The Ideal Sponger Life, Vol. 14

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.

And so the author has finally achieved his dreams. We’re 14 volumes into a series that began with the idea that our hero was being isekai’d solely to impregnate a queen for the sake of the country, and he never would have to do anything else. Now, 14 volumes later, the sex is basically absent, there’s not even any action in this volume, and the entire book is devoted to political wrangling, all of which needs to be done by Zenjirou, because Aura can’t exactly go gallivanting all over the world. We are now finally in complete, 100% opposition to the title of the series. Fortunately, in this case that’s a good, thing. The worldbuilding is stepping up its game, and we’re also (finally!) seeing a lot of Aura in this volume, and seeing how she is stating to deal with Freya now that she’s married to Zenjirou and living in the same palace. It actually goes pretty smoothly, though now that Freya has gotten her man her eccentricity is more pronounced than ever.

Everyone is back in Capua, at least for the moment. That said, there’s a lot still to do. Lucretia is still trying to become Zenjirou’s second concubine, and while she’s changed her approach to be more mild, she still doesn’t really get him, and does not understand why “I have no actual wants or needs beyond what you have for me” is a bad thing. Aura, meanwhile, hears a secret from the Twin Kingdoms that is potential dynamite – they were once part of the White Empire, long long ago. And there’s a high chance that some people still hold a grudge about it. This is also stunning news for Freya, who realizes that she may have accidentally gotten her little Northern country involved in a massive global conflict by her marriage. And then Zenjirou gets a very odd invitation…

There’s some very funny jokes in this book, most of them involving Freya. Having seen in the previous book that she is thought of in her own country as “that out of control lunatic”, we get to experience a bit of that here, with her having to be literally dragged away from the fridge in Zenjirou and Aura’s room and also declaring that she’s moving in with them when she sees the air conditioner. (Aura says no, sorry, threesome fans.) There’s also her twin brother, who is basically her as a man, and this is emphasized by the color artwork, showing each of them throwing the exact same tantrum when being told they can’t do something they really want to do. Mostly, though, this book is setup for the next major arc. Zenjirou is at a point where he has to accept Lucretia as a concubine, but it makes him unhappy, which will not help anything. And then there’s his mystery invitation. The next book should be really exciting.

Hrm? What’s that? We’re caught up? It’s been over two years since the last book in Japan? Ah well.

The Ideal Sponger Life, Vol. 13

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.

As I’ve mentioned before, this series was originally a webnovel, which ended around the events of the 4th book. Then it became a light novel series, Freya was added to the mix starting with Book 5, and has, frankly, become the main female lead. Sorry, Aura, you just aren’t in this series enough to count anymore. Even in this book, her role consists mostly of either finding out about stuff and telling other people about stuff. Now, to be fair, in this volume Freya does not exactly perform great feats, though you could argue that convincing her family to let her marry Zenjirou counts as one. She is part of the best moments of the book, though, as she has to confess to everyone how this marriage came about – which is this society of fantasy feudalism, is the equivalent of walking up to a married man and saying “I’m down, wanna bang?”. The reactions of everyone else to this news is hilarious, and worth the price of the book alone.

Freya and Zenjirou finally arrive in Uppasala, and get ready to inform the royal family of their betrothal. This goes about as well as you’d expect. That said, Zenjirou revealing that he has the power to teleport shuts up a number of people, and leads to a deal: if Zenjirou can take the traditional coming of age rite that everyone does and succeed, he will earn the right to ask for Freya’s hand. Since Zenjirou is, to put it mildly, not a physical powerhouse, everyone finds this hilarious. They find it a lot less so after they realize exactly how he’s going to win – even if it does end up taking a lot of physical labor as well. As for the other members of the family, the first prince is sent to Capua, there to meet with Aura – but, more importantly, to have a test of strength with Pujol. As for the second Prince, Yngvi, he’s basically Freya, only a guy. No, really, they’re twins.

There’s a lot of good humor in this book. Zenjirou’s plan to survive getting to the hunting site for the coming of age rite is hilarious and also something we should have seen coming. Eric’s reaction to Aura describing Freya arriving in Capua is also highly amusing, as is Pujol’s reaction on seeing the sword that was given to Aura as a gift by Uppasala. There are a few plot points that could carry over to the next volume, such as the fact that Margarette the maid seems to have secret parentage, and the ongoing war between the deeply religious church knights and the less religious rest of the continent. So far the holy wars seem very one sided against the holy, to be frank. And yes, Zenjirou and Freya are now married, and he goes off to spend the wedding night with her – which we do not see. We don’t even get a kiss. They snuggle a bit. These books are now the opposite of horny.

That said, we come to the end of this arc. And good news for Aura fans, the next cover has her on it… and also Freya, because hey, she’s the lead character now. Should start a new arc, though, which is fantastic news provided the series hasn’t ground to a halt in Japan or anything…

The Ideal Sponger Life, Vol. 12

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.

You don’t see it quite as much these days, but, especially in the 1970s and 1980s, there was a thing called a “backdoor pilot”. The creators had a show they wanted to get on television, but knew it did not quite have the pull with the networks to get it there on its own. So what would happen is that you’d be watching, say, The Golden Girls, and the episode would instead be devoted almost entirely to a new cast, with the members of The Golden Girls basically serving as a cameo. (See: Empty Nest, as I’m using a real example). Now, sometimes this did not work, and what you ended up with was one of the characters of your hit show meeting a whole group of people, introducing all their plot points and characters, and then we simply never see them again. I mention this because boy, this 12th volume of The Ideal Sponger Life sure seems like it’s a backdoor pilot to show off adventures here in not-Poland.

Freya, Zenjirou and company are making their way slowly back to Uppasala, but they can’t just said there on a non-stop boat ride. So they dock for a few days in the country of Złota Wolność, which is sort of like what Poland would be if it was France. There they try to relax, but are almost immediately caught up in something, as a young orphan boy has big news to tell the priest who came to his (now destroyed) village a year or so ago, and in order to see the priest, he needs people with clout. People like Zenjirou. What they find is that the port is about to be invaded, and they’ll need to rally forces to have a hope of fending it off. Fortunately, they have a royal on their side, who drops in – literally – to help them. Naturally, this has the added benefit of helping her own fight for the throne…

In many ways, The Ideal Sponger Life also reminds me a lot of Bookworm, in that Zenjirou and Rozemyne both seem to casually upend everyone’s lives without even realizing it. I imagine that Aura, like Sylvester, is going to be rubbing her head to ward off the migraine when she hears about what happened. Honestly, Zenjirou does quite well here given the circumstances – despite his “I’m just an ordinary vice-commander… erm, royal consort” talk, he’s quick enough to spot that Anna has an ulterior motive behind all of this. Unfortunately, he and Freya are not quite quick enough to pick up on how she plans to draw them into it, though this will affect Freya more than it does the Southern Continent. There’s also some very interesting history dropped into the conversation at a party which ties in to Francesca’s people, though given that she stated she won’t talk about it till they return to Capua, it may have to be put on the back burner.

All in all, the most inaccurately titled light novel ever continues to trundle along, even as this volume feels like it wants to be the start of some other series set in the same world. Next time we should actually reach Freya’s homeland.