I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level, Vol. 4

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

In general, when you have a series that runs on “slow life”, a light novel subgenre where the characters in another world decide that they’re going to take it easy and do things at their own pace (whether this succeeds or not is, of course, a question for the author to decide), the book rises and falls on the narrative voice of its main character. Slow Life protagonists tends to be relaxed and easygoing to begin with, but it’s dangerous to make them too bland, as you risk the reader wandering off. Fortunately, that’s not going to be a problem with Azusa, whose internal tsukkomi is stronger than ever in this volume. As her bond with her extended family grows stronger, she’s becoming more “mom-like”, but that doesn’t mean that she’s above screaming at people Osaka-style, and that happens a lot here. As for the plot itself, well, we spend most of the book outside the house, believe it or not.

As with previous volumes, we get a lot of interconnected short stories here. Azusa eats a mushroom that turns her into a child, and struggles against everyone wanting her to act like one as well. The solution to this involves climbing to the top of a 108-story tree, which ends up being a hilarious parody of tourist traps. Then they meet a death metal bunny-girl musician (not making this up) who is down on her luck, possibly as her death metal is terrible. Azusa and company convince her that changing her genre would not be the end of the world, and it turns out that when she calms down and gets more introspective, she’s actually really fantastic. Azusa then finds a rice field, which inspires her to make manju and mochi for the locals, something that might get her rebranded as a sweets maker rather than a witch. Finally, she and her slime daughters go to a convention and meet… Azusa’s mother?

For the most part this volume hit all the right buttons. There were a few things I didn’t care for (the mom chapter felt a bit odd to me, though it fits in with the “found family” concept of the series in general), but for the most part we get to see a) Azusa snarking at everyone and everything around her, and b) Azusa also helping everyone and everything around her. She’s still the strongest in the land (at one point she has to fight the entire Blue Dragon tribe, who she compares to a group of high school delinquents, and mops the floor with them), so growth has to come from other directions. I was particularly pleased with the translation this time around – it’s a new translator, but the narrative voice seems unchanged, and there was a joke involving a hashtag that made me grin from ear to ear.

Yen Press has recently licensed two other series by this author for the fall, and you can see why – Killing Slimes for 300 Years is a fun, breezy read, and makes trying to do nothing interesting.

I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level, Vol. 3

By Kisetsu Morita and Benio. Released in Japan as “Slime Taoshite 300 Nen, Shiranai Uchi ni Level MAX ni Nattemashita” by Softbank Creative. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Taylor Engel

For all that the premise of this book is about a girl who likes to take things easy and relax, they sure do a hell of a lot. But that’s where the humor comes into play, of course. The only thing relaxed about Azusa’s life is her general attitude and desire to simply live in her cottage. What actually happens? Well, OK, the cookie baking battle seems to fit in nicely. But then one of her daughters is stuck as a slime, leading to a big adventure to try to fix things, which includes a martial arts tournament. Then a fake witch is abusing the name of the Witch of the Highlands, forcing Azusa to track her down and find out why it’s happening. Even a barbeque party, which you’d think would be as peaceful as the cookie baking, involves killing off masses of dangerous boar animals – and teaching dragon girls that nudity is not OK. There’s a lot going on here.

There is more of what I enjoy about the series in this volume (some great humor, “found family” affection) and less of what I don’t like (Halkara’s clumsiness and jokes about her chest – well, OK, there’s some of those). There’s also still a large amount of yuri subtext, though it’s not going anywhere as Azusa really isn’t interested. It’s heavily implied most everyone who lives in the house – and even some who don’t – love her romantically, but she seems to be a) straight, and b) mostly indifferent anyway. Actually, that may be by design – when we meet another long-lived witch, and discuss the loneliness that happens when you outlive everyone around you, Azusa strongly implies that she’s deliberately suppressing all her emotions in order to not be affected by this. It helps that she’s made several long-lived girls part of her family (or ghosts, as the case may be), but I do wonder if it will come up again in the future.

Frankly, though, I’m happy with Azusa being relatively subdued and snarky – except in her head, when the tsukkomi comes across much louder. We get a lot more memories of her previous life on Earth, both from her wageslave days and her school life (she brags about her ping ping club skill… which proves to be a mistake against two dragons she describes as being “classic high school jocks”. There’s a bit more development of the others, particularly the dragons and Beelzebub the Demon Lord, who isn’t living with Azusa but might as well be for how often she pops up. There’s also some examination of modern Japanese foibles, as we get a fantasy undead who’s also a NEET, and the “fake witch” trying to get people to praise her by a method so oblique that it feels a little ridiculous.

If “my pace” heroines drive you nuts, steer clear. But however much Azusa may not want it to, things are happening in this series. Just… very slowly and leisurely.

I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level, Vol. 2

By Kisetsu Morita and Benio. Released in Japan as “Slime Taoshite 300 Nen, Shiranai Uchi ni Level MAX ni Nattemashita” by Softbank Creative. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Taylor Engel

The afterword for this second volume has the author telling us that GA Bunko’s editors told them that the first volume was the biggest seller in the history of the publishing label. Which, given this is the same publisher as Is It Wrong to try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, is quite impressive. But I can see it. Unlike DanMachi, the average reader does not have to deal with any of those pesky male heroes, and the girls are all cute/sexy/maternal (delete where applicable). [EDIT: It turns out that DanMachi is on a different imprint at the same company, so the two may not be comparable after all.] The series is still trying, for the most part, to keep a “my pace” sort of drama, with plotlines taking the form of things like “we’re opening a maid cafe” and “we have to design a dress for a ghost”. And, of course, the heroine is still an amazingly powerful person but absolutely does not seek to show it off or take advantage of it unless absolutely necessary. Which it is one or two times here. This is such a peaceful series.

The cast remains the same as the first book, with one or two additions. Halkara, the busty elf who was the weakest part of the first book, is better here – there’s still a lot of focus on her bust, but doubling down on the clumsiness and bad luck makes her a more entertaining comedic figure. It can also lead to drama, as with the longest story of the volume, where Azusa and company go to the Demon Lord territory to accept an award (for achieving peace in Vol. 1 by stopping the dragon war) and Halkara accidentally headbutts the demon lord to the brink of death, something punishable by execution. Fortunately, Azusa is clever, and even more fortunately, Azusa is a Level 99 powerhouse, showing off her amazing fighting skills and taking out all the demons trying to arrest them. It all ends up good anyway, as the demon lord (who is also female, to go with the rest of the main cast) proves to be more of a troll – in the internet sense – than actually evil.

New cast members include the ghost I mentioned before, who (like everyone that falls into Azusa’s orbit) proves to be friendly and eager to please, and can even help with the cooking. And there’s also Flatorte, the blue dragon who was the antagonist of the first book. She’s now back and tricked by the demon lord into being Azusa’s slave, though Azusa nips that in the bud immediately, to her credit. If nothing else, she will offer a different kind of personality – the main flaw of the book is arguably that everyone is far too nice and sweet. Now, that is the POINT of the book, which is why I said ‘arguably’, but it can all feel very pat. There’s one story where Halkura gets herself in trouble (again) and our heroes have to take out a corrupt governor. They do this in the space of about 5 pages, in what must be the fastest takedown of this sort of character ever. It’s almost embarrassing.

If you like exciting adventures, run, don’t walk away from this series. If, on the other hand, you want the light novel equivalent of a nice hot cup of tea, this is a great buy.