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.

Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?!, Vol. 6

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.

By the time this volume came out from Earth Star Entertainment, the author already had two other series coming out at the same time via a larger publisher – I Shall Survive Using Potions! and Saving 80,000 Gold in Another World for My Retirement are both Kodansha books. Despite that, this is obviously the “flagship” series. I mention it because in my review of the first Potions book I mentioned that Kaoru was a lot more selfish and morally ambiguous than our sweet, lovable Mile. Which is still… mostly true? I have to say, at times it feels like Mile has sort of lost any of the few restraints that she may have had in the series previously. It’s hard to tell, mostly because Mile had so few restraints, but the chapter with the fairies especially almost features Mile in villain mode. It’s weird. I like Mile sort of sweet and cartoonishly overpowered.

Having featured Adele on the cover of the first book, and Mile on the 4th, we now get Misato on the 6th. She’s the subject of one of the short extras after the main storyline, where we meet her family and learn what she was like before her death that sent her to the world we know. It’s a very interesting chapter, and pretty much distracted me from the rest of the book. Misato’s parents are such old-school otaku that they have a reinforced house to hold the weight of all their manga/VHS tapes/games. And Misato takes after them 100% in terms of her media consumption. That said, Misato is also socially awkward to the nth degree – if it weren’t for her little sister she’d have trouble functioning. The description of her (perfect in school, perfect in athletics, no one wants to get close to her) reminds me a lot of Ran the Peerless Beauty, a shoujo manga I recently reviewed. The text also mentioned Misato has partial face blindness, which I really liked seeing as you rarely see that come up in any fiction. The story shows us that it’s the “Adele” part of Mile that has the extroverted personality, and the “Misato” part is the one with the otaku leanings and the brains.

Speaking of which, one of the stories in this book features a pun so bad that Mile has to lampshade it immediately lest the reader not realize just how bad it is. (You have to know your old robot shows.) The Crimson Vow run rampant through this book, defeating a party of demons, exploring ancient factories, curing a princess of her terminal illness (which turns out to be “she’s a picky eater” and also involves my 2nd favorite moment, when Mile’s overenthusiastic nanomachines invent multivitamins), and running into another all-female hunter team who are rather annoyed that their marriage prospects have suddenly plummeted now that the better-in-every-way Vow have come along. This series is very episodic, so for every clunker of a chapter (one chapter seems to involve Mile being the only one who realizes incest is wrong) there’s another fun one down the road (the other three Vow members trying to live for a few days without Mile, and realizing just how dependent on her they are).

I hear this is getting an anime soon, and you can see why. Each volume reminds you how much fun this is, and also how ridiculously overpowered Mile is. I hope the series survives cranky anime fans yelling about her. It should.