In Another World with My Smartphone, Vol. 9

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.

I’ve frequently described In Another World with My Smartphone as being “entertaining but not good”, and that applies just as much to this volume as it does to the others before it. There’s no real plot beyond “watch what Touya does next”, the characterization can vary depending on what needs to happen, and the author’s tendency (and he’s hardly alone in this regard) in writing all his human villains as ugly, whining petty and completely 100% evil is wearing a bit thin. On the other hand, there was some brief attempt at backstory and depth for the Phrase, of all things, which made me very interested in what was going to happen next with them. (not much, at least not in this book.) And honestly, seeing Elze gleefully punching things with her giant robot would put a smile on anyone’s face. Smartphone is dumb fun. Emphasis on the dumb, yes, but also emphasizing the fun.

We start off with another Phrase invasion, which gives us an opportunity to talk some more with Ende, who is clearly connected with them in some way (as we see in the backstory I mentioned above), but who otherwise continues to be Kaworu-lite. There’s another kingdom with a waffling, non-assertive leader, whose scientific advisor (the eeeeeeeevil villain of the book I mentioned above, though he’s also super pathetic) shows off his wood glems as being just as good if not better than Touya’s powered suits. Spoiler: they aren’t. We also go back to Eashen, which is dealing with more internecine wars, and would probably be far more entertaining if I was up on the actual history. And we also meet the leader of a magic-heavy kingdom… who’s actually far more like the other kings we’ve met, as it was his now dead brother who had all the magic powers. He’s just a big powerful guy. He’s also in love with Lu’s sister, which gives Touya another boisterous in-law, to his chagrin.

If it sounds like nothing happens in this book, you’re not wrong. There are lots of events, and several things occur which look like setup for a larger plot down the road. In addition to the Phrase stuff, there’s also Sakura, who still has amnesia and still isn’t a wife (damn you, anime spoilers). She finds a dark elf with a tragic past… which we don’t find out about, but she gets to join the Royal bodyguards anyway. And Touya keeps meaning to tell the other girls that he’s from another world, but still hasn’t gotten around to doing so, despite hints from his “sisters” (who also grace the cover, along with Sakura) that he needs to do thins sooner rather than later. Taken individually, these scenes are mildly irritating at worst and a lot of fun at best. But they’re the opposite of someone like Ryohgo Narita in Durarara!!, who sets up dozens of plot guns over a few books, then fires them all off. This is the adventures of Touya wandering around and seeing what happens next, and occasionally using his godlike powers.

I mean, I’m still reading it. It’s still entertaining. But it’s also still not very good.

In Another World with My Smartphone, Vol. 8

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.

Sometimes I wonder if the author of this series is even aware of the disquieting implications of what he writes. At times it looks like he is. The start of this volume has Touya discovering, at last, the Library of Babylon, with its ridiculous number of ancient scripts. Leen, who is over the moon about this, proposes to Touya on the spot. Touya is rather nonplussed by this, as is the reader, because in the last seven volumes we’ve seen nothing that puts Leen on the same level as the other girls in love with Touya. Indeed, later on the rest of the fiancees confront her and express doubts as well. It’s nice to see the author realized he didn’t really do enough foreshadowing. Sadly, the entire situation is resolved in about three paragraphs, after which she’s given a pass. So maybe the author is not as aware as I’d like.

That said, Leen is now a fiancee, which means she gets the main bonus of Touya turning into a raging villain whenever anyone threatens to rape her, something which happens a lot more in this series than I’d like. Again, because Touya is so bland of a protagonist, the fact that he’s casually cursing evil mooks with curses that are brutally horrific gives the reader a giant sense of disconnect. We also get more examples of his ridiculous power here, though that’s downplayed by the occasional bout of stupidity he has, like “oh, right, I really should give my kingdom laws”, or “maybe I shouldn’t have gone off somewhere with my new fiancee and not told any of the others.” (This also allows Leen to be blushy and embarrassed, which honestly seems grotesquely out of character for her.)

The plot, as with most Smartphone books, is divided into three. First we get the discovery of the library and its bookaholic maintainer, as well as Leen’s proposal. Next, young dragons are attacking cities, and it’s up to Touya and company to teach them a lesson. Finally, there’s a new dungeon that’s been discovered, leading Touya to do some dungeon crawling, something he really hasn’t done in his series, as opposed to most isekai titles like this. This leads to the discovery of a slaver ring, which Touya needs to break up. Oh, and we also have the Storehouse and its dojikko maintainer. Side stories include Leen needing to get permission from the fairies to get married, which mostly involves her upset kohai, as well as Regina Babylon, who does a lot in this series despite being dead, tricking Touya and company into playing an embarrassing real-life board game, which is mostly an excuse for fanservice. It also allows Touya to briefly have a libido, something he only seems to gain in these side stories.

Again, Isekai Smartphone is one of those series you’ll enjoy if you’ve enjoyed previous volumes, and after briefly making me think it would turn it up a notch has settled back down into “not good but entertaining”. Which is fine, I like being entertained, but don’t think I don’t notice the major characterization issues on display here.

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.