Mixed Bathing in Another Dimension: The Ancient Seawater 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.

Last time we had a large focus on the adventures of Haruno’s party; this time they’re absent (except to get mentioned in the cliffhanger) and the focus is solely on Touya and his party. To be honest, for the first half of the book I wished we’d cut away a couple of times – while fighting mutant hermit crabs and stopping scheming merchants at an auction is all very well and good, there’s no denying that the volume tends to meander for over half the book till it gets to the plot it came here for. One it does hit that plot, though, things pick up, and the second half works much better, and introduces us to a new girl, though she’s not new to Touya: it’s his sister Yukina, who passed away three years earlier back on Earth, now resurrected into this world as a demon girl.

Oh no, I hear you cry, a little sister character in a harem series. And you are correct to do so, though the narrative is very odd in that respect. The illustrator is certainly down with Yukina as a sexy young thing, and we see Touya blushing at her – in the illustrations. Likewise, the afterword has the author bragging about how he finally got the “not related by blood yet related by blood” sister into the harem (she’s resurrected as a demon, see, so technically no longer Touya’s blood relation). What’s pushing back against this is Touya himself, who in the narrative shows absolutely no sign of seeing Yukina as anything but a little sister, even when they’re bathing together. Obviously, this will likely change, but for the moment Touya and Yukina read like a normal (if overly close) pair of siblings. Though she does get to do the jealous “cling to his arm and stick out her tongue at a rival” pose. So there’s that.

Speaking of Yukina, sometimes in this series, despite the depth that the author gives to the backstory and concepts, I feel as if he’s writing it very linearly, and I ended up thinking that here; Yukina and her death should have been foreshadowed at least two books earlier, particularly as it gives an answer to “why doesn’t Touya really care about getting home?”. Elsewhere, the bath levels up again a few times. Sometimes it’s sensible – we finally have toilets (with bidets), and the tub is now big enough to fit Yukina in along with everyone else – and sometimes it’s just silly, like the sink tap that dispenses orange juice and udon broth, which just puzzled me. Touya is a little annoyed about the blessings of the Goddesses being “had a really nice bath”, but honestly, he does pretty well with that bath. Don’t be ungrateful.

In any case, they now have a submarine, courtesy a mad scientist, which may come in handy as the cliffhanger reveals that Haruno and her party are in trouble. The 5th volume just came out in Japan this month, so I’m not sure how fast we’ll see it here. But, sibling love aside, Mixed Bathing remains a nice, relaxing isekai with attention to character and narrative. One of J-Novel’s best current series.

Mixed Bathing in Another Dimension: The Chaotic Stone Sauna

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.

Despite the threat of death from a giant dragon/dinosaur thing that secretes poison gas, this is actually another relatively low-impact volume of Mixed Bathing, and I think I’m coming to terms with that a bit more. In fact, it turns out to be an inversion of the last book. Last time Touya and company were doing all the plot-relate4d work, and we only briefly touched on Haruno back at Athenapolis. This time around Haruno gets far more of the focus – over a third of the book. Touya, meanwhile, mostly dithers around in the Fire Nation, which does not seem to be attacking anytime soon, taking advantage of the blessings of his various goddesses to get things like a really awesome kitchen (although not, oddly, a toilet, something that is relevant enough to be a plot point later – I assume it’s because toilets and baths in Japan are so separate, but still, was this trip really necessary?). Mostly, though, Mixed Bathing continues to develop its plot and backstory, and gives us more likeable characters who respect each other. Which I still can’t get enough of.

Of course, there’s a naked loli on the cover, so the book has likely already lost a chunk of audience that might otherwise have tried it out. Said loli is Rakti, the Goddess of Darkness who due to the events we heard about in the previous volume, is now freed and with our heroes, although given she has to hide her powers to avoid world war, she mostly functions as a moeblob this book. As noted, Touya leaves Hadesopolis and heads to the Fire Nation, Hephaestusopolis (bet you can’t guess how the author came up with these city names) to gain the blessing of the Fire Goddess, something that is relatively simple and painless. (The Light Goddess is not amused, though, and honestly the goddesses seem to be functioning as the cliched harem that Touya’s actual real-world harem isn’t.) The action comes in the last third of the book, with a nasty fight and some clever use of both his bath powers and Clena’s own magic – Touya is still using more spells and less bath, but he’s starting to combine the two, and I liked how he’s now working together in battle with the others more.

As for Haruno and her group, she’s actually the one picking up more new girls this time around, although whether Daisy and Prae will end up being part of Touya’s harem is not really clear – Touya and Haruno still have not met back up. Prae did make me a little uncomfortable – she seems to have a mental disability of some sort, and while Haruno and the others treat her normally and with respect, I’m not exactly sure why the author went in this direction beyond “the giant woman acts like a child”. More impressive is Haruno’s political intrigue, where she shows off her smarts and her strength of will, taking out a corrupt slave regime and the senators behind it in literally one day, and then skedaddling after the revelation of what really happened in the past has led to a schism in the Light Goddess’ followers.)

In the end, this is simply a good series, showing depth of thought into the backstory of the world, and respect for all the characters, which given how much naked bathing there is in this story remains a major feat. It’s become one of my most anticipated light novel titles.

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.