta no de, Mofumofu-tachi to Oryouri Shimasu: Okazari Ouhi wa My Pace ni Saikyou desu” by M Novels F. Released in North America by Cross Infinite World. Translated by Emma Schumacker.

It’s been so long since the start of this series that I had honestly forgotten the setup, which is, of course, the standard “disgraced fiancee” story that I’m trying to stop calling “Villainess” when it doesn’t apply. To be fair, we spend so little time dealing with it that it was very easy to forget. But now, as if the author realized that there was more material to mine here, we’re going back to where it all began. Not just as the reigning queen of a foreign country, that would be too simple. Laetitia is also going back to school, which she of course left when she left the country, in order to complete her education. And you know what that means… the horrible guy and the horrible girl who started this are back, and they’re determined to get right back on the “why are you bullying her, you terrible woman?” cliche bandwagon.

Laetitia and Glenreed are going back to Laetitia’s home country, Elltoria. While Laetitia is going to get her education finished while she’s there, the main purpose is the celebration of the King reigning for ten years. And honestly, given how much of a family feud everyone has going on during this, you can see why ten years is a big deal. Sadly, the candidates for taking the throne after the King steps down are a) Laetitia’s old fiance, who is shallow and annoying, and b) Princess Velta, who judges men by how handsome they are and is a conniving backstabber. Honestly, neither one is all that appealing, but you can bet that Laetitia’s going to get dragged into this anyway, protected only by her magic power that is so high that it’s literally unheard of.

It was nice to see the author poking at their own setup, as well as the typical setup for novels like this. The idea that a prince of the realm can dissolve a long-standing engagement with a woman who has been trained for years to be the next Queen, just by shoving her into a fountain and saying, “the engagement is off!”, boggles the mind. What’s more, after hearing so much about Laetitia’s brilliant, talented brothers, who adore her, it’s rather odd that ALL of them were away when this played out. Sadly, we don’t learn WHY this scheme was hatched, but at least learning that it’s a scheme is sufficient. As for Laetitia and Glenreed, sorry, she’s still ludicrously oblivious. Hell, Glenreed’s main issue is that, because he hasn’t told anyone about her past life in Japan, he is jealous of a dog. Who he thinks is a former lover. This is funny but also quite sad. But mostly funny.

A lot of this book felt like the “your series is popular enough now, start spinning out subplots that will allow it to continue for a long time” sort of thing, but it read well enough. And there’s frozen oranges, lest you worry food doesn’t get a look in here.

Ascendance of a Bookworm: I’ll Do Anything to Become a Librarian!, Part 5: Avatar of a Goddess, Vol. 4

By Miya Kazuki and You Shiina. Released in Japan as “Honzuki no Gekokujou: Shisho ni Naru Tame ni wa Shudan wo Erandeiraremasen” by TO Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by quof.

With each successive volume in this arc, that subtitle is becoming more and more like foreshadowing. We see here that Hartmut is already brainwashing everyone in the temple to add Rozemyne to the list of Gods, and though she tries to shut him down you get the sense that she won’t be able to for very long. We also see, even if they may not think of her as a Goddess just yet, they definitely think of her as a Saint. The bulk of the first half of this book is that the Liesegangs, now the dominant power after Sylvester p;urged his own base to get rid of the Veronica Faction, think that Wilfried is useless and awful, and that Rozemyne should absolutely be the next Aub. While they’re not wrong about Wilfried (I’ve sort of given up on him, the narrative makes it clear why he’s gotten so awful but it doesn’t make me like him), they forget that Rozemyne simply has no interest in this.

Rozemyne arrives home to find that things are… not great. She’s surprised and rather upset to find Sylvester telling her to try to lay off getting the duchy elevated for the moment, because they’ve done it so fast that no one is ready for what it entails. Of course, what that really means is that the older generation like things as they are and fear change. Sylvester is essentially unable to do anything because the Liesegangs are dominant, but fortunately Rozemyne’s retainer Brunhilde has a wonderful solution that will solve most of these problems. Meanwhile, Rozemyne returns to the temple, now filled with a lot more children whose parents were executed or imprisoned, and gets ready to train Melchior to take over for her. And there’s still time to visit other areas of Ehrenfest and learn some very important past history of the duchy.

The story of Eisenreich is another reminder that women in this world have to struggle to get any headway at all, and that frequently even after achieving their goals they’re still unhappy. The aub’s daughter who essentially saved the country centuries earlier was given a poisoned chalice of a position, and it’s not a surprise that trying to keep the duchy together eventually broke her. We get this history after all the politics with the current generation, with Brunhilde stepping forward to offer herself up as Sylvester’s second wife… but this only comes after her father sires a son, meaning all the power that she would have been coming to will now be taken from her. She ends up consoling Charlotte, who (as we saw in the short story book last time) is bemoaning the exact same thing. We know that Charlotte is the most obvious choice to be the next Aub. But that knowledge does not help us… or Charlotte.

All this plus Angelica gets extra blessings!… with the help of her sword literally telling her what to say. Angelica, I love you. And hey, only three more books till THAT spoiler!