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.

In Another World With My Smartphone, Vol. 2

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 of all, yes, as expected, this volume is not quite as gloriously readable as the last one. It’s hard to keep lightning in a bottle, especially when it’s trying to hit that sweet spot of “awful yet immensely readable”. (I am aware the author is not going for awful, but just work with me here.) And so there are moments where the reader rolls their eyes rather than smiles, and one large section at the end where the reader may be actively pissed off. But given the absolute low bar this series is trying to clear, it manages pretty well, and occasionally even evolves by pointing out its own silliness. Smartphone will never be good, but it can still be fun.

Despite the presence of the not-Fujibayashi twins on the cover, this is still very much an ensemble work, though the ensemble mostly watches Touya show his stuff. Let’s see here… first of all, the smartphone is in fact used more in this book, as promised. Mostly what he does is combine it with his magic so that he can take out multiple enemies via the map function. He’s also rewarded for the events of the first book by the King, which means moving to the royal city and setting up house in a giant mansion, complete with butler, two maids, a gardener and cook, and two security guards. The maids are combat ninja maids, because of course they are. The gardener and cook are married, because of course they are. The two security guys are called Tom and Huck, something so amazing that even Touya can’t look past it and comments on it. Given the book also features characters named Linze, Lim, Leon, Laim, Leim, Lapis, Lyon, Leen, and Renne (who I can only imagine is romanized with an R because the translator finally got completely fed up) we should count ourselves lucky.

The book works best when it revels in its cliches. Touya is overpowered as all hell, though even he needs a tiny bit of help to take down a giant dragon (but only a tiny bit). He gets a mansion to live in with his harem, but is oblivious to all of them. (They at least seem to have come to terms with their feelings for him, and Yumina seems to be organizing them.) His magic impresses even the Queen of the Fairies, he can defeat the battle-crazy King of Beasts (who looks like Prince Phil from Slayers if he were a giant snow leopard), he can invent email in his spare time, and he can also take in adorable orphan thief girls who are clearly also long-lost royalty and make them maids. The reason this works, for once, is because Touya is such a blank. If he were confident he’d be insufferable, if he were mopey he’d be unreadable. It’s only because he’s casual about literally everything that he gets away with it.

That said, when he ISN’T like that things go south fast. There are two short stories at the end of the book. My guess is they were taken from the early days of the webnovel, and it shows. Leaving aside the fact that the premise of the second story is “let’s melt the clothing off all the female cast”, Touya is actively seeking this, thinking that he’d actually like to see their semi-naked bodies. This flies in the face of the rest of the book, where Touya’s lack of awareness of his harem as anything but family is lampshaded repeatedly by Yumina and the others. I get that sometimes you need to pad the novel out, but not at the expense of the main character. Skip this story. But otherwise, Smartphone 2 is pretty much a lot like Smartphone 1: cliche-ridden but fun to read.

Oh yes, and he makes an extendable gun sword from scratch. Because of course he does.