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.

I Shall Survive Using Potions!, Vol. 5

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.

The series that makes me eat my words on a regular basis is back, and it continues to be the most FUNA series out there. Make My Abilities Average! may be more popular and have the anime, but this is straight no chaser stuff, with Kaoru, perhaps hearing me say last time that she was getting more normal, breaking out the personality traits that caused the 2nd volume to scare me so much. As with other works by the author, the attitude extends to every other woman she’s met (men are immune, with Emile being an exception), as Francette is eager to use her sword to remove limbs at the slightest excuse, Emile and Belle are perfectly trained freedom fighters, and even Mariel, the victim in the last book whose family were all killed off by an evil guy, we now find has the combination of being the head of the family, a friend of the Goddess, and the ability to talk to animals still being around has making her terrifying. Kaoru is not alone.

Theoretically Kaoru is still looking for a husband, though again the fact that she perpetually looks like a twelve-year-old is pretty much a nail in the coffin that she chooses to ignore. In reality, she’s settled in at this coastal city, happily selling her knick-knacks. Sadly, the world has caught up to her, as folks from her previous countries are investigating her shop to see if she is the Angel o the Goddess after all, and disguises and denial can only confuse them for so long. Then Layette decides, and not without cause, that she’s become too spoiled, and wants to go out without Kaoru sometimes. While this starts out as an amusing story showing off the overprotectiveness of everyone around her, it goes south fast when more goons arrive to kidnap Layette, and they’re not above nearly killing her orphan friends to do so. Honestly, after this, helping Mariel avoid getting married is a relaxing jaunt by comparison.

As with the second book, the 5th book revolves around a scene that makes you rear back a bit, layette’s attempted kidnapping. She had befriended several orphan kids earlier when exerting her independence (which I suspect is now gone, sadly) unleashes the fury of both Francette and Kaoru, Francette in particular as she was briefly away from guard duty using the necessary when this happened and curses her bodily functions. Kaoru is perfectly happy to torture bandits and hired goons to get the answers she needs, to the point where Francette cuts their arms off and Kaoru says she can reattach them… if they cough up info. It’s seriously terrifying, and reminds you what a loose cannon she is compared to Mile or Mitsuha. The latter half of the book ties all these plots together, as Kaoru discovers that those behind the kidnapping are the priests from the religious country she helped destroy. So she and her gang are headed back to the place where she began, this time hopefully with fewer cure-all medicines.

Make no mistake about it, this is still primarily funny. Indeed, it’s the humor that makes the rage and fury all the more jarring. It’s also hinted that Mariel, who regards Kaoru more as a god than as an angel, is perfectly happy to solve Kaoru’s relationship issues in yuri ways, though I doubt the book is going that way – FUNA tends to avoid romance in general. If you can stomach a lot of torture of bad guys, Potion Girl is still your go to source for the darker side of the overpowered little girl story.