Bluesteel Blasphemer, Vol. 3

By Ichirou Sakaki and Tera Akai. Released in Japan by Hobby Japan. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Kevin Steinbach.

In general, authors do not read my reviews and listen to my suggestions, mostly as they’re Japanese and the book has already come out several years ago (and also because I rarely have anything constructive to recommend). But sometimes I can’t help but read a book and think to myself “wow, the author listened to me!” even if it’s not true. Such a book is this volume of Bluesteel Blasphemer, which I called ‘highly adequate’ last time. It still is, but the harem stuff I didn’t like is lessened (though watch out for the ‘tee hee everyone thinks he’s a lolicon’ scene at the start), Yukinari is getting more character development and a better class of villain going up against him, there’s some well thought out setup for the final book, and most of all, after suggesting last time that Berta needed a hobby, she gets one here. I wasn’t expecting it to be crack sniper, but hey, needs must as the devil drives.

The girl on the cover is Angela, a Holy Knight who’s there to be even more zealous and driven and to show off how much Arlen has changed, despite his still being mostly a jerk. She mostly faces off against Veronika, a former princess turned mercenary whose past… absolutely does not catch up with her in any way, so I assume that it’s being saved for Book 4. It does give her interesting backstory, though, which I suspect is its main function. Yukinari, meanwhile, is having to adjust his thinking, as he’s been solely devoted to protecting himself and Dasa and that’s about it. Now that he has to protect two villages and the denizens thereof, his fighting style has to change, and he has to rely on others far more. He seems to come to terms with this fairly quickly, though he’s of the stoic, no real personality style of Japanese light novel heroes, so heavy angst is not really going to come into it.

Berta’s development really pleased me, and is the highlight of the book. She’d been there in the first book as the sacrifice who wasn’t, and then in the second feeling rather useless and trying to offer her body to Yukinari mostly as she had no idea what to do with her life. You got the sense she was in the book to be the large-breasted option in the harem. But here Yukinari tries to make a sniper rifle, and because of its awkward design (he’s working from memories of his past in Japan, and is not as familiar with this type of gun) neither he nor Dasa are really very good with it. But Berta, who has never shot anything in her life and thus has no bad habits to overcome, turns out to be a crack shot… provided she’s shooting non-living targets. She’s just too sweet. Fortunately the threat of her friends being killed and getting shouted at by Arlen help steel her resolve, and she’s able to save part of the day. She also, after a talk with Veronika, realizes that hey, she is doing all this for Yukinari as she loves him, rather than because of a misguided sense of duty. Honestly, she should have been on the cover.

So overall, a bit better than the previous two books, and worth your time if you’re following the series. That said, I’m ready for it to come to an end in Book 4, which will feature the most obvious villain of all time – so obvious, in fact, that the author assumes in his afterword that we’ve already guessed who she is. I’ll be here to read it.

Bluesteel Blasphemer, Vol. 2

By Ichirou Sakaki and Tera Akai. Released in Japan by Hobby Japan. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Kevin Steinbach.

In general, I tend to divide up books to review on this site into four categories: Great, Adequate/Good, Adequate/Bad, and Bad. The first and the last are obviously the easiest to review, as there are any number of things that you can say about them to show why you think they’re worth reading (or, in the case of the bad books, not worth reading). Adequate/Bad is tougher, but at least you can usually get away with a laundry list of things that the title is doing wrong. But oh dear, those books which are good but that’s about it. You really have to work at the review, because “good but that’s about it” makes the reader not want to read a book. But they *are* good, and very readable. It’s just there’s really nothing that stands out and makes you go “wow, that made buying this book worth my time’. Such a series is Bluesteel Blasphemer, which is adequate. HIGHLY adequate.

This second volume picks up (after a short setup prologue) right where we left off. Yukinari is settling in uncomfortably as the new erdgod of Friedland, and trying to figure out how to make the village prosper, less by sacrifices and more by irrigation and trade. He’s accompanied by Dasa, who fulfills both the Rei Ayanami clone and Clingy Jealous Girl types in one; Berta, whose love/worship of Yukinari continues to be vaguely disturbing – it makes sense for her character given how she was raised, but I’d really like her to get a hobby or two; and Fiona, the de facto mayor of the village, who sometimes acts as a tease but more often fills the straight man role. We also add Ulrike, who is the main familiar of the erdgod the next village over, a giant forest/tree who uses humans whose lifespan is at an end to become its familiars (Ulrike is seen in the prologue, a cute young kid who dies by getting impaled on a tree. Fortunately, she was impaled by the right tree). Together, they fight against a cadre of grumpy priests whose job is suddenly gone, and some grumpy soldiers who are still trying to be zealots.

If I were to pinpoint things I didn’t care for with this book, it would be the same as the last – the harem stuff feels false and tacked on, and I wish it would go away. Other than that, this is a very smooth, easy to read book. I enjoyed the motivation of the other erdgod, and how a village that doesn’t have much beyond LOTS OF WOOD might turn to it as an alternative to more modern-day thinking like medicine. I liked the examination of what happens to the priests after Yukinari takes over, particularly in regards to the orphanage that suddenly doesn’t have villagers paying to feed its orphans. I liked the vaguely evil foreshadowing going on between the evil old priest and his stacked alchemist which will clearly become the climax to the final book. And the slingshot was hilarious.

So this is a good, solid book that fans of the light novel genre will enjoy, particularly if they like Kamen Rider-style books. But if you’re thinking “I need to cut back on light novels, what would be good?”, this series also comes to mind immediately. I’m happy it’s not 20+ volumes, I can tell you that.

Bluesteel Blasphemer, Vol. 1

By Ichirou Sakaki and Tera Akai. Released in Japan by Hobby Japan. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by James Rushton and Kevin Steinbach.

If you’ve grown tired of novels where our hero is either transported to another world or dies and is reincarnated in another world, well, this is another one of those. There’s so many that you really need to figure out what it is about this particular one that makes it worth reading over the other 87,326 series released this year alone. In the case of Bluesteel Blasphemer, the answer may be its pedigree. This is not a case of a newbie writer who was putting his fiction on the web and got discovered by a publisher. Ichirou Sakaki has written such things as Scrapped Princess, Chaika the Coffin Princess, and Outbreak Company, which does feature a princess. And now we have one of his newer series, Bluesteel Blasphemer, which does not have princesses – at least not yet – but has a mayor’s daughter, a sacrificial victim, and a Rei Ayanami expy, because god knows we don’t have enough of those.

Our hero is Yukinari, a young man who is rescued from modern-day Japan, where he was dying in a fire that killed his older sister, and reincarnated in a cool body (with a few tricks up its sleeve) by a young alchemist who seems very similar to his older sister, and Dasa, her younger sister and the Rei clone I mentioned above. After stuff happens, he and Dasa are on the run through the backwaters of the country, and run across Berta, a beautiful young orphan about to be sacrificed to appease the local erdgod, which is a nasty piece of work. It’s not clear whether the sacrifices work or not, and the mayor’s daughter Fiona, who’s in charge while her father is in ill health, has her doubts as well, but hey: it’s tradition. Unfortunately, Yukinari and Dasa proceed to massacre tradition, and now have to deal with his being the assumed local erdgod replacement – as well as the unfortunate arrival of the local Inquisition, here to enslave the village into their religion.

There are pluses and minuses to this series. The pluses are the plot and the writing, which are both excellent. You can tell the author is far more experienced, as there’s no long introductory sequence like most isekai. Instead, we get the feeling we’re starting with Book 2, which gets a bit confusing but pays off in the long run. The action sequences, of which there are many, work fine, and the plot twists happen at just the right moment. On the down side, well, the characters are not nearly as good as the book being written around them. Yuknari is fairly faceless, Dara is, as I said, another in a long line of snarky deadpan barely legals, and Berta’s desire to serve Yukinari as the new replacement erdgod is rather disturbing, as she seems to be confusing love and worship in her head. Fiona was probably the best character of the lot. (Honestly, as the author himself admits in the afterword, the harem aspect seems totally tacked on and uninspired). Also, the two older sisters who both die to inspire the heroes… bleah. I bet they both had that dead mom sidetail, didn’t they?

So it’s a decent, but not stellar, debut for this series. I’m willing to give it another volume to draw me in more. That said, I’m rather glad it’s only 4 volumes total.