I Shall Survive Using Potions!, Vol. 8

By FUNA and Sukima. Released in Japan as “Potion-danomi de Ikinobimasu!” by K Lanove Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Hiroya Watanabe.

Been a while, hasn’t it? There was about an 18-month gap between books 7 and 8 in Japan, and that’s about what we got here as well. The reason for that, of course, is that the author does about eight different things at once. There are still new volumes of Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average coming out every 3-4 months, and Saving 80,000 Gold in Another World for My Retirement has also reached its 8th book. Plus there’s been the saving 80K Gold anime, which is currently running and seems to have offended fans of the books far less than the MMAA anime did. In fact, the one thing that we haven’t seen yet is a big crossover between the three series. We are, sadly, unlikely to see it either, as Mile and friends are Square Enix people, while Mitsuha and Kaoru are Kodansha. Still, there’s a way around this. If you can’t have the three series cross over directly, just have the Potion cast cosplay as the other two series!

Now that all three of the KKR team are reincarnated and together again, it’s time to advance Kaoru’s very vague plan, which mostly involves expanding her business while also having the three of them makes names for themselves (in disguise). Reiko will go to an adventurer’s guild and show off her amazing coin cutting skills (or at least cheat her way through), which may sound very similar to Mavis in Make My Abilities Average!. Kyoko will go to a nearby city and start her own business, selling useful items and having everyone think she’s a noble’s daughter in a way that is clearly nothing like the protagonist of Saving 80K Gold at all. As for Kaoru, she’s trying to get her alter ego to be thought of as a saint, which mostly involves going around healing people and being very humble about it. That said, she’s trying to do a better job about this than she did the first time around.

This book can get very meta – Kaoru explicitly calls the first six volumes (before she was “killed”) Season One here, though I’d argue that Potion Girl 7-8 are more a soft reboot than anything else. The joke throughout the book is that each of the three girls sees themselves as the sensible one trying to hold back the impetuous madness of the others, but they’re all exactly the same deep down. This shows itself best with Kaoru, who, after setting Kyoko up with a nice quiet business and telling her NOT to go on a rampage, goes on her own rampage when she discovers that one business she was working with is using a family power struggle to replace everyone and take over Kaoru’s business. Naturally, this calls for revenge. But not the sort of revenge that the other girls would do. Different, more genteel revenge. (That said, having seen Kaoru go off in previous books, this is very mild by her standards.)

The ninth volume is due out in Japan this month, so we should not have as long a wait till the next book. Till then, enjoy the most hardcore FUNA series, where anything can happen.

I Shall Survive Using Potions!, Vol. 7

By FUNA and Sukima. Released in Japan as “Potion-danomi de Ikinobimasu!” by K Lanove Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Hiroya Watanabe.

After essentially rebooting the series last volume, possibly the biggest surprise here is how little Kaoru has to survive using potions. They come up a few times, notably when some of the cast need to be healed ASAP, but they aren’t the running gag of “make me an ‘x’ that’s really a potion bottle’ that they used to be. Mostly her abilities have become similar to Mile’s Storage, which is to say she can whip out transport or food when needs must. This is not to say that she’s just sitting around and doing nothing however; she and Reiko are getting a business off the ground, using their two new ex-orphans as employees, and there’s also the occasional muttering about finding a husband, though even Kaoru seems to have realized it won’t happen as long as she looks that young. Indeed, most of the first quarter of the book is about starting the business… and Kaoru finding loopholes to avoid paying taxes. Then they go looking for more employees…

Kaoru, of course, always seems to think that she can disguise her absolutely ludicrous abilities and just be an average, everyday businesswoman, and Reiko seems to be going along with this. Both of them seem to have forgotten what happened 70-odd years ago, and how Kaoru was literally enshrined into myth and legend. The running gag for this book, which is quite amusing, is how all of the young kids working for her know who she is but try not to say anything because she’s clearly avoiding the subject… even as she once again does something that only the legendary Kaoru could do. Speaking of the kids, this is a fantasy world isekai, so I will warn there is a lot of child labor here. That said, they’re paid well, and it’s an improvement on the virtual slavery they were stuck with before. As with Kuma Bear, you’re supposed to regard it as heartwarming.

The other subplots in the book feature Leia, another goddess who has essentially come down to Kaoru’s country so she can see why Celes is so fascinated with it. For the most part, she acts like a somewhat naive ojou, but there’s a very nice scene at the end of the book where she starts to realize what living actually means, and it’s well-handled. The other big event, right at the end of the book, is Kyoko’s arrival, the third of the “KKR” trio from Japan. As far as I can tell, the rule of thumb of their lives in Japan was that, while Kaoru threatened her way out of trouble, and Reiko blackmailed her way out of trouble, Kyoko seems to have simply gotten into trouble – she’s presented so far as a bit of a fluffhead. She shows up in a UFO, as her ability is to be able to create literally any ship – sadly, she can’t create crew for these ships, so she’s reduced to crafts that can be used by one person. She promises to add even more chaos.

For those who miss the old supporting cast, there is a brief after story showing what Francette and Roland are up to… and the answer is “raising kids so powerful that no one can defeat them, along with a Red Sonja-esque desire to marry only someone who can defeat them”. Still, while this wasn’t as world-shattering as the last book, it was a good solid volume.

I Shall Survive Using Potions!, Vol. 6

By FUNA and Sukima. Released in Japan as “Potion-danomi de Ikinobimasu!” by K Lanove Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Hiroya Watanabe.

Word of warning first, it is impossible to review this volume without spoiling the biggest parts of it, as the plot IS the spoiler. So reader beware!

Nothing makes my jaw drop quite like a volume of I Shall Survive Using Potions!, and this one made me do it even more than usual. I mean, it starts out normally. There’s a civil war going on in the kingdom next door, and the first prince (the one who’s stalking… erm, crushing on Kaoru) has had to go into hiding, while the arrogant and dimwitted second prince is now in power, held up by the evil bishops who have managed to escape from their religious dictatorship and insinuate themselves here. Kaoru is not particularly interested in helping the stalker prince, nor does she feel any need to protect Roland and Francette’s kingdom. Instead, she feels that this is her war and she’s the one who’s going to put an end to all of it. This goes quite well at first… until she’s killed off brutally.

The cover deliberately has a feel of “this is the final volume, please enjoy the author’s next work”, let’s face it. Now, this is NOT the final volume – the 7th book came out recently in Japan – but certainly it’s a big ol’ sea change, with most of the supporting cast thrown out the window. Kaoru is able to escape her deathtrap, but it takes a long time and the help of a long lost friend… and when she gets out, it’s 70 years later. In fact, I was pretty convinced (as was Kaoru) that all of her friends would be dead. That turns out not to be true, thanks mostly to Kaoru’s ludicrous potions, but she also makes a clear decision, now that she’s been essentially killed off and made into a legend, to not go back to her old life, and to seek out a new country to live in far away. It’s a very Kaoru thing to do, and fits her well.

As for the rest of the cast, well, they’re mostly not in it, as you’d expect, though Francette gets a big chance to step up and be the hero, saving the world from the wrath of a furious goddess who has just lost her friend. (I also loved said goddess yelling at Francette for offering up her own life as sacrifice, as if Kaoru would want that either.) The main addition here is Reiko, one of Kaoru’s two friends from Japan. Time apparently passes the same in Japan as it does here, and since it’s 70 years later, the two friends can now reunite (the third is still alive, but presumably will show up soon). Reiko and Kaoru are very similar types, but they also play off each other well, and Reiko is (slightly) more sensible. As for where the story goes from here, well, we’re already adding a whole new cast of waifs nd strays for Kaoru to take in next time.

So yes, time skip, new cast, everything you would NOT expect from FUNA, whose Make My Abilities Average is noted for the stasis of its lead girls. FUNA: Hard Mode continues to reward fans of the author, while possibly appalling those unused to such things.