High School Prodigies Have It Easy Even in Another World!, Vol. 3

By Riku Misora and Sacraneco. Released in Japan as “Choujin Koukousei-tachi wa Isekai demo Yoyuu de Ikinuku you desu!” by GA Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Nathaniel Hiroshi Thrasher.

I’m not even sure where to begin. It’s sad that this is a book where our heroes literally fire a nuclear weapon that destroys a stronghold, and yet that isn’t even close to the most appalling thing that happens in it. I am familiar with the light novel cliche where, in order to show that your morally vague heroes are on the side of goodness and niceness, you need to show that the bad guys are evil, raping the virgins and biting the heads off kittens sort of guys so that the audience says “they had it coming” to any punishment they may get. I had thought dropping In Another World with My Smartphone would mean I might see the end of that. And yet here we are. For now, I will merely content myself with saying lobotomies are bad, were historically mostly done on women, and please do not use them as what amounts to a comedy punchline – even if I grant you the author does not want us to find it funny.

Keine’s on the cover, and also gets the biggest fanservice in the book. The plot of this volume mostly involves gearing up for the next steps – trying to get a republic started. Tsukasa does not want him and his geniuses to stay here forever, of course, and knows that a democracy band-aid is not going to cut it. And “the nobles rule, we just serve” is pretty ingrained into the people. More troubling is that they’re running out of penicillin (which Keine and Lyrule take care of, inventing sulfa drugs) and the other nations are starting to want to stop this before it goes too far. And let’s not even get into the fact that the supposed saviors the Blue Brigade are actually mostly bad guys. It’s getting so that he can’t even go out on a note date with the girl who’s crushing on him!

So yes, I could have done without the entire Keine chapter, which seems to simply show off that she’s a sociopath. And, as I noted, we get not one but TWO sets of villains who talk about raping young women. The best chapter in the book, hands down, was Ringo’s date with Tsukasa, and its general tone of “you are already losing to the girl who got the cover of Volume 1, do something or you will not be able to catch up”. The date went well considering Ringo’s extreme introversion (we also learn about her past, which is sort of what I expected) and Tsukasa’s deliberate obliviousness. She also gets the emotional climax, where it’s her turn to remind Tsukasa that he is in fact a real human being who is allowed to feel things, and this time it’s Lyrule who’s on the outside looking in.

That said, in a series about establishing a new political landscape and finding ways to defeat bad guys who seem to be unkillable, the fact that I’m focusing on the love triangle is not a good sign. The High School Prodigies may be having it easy, but they’re giving me trouble.

High School Prodigies Have It Easy Even in Another World!, Vol. 2

By Riku Misora and Sacraneco. Released in Japan as “Choujin Koukousei-tachi wa Isekai demo Yoyuu de Ikinuku you desu!” by GA Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Nathaniel Thrasher.

I really have to hand it to the writer of this series, they know how to keep a reader’s attention distracted. There’s romantic subplots (none of which are going to go anywhere given the nature of Tsukasa, but hey), there’s political intrigue, there’s starting a revolution by starting a religious movement, there’s a big-ass fight (literally in some cases) near the end of the book, and there are even moments of pure horror in a “welcome to our totally average town, weary travelers!” sort of way. And then you get to the end of the book, and you realize that the entire thing was incredibly dumb and full of holes, with one plot getting dropped so fast that I’m concerned my digital book was missing a chapter. Last time I said that this series is popcorn, which is very true. You eat it and enjoy it, but if you want an actual meal, look elsewhere.

Unlike the manga, the light novel covers are allowed to have more than Lyrule on the cover. Here we see Ringo, who doesn’t really do much here besides build power plants and get really jealous of Tsukasa and Lyrule’s relationship. Life is tough when you’re the unlucky childhood friend. The book deals with the aftermath of the coup that has happened. There’s a lot still to achieve. They need to figure out a way to unite the people regardless of class. They need to figure out ways to keep up their modernizations. And they need to worry about the neighboring Duke, who is made entirely of fury and condescension, and also has a magic firebomb that can take out a city. Even Shinobu, who is traveling towards the capital to try to get the lay of the land, runs into trouble when she gets to a village that is glad to eat her — I mean, meet her.

I will say one thing, which is that the book’s message of “the rich hate everyone else and will happily watch them die purely for entertainment” is a very 2020 mood, even if the book was written five years earlier. It tries to distinguish between “normal” nobles who are just rude assholes and “evil” nobles who are doing things like raping and murdering, but it doesn’t quite get it. Shinobu’s subplot is good and also quite dark… but then gets resolved so fast, and dropped so hard, that, again, I worried a section was missing. And then there’s Aoi, who in the grand finale volunteers to help a guided missile reach its target (a magic spear of fire) by running along side it… then hitting it with her “honed glutes” to get it to change course… then smashing her “sizable breasts” against the missile’s air vents to get it to change course AGAIN. The scene is so dumb your jaw drops, and sexist as hell, but you have to admire the bravado of writing it at all. I imagine this must have been something to see animated.

So yeah, this book is dumb but highly readable, provided you are not troubled by plot, or characterization, or thematic unity, or overt fanservice.

High School Prodigies Have It Easy Even in Another World!, Vol. 1

By Riku Misora and Sacraneco. Released in Japan as “Choujin Koukousei-tachi wa Isekai demo Yoyuu de Ikinuku you desu!” by GA Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Nathaniel Thrasher.

There are series where you want to concentrate hard on the worldbuilding, characterization, and moral quandaries. And then there are series that you want to read like popcorn, where you are not in the mood to think hard about anything. If you want one of the latter, then this new LN series is right up your alley. Thinking too hard about anything going on in this first volume, from its questionable “heroes” to its tendency, as with so many other light novels, to have its villains be the worst of the worst in so many ways, to its annoying White Man’s Burden viewpoint of isekai, you will probably end up finding this series quite annoying, especially as I don’t think it’s doing anything interesting with any of those issues. If you just sit back and enjoy the isekai candy and cool fights/schemes, then it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Check your brain at the door.

The gimmick here is that it’s an isekai times seven. Seven of Japan’s most powerful people, who are all teenagers and all friends, are swept away while on a plane trip to another world. We meet stereotypical samurai Aoi, morally terrifying doctor Keine, cowardly magician Prince, introverted inventor Ringo, arrogant businessman Masato, Prime Minister of Japan (in high school) Tsukasa, and “journalist” Shinobu, whose specialty is really being a ninja. Some of these are, obviously, more important than others in this first book, which focuses on Masato (in this volume) and Tsukasa (likely for all of them, he seems the “primary hero” sort). We also get Lyrule, who is the elf who is on the cover. She’s sweet, has a mysterious past, has a great figure, and she and Tsukasa bond almost immediately. In any case, this book focuses on them settling in with the village that rescued them and saving it from the local nobles, who are Very Bad Guys.

The author is also the writer of Chivalry of a Failed Knight, which is for magic academies what this is for overpowered isekai. Which is to say, the author wants to play in a fantasy world playground. There’s lots of ridiculous fun in this, from Ringo being able to build a nuclear power plant from scratch in about three months to Masato taking down the monopolistic trade company in the space of ONE DAY, to basically everything Shinobu says or does. (Who are secret ninja always named Shinobu?) We get a sense that each of the prodigies has their own tragic past – Tsukasa revealing his own father’s embezzlement leads to abandonment by his mother, and Masato’s father killed himself due to lack of money. I’m sure more will come in later volumes. And there’s also a lot of fun action sequences here as well, mostly due to Aoi, who is so terrifying bears run away from her, but also Tsukasa, who turns out to be well-protected against assassin’s bullets no matter what the world.

This series will, I anticipate, always be ethically suspect and have a tendency to fall apart if you look at it closely. But I had fun reading it, and will definitely get the 2nd book.