Loner Life in Another World, Vol. 4

By Shoji Goji and Saku Enomaru. Released in Japan as “Hitoribocchi no Isekai Kouryaku” by Overlap Bunko. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Eric Margolis. Adapted by Veles Svitlychny.

Welcome back to another volume of “Unreliable Narrators: The Light Novel”. Most of this is due to the presence of Haruka, who deliberately obfuscates his own activities to be extremely annoying, obnoxious, or (most often) both, but also in how he describes the activities of everyone else in the series. In fact, the most important parts of the book are probably not his rambling descriptions and horny fantasies, but the “Interlude” chapters from other points of view – especially Class Rep, who I’m not certain is 100% reliable either, but is certainly better than Haruka. What he describes as the sports jocks out “playing tag with kobolds” because they can only relate to folks as dumb as they are, Class Rep describes as going out every day to grind and level to try to get stronger. Haruka will talk about his creating new Japanese food and having the girls all fight over it, Class Rep will talk about the fact that they sob as they eat it because they miss home so much. This series has layers.

Even the cover art has layers – the cover seen here features the Princess of the kingdom looking cool and noble, but turn to the color pages and you’ll see her half-naked and broken. This is, of course, due to Haruka, no matter how much he insists that it’s not really his fault. Most of the first half of the book is spent in the dungeons, with Haruka and the girls taking on a dungeon and finding a lot of useful books. Haruka also acquires tentacles (just like Maple – is this a thing now?), which he uses mostly to sew clothing for the girls with multiple appendages, though it’s implied that Angelica sees a more traditional use in their bedroom activities. He’s also been busy trying to kick start the Industrial Revolution in their frontier city, to the point where the kingdom sends its Royal Guard (led by the Princess) to put them down. Of course, she knows this is wrong, but she has to obey their commends… something she rapidly regrets.

There is a lot of goofy humor, over the top happenings, and sheer horniness in these books – the girls all level up Sense Presence in this book, it’s heavily implied so they can hear what Haruka and Angelica do every night), but it’s also a lot darker than you’d expect – and darker than its manga equivalent, which makes Haruka more tolerable but also less interesting. Class Rep here doesn’t go into detail, but mentions twice how his entire family in Japan is dead, and she also talks about how she would break completely if he dies. What Haruka sees as the girls stubbornly throwing themselves into danger they’re not capable of handling, they see as trying desperately to level up enough so they can protect HIM – he has a low level, and can’t rely on what everyone else does, so could easily die at any moment, despite his belittling of this. The book, like Haruka, is actively trying to drive the reader away from it, but the rewards are also great.

That said, you will need to sit through several mentions of his exhausting Angelica so much in the evenings he gets lectured the next day. For fans who were already gonna read this only.

Loner Life in Another World, Vol. 3

By Shoji Goji and Saku Enomaru. Released in Japan as “Hitoribocchi no Isekai Kouryaku” by Overlap Bunko. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Eric Margolis. Adapted by Veles Svitlychny.

Increasingly reading Haruka’s narration in Loner Life is sort of like trying to solve a puzzle. Class Rep actually lays it out for us midway through the book: Haruka simply is incapable of seeing anyone’s actions except in the absolute worst way – and that includes his own. It’s especially true of him, in fact, because – with the exception of Angelica, who he has a very different kind of relationship with – he does not want to have anyone get too close to him or even like him all that much. For all that he complains about constantly getting lectured or having no money, it’s a situation he deliberately engineers himself. And I hate to break it to him, but the ship has definitely sailed with some of the girls – Class Rep, if no one else, certainly has feelings for him. But it gets to the point where even a spy sent to see what Haruka is like gets the absolute worst impression of him… at least till everything blows up.

After getting back from the Ultimate Dungeon, Angelica in tow, Haruka and his friends now have to go around trying to clear out all the other, lesser dungeons that lie around their town. Haruka’s casual, vicious approach to this makes everyone feel incredibly sorry for the monsters who just happened to be in his way. That said, he’s also casually doing things like saving the livelihoods of a dying hamlet by getting rid of the dungeon (and also giving them medicine and food, something he fails to mention in his tortured narration) or converting the general store in town into a 5-story department store with the latest fashions (also created by him, which prompts the girls to wonder when exactly he read so much about fashion). But when the “Stalker Girl”, aka spy, arrives from the noble city that financially cripples their town, it’s Haruka who sees the larger picture as to what’s going on.

It’s not quite as jaw-dropping as the speech from When Supernatural Battles Become Commonplace, but Haruka’s breakdown near the end of this book is startling in how (seemingly) out of character it is, as for once he briefly breaks his facade to try to convince the girls that they’re all in serious trouble here. The corrupt lord ruling the area is not above sending soldiers to wipe them out, and he’s also certainly going to kill the spy once she gets back and delivers her report. He spent the entire time he was dungeon crawling with the spy at his absolute trashiest and worst in order that she could go back and say that he’s not worth caring about, but when this didn’t work he finally snaps and has to fix things. Class Rep and the others get it, even if Haruka doesn’t want them to – she says he and Angelica “destroy tragedies”, and that’s as good a description as any.

One last thing: yes, this is the one with the vibration magic. Between that and Haruka’s “nighttime activities” with Angelica, the light novels are 200% hornier than the manga equivalent. The manga is still probably a safer bet, but the light novels remain a fascinating but flawed experience.

Loner Life in Another World, Vol. 2

By Shoji Goj and booota. Released in Japan as “Hitoribocchi no Isekai Kouryaku” by Overlap Bunko. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Eric Margolis. Adapted by Veles Svitlychny

It’s been almost a year since the first volume of this came out, and honestly I think I had forgotten how annoying Haruka’s narration can be. And trust me when I say that GOD, it is annoying. There’s only so much stream-of-consciousness you can take before you want someone to settle on a thought. That said, in this second volume, as a consequence of trying desperately to seek depth in this series, I am starting to notice a few things. Haruka’s blase discussion of how he effortlessly takes out every single monster disguises the fact that he pretty much immediately comes up with a very clever plan (based often on his Japanese memories) and executes it. We also see him refer to someone by their actual name. In the first volume it was because we were meant to know they were a Bad Guy. Here it’s for the opposite reason. Sorry, Class Rep, but there’s a new girl on the cover and she’s taken a lot of Haruka’s firsts. And he calls her, once or twice, by name.

After a few random chapters where Haruka tries to avoid getting lectured by the rest of the class, he winds up falling to the 100th floor of the dungeon by accident. (Unlike Arifureta, there are no classmates trying to kill him – indeed, all twenty girls in the class are clearly in love with him, especially Class Rep). There he meets and battles the Dungeon Emperor, a Dullahan, Lich AND Deathling whose stats are so high even Haruka can’t see them. That said, of course he defeats them anyway… and then accidentally used Servitude on her. Yes, her, the skeleton emperor is a girl, whose name is Angelica but who Haruka tends to call ‘Miss Glare Armor Rep’. Now the two of them have to fight their way UP through the dungeon, battling insanely powerful monsters, while the rest of his class tries to fight their way down to get to him.

Given that you see her as a pretty young girl on the cover, I kept waiting for the big moment when Haruka would find something that would magically give her body back. Instead, due to the fact that the POV is entirely from him and some textual/art trickery, it turns out that it had been happening right under our noses and we missed it. This was very clever. He also gets lucky with her at the end of the book, which also surprised me. I admit the servitude thing bothers me a bit, but it doesn’t seem to really influence Angelica all THAT much – the humor of half the book comes from his seeing Miss Glare Armor Rep staring at him with, he thinks, the same look he gets from the rest of the cast, but it’s really just her being in awe of him – and falling in love with him. That said, the rest of the cast (who are increasingly showing themselves to be, if not as eccentric as Haruka is, pretty damn eccentric) also are not glaring as hard as he thinks.

So yes, plowing through the narrative diarrhea is still worth it, and I must admit I wonder what’s going to happen next. The poor little town with a dangerous dungeon they were in is now a rich little town with a former dungeon. Will we see other cities now? Will this mean the town will stop having everyone carry around clubs? And will Haruka call anyone but Angelica by their actual name? The third volume may take as long to come out as the second did, but I’ll be reading it.