Me, a Genius? I Was Reborn into Another World and I Think They’ve Got the Wrong Idea!, Vol. 3

By Nyun and Sakana. Released in Japan as “Isekai ni Tensei Shitandakedo Ore, Tensai tte Kanchigai Saretenai?” by Overlap, Inc. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Shaun Cook.

Of all the places for Me, a Genius? to go in its third volume, I was not expecting it to go here. Note that I’m not talking about it suddenly becoming a tense techno-thriller a la Tom Clancy – given the fact that we spent much of the second volume in a cod-fantasy world, I barely raised an eyebrow to see that we’re suddenly back in Kouki’s home world and taking on Russians and international terrorist organizations. No, the main thing I wasn’t expecting was that Me, a Genius has gotten rid of the humor. You might argue that it’s trying to be funny and the jokes just aren’t landing, but I’m not sure that’s quite it. We do see one or two “lol!” situations in the book that aren’t funny (Baldy is a lolicon! Hilarity ensues!), but for the most part this seriously looks like it still has its bonkers premise, but is trying to deal with it realistically. Which is… weird.

Yes, that’s Alice on the cover again, despite appearing in the book even less than she does in the 2nd volume. This is especially frustrating given how much of the reason for all this is supposed to be The Alice Project and her illegal genetic creation. But given that’s just an excuse to have cool action and espionage sequences, I shouldn’t really be surprised. Honestly, everyone in this series aside from Kouki and his mother are superfluous to requirements. We do get a very interesting development, though, in that the head of the terrorist organization (who is basically an evil version of Kouki’s mother) has been researching reincarnation, and Kouki is forced to admit that yes, he was reincarnated with his memories. This being Me, a Genius, everyone misunderstands the nature of the reincarnation and things he’s trapped in a Higurashi loop, but I was still surprised, and it gave a brief shade of depth to people (which went away about a page later).

The book should be filled with taut action sequences, this being a pastiche of a techno-thriller, but they’re actually pretty absent – we just see people talking around them or the immediate aftermath. The book also ends with a lot unfinished, which is a shame as there’s no sign of a fourth book coming anytime soon – apparently the writer has hit a block, and so this is all we’re going to get. And to be fair, there may be only so far that you can take this premise. Trying to do a serious version of Me, a Genius? was intriguing for one volume, but let’s face it, if I’m going to be reading a serious light novel about someone reincarnated into another world who’s caught in a worldwide power game and has people constantly misunderstand what they’re thinking, I’m going to be reading The Saga of Tanya the Evil, not this. This is an interesting third volume, but it wasn’t all that funny, and I’m starting to ask how many tricks this pony has.

Me, a Genius? I Was Reborn into Another World and I Think They’ve Got the Wrong Idea!, Vol. 2

By Nyun and Sakana. Released in Japan as “Isekai ni Tensei Shitandakedo Ore, Tensai tte Kanchigai Saretenai?” by Overlap, Inc. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Shaun Cook.

I’m afraid that there’s a bit of a sophomore slump with this second volume. It was always going to be hard to keep the lightning in the bottle, but I think the author may have changed things up a bit TOO much. Most of the events and places that we were introduced to in the first book are jettisoned, including his school and friends – yes, even Alice, despite being the main cover girl for the second time, barely appears – and instead Kouki’s parents, realizing that eventually the world is going to have to do something about their son that everyone assumes is an amoral monster, decide it’s for the best to move. With 100,000 of their colleagues. To another universe. Because even though most of the actual plot of the first book is abandoned for this second book, the basic premise remains the same – everyone thinks they’re the only same person in the room, and everyone is wrong – they’re all over the top out of their gourds.

The reason they’re able to do the universe move is, for once, not because of some invention of Kouki’s, but because they’re investigating ruins on the moon and Kouki does what no one else has been able to, which is figuring out the hieroglyphics that are they key to get inside. There they meet an alien who gives them a device to look over other worlds. Sadly, the world they end up choosing has its own issues, and so while the first book in this series is science fiction of a sort, this is more playing with isekai fantasy. Of course, Kouki and his family are still who they are, and so they proceed to do laughable stuff that it’s impossible for the reader to take seriously and pass it off as obvious. There are still some very good jokes, such as when Miki realizes that Kouki has somehow learned magic, and her solution is “I’ll just learn it too so I can say I taught him”.

It’s become increasingly clear why this alternate universe Kouki was reincarnated in is like this – it has no casual fiction. No manga, anime, fantasy, video games, etc. This is why people stare in horror when Kouki does things that are what a casual teenage otaku might want to do after seeing an episode of your average sentai show and having unlimited access to the tech that can achieve it. Unfortunately, the actual writing itself still lacks focus – the changing viewpoints are clever, but they also mean that we flit from location to location at times, never really getting time to settle down and like any of these people. As the hero, Kouki fares best, and his emotional breakdown about the horror of war near the end wasn’t horrible, but I did feel that it hadn’t really been earned.

The series ends with the third volume, and I’m not sure if it’s got a real ending or an “open ending because who knows, maybe sales will perk up again” ending. Given it’s only three volumes, I’m going to read the next one, especially to see if they resolve the Alice subplot they mentioned and forgot in Vol. 1, and which doesn’t come up at all here. Till then, this is still goofy fun, but doesn’t really stick with you too much after reading.

Me, a Genius? I Was Reborn into Another World and I Think They’ve Got the Wrong Idea!, Vol. 1

By Nyun and Sakana. Released in Japan as “Isekai ni Tensei Shitandakedo Ore, Tensai tte Kanchigai Saretenai?” by Overlap, Inc. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Shaun Cook.

When I first saw that this title was licensed, I noted the lengthy title, the fact that it was an isekai that WASN’T a dungeon crawl or similar, and that it was a comedy and got a certain idea in my head of what it would be like. I though it would be ordinary boy in ordinary family, but reincarnated, coming up with common sense ideas from his old world that no one in this new one had heard of, and thus being mistaken for brilliant. Laffs follow. Now… to a certain extent, I’m not wrong? Well, except for the ordinary. The ordinary in that last sentence is so wrong I’m surprised I wasn’t arrested when I wrote it. But, as the author says, he enjoys writing stories based on everyone misunderstanding everyone else. And that includes the reader. I misunderstood Me, a Genius, which is one of the loopiest light novels I have ever read in my life.

Kouki is a former researcher who dies and is reincarnated in another world, certainly. He actually has his full memories from even before he’s born, which is unusual in this genre, mostly because even the most isekai of authors would try to work that one our realistically and go “ummmmm”. He’s born in a world with its share of problems – World War II started early, a plague devastated Europe, etc. It’s now 2091, and Kouki is an ordinary boy in a… OK, look, his mom is a former quantum mathematician turned housewife, and his dad is in a secret UN special ops unit. In Kouki’s mind, he’s doodling as a child, trying to research the history of this world, and occasionally do normal things like weed the lawn in his mobile suit. To his mom, he’s a terrifying prodigy who solved quantum equations, created devastating pesticides in his spare time, and is HER LITTLE BOY WHO MUST BE PROTECTED. Luckily, there is a school for the incredibly brilliant that he can be sent to when he hits 16.

A word of warning: this book requires you to throw out the window any consistency of character, particularly Kouki’s character. Sometimes he’s a normal schlub you’d see in a harem romcom. Sometimes he does feel like a guy who did research a lot of complex things in his former life. And sometimes he feels like what everyone thinks he is, the product of a marriage between two clearly brilliant people who is even more insanely brilliant. For all that the series is supposed to be about “misunderstandings”, sometimes Kouki’s “common sense” makes you want to beat your head against the wall. The book’s tone is also occasionally inconsistent – when it’s being gonzo it’s fine, but sometimes it takes a breather and does things like investigating the school’s seven mysteries and turns deadly boring. Fortunately, mostly it’s gonzo.

Everyone in this book leaps to the silliest possible conclusion not only about what Kouki is thinking, but about what everyone else in the world is thinking as well. I’ve seen light novels where the protagonist is normal and everyone else is eccentric. I’ve seen books where the leads are eccentric but there’s one normal person. But here everyone is, in their own way, amazingly bonkers. The mom is threatening the United States president with war should her son be in danger, and he can only cower. Kouki’s friend (and later girlfriend) Alice has a gobstopping plot revelation dropped about 3/4 of the way in… and then nothing ever really comes of it, nor does Kouki discover it. There are cockroaches who do work nanomachine style. Heck, at one point Kouki really does end up in a fantasy world and defeats the demons, picking up a pet dragon as a reward.

This book series is only three volumes long, and thank God. This is not the type of series that could sustain itself over the long run. It also has hideous plot and character flaws – anyone who takes light novels seriously might get an allergic reaction to it. But I was laughing throughout, and kept thinking “Damn, this is fun. Ridiculous, but fun.” Please enjoy this story of a boy and the world he’s reincarnated into, where every human alive just talks past one another.