In Another World with My Smartphone, Vol. 18

By Patora Fuyuhara and Eiji Usatsuka. Released in Japan as “Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni” by HJ Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Andrew Hodgson.

Any Smartphone book that manages to put Touya in actual danger is automatically more interesting than most. This one actually does it twice. Not that anything actually happens to him… remember what you’re reading. But the Mutant Phrase descend with an anti-God weapon that is so poisonous that it takes Touya out for three days, and later on an inadvisable attempt at waking an ancient weapon results in time literally being rewritten to make sure it didn’t happen… something Touya is aware of but no one else is. Unfortunately, neither of these crises serve to move Touya beyond his typical bland facade… generally the only thing that can do that these days is mentioning love, as per most awkward overpowered male leads in isekai. Sadly, the weddings are still a fair ways away, but at least we’re seeing a number of other plots starting to come together. Could the end be in sight? (Probably not.)

At the start of the book, the regular Touya world and the Reverse World finally merge together, and much of the rest of the volume is spent dealing with the political fallout from that. It does not help that the bad guys choose this moment to launch their ‘anti-Touya’ poison attack, which destroys one of the kingdoms we’d seen previously. (Not Touya’s own hand this time, so that’s good.) We actually get a few Phrase battles this time around, including Ende getting his revenge against the evil twins who mopped the floor with him last time. And we finally get an idea of what happened back in ancient times when the Phrase first invaded, and hopefully a way to avoid it happening again. In between there’s the usual wacky slice-of-life stuff… a young idiot prince comes by to show how strong he is and gets his ass kicked; Hilde’s sister fights a dragon; Sakura sings Freddie Mercury songs. The usual.

I admit, much as I grouse about the series when it’s doing things wrong like having Touya be history’s greatest monster, when it doesn’t happen there’s very little TO talk about in a review of Smartphone. Touya is bland. His fiancees, though they have more emotional range, are equally bland. There’s the royalty of the neighboring kingdoms… they’re pretty bland as well. This is sort of like a “slow life” series without the slow life part. The author says that we’re going to be fighting the Evil God next time, which is good, because when there are fights at least something is happening on the page. The wedding might also help, but that’s still a few books away. That leaves us with Touya wandering around doing Touya things, which is… boring. Dull. Nearly getting killed was the best thing to happen to him all book.

The series is still worth reading for the tiny little things that make it bearable – Sue’s Hammer Throw was great – but I suspect most readers, like me, are waiting for Touya to get married and simply paddling along ill that happens. 2 out of 5 Smartphones this time around.

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.