Isekai Rebuilding Project, Vol. 2

By Yukika Minamino and Kotokan. Released in Japan as “Isekai Saiken Keikaku” by Legend Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Adam Seacord.

I admit I was a bit worried about this one. The first book relied a heck of a lot on the really good twist near the end, and I also did not want to end up having a ‘loop’-style redo of the previous book. Fortunately, my worries proved to be mistaken. The ‘let’s fix the beriberi’ plot is still around, but rapidly takes a backseat to ‘let’s battle the monsters who are somehow far more well organized’ plot, which frankly is a lot more interesting. As for the twist no longer applying, much to my surprise it makes the book a lot better, because with context what was a somewhat annoying and frustrating relationship turns into something really fantastic. The book still suffers a bit from dry prose, and the new twist about 3/4 through this book is somewhat uncomfortable, but I suspect it’s designed to be that way. Put it all together, and you have a volume that manages to avoid a sophomore slump. Plus, that cover art!

Our hero Eiji, when we last saw him, had died. We briefly see how things went after he died in that world, and get the revelation that Tiamat is actually his fiancee from Japan, and he then asks to go back and try again. He ends up back at the “would you like to come to the castle and be poisoned?” part of the book, and this time says no. This works out well, and eventually the King comes to him begging for their help in fixing the beriberi. While it’s not fixed by any means, they get enough of a start to have our main group move on to another country – because it’s not just this one country that has issues. Noura is a seaport, but before they can settle in they have to deal with the huge monster horde attacking it. A very… organized monster horde. It’s almost as if the enemy has someone on their side who’s been transported from another world.

The new villain here is a high school girl, which is less surprising than the revelations from the first volume. What’s worse, she’s also come from an abused family, something that Tiamat reluctantly uses against her to stop her simply killing Eiji. I admit I’m not really sure where the book is going with the character of Rio Kodama, but it was refreshing to hear a discussion of abused children and the impact it has on their lives and emotions. It feels like something a third volume would expand on. More to the point, and much to my surprise, the banter between Eiji and Tiamat, which I honestly found a bit annoying in the first book, has transformed now that we – and Eiji – know who she is, and their banter is far more affectionate and fun. (There are still plenty of otaku references I just didn’t get, however). Their relationship is now the highlight of the book.

This looks like it’s going to wrap up in a third volume, judging by the webnovel contents, but that 3rd novel is not announced yet in Japan. Till then, though, this is a decent second volume which manages to improve on the first mostly through its main couple and their flirting. Even if one is a dragon.

Isekai Rebuilding Project, Vol. 1

By Yukika Minamino and Kotokan. Released in Japan as “Isekai Saiken Keikaku” by Legend Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Adam Seacord.

This is a title with a lot of things going for it, starting with one of the best pieces of cover art I’ve seen for some time. The premise is also strong. Our hero Eiji is… a man who is happy with his life. He has a good career, a fiancee he loves, etc. But one day he is… NOT killed by a truck. Instead he ends up transported in front of a “goddess” (though it’s made clear that’s how his brain is formatting this) and told he’s being asked to help save worlds that had heroes sent to them before. Unfortunately, those heroes, in introducing modern concepts to an otherwise pre-industrial world, ended up making things worse. Eiji is being asked to fix this, then he can go back to his cool life. He’s well-versed in light novels and isekai… as is the author, clearly. There’s also a well-handled twist at the end. It’s just that I found the actual plot in the middle… a bit boring?

Speaking of that twist, this paragraph will be spoiler-free. Then I’ll put a break line in the review, and then I will discuss the end of the book. In any case, Eiji arrives and is given a partner, a female dragon (she’s his own height and walks on two legs, though) who he names Tiamat, because of course. The two of them end up at a city where the inhabitants are slowly dying from beriberi, aka B1 deficiency, because the previous isekai’d hero loved his white rice and introduced the area to it, forgetting that brown rice is where the vitamins are. So he and Tiamat, through trial and error (he very deliberately has no powers at all) have to find substitute foods with B1 in them. This is not as interesting as it sounds. There’s also a lot of time spent deconstructing isekais, which is fine, and Eiji has a point, but I don’t think that this series is sufficiently different enough for him to be too smug about it.

Break line summary: the twist means I’ll be reading more, but I’m finding that Legend Novels trying to be for older readers means that sometimes the book is also duller.

OK, let’s talk that twist. It’s handled well enough, making the reader guess something is up as the book goes on, but not quite what. It doesn’t really kick in till they tell you WHO the prior hero was. That said… I found Tiamat’s constant spouting of Japanese trivia and media through the book rather irritating, and the fact that she turned out to be who she is didn’t mean that I went back and said “Aaah, so she’s not annoying!”, it just made me say “ah, that explains it”. While I don’t think that’s what we’re getting in the second book (Eiji herre dying – ironically not on Earth but in the isekai world – and asking to try again) , I’d love to see a book from Tiamat’s perspective, which would also get into how she feels about the previous hero. In addition, the way the world is “saved” feels, not to put too fine a point on it, grim and gritty. It’s why Eiji wants to return – it leaves a bad taste in his mouth. But it does in mine as well.

So good idea, great cover, the execution could use some work. Still worth reading for those who enjoy deconstructions or snarky dragon women.