Brave Chronicle: The Ruinmaker

By Kenya Atsui and Saori Toyota. Released in Japan as “Kimi Kara Uketsugu Brave Chronicle” by Overlap, Inc. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Dan Luffey.

As regular readers of my site may have noticed, I tend mostly to review things that I enjoy in some way. It’s easier to write about things I like for the most part, and with titles that I don’t like I have a tendency not to finish them, which makes things easier. But I do tend to give a lot of first volumes a try, which inevitably means running into some clinkers. And this is a new publisher, so I wanted to give them an honest shot. And I did positively review one of their other titles, so don’t have to feel too guilty. All this is a preamble for what you’ve likely suspected: Brave Chronicle is terrible.

bravechronicle

With a title like Brave Chronicle, I was expecting something a bit more fantasy oriented, but it actually takes place at a school for students adept at magic. Our heroine is the top student at the Academy and one of the most magically gifted students in the world, to the point where she’s not only a student, she’s also the headmaster. Our hero is her childhood friend and the number two in the school, who has minimal magic power but manages to kick ass in almost every fight anyway – except, of course, for her, who he has never beaten in 999 tries. Our hero is also a pervert who enjoys going on about his little sister, who has large breasts and a petite body, something he will remind you about endlessly. That said, his little sister is also a massive superweapon that can decide wars – and now an opposing world has come to take it.

The first third of this book is the worst, as it tries to do a daily slice-of-life, which means that we get the hero going on and on about his sister’s breasts, sometimes for pages at a time – note to authors, you’re only allowed to do that if you write as well as Nisioisin, and this guy does not. Despite all the seeming incest fetishism, it is never not clear that he’s in love with the heroine (whose name is Yukihime, just in case you wanted to see something else completely unoriginal. Did I mentioned she uses ice powers? Oh, you guessed, huh?). After a while, the book settles into serious mode and we are treated to a series of endless fights, which is actually a step up as I was merely bored and not disgusted. Oh yes, and I should mention that, unlike most light novels these days, this is complete in one volume. That did allow it to pull off an ending that I can honestly say I wasn’t expecting, which should technically be praised if it didn’t leave such a bad taste in my mouth due to being carried out in the most cliched manner possible – I was genuinely disappointed the hero did not scream “NOOOOOOOOOOO!” at the sky, which would have completed the bingo card.

I try to be nice to cliched series, and I do enjoy quite a few of them. But this series was so derivative, and offered so few genuine good points, that it was a struggle to get through it, and the reward at the end was bittersweet. J-Novel Club does have some other interesting series on their site for you to try, so try them, and don’t feel too bad by giving this a miss. Absolutely dire.

My Big Sister Lives in a Fantasy World: The World’s Strongest Little Brother

By Tsuyoshi Fujitaka and An2A. Released in Japan as “Neechan wa Chuunibyou” by Hobby Japan. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Elizabeth Ellis.

It has been well over ten years since the Haruhi Suzumiya books hit Japan, and almost exactly ten years since the animated adaptation, so it’s no big surprise that we’re beginning to find works that are clearly inspired by its ideas. Actually, much of this book sounds like it’s been pulled together from what’s popular these days. No one gets pulled into another world, but there is a girl who’s a huge fan of that genre. There’s a vampire, although she could be any other kind of supernatural creature for all the relevance it has. And of course the Japanese title itself reminds us that focusing on the phenomenon of ‘chuunibyous’ is also quite popular, and has spawned several anime. So, as a hodgepodge of things that are popular lately, as well as the usual light novel tropes that have always been popular, this should be a giant mess. Yet somehow, I quite enjoyed it.

chuunibyou

This is one of J-Novel Club’s three debut digital titles, and I picked it to read first for a very simple reason: it’s the shortest. The premise is laid out at the start: normal high school kid Yuichi wakes up one day to find that he can see tags over people’s heads that show their ‘role’ – this starts normally with ‘big sister’, ‘office worker’, etc, but once he gets to school he runs into ‘vampire’, ‘zombie’, ‘witch’, and most ominously, ‘serial killer’. Unfortunately, this is basically the limits of Yuichi’s new power. Fortunately, he has a few tricks up his sleeve, as my earlier remark about his being a normal high school kid is a giant lie. Moreover, he has the title character, his big sister Mutsuko, who has prepared for this day her entire life, and made sure Yuichi is prepared as well.

The subtitle of this series is essentially the big reveal, and I must admit it’s quite well done. There are a few suggestions that Yuichi is not what he seems at the start – the strength equipment he uses that his new friend can’t even manage to move – but from about halfway through the book, once we gather than Yuichi IS in fact the world’s strongest, he is allowed to be as ridiculous as possible, jumping off four-story buildings, fighting oni to a standstill, and avoiding kicks to the crotch by forcing his testicles back into his body. If this sounds utterly ridiculous, it absolutely is, and only Yuichi’s blase narration really helps carry it off – to him, this is Tuesday. As for Mutsuko, this is basically her fault – imagine if Haruhi Suzumiya got a hold of Kyon at a very young age and began to train him to take on aliens, time travelers and espers with the power of MANLY STRENGTH and you’ve got the idea.

There’s nothing really subverted here – the serial killer with a lust for killing turns out to be easily distracted by Yuichi, who she can’t actually kill as he’s too good, and I suspect his harem will only grow. It’s also clearly written to be a longer series with the possibility of an anime – we don’t really find out anything about 3/4 of the class and their quirks, or Yuichi’s YOUNGER sister, who he shares a room with and doesn’t think that’s unusual at all. I’d only recommend this to light novels fans with an open mind. But if you are one, this is light, breezy, enjoyable fun, and I liked the characters. Surprisingly recommended.

In/Spectre, Vol. 1

By Kyo Shirodaira and Chashiba Katase. Released in Japan as “Kyokou Suiri” by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Shonen Magazine R. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics. Translated by Alethea & Athena Nibley.

I admit somewhat shamefacedly that I haven’t really read any of this author’s prior works in North America, even though he’s put out quite a bit. Supernatural detectives seem to be a running theme, and both Spiral (out from Yen Press) and Record of a Fallen Vampire (Viz, though the digital reprint is from Yen) were fairly popular. Now we have his newest series, In/Spectre, based on a novel. If I was to describe its plot in a one or two sentence fashion, you likely would not be impressed. A young girl with a connection to the supernatural meets a young man with a tragic past who also has a connection with same. If they team up, they can fight against yokai who have gotten out of hand. We’ve seen this sort of thing before many times. Luckily, a manga is not just about its plot. It’s about characterization, dialogue, and art. And in those respects, In/Spectre hits it out of the park on the very first pitch.

inspectre1

Kotoko is our heroine, and the main reason I enjoyed this as much as I did. She’s a 17-year-old girl who, a few years back, made a deal with the yokai to be a sort of conduit for them in exchange for losing a leg and an eye. (Amazingly, the manga does not give her a fetishey eyepatch the way literally any other author would, but gives her a perfectly serviceable prosthetic – same with the leg, the cane is mostly to pacify her parents.) While at the hospital for her exams, she meets Kuro, a young man who’s there with his girlfriend Saki, and falls in love at first sight. Of course, he has a girlfriend. A couple of years later, she meets him again, only now he’s broken up, and she immediately takes the initiative. Kotoko’s brash, pushy charm is the main reason to read this – she’s a hoot, whether it’s proposing to Kuro within five seconds of meeting him, using him in order to pacify an out of control yokai (which doesn’t work), or cheerfully admitting that getting hit with a steel beam was nothing compared to the pain of losing her virginity, Kotoko is a brat in the best way.

I haven’t mentioned Kuro much, and to be honest he’s the weakest part of the book, being a stoic type who’s still brooding about his breakup at the start. The other reason I haven’t mentioned him is that halfway through the book takes an interesting right turn and time skips again a couple years, where we see Kuro’s ex-girlfriend Saki, now a police officer, dealing with the vengeful spirit of an ex-idol who was killed by a falling I-Beam, and now walks around the town with no face attacking people with the same beam. Saki too has not taken the breakup well, and curses her own human frailties – she’s still a bit terrified of what Kuro is, but realizes that she was in the wrong. She runs into Kotoko as well, and I suspect will end up being the “straight woman” in this series – certainly she does not react well when Kotoko admits she’s now dating Kuro.

This sort of series is hard to review, because so much of it depends on the words, and I don’t just want to quote dialogue at you. The art is good, too – I don’t think the artist has done any other series, but they can sell both comedic and eerie quite well. I really want to read more immediately, a nice change of pace from most Volume 1s, where you’re waiting for the series to find its feet. None of that here – Kotoko sacrificed a leg so the series could get on its feet right away. Highly recommended (unless you dislike brats, as Kotoko is absolutely a brat.)