In Another World with My Smartphone, Vol. 17

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.

As with so many prior volumes of Smartphone, the lighter and fluffier the series gets the better it is. As such, let’s start with the less light and fluffy stuff, which is mostly towards the end. Touya and company get themselves involved in a murder mystery in another country, one that is – as with many countries we’ve seen in this series – having a succession crisis. Unfortunately, they’re being manipulated on both sides by what’s left of Yulong, the country taken out mostly by the Phrase in a previous volume. They say Touya did it, which he denies. This is true, but perhaps acting like a smug asshole and killing off the royal family part might be some of the reason. But this is Smartphone World, meaning that the bad guys are all REALLY REALLY EVIL, so it’s OK. This was my least favorite part of the book, mostly as Touya, who is passive at the best of times, is really unlikable as a passive killer.

The best section of the book is, without a doubt, the Mario Kart race. Now, names have been changed to protect the guilt,y but that’s essentially what we have here. Touya is asked to hook up the nerdy engineer price we saw in a previous book with another princess, who also turns out to be a nerdy engineer. They love the sweet cars – erm, Ether Vehicles – but disagree as to exactly how they should be modded, and so get really angry at each other. Clearly a race is the answer, and with a course designed by the Mad Scientists of the book, it’s gonna be Mario Kart. The main reason this is so fun is that Touya spends most of the race grumbling and not doing well, and then is the first one eliminated. Given that Touya is the standard perfect hero who an do anything (and is a literal God by now), this pleased me. Also, the couple bond over their cars and fall in love. Aww.

In between we have the rest of the book. Another country is wiped out by the Phrase, but this time in the reverse world. What’s more, the Red Cats base is destroyed, so now they’re in Touya’s universe. Which is going to be irrelevant soon, as the next book promises to have the two universes merge for good. Oh yes, and Touya also helps save a mom ‘n daughter diner from the forces of eeeeeeeevil (another typically broad villain from a series that can only write broad villains) and gives his spy/sex worker friend a magical panther to be her bodyguard. The other notable part of the book is Ende, who was introduced as the enigmatic know-it-all who gave Touya important info, and has somehow become comic relief, abused by his love interest and his teacher. How the mighty have fallen.

Should you read this volume of Smartphone? Well, if you’ve read the others, sure. It’s not a good jumping off point if you want to stop, and certainly has a good cliffhanger. I’d read it for the go-kart race.

In Another World with My Smartphone, Vol. 16

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.

It is very telling – and a bit sad – that a chunk of this book is some of the best Smartphone prose I’ve seen in some time, and it’s the part narrated by someone else, with Touya absent. I do worry about the afterword, where the author and editor discussed cutting this bit as it did NOT feature Touya or his fiancees. I get the sense that we’re looking for different things in this series. Rest assured for Touya fans, though – if there are any Touya fans left – that he gets a lot to do here, including finding a lost heir to the throne, battling yet another evil and bonkers leader of a foreign country (this time, thankfully, not also taking out the rest of the country as well), and catching giant fantasy-world tuna. As for getting closer to his fiancees… well, thanks to Sue not knowing the basics, the fiancee horde learn about sex in this book. Perhaps more than they really wanted.

In the Reverse World, there’s a brief Phrase battle, but aside from ominous foreshadowing it’s fairly inconsequential. The main thrust of the book is the survivors of a destroyed kingdom asking Touya to find the missing heir, who disappeared as a newborn infant. The heir turns out to be in the place they’d last expect, and also not particularly invested in returning to help get revenge on those who killed his parents and destroyed their kingdom. Meanwhile, a third kingdom is trying to invade, using its awesome Golems and its mad scientist leader, who does all but scream about how they laughed at him at the academy and is a literal brain in a jar by the end. Touya is his usual callous self in the battle with this guy, but of course we’re made to see that he’s super-duper evil so it’s all good. And of course more jokes about Touya’s genocides. LOL.

Thankfully, the last third of the book is excellent. Touya joins forces with the Guild of Adventurers to start an Adventurer Academy, where they can compete to see who deserves to level up. He also puts an inside person on the job, Sarutobi Homura, last seen as one of “those three ninja girls”. We’d seen her mostly be the loud one who acts least like a traditional ninja, and there’s a bit of that here, but for the most part she actually proves to be quite competent and cool. The other adventurers are very much “I don’t want to work with that guy” sorts, so there’s a lot of struggle, and we see them screw up quite a bit, especially when their “test” mission turns out to be far more dangerous than expected. Everyone gets a chance to be sympathetic, the fights are cool, and Touya and company are there to make sure no one’s really hurt. I would not mind more of these guys.

Unfortunately, In Another World with My Smartphone still stars Touya. But that’s fine, we’re mostly here to wallow in the trash. It’s just nice to get a really good meal once in a while.

In Another World with My Smartphone, Vol. 15

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.

Readers of Smartphone will be delighted to hear that absolutely fuck all happens in this volume. I say “delighted” because readers of Smartphone have by now realized the inverse quality ratio: the books get worse the more that there is actual plot in them. For an example, I point to the 14th volume, or any of the others where Touya commits genocide and then says “la di da”. (He says that here as well, but it’s for the running gag.) But when Touya spends the whole time wandering around the world seeing what’s going on, helping out a country or two for the heck of it, and continuing to be the blandest light novel protagonist to ever get nine wives to want to marry him… it’s surprisingly decent. I will ignore the Native American stereotypes we get towards the start, mostly as they don’t get nearly as bad as Realist Hero. No, this is just Touya chilling.

I mean, obviously SOME things happen. We continue to see that there are people in this world who do not like Touya or his nation in it. They try to use a magical wood that causes beasts to go insane, but are discovered and stopped almost immediately, because that’s the kind of light novel you are reading. Touya helps another country (with the aforementioned Native American types) from attacks by giant squid, and shows them how delicious squid can be when cooked. There is a second beach party, which reminds the reader how frigging big this cast has gotten. (Honestly, even WITH the cast list at the start, I’m still trying to recall names much of the time.) And the reverse world is still fighting the Phrase… or rather the new Golden Mutant Zombie Phrase, thanks to that annoying God. The actual Phrase are (try to contain your shock) holed up in Touya’s castle eating snacks. That said, Ende wants to get stronger, and so the God of Punching Things, who looks remarkably like Ryu from Street Fighter, something that is lampshaded, is there to help him (and Elze) get stronger.

Again, this book is never going to actually be good, but when it’s not jokingly having Touya be callous as fuck, it can be fun. It’s like walking through your favorite trashy dollar mart. I was amused at how there’s a suggestion that Touya may have been seduced and the fiancees’ reaction is essentially “we know you don’t have the guts”. We keep swapping out fiancees to try to give them equal screen time, which works better when there’s character development, but I’ve given up on that. Everyone is what they are. We also meet the Mikado of Eashen, who turns out to be a gorgeous young woman but thankfully does not appear to end up in Touya’s orbit. Oh, and Yae’s brother gets to prove he is manly enough to have a fiancee.

As I said, there’s nothing that really happens here. It’s a bunch of normal, boring old Smartphone antics. Which makes it one of the safer ones to read. I admit I’d kind of like to see the wedding soon, though, but I suspect I have a few more volumes to go.