The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter, Vol. 2

By Meguru Seto and Takehana Note. Released in Japan by Kodansha Lanove Books. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by T. Emerson. Adapted by Cae Hawksmoor.

This continues to be the most McDonald’s of light novels. It’s bad for you, and if you dig into it it’s filled with yucky stuff, but it fills you up fast and tastes yummy, so you don’t care. There is literally nothing in this entire book that will even make you raise an eyebrow in surprise. Our hero’s harem does not expand, but the others all basically do everything but stick their tongue down his throat and he blinks at them in confusion. (Honestly, the best bond he has in this book is with the lion monster he takes in as a pet. And even that has a brief ‘hah, the tulip on his head makes him gay!’ joke that made me grind my teeth.) The little sister is getting to be more like incestuous little sisters in other books. And I suspect the author has a fetish for getting stepped on that is basically showing up as is in this book. And yet… it still reads smooth as silk. Sigh.

A brief summary of things that happen to Noir in this book. He gets a huge pile of money from the noble girl he saved at the end of the last book. As mentioned above, he befriends the dungeon monster (also from the last book) and it essentially becomes his talking dog/mount. He rescues an elf zombie. He gets a midterm exam, which consists of easy, hard, and impossible tasks (pick one. He picks impossible). His guild receptionist faces off against another guild receptionist who uses sex to lure adventurers to her. He rescues a sentient tree from a passel of monsters (said tree takes the form of a little girl, so cue those sorts of jokes). And in the largest story in the book, he helps a village win against a group of thieves that has stolen their women. Oh yes, and then he and the others do the impossible task.

As the previous two paragraph might tell you, this book is still trash. It doesn’t even really get to the level of McDonald’s – it’s more of a Jack-in-the-Box. Noir is the blandest of heroes, who is always ready to help anyone but cannot understand why all these girls get angry at each other around him. This includes a chapter where he’s sick and three of them essentially fasten themselves around his body. Everyone is in love with him: the childhood friend, the elf girl, the receptionist, the little sister, the mentor stuck in the dungeon, his teacher, AND the noble princess. He gains powers by hugging, kissing and other fetishes, but of course will never go farther. And his powers are as OP as anything, but he constantly insists that he’s just lucky. I have expected him to call himself a humble vice-commander.

But it’s easy to read, the girls do actually achieve things that don’t revolve around Noir (sometimes), and its fanservice has drawn its wobbly line in the sand. If you like OP harem series and aren’t picky about anything else? This is right up your street. (It’s trash, though.)

The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter, Vol. 1

By Meguru Seto and Takehana Note. Released in Japan by Kodansha Lanove Books. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Tiva Haro. Adapted by Cae Hawksmoor.

As I was commenting on Twitter about reading this book, I kept calling it “trash”. And it really is. But wait, it’s not actually bad. In fact, you could do far worse than this kind of trash. But – it’s still trash. The lead is a stock light novel hero, the sort referred to these days as “Potato-kun”. He gathers together a group of young women, all gorgeous, all who are either already in love with him or fall for him almost instantly. His powers essentially rewrite reality to a certain extent, and aren’t powered by MP but rather LP, which means he can do more provided he gorges on delicious food, makes love to beautiful women, etc. It’s not actually an isekai (he’s the son of a baronet, and genuinely from this world), but isekais have happened here before, so there’s soy sauce and miso. I was expecting it to hit the plot/character beats that would cause me to groan and drop it in annoyance. But… it didn’t.

Our hero is Noir, and as I mentioned before he’s the son of a Baronet, which means he’s nobility but the lowest rung, meaning nobles don’t give him the time of day. He has a great ability where a voice in his head tells him the solution for any problem… but it gives him crippling pain to use. And the job he had lined up for adulthood was given to a higher noble’s son. All he has is his adoring busty childhood friend who clearly is in love with him but he hasn’t caught on to this. She discovers that the pain of using the skill is lessened by kissing, and this in turn leads him to a dungeon no one has found, and an adventurer who’s been trapped there for 200 years. From there, he’s ready to become an adventurer, go to Hero Academy, save the lives of cursed young ladies, and… yeah, you get the picture. This is trash.

So why is it good? It knows its boundaries, and knows when to push and when not to. For all that his skill is powered up by sexual acts, hugging, lap pillows, and the like usually suffice – the closest this gets to 18-rated is the instructor who decides to reward him by sitting on him. He gets a skill that is called ‘lucky pervert’, and after falling into his friend’s boobs and seeing an old lady’s panties, he quickly rewrites the skill so that it happens ‘very rarely, and never in a serious situation’. For a generic guy, he’s a bit smarter than most (still dense, of course). In one epilogue, he sees a bunch of kids bullying a boy for “hanging out with a girl”, and very quickly tears apart their logic – aside from mentioning Emma’s chest a lot, there’s little of the stock sexism we see in these books. Heck, there isn’t even any slavery (and it makes me sad that this is so rare I’m happy to note it). Even the little sister in love with him is restrained compared to others.

So basically, if you bought the book because you wanted it to be a nice, friendly OP fantasy with a lot of cute girls in a harem, this is a good book to buy. It hits all those buttons, and isn’t appalling. It’s also getting an anime soon, so you get in on the ground floor. It’s trash. Embrace that.