In Another World with My Smartphone, Vol. 7

By Patora Fuyuhara and Eiji Usatsuka. Released in Japan as “Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni” by Hobby Japan. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Andrew Hodgson.

This s another volume of Isekai Smartphone, with all that that entails; the work is almost review-proof, as no one would be reading Vol. 7 of this series without knowing exactly what it’s like. The main cast continues to have the depth of tissue, but I think depth might actually hurt the series more than it helps. No one wants to see Touya angst and brood about what he is becoming. Is he god? Is he man? Who cares? He can build the Great Wall of China, or its fantasy equivalent, in six days. (One presumes that on the seventh day, he rested.) He can also tell us about his little known piano lesson backstory, which allows him to build a piano (grand, of course) so that he can bring out Sakura’s hidden singing talent. No one reads Smartphone to see Touya be dull. Well, I mean, he is fundamentally dull, but you know what I mean. He doesn’t do dull things. Smartphone is rarely boring in that respect.

There’s one new character, but for the most part what we get in this book are characters we briefly saw previously returning for a more expanded role, starting with Hilde, the knight that Touya saved in the previous book. She’s since fallen head over heels for him, and upon hearing of his more recent exploits (more on that later) goes to see if she can be his knight… and his bride. Of course, then she meets Yae, who is also a fantastic swordswoman and already married to Touya, and realizes that there’s no way she can be anything but a carbon copy. (She gets her “shy tomboy” personality more from Elze.) Fortunately, who Touya loves is not really his own decision, mostly as he’s so kind and easygoing to everyone. And so his “Bride Council” decide that she’s acceptable. And so she’s bride #7. Two more slots! That said, Pam, the Amazon woman also from a previous book, will not be getting into the harem. She doesn’t love Touya, the one big requirement. She just wants his babies.

We also get the Goddess of Love, who has come down from heaven supposedly to look for an errant God, but mostly to mess with Touya’s love life. She declares that she’s his older sister Karen, and the rest of the cast, who Touya still hasn’t told anything about his past, accept it relatively easily. She’s the classic “slightly immature big sister” type, happily dishing out advice (some of which is actually good!) and also dishing dirt, as she’s fully aware of Touya’s life on Earth before he was killed. We also get his *other* older sister, the Goddess of Swords, who we hadn’t met before but who seems to fit in quite well. She’s great at tactics and combat analysis, but less so at other socialization. As for Touya himself, it’s brought up that he’s becoming a God himself, something he tries not to think about too much. Given the occasional flashes of rage he gets whenever someone hurts one of his fiancees, I’d be worried if I weren’t sure the author was absolutely not going to go there.

As for the plot, the book is essentially divided into three. The first part deals with a massive invasion by the Phrase, far bigger than anything we’d seen before. Fortunately, Touya now has a bunch of Gundams that he can use in the battles, and a large quantity of people trained to use them. He also has Ende, who leaps into his own Gundam clone faster than you can say Kaworu Nagisa. Ende may not do much other than exposit and run, but I’m still amused by him. That said, the Phrase are essentially just bugs, as Touya himself says. We need a more obvious villain, because what’s Smartphone without the bad guys being OVER THE TOP EEEEEEEVIL! And so we get the Nation of Yulong, which is a stand-in for a Nation here on Earth that should be obvious. The word “bashing” applies liberally here, as the Yulong Nation prove to be scummy in every possible way. The rest of the book is more sedate, as the second part is Hilde’s Bride Introduction, and the third has a tournament arc, as Touya won’t sire Pam’s children but will help her tribe win a competition.

The plot may be getting away from the author a bit – we met no new Gynoids and got no new parts of Babylon in this book, and Leen was totally absent as well. Still, it’s enough Smartphone to tide us over for now. The series is ridiculously plastic and shallow, but I honestly love it just for those very qualities. It’s the light novel equivalent of eating a bag of Skittles.

In Another World with My Smartphone, Vol. 6

By Patora Fuyuhara and Eiji Usatsuka. Released in Japan as “Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni” by Hobby Japan. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Andrew Hodgson.

Last time I said that the volume was jam-packed, and that goes double for this one – if I didn’t know this was based off of a webnovel, I’d start wondering if the author was being told to wrap it up. The anime’s last episode spoiled the fact that Touya would eventually end up with nine wives, and now the light novel does the same thing, though we only get one “official” new fiancee at this point. But if the first volume of Smartphone read like “Baby’s First Isekai”, then this one s the isekai of a hyperactive teenager who wants to tell all the stories at once. So Touya gets to help take down ANOTHER evil usurper, and we get to fight more magical beasts, as well as more of the enemy Phrase, who continue to be lurking in the background as a threat. I’d say the book is just watching Touya be cool, but honestly half the time it’s Touya passively watching the other women around him be cool – something he lampshades.

It’s sometimes difficult to know what to actually criticize with this series, as to a certain degree being exactly what you’d expect is part of its charm. For all I talk about the “strong female characters” in this series – and we get even more of them introduced here, including Battle Maid Training – they have the depth of paper. But so do the male characters, so everything’s equal there. More seriously, I am very grumpy about the villains in the first half of the book. I know that a lot of Japanese works seek to make the villains as bad as possible, and the evil prince here gets some rape and murder, and is also a pedophile. He’s also described as ugly and with a bowl cut, and his mother is described as ugly and fat. That’s far more annoying, and I didn’t like it at all. (The afterword implied it was deliberate, so no excuses.)

As for new things, Sue is now a fiancee, though Touya admits she’s really too young, so it’s more provisional in order to stop the evil guy. (There’s a brief line about the years in this world being much longer than our own, which I wish were made a bit more explicit.) We’re also introduced to a young woman Touya rescues from near-death, who has unfortunately lost her memories (Touya names her Sakura for now), as well as a genuine Princess Knight named Hildegard, who Touya rescues from some Phrase and gives cool swords to. At the moment, they’re both basically laying down new plots and then moving on, but again, anime watchers will likely recognize the faces. Touya also helps fight against counterfeiting, brings caramel corn to the world, and fights monsters that turn people to stone, which serves mostly as a way to give Some Lu fanservice (and remind the reader that Lu exists).

So everything’s Smartphone as usual, and honestly, I suspect I’m more grumpy about the villains being stereotypically “ugly and fat = evil” than the average reader will be. Those who have already read the book will note I left out the most important part of it. I like to think I’m saving it as a surprise for the reader. Let’s just say that Smartphone is moving ever closer to becoming Mazinger Z.

In Another World with My Smartphone, Vol. 5

By Patora Fuyuhara and Eiji Usatsuka. Released in Japan as “Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni” by Hobby Japan. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Andrew Hodgson.

First, off, here’s a surprise with this volume of Smartphone: there’s no new love interest. Touya’s list of wives is still stuck at five, and (for anime watchers who were rather startled to see her name on the flashforward) Leen here does nothing except dole out the occasional exposition and pine for the library to be discovered. That does not mean that there’s not a lot going on here: the story is jam-packed as always, though typically it does not appear to follow a specific path so much as meander. Touya sets up his new duchy, adding renovations to the castle (game room with bowling alley and whack-a-mole), gets the major rulers of the area obsessed with mahjong, creates roads, brings in new businesses, and creates a legion of soldiers (including a team of ninjas led by Tsubaki from the Eashen volume). Typical Smartphone stuff, and nothing that would raise an eyebrow. But let’s talk about the religious dictatorship.

This is the first volume to come out after the anime finished, so I expect may grab a few more readers who want to see what happens next. They may be surprised. Not so much by the evil and hypocritical dictatorship – such things are a dime a dozen in manga and light novels, and honestly the fact that the main Cardinal was described as looking exactly like Hitler barely raised an eyebrow. No, what startled me was Touya’s vehement reaction to the attempt to proselytize his nation, which in my opinion really went above and beyond natural “I’m not a fan of organized religion”. Touya’s past on our Earth pre-death has been completely ignored as we’ve gone along, but I do wonder if there was something in his past that led to this. I also suspect the author has an ax to grind. To be fair, Touya does say that he’s fine with people worshiping God in the way that they want – but he’ is very much against organized religion trying to flex its muscle, and says so vehemently. Where this becomes hilarious is that the God of this series – the one who resurrected Touya, which is why he can say “Sure I do” when people ask if he believes in God – comes down from on high to thank Touya for his speech decrying religion, and affirms to the somewhat terrified priestess watching that he really barely watches over the world at all – humans should seek to improve the world themselves, rather than rely on deities. The entire chapter is rather mind-boggling, and I wonder how it will read here in the West.

There is also a certain amount of backstory regarding the Phrase, which is not discovered through hard work and research, but instead given to us in an infodump by Ende, whose sole purpose in this series is to give exposition and look like Kaworu from Evangelion. The series’ faults are all still there – Touya is ridiculously overpowered, and finds out in this book he actually is a demigod; the BL author seems to have driven him into a complete “ew ew ew” rage whenever she’s remotely mentioned, which is irritating; and as I said before, despite the Phrase there seems to be no driving force behind this title beyond “watch what Touya does next”. That said, I’m content to do just that. The fiancees don’t get much to do here, but they all do kick ass in the final story, without Touya’s help, which pleased me. Oh yes, and Touya used his powers at Olga and Lyon’s nuptials for one of the sweetest wedding speeches you will ever see – it may be the highlight of the book. If you hated Smartphone, this won’t change your mind. If you loved Smartphone, unless you’re an Evangelical Christian, this will give you what you want.

Oh, and Touya also invents baseball. Because of course he does.