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.

In Another World With My Smartphone, Vol. 3

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.

The author and reader are clearly settling in for the long haul here in this third volume of Smartphone. ON the author’s end, he’s become aware that he wants to tell a long, convoluted (if ridiculous) story, so is starting to add more key backstory and introduce characters who may not obviously influence the plot right away. Indeed, he goes a bit too far in the other direction – the new possible villain or possible ally, Kaworu… um, sorry, Ende… is casually introduced, implied to be important to both the past and present of this world, and then just goes away for the rest of the book. I’m all for foreshadowing, but again, Smartphone guy is keeping it real and making it as thuddingly obvious as possible. Fortunately, the rest of Smartphone is also the same as always, which means totally ridiculous and compulsively readable.

On the cover, as you can see, we have Sakura from Sakura Taisen… erm, Yae, whose country we visit at the start of the book. This allows Touya to singlehandedly put down a war with nothing but a few swipes from his phone – even finding out some of his foes are undead and can’t be killed by his normal go-to means is only a prelude to him trying something even more ludicrous and over the top, which works a charm, of course. He also manages to take out another “Monarch”, this one being a twofer combo of Gamera and a giant snake. Naturally, they soon become adorable plushie versions of themselves, as Touya owns them so hard the entire harem thinks he’s being too cruel. He gains access to a floating Garden of Babylon, complete with a gynoid servant who is easily the nest addition in the book. Touya’s main harem are all just as pure as he is, so a deadpan robot girl who constantly makes sexual innuendo and comes on to him was desperately needed. Unlike the stupid extra story from the last book, I don’t mind Cesca at all because both her dialogue and Touya’s reactions to same are entirely in character.

Speaking of the harem, I admit to being rather surprised at how fast things are advancing on that front. Clearly the author has realized that a) there’s no point in dragging out the ‘will they confess?’ any longer given that they’re all too pure to go any further than kissing anyway, and b) given this is a world where it’s OK to take up to 20 wives provided you can in fact be rich enough to support 20 wives, ‘who is best girl?’ is mostly irrelevant anyway. I was impressed with Linze for taking the advantage on the kissing front, showing off that she may be shy most of the time but is secretly the bolder of the twins. I was a bit less thrilled with Yumina basically already admitting that Sue, her little girl cousin, will also be part of the harem once she grows up, but I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. I was also amused that he asked advice from God (remember this all started with God?) on how to deal with this, and gets a pep talk not only from the main God but also the God of Love, who judging by the illustration and behavior, is Marielle from Log Horizon.

One of the themes of this book is that Touya completely does not realize how ridiculously OP and amazing he is, because he tends to think of it as “I did very little to achieve this, therefore it wasn’t all that great”. Combine that with him not realizing why the girls all like him, and he’s very much harem protagonist material. That said, it’s the rare harem novel that actually takes the hero aside and literally has two gods telling him he’s being foolish and to try being a bit more selfish once in a while. That brings me to my last shuddering realization about this series: I can’t in good conscience call it bad anymore. Yes, it is terminally ridiculous (the scene where our hero builds an entire hot spring for the hotel he used to stay in in approximately five minutes may set a new record for laughable), and the lead is such a ridiculously overpowered twink that anyone who takes isekai seriously will be grinding their teeth, but by god, it’s fun.