Mixed Bathing in Another Dimension: The Fervent Sand Baths

By Nagaharu Hibihana and Masakage Hagiya. Released in Japan as “Isekai Konyoku Monogatari” by Overlap. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Sophie Guo.

The difficulty with coming up with a really wacky idea or gimmick in your otherwise fairly standard light novel is that you need to keep coming up with fresh new ways to use the gimmick. After all, that’s why some readers are there in the first place. So it is somewhat disappointing for me to say that in this second volume of a series where a hero is transported to another world with nothing but the ability to make a bathroom appear out of nowhere, there’s not nearly enough bathroom used here. We do see it “level up”, so to speak, as it’s now essentially a small hot tub with a changing room (and sleeping room by the end), and the villain is disposed of rather gruesomely via the bath, but really our hero ends up solving most problems through his newly learned earth magic. Which is fine, but makes him a bit more generic.

Having set up the premise in the first volume, much of this second is devoted to world building, as Touya and his companions set out to discover the truth about what happened five hundred years ago and the missing kingdom that is shrouded in myth and legend. Indeed, there may be a bit TOO much world building – the book could have used another good fight, and suffers occasionally from Touya feeling the need to tell us every action that’s being done as he does it – “We did this and this and this and this and this”. We see him in a different city which looks like it might be interesting in future books – the concept of semi-slavery used here is still uncomfortable – but it doesn’t really end up going anywhere.

I’m still enjoying the book, mind you. The hero is a nice guy, if obsessed with nude bodies the way a teenager would normally be. The girls are nice girls, sometimes to an unbelievable degree – Clena in particularly is like a tsundere that forgot to pack her tsun. We do check in with Haruno, the girl from Book One, and it’s nice to see that the two of them still really like each other – Touya is adding to his harem (sorry, party), but it’s clear that Haruno is Best Girl, and the others are having to come to terms with that. Again, the hero is very good about communicating whatever he’s about to do, searching for discomfort and consent. I still appreciate that. But the trouble with nice people traveling through a world nicely is there is a need for conflict. The Goldfish who is the villain of this book (no, really) is refreshingly duplicitous and evil, and it was nice to see.

So yes, the bloom is off the rose a bit. I wasn’t as taken with this as I was with Book 1. But it’s still a good series, and I really like everyone, despite that making them the teensiest bit dull. And now we appear to have added loli #2 in the form of the Goddess of Darkness. That should go well. Recommended to those who like harems but hate tsunderes.

Mixed Bathing in Another Dimension: The Hero of the Unlimited Bath

By Nagaharu Hibihana and Masakage Hagiya. Released in Japan as “Isekai Konyoku Monogatari” by Overlap. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Dan Luffey.

One of the benefits of rock-bottom expectations is the numerous ways you can be pleasantly surprised. Light novels in general, particularly those licensed in North America, tend to cater to the older teen/younger adult male reader. “Isekai” books, where our hero is transported to another world, are already a hoary cliche. And let’s face it, this was advertised as a harem novel which features the hero bathing with any number of girls. It had the potential to be bad on a monumental scale. Luckily, it isn’t. Now, don’t get me wrong. The plot is still as traditional as heck, it applies that weird harem logic whereupon our hero is deeply in love with a girl till she vanishes from his sight and the next one comes along, and there is endless talk of butts, boobs, and naked flesh. That said, let me tell you why I actually enjoyed this.

First of all, there is the twist in the premise. Yes, this is a standard “Japanese kids brought over to fantasy world to save the kingdom from invasion by demons” plot. Each of the five summoned (though we only really deal with two, our hero and first heroine) get a power that is supposed to help then become a hero and destroy evil. The snag is that Touya’s power is the ability to open a door to a standard Japanese bathroom wherever he is, with unlimited supplies of water, shampoo, etc. The fun here is seeing not only how he uses this in the ways you’d expect (he’s in medieval fantasy land, so the idea of shampoo is amazing to them), but also in ways that would never occur to you (the final boss battle in the book, which is so hilarious I don’t want to spoil it). Touya is a clever kid, and I like how he keeps thinking of both the strengths and weaknesses on his useless power. (Note this isn’t a hot spring or public bath – it’s a bath you’d find in a home, and seats two if they’re very friendly.)

The other, even more surprising thing is how the main characters actually communicate with each other. This is a harem adventure, after all. You expect tsunderes left and right, the hero tripping and falling into boobs, lots of lecherous grins, etc. But no, Touya is a normal teenage boy. Which means that yes, he thinks of sex all the time. But it’s not taken to any pervy extremes. More importantly, he actually communicates with the women he meets! Consent is super important throughout this book, and I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to type that. Over and over again Touya tells the girls the nature of his magic bath, the fact that he has to be *in* it to have it work, and that yes, nudity will probably be involved. He asks if they’re OK with this at every single step. And they are, of course, though they’re nice girls too. In fact, Touya and Haruno falling for each other, although swifter than you’d like, is really cute and sweet. They even kiss! Halfway through Vol. 1! What kind of harem adventure is this?

A few more minuses – in addition to the basics I mentioned in the first paragraph, there’s that odd Japanese idea that thinking about sex AT ALL makes a person a ‘pervert’, which I’ve come across in more works than this. And once again we get a hero who has to emphasize over and over that he’s not gay, just in case the presence of other men in the narrative – even if they’re giant lizardmen – might cause the reader to question their sexuality. But overall, this was a lot better than I expected, especially on the romantic end. I’d still only recommend it to male readers, but if you’re wary of the ‘traditional’ harem story, you should give this one a try.