Past Life Countess, Present Life Otome Game NPC?!

By Sorahoshi and Yuki Kinami. Released in Japan as “Moto Hakushaku Reijou wa Otome Game ni Sansen Shimashita” on the Shōsetsuka ni Narō website. Released in North America by Cross Infinite World. Translated by Amber Tamosaitis.

First off, this book comes out of the gate with a killer premise. We’ve talked before about the idea of a “reverse isekai”, where a fantasy denizen dies and is reincarnated in modern Japan, but this is, I believe, the first time we’ve seen it in English. And Urara (formerly Annerosa Ortegamo) is not just in modern-day Japan… she’s in a Japan based on an otome game! She only hears about this when she meets Shizuku, a girl who, as it turns out, is the ‘poor girl reincarnated as the heroine of the otome game she loves’ that we HAVE seen before. Only Urara ends up charming the pants off of everyone, while Shizuku ends up being subjected to horrible comedy violence much of the time. What I just described is about the first fifteen pages of a 320-page book. The good thing about this book is it takes a multi-layered ‘reincarnation’ premise and makes us enjoy slowly meandering towards the ending.

The book is based straight off of a webnovel, rather than a webnovel that’s been picked up and edited by a publisher. This is the modus operandi for Cross Infinite World, and it tends to lead to books that are pleasantly long and stuffed with content, including things that would probably get cut down for length elsewhere. The benefit of this is that the character development feels less rushed and more natural, particularly with Shizuku, who starts the book as unlikeaqble as she possibly can be and slowly, over the course of the next two hundred or so pages, becomes Urara’s best friend. She doesn’t particularly change per se, but we get to know her past and her (somewhat warped) reasoning, and more to the point, she likes Urara, once she’s determined that Urara does not, in fact, have her eyes on one of the many male targets in this “otome game”, but is instead falling for… a woman?

Well, OK, no. The book gets this out of the way a fifth of the way through it, which probably was a wise move, as leaving the revelation that Chouko is a guy who dresses as a girl for family reasons for the ending would likely have angered yuri romance fans. Because wow, this reads like a yuri romance otherwise. The school they attend feels very Maria-sama Ga Miteru, though it’s co-ed, and if you can imagine a romance between Sachiko and Shimako you come closest to seeing how Chouko and Urara interact. The guys, unfortunately, do not come across as well, and I do admit that throughout most of the book I kept having to remind myself who was who, though eventually you learn to separate out Shinmyou (the jerk) and Shimozuru (the one who falls for Shizuku). There is also an epilogue set in Urara’s past life that left a very bad taste in my mouth, and I did not really like the implication at all. It added murder and mental torment to what was otherwise a nice, sweet romance novel.

But you can just stop before reading that. Most of this is the equivalent of a long, leisurely boat ride down the river that takes up the entire afternoon. It’s not all that concerned with anything but its heroine and her “perfect princess” manners causing everyone to turn her way. It’s a good read.