JK Haru Is a Sex Worker in Another World: Summer

By Ko Hiratori. Published by arrangement with Hayakawa Shoten. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Emily Balistrieri.

It is a rare series that creates such buzz that a publisher is ready to say “we also want to put out those unpublished short stories you have on your webnovel site”, but JK Haru is one such series, and so we have this book which I don’t believe was even collected in Japan. It’s a series of interlinked short stories taking place mostly after the events in the first book. Honestly, I was expecting something a lot more inconsequential than this, something along the lines of the “I want to eat ramen” or “let’s celebrate Christmas!” stories. And those are very cute. But the main short stories are the meat of the book, and their depth and characterization reminds the reader why the first book was so talked about. I wanted to read more about these characters, and now I can. And, while Haru is still a sex worker, there is 100% less of her working in this book, so don’t come into it expecting more sex. But if touching scenes of family and friends are what you want, good news.

The ‘wraparound’ stories in the book feature Chiba, the other guy hit by the truck and transported to another world with Haru. He wasn’t very likable in the original book, and honestly for a good portion of these stories he remains fairly unlikable, with his immaturity and need for a “mother” figure getting lampshaded in the text. He works best in a short story that pairs him up with another immature brat in Kizuha, who is the much mentioned but never seen top ranked sex worker where Haru is. Despite revolving around rampant drug use and innumerable uses of the word ‘dick’ (it’s apparently the name of the animal they both adopt, but is used knowingly as a play on words throughout the story) it actually made both characters, who elsewhere in the book are resolutely awful, appeal to me.

The best story in the book is ‘Mom’, which gives us backstory and character development for Lupe, Haru’s friend and fellow sex worker who is being groomed to take over for the current madam but spends most of the story being rather overwhelmed by events, as Haru and Kiyori are away killing the Demon Lord and without her support system she begins to accumulate stress, which she has no good way of getting rid of. It’s a terrific character examination, and you WILL cry over a scene where everyone is throwing cake at each other. Kiyori gets some wonderful depth in these stories as well, with her hero worship of Haru translating into a need to help to make this world less misogynist and awful. There’s also some ship tease with Sumo, Haru’s chef friend, but much like her feelings on Haru it’s hard to gauge where ‘love’ ends and ‘inspiration’ begins.

All this and Haru doing a Detective Conan impression. If you’ve read the original book, these stories are essential, and will put a big smile on your face.

JK Haru Is a Sex Worker in Another World

By Ko Hiratori. Released in Japan by Hayakawa Shoten. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Emily Balistrieri.

Before I begin, let’s state the obvious: this book is for those over the age of eighteen. The review will not have strong language itself, but reader discretion is advised.

Wow. I didn’t know much about this going into it. When I first heard about the license, I thought it sounded absolutely dreadful, but I was assured that it was not actually meant to be a servicey title and that it would reward the patient and tolerant reader. The assurance was correct, as I am very grateful to have read this title, which I thought was excellent. That said, I know several people who started to read this and were unable to get past the first two sections or so, and I can understand why. The premise sounds like your standard isekai: two kids are run over by a truck and die, meet God, and the buy gets cheat powers because this is an adventuring isekai sort of world they’re going to be dropped in. Unfortunately, it’s also virulently misogynistic. The basic roles for adult women are slave, wife, or sex worker. Haru chooses the last.

What follows is Haru going about her daily life, which involves blunt descriptions of the sex work she does. Haru’s narration is one of the main reason to get the book, as she pulls no punches about the sort of life she has to lead. The boy she came from Japan with is an absolute creep, the sort of guy who thinks he would be doing Haru a favor by letting her become his maid. This is not, by the way, a book to read for those who want to be aroused by talk of sex. There IS a lot of talk of sex, but it’s not meant to arouse you in the slightest. There are several rape scenes throughout the book, and they are as horrible as you can imagine. Haru tends to “dull her emotions” a bit during them, but as a reader you’re still horrified. That said, you do also learn to enjoy the happier times in her life as well, such as tea with her colleagues and, in the most positive and fun chapter in the book, playing “Kick the Can” with a group of kids.

About 2/3 of the way through the book there is a spoiler, which I won’t disclose, but it does tie into the main plotline and also makes sense in terms of what’s come before. Aside from Haru and Chiba (the Japanese guy), the most interesting character to me was Kiyori, a pure Japanese priestess type who wants to go adventuring, but is not allowed to without a guy. Kiyori’s the only other one whose narrative perspective we get in the book (which is otherwise Haru’s), and you get the sense as you get to the end of the book that she’d much rather be in a relationship with Haru than with any of the horrible adventurer creeps who are trying to team up with her. Unfortunately, that is not a very likely option either because, as I said earlier, virulently misogynistic world.

There are a bunch of other things in the book I enjoyed, at times the writing is very subtle. (Discussion of a reincarnation made me smile a bit, especially given the plot that leads up to it.) It apparently was a polarizing book in Japan, though not so much for the explicit sex worker content as for being an isekai at all – this is a novel, not a light novel, and fans of the publisher were upset they sank to publishing one. It’s a novel that needs warnings before you read it, but I feel that overall it ends on a positive and forward-looking note. Indeed, it feels a bit open-ended, and the final short story implies the author has a lot more they’d like to write about. If you’re tired of the standard “hero goes to another world and gets superpowers and a harem of girls” stories, this is a grim yet well-told response to it.