[New Life+] Young Again in Another World, Vol. 2

By Mine and Kabocha. Released in Japan by Hobby Japan. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by David Teng.

There were certain things I asked for in my review of the first volume of this series, and to its credit I sort of get some of them. The writing is far more consistent in tone for this second volume, and while there are still “gosh, big breasts!” scenes, they’ve gotten smaller in number. I also think I have more of a handle on why this series in particular may have been licensed – the hero’s pragmatism I think would greatly appeal to the sort of online reader of isekais who hates isekai heroes. Several times in this book Renye does things that are, while not exactly bad, at least on the morally grey end of the spectrum. That said, he also gets to have a nice cool fight at the end, so it’s not all cynical. I would like, however, to see if this series has an overarching plot beyond “I want to buy a house and make better bread”. So far, it doesn’t seem to.

For those of you looking at that cover and thinking “gosh, I hope that’s real yuri and not just godawful pandering”, I’m afraid to say your hopes are in vain. In fact, the big drawback in this second volume is that both Shion and Rona get much less to do this time around. Shion is a big shiny ball of naive gumption, so it doesn’t matter as much in her case. But given that Rona was the main reason that I read this series beyond the first volume, the fact that she spends most of the time being the “long-suffering minder” sort is quite disappointing. Also, while I usually don’t really care as much that the heroes is so overpowered it’s ridiculous, it did bother me in the ending fight here, as it meant that all the other cast had to be beaten so hard that it amounted to a one-on-one battle. Which is a shame, as Renye is, to be honest, not the most charismatic person in the world. I prefer bland and nice to bland and grim.

Other things to mention: Since I brought up Renye’s overpowered skills already, I will note that his magic training did amuse me greatly, and it’s always funny whenever he thinks that he’s really weak or average at something but it turns out to be ludicrously over the top instead. There is also a lot of discussion of the making and preparing of food – I realize that foodie series are the new vampires/ninjas/Alices, but still wasn’t expecting it in a series like this. (Speaking of which, it’s surprising that Cooking with Wild Game hasn’t been licensed by now…) And there’s a side story where Renye briefly turns into a woman, causing Shion and Rona to briefly lose their minds. I’ve come to the conclusion that when I see “side story” at the end of these isekai volumes, it’s almost always going to be annoying fanservice.

As I said at the start, the prose is settling down a bit, and I’m starting to see why this ran for so many volumes in Japan. But I think it needs a better hook than it has, and an actual overarching plot. Till then, I’d only recommend New Life Plus to people who like more cynical heroes, or who like to admire the girls.

[New Life+] Young Again in Another World, Vol. 1

By Mine and Kabocha. Released in Japan by Hobby Japan. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by David Teng.

This was the first of two new licenses from J-Novel Club where my reaction was somewhat… muted, shall we say? The description of New Life Plus (Which is how I’ll be abbreviating it) did not really make it stand out among the Smartphones of this world. And as I began to read it, I started to tick off the usual isekai boxes. Here’s God, yup. Somewhat eccentric – in this case, God’s given herself the body and personality of a hyperactive young girl. Lead who has been chosen to go to another world for vague reasons. He ends up stupidly overpowered because God doesn’t really pay attention well, so that’s in order. He rescues two girls from attempted assault by the male companions they were traveling with, and then helps to stave off a goblin raid (goblins, check). Finally, after arriving at the adventurer’s guild (check) and getting ID cards (check), he is convinced to join the two girls on their adventures, against his better judgment. Check. Sigh.

I will break this down into bad and good again, though in this case it’s more bad and “has potential”. A lot – in fact, the majority – of J-Novel Club’s series are light novels that were originally on the internet as self-published web novels, but I don’t think I’ve seen a single series where it’s more obvious than this one. The writing quality is highly variable, to the point where I was actually wishing it was worse in places just so that it would be more consistent. Our hero is the ‘grim, realistic” sort as opposed to the “kind, helpful” and “perverted but doesn’t do anything” sorts, which sadly means I started to compare him to the hero of Death March. It’s never a good sign when you’re trying to clear Death March’s low bar. The author also has a running gag where he (the lead character, but also the author) gets lost in describing the immense breasts of one of the characters – in fact, at one point he seems to get so lost that he starts mixing up the names. The book also does that webnovel thing where it enjoys making fun of isekai tropes, but never quite does it enough to make it a deliberate satire – it’s having its cake and eating it too.

Am I dropping the series? No, at least not yet. Why? Well, there were one or two moments where I genuinely laughed out loud, I will admit. These usually involved the eccentric God or the “so naive it’s bordering on hilarious” adventurer Shion Femme-Fatale, whose name alone made me slap my head. The gimmick – our hero was a former Chinese Mafia assassin and wartime hero who killed 5000 men with his sword, founded schools of fighting, and died peacefully at 94, THEN was reincarnated in another world – is a clever one, though I’d be more impressed if God hadn’t wiped his memories of his life on Earth. But yeah, mostly I’m reading this because of that one character type I really like. Rona Chevalier (take a wild guess what her secret is) is the owner of the large breasts I mentioned before, but I was far more interested in her as a scheming, intelligent woman whose “I’m not angry” face is absolutely terrifying. She is able to convince our hero that keeping Shion’s naivete from killing her is more than a one-person job. Basically, the two women in the cast are far more interesting than the male lead. Not uncommon in isekai, but I liked Rona enough that I will try the second volume.

This is now up to 17+ volumes in Japan, and I am hoping that as the writer gains more experience – or perhaps better editors – it settles down a bit and reads less like “I am typing words and then immediately posting them, done”. If you enjoy isekai, give it a shot. The cast oddly made me think of Library Wars – If you wanted to see Iku and Shibasaki fighting fantasy adventures with a super-powered Doujima at their side, this is definitely the book for you.

Also, illustrator, if the author describes the hero’s face as perfectly average, try not to make it so that you look at the cover and want to punch him.