Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?!, Vol. 15

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

As many have noticed by now, this author really, really loves playing around in isekai tropes and cliches, and the more cliched the better – in fact, it comes as a surprise in this series when it ISN’T the cliche. When they’re investigating a local noble, you can guarantee that he is going to be a scummy noble who treats those he’s responsible for like crap, because scummy nobles are just what isekais do. (This is not unique to FUNA – Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear has similar ideas, though subverts them more often.) It doesn’t help that isekai’d Mile tends to regard this world as a giant bucket list full of things she wants to do, and most of this volume happens because she’s desperate to find a village of beastmen… mostly so that she can pet the little beastgirls. Let’s face it, FUNA is also not afraid to show that Mile can be creepy a lot of the time.

Mile and company start off by having a meeting with the Elder Dragons, which ends up being short on information but long on nail art. We then get the bulk of the book, as Mile really, really wants to find a beastman village, despite the fact that most beastmen are NOT like Lenny but are actually very wary of humans… and we see why when they get to the village, only to find that some of the village’s children have been kidnapped! Unfortunately, this is not a mission the Crimson Vow an take on officially… fortunately, Mile can get in touch with the Crimson Blood, who coincidentally look, act, and are the same as the Crimson Vow! But they’re not on the clock. Now it’s up to our heroines to investigate the kidnappings, which are genuinely happening, but also where each kidnapped girl ended up, which… does not go quite as expected.

So word of warning here, if you’re the sort who avoids slavery in your isekai books… well, first of all, you must read very few isekai books, but secondly, this book delves deeply into the nitty gritty of slavery in this world. It’s illegal officially, except in the “I am broke and enslave myself to pay off my debts” way, but unofficially it’s definitely around. Two of the three kidnapped girls are indeed either being worked to death for no money or imprisoned and in the process of being sold abroad. Mile and the others have no issues destroying the ones responsible. Sometimes, though, kidnapping can actually be a way out. When you’re a girl in a backwater village expected to marry a guy from the same village, which is a very misogynist one… honestly, getting taken in by the local evil noble ends up sounding like a pretty good deal. Especially if the noble, like Mile, has a taste for the fluff. Make My Abilities Average has always had an undercurrent of “sexism is everywhere, and it’s terrible”, and we even see it in a slavery plotline here.

The book ends with the Crimson Vow off to check the last item on Mile’s list… visiting a demon village. Will this advance the plot? Are we getting towards the end of the series? Who knows? But pretty good stuff.

Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?!, Vol. 14

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

It’s been a while since we last had the adventures of Mile and company in front of us. Most of the reason for this is that the series got a new publisher in Japan, Square Enix, which necessitated renegotiating the license for the series, which takes time. But now, a mere 16 months after the last book, we have a new volume of the series. Perhaps sensing that this was a chance to show off why the series was picked up by a larger publisher, the author has decided to get slightly more serious than usual this time around. Oh, not to worry, there’s still plenty of “Mile does OP stuff” and fourth wall breaking, it’s just that the volume as a whole seems to want to go back to the main plot of the series, the one it usually ignores for books on end. It’s going to get harder to ignore from now on, though, as there are portals opening from another world.

That said, we have another plot to get through first. The Crimson Vow are hired as escorts/bodyguards… supposedly… to take Clairia and her fellow elves back to their village. The reason turns out to be trickier than that, as they wanted the Vow to distract from what turns out to be a “get married already” meeting set up by the village. This involves a lot of inbred misogyny, and the Vow quickly take matters into their own hands. The Guild then hires them to investigate a nearby kingdom, where things are just going… slightly worse than usual. For no stated reason. Mile is the perfect person to figure out what’s really going on… robots are making portals to their world from another world and sending in stronger, smarter monsters to take out the adventurers!

The elf stuff was not as good as the rest of the book, mostly depending on “ha ha, it’s funny because elf men are lolicons” and a heaping helping of “women should stay in the village and breed more elves”. The latter, to be fair, the narrative rips apart with its bare hands, and indeed one of the main themes of the entire series has been “you don’t have to get married immediately”. The second part is more setup for the next few books, made more amusing by Mile literally sacrificing some of her nanos to a portal to another world just to get information, and their irritated response. We also see that the Crimson Vow are a mature, powerful, respected team… but only in their own lands, and when they go elsewhere, or when their intelligence is disseminated by the Crown, it still has an air of “these are stupid kids, why should we care?” to it. Mike needs to become more famous, and not just as an author.

This is a good, not great book, with the series’ usual flaws. But it also has the series’ usual strengths as well, and fans should be pleased.

Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?!: Lily’s Miracle

By Kousuke Akai and Itsuki Akata, based on the novels by FUNA. Released in Japan as “Watashi, Nouryoku wa Heikinchi de tte Itta yo ne!: Lily no Kiseki” by Earth Star Novels. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Diana Taylor. Adapted by Maggie Cooper.

Like a lot of readers who first saw this spinoff announced, I was a bit confused. I thought it would be about one of the many side characters we’ve seen along Mile’s journey, and indeed thought it was about the young princess who needed a balanced diet in order to not die (her name is similar to Lily’s). But no, it’s nothing like that.l Instead we have a (mostly) new cast, in the same world that we know of. The Crimson Vow briefly show up at the start, and Mile jump-starts the plot, but otherwise they are entirely absent. Which is fine, really, as it allows us to truly focus on Lily. As with Mile, she’s a former noble with a lack of common sense due to circumstances. Also as with Mile, she has a truly ludicrous amount of magical power on hand. Unlike the childish Mile, though, Lily is a literal child.

Lily Lockwood is the oldest daughter of the local margrave. Unfortunately, she was born deaf, and so has been hidden by her family and quietly ignored. Then one day bandits arrive and attack the family, who vanish… with the exception of Lily, who is hidden in a cupboard by a kindly (?) maid. After emerging, she’s pretty much starving to death when the Crimson Vow come upon her. The girls give her food and water. Then Mile sneaks back in the night to cure her hearing… by giving her a bunch of nanos. Readers of the previous books likely know where this is gonna go. Now Lily is trying to make her way in the world, find allies and money to put food on the table, and also perhaps find her missing family. And all she has going for her is magic that is so strong it can destroy the local landscape.

This side story is not by FUNA, and it shows. Not that this is a bad thing – it’s quite a strong story, and I very much enjoyed it. But with a few exceptions, stupid comedy is mostly absent from this book, and it takes Lily seriously. I was impressed that Mile’s curing of Lily’s deafness did not magically allow her to suddenly hear and understand conversation properly or speak, though she does eventually get past that. Some of Lily’s feats, such as creating 30 fireballs that are almost the literal sun, show us that this author has been doing their homework in terms of the chaos Mile + nanos can bring. But Lily’s 9-year-old POV makes it both more innocent and also multitudes more terrifying, as she’s never been taught magic so does not know how to use only a tiny bit… or turn it off. There’s also a great supporting character in Lafine, the classic “cynic with a heart of gold” who winds up, as the cover might suggest, getting dragged around by her young charge.

I’m not sure if Lily will get another side story, but we may see her show up in the main series. That would be fun. Till then, this is an action-filled, somewhat emotional entry in the Make My Abilities Average series, with a spunky and likeable heroine.