I Was a Bottom-Tier Bureaucrat for 1,500 Years, and the Demon King Made Me a Minister

By Kisetsu Morita and Benio. Released in Japan as “Hira Yakunin Yatte 1500-nen, Maō no Chikara de Daijin ni Sarechaimashita” by GA Novels. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jasmine Bernhardt and Sarah Neufeld.

Theoretically this is a Vol. 1, but I’ll be honest, I suspect this is a one-off. Those reading along with the parent series, I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level, will know of demon administrator Beelzebub and her assistants, as well as the Demon Lord Pecora. Three of the volumes featured side stories that talked about Beelzebub’s past and how she ended up where she is today. This volume collects those stories, as well as adding six others. So yes, you’ve read some of this before. That said, reading the stories in order does help to give Beelzebub’s transformation from office schlub to the grandiose demon we know a bit more impact. There are added cameos from most of the rest of the cast, though they have to be carefully done given most of the cast “meet” for the first time in the main series. It’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect in a spinoff.

In the six stories we’ve read previously, we see how Beelzebub got promoted about 11 steps up by a mischievous Pecora; how she copes with her aides, one of whom is less of an aide than she’s really like; how she gets to grips with audits and is here to show that the days of bribery and corruption are over; how she beats up her predecessor (who has tried to kill her multiple times), thus showing her strength; how she first meets Laika on a hot spring trip with her staff; and how Pecora leads her all around the area on a “date”, where she meets a certain witch, though neither will remember it. New stories have Beelzebub’s parents showing up; Pecora showing Beelzebub the wonder of travel the hard way; Vania shows that when it comes to food she becomes an entirely different character; Beelzebub meets Flatorte, who is exactly like you’d expect; Pecora stays over at Beelzebub’s place despite having a bad cold; and we learn the dangers of too many office plants.

Like its parent series, this is basically fun and fluffy. The only conflict in the entire book is when Beelzebub faces off against the now disgraced noble who was in line to be the next Minister, and there’s never any sense there’s danger to her or the others. The stories help to further develop Beelzebub’s character, with the most amusing ones being her amazingly embarrassing parents (where we essentially lean about Beelzebub’s redneck past) and the story about the ministry’s pathetic cafeteria, which upsets Vania so much that she goes on a veritable crusade to make it better in every possible way. The addition of Flatorte also helps to round out the “I actually met the entire cast years ago and have simply forgotten” gag we’ve seen in previous stories. And the relationship between Beelzebub and Pecora is amusing but also sweet.

In the end, this is pretty inessential, especially if you have Killing Smiles Vol. 5-7 already. But if you really love the universe, this is a decent volume to read more about it.

I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level, Vol. 9

By Kisetsu Morita and Benio. Released in Japan as “Slime Taoshite 300 Nen, Shiranai Uchi ni Level MAX ni Nattemashita” by GA Novels. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jasmine Bernhardt.

One of the main reasons to read this series, aside from the fact that it’s a relaxing read where you can be reasonably assured that nothing terrible will be happening to anyone ever, is the push-pull characterization of the lead character, Azusa was an OL in Japan, and she’s subsequently been living for… well, over 300 years by now… in a fantasy world. And yet, of course, for the most part she does not remotely act her age, because her mental state has remained in as much of an unchanging mode as her physical one. This allows for plots where she can be a bit doofy and cute, as well as the main role that she normally fills in the series, which is being a tsukkomi to everyone else. The best parts of this book are where we got to see an Azusa who’s not constantly making comebacks. That said, for those who love that, no fear, the book is still littered with examples.

Stories we see here: Azusa and company help Nintan to help get her followers back by figuring out what’s really driving the current mood; everyone goes to another world created by Godly Goddess and finds out what it’s like to be a slime in a world of slimes; Azusa gets a haircut that ends up being too short, and takes the opportunity to be “big sis” rather than “mom” with her daughters; she and the gang go to a “meat festival” which is basically a barbecue, then watch a bullfight with minotaurs which is EXACTLY like sumo; Azusa and her daughters visit the Great Slime and learn that a 3rd slime similar to them has been born… but she’s reluctant to make Azusa her new mom; and Sandra grows a mushroom hat after a big storm and learns the value of not getting too greedy. Meanwhile, Halkara’s spinoff exists.

The weak point of the book, as you may have guessed, is the Halkara spinoff chapters, which show no signs of getting a series like Beelzebub anytime soon. I like Halkara, but these prequel chapters simply aren’t very good. I’m also a little tired of Azusa having to say that she’s not gay at least once per volume – I get the sense the author knows there’s a large yuri fandom that follows this series and is unhappy about it. (Given the series has only women in it, I’m not sure what they expected.) Other than that, though, this is a pleasant enough book. Azusa’s reaction to her new “daughter” was quite amusing, and the constant comebacks in the bullfight were quite appropriate. The book does seem to really be leaning hard into Japanese culture once more – see the sumo, but also earlier, where a kanji pun has to be explained with the actual kanji for it to work. The translation is excellent, but the original makes for headaches, I expect.

It’s hard to write reviews for series like this, because there’s never going to be anything ever happening beyond the addition of new eccentric characters. But if you want something akin to Nisekoi or Laid-Back Camp, this fits the bill very well.

I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level, Vol. 8

By Kisetsu Morita and Benio. Released in Japan as “Slime Taoshite 300 Nen, Shiranai Uchi ni Level MAX ni Nattemashita” by GA Novels. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jasmine Bernhardt.

There are many times during my reading of the Killing Slimes for 300 Years series that I realize that not only are the characters treating this world as an excuse to relax and do inconsequential things, but so is the author. The author has many, many light novel series under their belt, some of them running simultaneously via different publishers, and you get the sense that this series is the one where the author can just kick back and not have to worry too hard about plot or characterization. It’s essentially a short story collection. The biggest thing that happens in this book is that Beelzebub has finally gotten the side stories that appeared in Books 5-7 farmed out to her own official spinoff (which has already been licensed over here for the spring) and so the last sixth of the book or so is devoted to Halkara, who gets a spinoff, seemingly set before the main series, where she… reviews restaurants. Don’t expect this to get spinoff novels anytime soon.

A breakdown of this book: Sandra goes through a Flowers for Algernon-style transformation after some super fertilizer turns her into a teenager with a high IQ (that said, there’s zero angst here); Pondeli invites the cast to the new Demon Arcade that she’s opening, whose games are hit-or-miss; the hippie pine spirit who does weddings finds that the flaky God who brought Azusa over is muscling in on her territory; that same God tries to reason with a fellow, more traditional God in order not to lose followers (and Azusa ends up leveling up EVEN MORE); they return to the ghost nation’s temple and tell ghost stories, most of which have a familiar bent; Azusa gets stranded on a desert island and meets what she thinks is a native tribe; a strange butterfly woman insists of staying with Azusa a week for no reason whatsoever and not because The Crane repays A Debt or anything; and Pecora starts a Youtube stream service from the demon world.

That last one may drive home the point that, aside from having elves, dragons, and slimes, this series is absolutely uninterested in building its own world, but would much rather leech off of Japan’s own past and present. The ghost stories Azusa tries to tell, common ones from Japan, are also very well known here. the cuisine Halkara samples is essentially variations on what you can get in any mid-sized town, complete with a conveyor belt sushi place. It’s… very low bar, to be honest, but it’s also relaxing for the reader, who might get a bit annoyed at streamers being a thing in this land of Gods and demons, but will likely quickly get over it. The stories are all basically about the same – cute – though I might have critiqued the desert island one more had it not ended how it did. (At least the natives did not go “unga bunga bunga’ a la Bugs Bunny.)

It’s cute, it’s fuzzy, and you will forget about it the moment that you finish it. And sorry, yuri fans, Azusa still insists that her house is home to family, and not, and I quote, “a special, gay dimension”.