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.

In Another World with My Smartphone, Vol. 4

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.

Our little smartphone novel has grown up to a degree, and it’s something I view with very mixed feelings. Sure, we still have the occasional plotline that is just “Touya and friends lackadaisically do relaxing things’, but I can’t really call this a pure and innocent isekai anymore. It’s reached puberty and is trying to act up. Oh, rest assured, there’s no actual sex or anything. That would require losing an audience that the author is not prepared to lose. But Touya just seems a bit more cynical in his dealings with things, and he’s thinking about women a lot more than he did (though not quite to the extent of that short story in Vol. 2). On the bright side, the villains all still clearly delineate themselves into ‘evil’ and ‘SUPER evil’, so we don’t risk sympathizing with them at all then Touya destroys them. Rest assured, that will never change.

Yes, that’s right, there’s a new girl on the cover, and a new addition to the harem, though I’m amused that Touya describes his four fiancees as his “core team”. Lu is a princess of a neighboring kingdom, and personality-wise is very shy and blushy, similar to Shinobu from Love Hina. As we meet her, her kingdom is on the verge of a military takeover, with the general of the kingdom deposing the emperor and taking power with the help of a summoned demon adn some artifacts that make him almost invincible. That said, Touya barely reacts to this challenge, figuring out fairly quickly how to deal with him, though I’m not sure it’s a method he’ll ever use again. As a result the emperor is back on the throne, and Touya gets a very willing Lu as a reward, though he once again pleads for everyone to wait till he turns 18. (Yumina and Lu’s fathers plotting to use Touya politically is one of the best parts of the book, as Touya is always at his best when thrown off from his usual blandness.)

Elsewhere, Touya rescues a group of slaves and frees them up to become employees of the bookstore/cafe he creates, which ends up turning into a far-too-long joke about all the women in the entire kingdom being fujoshi (this was OK), and Touya thinking “no homo no homo!” about 865 times (this was not). We also resolve the ‘surely she’s a long lost noble’ plotline involving Renne, the runaway girl Touya took in as a maid in an earlier volume. Surprise! She’s a noble whose now-dead mother ran away from her family to marry an adventurer. This is also not as funny as the author would like, relying on a lot of jokes about Renne’s aunt Carol being a Christmas Cake. Oh yes, and the obnoxious nobles in Yumina’s own kingdom show up again, this time with a murder plot that will attempt to implicate Touya so that they can have their son marry and rape Yumina, possibly not in that order. When Touya hears about this, his response is… impressive, if a bit shocking. It seems out of character given he’s so mild-mannered, but given the circumstances I can’t blame him. Oh yes, and he’s awarded his own (tiny) kingdom, and builds a castle to go with it.

Overall this was a highly variable volume of Smartphone, which can’t simply rely on pure charm anymore and is therefore trying to decide what to do next. It works best when not crawling through the drudgery of anime cliches like “she’s angry people think she’s old” or “everything thinks he’s gay”. I’m still interested in the series, but honestly, I would not blame those who were having light, breezy fun with it for stopping here.

Also, he names his attack griffons John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Because of course he does.