Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?!, Vol. 9

By FUNA and Itsuki Akata. Released in Japan as “Watashi, Nouryoku wa Heikinchi de tte Itta yo ne!” by Earth Star Novels. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Diana Taylor. Adapted by Maggie Cooper.

I first noticed this with Invaders of the Rokujouma?!, but it can also be applied to many other long-running light novel series: the girl who is on the cover of the book is not necessarily the girl with the most to do within the book. Obviously, Mile always has the most to do, it’s her series, but I can’t help but not that poor Reina and Pauline get far less of the plot here. Indeed, even Mile towards the end fades into the background, as this is very much a book about Mavis and about her strengths and weaknesses, weaknesses that she is starting to have a complex about. Before that, we wrap up the dwarves/orc plot with a tense and pitched battle; Mile and company help out some elf researchers (no, different ones) and once again teach guys not to take advantage of them; and Mile returns to the kingdom that was siccing monsters on others and reminds them not to do it… by dressing in another silly costume.

As I said last time, the Crimson Vow are getting pretty famous, as are their abilities. In particular Mile’s ridiculous storage magic. As such, when they agree to work with another party to guard the elven researchers, the other team assumes Mile will be carrying everything, because she can. This is a bad assumption, especially as the researchers paying them DON’T know about Mile’s abilities (at first). That said, it does show off one of the better aspects of this series – it very much loves putting arrogant men in their place and humiliating them for daring to underestimate or be sexist asses around our heroines. However, if, like several other male teams we’ve seen so far, they learn their lesson and proceed to be good and helpful teammates, then the Crimson Vow lets up and stops the abuse – particularly after the team saves Mavis from certain death.

The back half of the book deals with Mavis’ feelings of inadequacy compared to the rest of the Crimson Vow. Mile is Mile, of course. Reina and Pauline have both gotten brilliant at magic. But there’s only so far you can go with a sword without the dreaded “years of experience” that Mavis doesn’t have. We’ve seen her in the past abusing Mile’s stimulants to give her extra power, and she does so again here, much to Mile’s fury. She also, as the cliffhanger shows us, has a little bit of the chuuni in her, despite being 18 years old – she wants to save the girl and protect her against impossible odds not because it’s the right thing to do, or because she thinks she can win, but because it’s really cool. As intendent, I feel sympathy for Mavis while also laughing at her, and I hope she learns a bit of a lesson in the next book. (Also, stop taking magical steroids!)

A few minor hiccups here and there (there was a pedophilia joke about an orphanage that was simply bad, there’s a “despite being strongly attracted to another woman I’m not gay!” bit, and the section with Mile terrifying the bad kingdom was pretty weak) does not stop this from being another solid entry in this series. go get it.

Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?!, Vol. 8

By FUNA and Itsuki Akata. Released in Japan as “Watashi, Nouryoku wa Heikinchi de tte Itta yo ne!” by Earth Star Novels. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Diana Taylor. Adapted by Maggie Cooper.

It has to be said, our four heroines are getting just a wee bit famous, especially when they return to the area near where they went to hunter’s school. Sometimes this is good, as it means that we don’t have to have quite as many reaction shots of everyone boggling at their OP selves. And sometimes this is bad – for them, at least, as the funniest scene in the entire book as them running up against a guild master who saw their final exam battle way back in the early volumes. And bought the figures. With poses that… seemed cool at the time. Though it may not look like it, our heroines are slowly growing up, and part of that process is looking back on the dumb things you did in your youth and cringing. And nothing hammers this home quite like a figure of you in a dorky pose you thought was really cool being venerated by a creepy middle-aged man.

The book is divided into four large sections. The first has Mile and company returning to her homeland to save the kingdom. The interesting thing here is that, because of Adele’s sheltered upbringing both before and after her mother’s death, no one remembers her very well. So when Mile shows up, she’s actually assumed to be her late mother, literally returning from heaven to help them. (The best part of this is finding out that Mabel, Adele’s mother, was basically the spitting image of her daughter, and was also highly eccentric. Even without the reincarnated memories, Mile would still likely have been Mile.) The invasion is handled relatively easily, and starts up a nice running gag of Pauline and company charging everyone for food and drink that they desperately need. The second section has them returning to base… and immediately setting out again, before they can be married off or otherwise ensnared.

The third section has Mile and company, along with two other hunting parties, helping a group of soldiers battling an infestation of monsters that are sent by the neighboring enemy kingdom. This is probably the weakest section, and drives home the point that our heroes needs stronger enemies or they risk being bored… and having the reader be bored as well. The final section leads to a cliffhanger, and has the Crimson Vow go to a village of dwarves, who are unable to craft their materials anymore as the mountainside is infested with orcs and ogres. Abnormally strong orcs and ogres. This works very well as Mile is genuinely startled by this, and actually encourages everyone to fight their hardest. It promises a strong beginning next time. It also shows off something relatively rare: Mile plans ahead for the village by buying a lot of high-quality alcohol to sell to the dwarves, and… then sells it, despite the lampshading about it being the perfect plan. I was waiting for it to go wrong.

The anime adaptation of the series has now begun, and I hear adds a lot more fanservice. This volume does, like the previous ones, talk about everyone’s breasts more than anyone cares, but other than that (and Mile’s ludicrous Goddess costume) is content to let the characters and humor drive the book. A lot of fun.

Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?!, Vol. 7

By FUNA and Itsuki Akata. Released in Japan as “Watashi, Nouryoku wa Heikinchi de tte Itta yo ne!” by Earth Star Entertainment. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Diana Taylor. Adapted by Maggie Cooper.

I have a bit of a shameful confession to make. I don’t really care that much about the plot of Make My Abilities Average. Well, that’s not true. The girls’ ongoing adventures interest me, and I definitely want to read the 8th book to see Mile going home to where Adele came from. But all the stuff with Gods and millennia-old ancestors and the like kind of put me to sleep. It’s nice that the author wants to show there’s a genuine reason behind Mile getting reincarnated this way, but I feel it’s a bit unnecessary. It doesn’t matter what the religious cultists who kidnap Mile’s favorite catgirl are after, what matters is that they do it and Mile now has to stop them. It also doesn’t help that Mile goes to interrogate the cultists – and thus find out bits of the aforementioned plot – while wearing a school swimsuit, something so mind-bogglingly stupid even the rest of the Crimson Vow ignore it out of pity and just go back to bed.

The book is still funny, though most of the humor can be divided into two parts. The first is funny characters and situati0ons, as you want and expect. The second are scenes that all end with someone saying or doing something overpowered and the rest of the cast saying the equivalent of “Nandeyanen?!”. Boke and tsukkomi humor is clearly very important to the author, and it helps that any of the Vow, not just Mile, can be the boke at times. It does feel a little tiring after a while, though. Mile is also filling her observations with otaku humor as always, including references to Thunderbirds and The Rocky Horror Picture Show that I suspect may have been adapted away from some really, really obscure Japanese thing. We’ve also gotten so used to the cast that some of the funniest moments come when they don’t act as you’d expect, such as Reina becoming all soppy.

It’s not hard to see why Reina does this, though. Hot-tempered and stubborn as she is, she’s also the most “normal” of the Crimson Vow, and it’s wonderful seeing her boggle at the teamwork of the Servants of the Goddess, who are also all women and the same rank as the Vow but get through battles using their meager skills and perfect teamwork, as opposed to our four overpowered idiots just smashing through any obstacle. It’s exactly the kind of hunting party Reina dreamed of before she met Mile, and thus it’s no surprise that she starts to see the leader of the other party as a big sister figure (well, no surprise to us, it certainly surprises the rest of the Vow). The Vow also helps to fend off a very dangerous enemy: Mavis’ family, who want to marry her off. This problem is solved through the simple but hilarious plan of talking up Mile, who is even MORE awesome than Mavis and has even MORE of a noble background. Mavis isn’t too happy about that, though…

The humor might not be as top-tier as it once was, but this is still a lot of fun, and I definitely want to see what comes next.