The Ideal Sponger Life, Vol. 8

By Tsunehiko Watanabe and Jyuu Ayakura. Released in Japan as “Risou no Himo Seikatsu” by Hero Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by MPT.

The Ideal Sponger Life is doing a pretty good job of trying to strike a balance between fantasy (after all, this is a series with magic and dragons and the like) and realistic political outcomes. And one of the realistic political outcomes that comes up in this volume is Aura having to give up some of her power. This comes in two different ways – the first is appointing her general/rival as military leader, an unfortunate necessity now that she is pregnant with her second child. The second is finally giving in and admitting (and Zenjirou also has to admit this) that Freya has won the battle, and that she is now definitively going to be his first concubine. Ironically, this means that competition for additional concubines is heating up even MORE, as it means that he has a type other than “tall, strong, buxom amazon”, meaning there’s a larger pool of potential nobles stepping up to the plate. Starting with one who is probably going to be on the next few covers.

Freya is on her fourth straight cover, however this is effectively the end of her arc, as she and her crew have now finished repairs, and have to get back home to not-Sweden before the winter arrives there. She’s quite happy with Zenjirou himself, especially the way that he treats her as an equal, which I think she not only finds affirming but also arousing. That said, the heat is something that she’s going to have to get used to, and we see her and Skaji suffering through a typical “blazing season” here. Meanwhile, Nilda has arrived in the capital and needs training in how to be a noble, so ends up being hired as a palace maid – meaning, once again, that the three comedy maids are forced to step up their game and be more mature. As for Zenjirou, he finally masters teleportation – which means another mission to another country.

I must be honest, even if it weren’t for her name making me wonder if she was going to assassinate someone, I don’t think I’d be looking forward to the arrival of Lucrezia Broglie all that much. She’s far younger than his other love interests, and is deliberately being deceptive by pretending to be clumsy and naïve – something that, I suspect, is going to bite her in the ass when she gets to know the real him. Honestly, I’d be far happier with Bona as his next choice, but that does not appear to be happening, possibly as Aura thinks that she and Zenjirou are a bit TOO compatible. I do also wonder if we’re setting up for a throne war in the future – Aura is correct in that she’s going to have to start giving up some of her power, but in a heavily patriarchal society like this one, that’s power she’s likely never going to be able to get back. I worry about them.

All this plus, worst of all, no sex, as Aura is confirmed to be with child. Still, anyone reading this series for sex long since stopped, as I’ve said before. The politics is still first rate.

The Ideal Sponger Life, Vol. 7

By Tsunehiko Watanabe and Jyuu Ayakura. Released in Japan as “Risou no Himo Seikatsu” by Hero Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by MPT.

This is a series that began with the premise that our hero was being isekai’d solely for his ability to breed the queen, hence the now ludicrously inaccurate title. There has been the occasional bout of really good sex over the past six books, though usually we cut away before it happens. That said, as I’ve mentioned before, if you’re reading this book for the sex, find some other series. Or is that true? Let’s face it, The Ideal Sponger Life has pretty much made its reputation on its political wrangling, as Zenjirou has to learn the ins and outs of a world where everyone is trying to get a leg up on everyone else, and one misspoken phrase can lead to disaster. This book is ALL about that sort of situation, and let me tell you, the way Zenjirou resolves it? Is just as good as sex. There is, however, one snag. Aura’s barely in the book, left behind to rule the country and possibly be diagnosed with Baby #2. Hope you like Princess Freya!

Zenjirou is going to be attending a wedding, and since Aura can’t go he’s taking Princess Freya, despite the fact that this helps her case for being his first concubine tremendously. Once there, though, his hospitality is taken care of by the father of the bride’s second daughter, Nilda. Which is all very well and good, but Zenjirou was not told that there was a second daughter… and the records they have back at the palace did not mention it. Nilda is illegitimate, but that’s not the concern, the concern is that the records don’t match up. Fortunately, the wedding itself goes fine. Unfortunately, Nilda, Freya and Skaji spot a knight from a rival nation coming out of a corridor he should not have been in… and the knight denies that he did this. Now Zenjirou is going to have to play detective in order to avoid an international incident.

This is, as many light novels these days are, based on a webnovel. That said, I was startled when I read that the webnovel does not feature Freya at all – she’s not in it. The only other webnovel I know where a major character was created out of whole cloth for the official version is The Saga of Tanya the Evil… which makes it appropriate that the queen’s maid refers to her and Zenjirou’s son as “Carlo Zen”. Pretty sure that’s intentional. As for this book, Zenjirou was pretty damn awesome in it, despite having to talk over and over about how weak and feeble he is as a fighter. I think he realizes by now he’s screwed in regards to Freya, because if nothing else she’s fallen 100% in love with him. Treating a woman as an equal is ALSO as good as sex. And in this case Freya is trying to turn it INTO sex. So far he’s holding out.

Everyone but Aura fans should be happy with this (and given she’s not getting another cover picture till Book 14, they may want to give up). Its title and premise may put readers off, but it’s moved way beyond that.

The Ideal Sponger Life, Vol. 6

By Tsunehiko Watanabe and Jyuu Ayakura. Released in Japan as “Risou no Himo Seikatsu” by Hero Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by MPT.

The idea of “You have to take a concubine for political reasons” has been around since the start of the series, but Zenjirou and Aura have been deftly avoiding it by essentially being in the “honeymoon” stage of their relationship. Now, however, she’s had a son and they’re trying for another child (trying an awful lot in this book, though as always there’s nothing explicit) and the murmurs are getting louder. Lots of factions are arranging to have their daughters be what is essentially Wife #2. That said, it is still something of a surprise when Princess Freya does the equivalent of a public proposal to him at her introductory event. Indeed, it’s a surprise to Freya’s group as well, particularly her bodyguard Skaji. They’d have been less surprised if they looked at future cover art for this series: The Ideal Sponger Life has 14 volumes out in Japan so far, and Freya features on more covers than Aura. She’s absolutely here to stay. That said, politics…

Negotiating Zenjirou’s emotional state is also an important part of this volume. We’ve seen how he is mostly a very kind, accepting person (indeed, the main reason Freya moves so quickly is that she realizes that if she becomes his concubine she’ll still have some power, as he’s not a sexist like most of this society) but that doesn’t mean that he’s happy with everything that’s happening. Taking another woman into his bed seriously bothers him (it doesn’t happen here, and it’s implied won’t for several books – negotiations, etc.) but he sees why it’s very politically advantageous for their nation. It’s a matter of sucking it up and dealing with it, unfortunately. Which is possibly why Aura basically decides the best way to pacify him for the moment is “lots of sex”. Still, at least he now has his goats, which means he can make CHEESE! And chocolate, more importantly.

The maids are also here at the end of the book, of course. Indeed, their presence is slowly starting to intersect with the main plot, as one of the older maids is married off to the middle management noble we saw in the previous book, and her two fellow maids are also called back home by their families to marry, meaning there’s a need for new trainees. Naturally, our three “wacky” maids are not being called home to marry just yet (and we are forcibly reminded that they are from noble families, something fairly easy to forget), but they do now have to act as teachers to the new girls – and it can be especially difficult given that Zenjirou is nothing like other guys that might need maids. There’s less comedy schtick here than usual, and it’s implied that the three maids are – slowly – growing up. I wonder how long they’ll be in the cast.

So with Freya added to the mix, I assume that we need to head back to fantasy Scandinavia soon, but Zenjirou has to learn more magic to do that without it taking years. And what of Bona, the other really obvious concubinal candidate? If nothing else, you know the next volume will have lots of extended discussion about it.

Also, the cover art is hilarious to me. “Sure, Aura’s got big tits, but check out THIS!” (twerks)