Der Werwolf: the Annals of Veight, Vol. 3

By Hyougetsu and Nishi(E)da. Released in Japan by Earth Star Entertainment. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Ningen.

The author described this as being a “slow” volume, which is a bit of a stretch given that one third of the way in our heroes are fighting a kraken. The plot of this book is essentially “Veight goes around to the rest of the Southern Territories and convinces them to join forces”. One area has the aforementioned kraken that needs to be taken out. Another, a town made of labyrinths designed to trap enemies, is already being targeted by the villainous Senate, and Veight and company have to convince people that a) they’re not responsible for the assassination of the ruler, and b) stop all the assassins who are. Fortunately he has help from a number of old friends as well as a new character, Parker, who is… well, he’s Brook from One Piece. Though he can at least disguise himself as “not a skeleton”. The puns, unfortunately, are still there. That said, does Veight even need help?

Veight continues to be the best reason to read these books. We’re used to harem protagonists that are clueless about the girls who like them, but Der Werwolf has little to no romance as of yet, so with Veight it’s more “he is unaware of his nature”. It’s not clear if he’s doing this deliberately to avoid the issue or not, but Veight’s tendency to pick the most dangerous solution has been noticed by most of his subordinates, and they aren’t very happy. It’s especially funny when he chastises others for the exact same thing, and is somewhat amazed when called out on it. To be fair, Veight probably COULD take out everything that goes against him by himself. We see more of his ludicrous “I can use magic and am also a werwolf” combos here, and they’re enough to get an enemy army to run away in fear.

The rest of the characters are not as good as Veight, sadly. I’d mentioned Parker was Brook from One Piece, and am wondering if “undead skeleton + puns” is a thing in Japan. There’s also a viceroy who decides, to make himself stand out, to act flamboyantly gay, and all the little stereotypical tick boxes are checked there, but fortunately he only shows up near the end. And we also get a glimpse of the Senate, which seems evenly divided between “evil” and “stupid AND evil”. Probably the best new character was Shatina, the daughter of the murdered viceroy, who starts off as a terrified teenager but, by the end of the book, has to be talked down from turning her city into a tool to get monstrous revenge on all those who have wronged her. The author would seem to agree, as the short story after the main book has her and Firnir, the centaur girl, bonding as they explore the underground labyrinth below Shatina’s own labyrinth of a city.

Der Werwolf’s most impressive feature continues to be its readability – you never get bogged down in prose the way you do in so many other light novels. I look forward to seeing more of Veight being ridiculously overpowered and totally unaware of it.

Der Werwolf: the Annals of Veight, Vol. 2

By Hyougetsu and Nishi(E)da. Released in Japan by Earth Star Entertainment. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Ningen.

I’m always pleased when a second book in the series proves to be even better than the first, and that’s definitely the case with Der Werwolf. I enjoyed the first book quite a bit, but the second volume steps up its game, showing off Veight’s political and diplomatic skills in the first half, then pulling the rug out from under the reader with a plot twist I wasn’t expecting for a few more books yet. Perhaps best of all, there’s virtually none of the typical isekai cliches in this book – probably as the “I’m from Japan” part is still mostly irrelevant. There’s no gamer terminology, dungeon levels, and the romance is kept very much on the back burner – i.e. there isn’t any yet, though there’s clearly a few women who like Veight. Instead, we are simply reading a fantasy book. It reminds me a lot of The Faraway Paladin, and fans of one should enjoy the other.

At the start of this book, Veight is interested in expanding his allies on the Southern half of the continent, so reaches out to a pseudo-Arabian city along the coast. As with the first book, we occasionally get the viewpoints of other characters (though I wish they were marked off in the text a bit better – it can be tough to tell when we’ve left Veight’s viewpoint and when we return), and that helps here to show off the rock and the hard place that the other city is caught between, and also how Veight thinking that he’s being calm and reasonable is seen by other people as Veight being threatening and terrifying. In fact, there’s a running gag here, even more than the first book, of Veight saying he’s “just a vice-commander” and denying that he’s anything special, despite constant evidence to the contrary. It would be annoying if he were doing it deliberately, but he means it, so it’s just funny.

The second part of the book is much darker. We’d been introduced to the concept of a Hero arriving and challenging the Demon Lord at the start, but this proved to be a false lead (though it did get us another cute girl character, the stressed-out mage who can do illusion magic). Then a real hero does show up, and things go badly very quickly. It’s great to see how the concept of a hero here, in a book essentially narrated by “bad guys”, is that of a fiercely destructive force that none can stand against except the Demon Lord himself. Even more intriguing, there’s clear backstory between the hero and the Demon Lord, apparently involving a woman… but we never really get to find out what it is, except it’s made the hero hell bent on revenge. Actually, I’ll be honest here, I was expecting things to get even MORE dark, but thankfully things got a little better at the end, and Veight gets to go on being the most humble yet awesome vice-commander ever.

This is a pretty long-running series in Japan, so we have a ways to go. This pleases me, as reading these volumes is a treat. I highly recommend Der Werwolf to anyone who enjoys good light novel fantasy without the “light novel” cliches.

Der Werwolf: the Annals of Veight, Vol. 1

By Hyougetsu and Nishi(E)da. Released in Japan by Earth Star Entertainment. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Ningen.

As we’ve been seeing more and more isekai light novels lately, some of them are becoming very casual about the actual reincarnation/teleportation/what have you that gets our Japanese protagonist over to the fantasy world the author really wants to write about. Der Werwolf is an extreme example of this – we never find out much of ANYTHING about Veight, our hero, from before he was reborn in this world. There’s not even a flashback to his death or anything like that. We do see the occasional mention of soy sauce and tea, and this actually turns out to be a pretty interesting plot point later on, but it’s striking how little the author cares about showing Veight adapting to a new world. No, the main reason for the isekai is to show us why Veight is not like other werewolves, and why he’s very suited to be a leader of a military brigade, de facto ruler of a human city, and apprentice to a brilliant (yet stuck as a little girl… sigh) mage. He’s not like other werewolves.

With all that said, the conceit works here, mostly because Der Werwolf is not content to sit back and rest on its isekai laurels: it’s a good story, well-told. It’s not all that original, but that’s not all that important. Veight died and was reincarnated as a werwolf. As an adult, he’s joined his fellow wolves in the Demon Lord’s army, fighting back against humanity, who has hunted most of the demon races to damn near extinction. Veight’s job is to conquer a mid-sized trading village in the South, which he does quickly and relatively painlessly. Indeed, the Viceroy of the city, who is the young woman who’s on the cover because, well, a light novel needs a pretty young woman on it, is impressed and grateful to Veight that he didn’t conquer the city through mass slaughter. The other werewolves are a bit surprised as well – what’s wrong with mass slaughter? But Veight is made of sterner stuff, and wants to spare the conquered humans, not destroy them. This is easier said than done, though.

This is a book that has plot and characterization as its main positives, which is always a good sign. The scenes flow smoothly from one to the next (indeed, the entire book is one long chapter, with a short story at the end of Veight’s youth), and we also occasionally get someone else’s POV of Veight so that we can get the contrast of how he views himself versus what others think of him. Word of warning: this is a light novel, so of course Veight is a clueless harem protagonist. The Viceroy seems to have fallen for him almost immediately, and he also has a “big sister-type” werwolf and a centaur girl added to the mix. He has absolutely no idea, of course. In the end, Der Werwolf actually reminded me a bit of The Faraway Paladin, in that it’s straightforward, not concerned with the Japan the protagonist came from all that much, and the reader comes back because the story is well-told. I’ll definitely be reading more.