The Sidekick Never Gets the Girl, Let Alone the Protag’s Sister!, Vol. 2

By Toshizo and U35. Released in Japan as “Shinyuu Mob no Ore ni Shujinkou no Imouto ga Horeru Wake ga Nai” by PASH! Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Tristan K. Hill.

This book continues to be very good at not really doing what I would like it to do. I had expected, after the climax of the first book, that we’d be seeing a lot of fallout, or at least evidence that memory-erasing magic does not really work all that well in modern-day Japan. But no, we don’t even SEE the little sister again till the second half of the book, and while her fate is a big part of the plot, it’s somewhat secondary to the romcom antics. This is especially annoying as we get an excellent start to the book where we see, in the fantasy world Kou was sent to, exactly how he managed to get traumatized and have complete disaster befall him. It’s a bit rushed, but heartbreaking. Unfortunately, the author likes using it as flavor text for their real ambition: a standard high school harem comedy. And I have bad news for them, other authors are better at that.

After using magic that really should not be used in this world to wipe Hikari’s memories of him, Kou ends up sick as a dog, and also flashing back to the girl he fell in love with in the fantasy world, Rei… as well as her brutal murder, complete with dying in his arms. That said, he really can’t reflect too hard on that when both Kiryu AND Renge show up to care for him. This is especially bad in Renge’s case, as she’s a terrible cook! Oh no! This amazingly cliched scene is broken up by, of all things, the naked sexual assault guy from the start of Book 1, who shows up (clothed) and smashes a durian all over Kou and Kou’s room, I know, stay with me. After a chase, which ends up roping in Kazuki, his athletic kohai, he finds that this world and the fantasy world are more connected than he thought. But there’s no time to dwell on THAT – finals are coming up! Study group!

As you can see, the book is trying to hit every single groan-worthy high school romantic comedy cliche there is. They don’t do a bad job of having the characters go through the motions, but they don’t add anything interesting to the genre either. Kazuki has a mom. She’s hot, and teasing. Kou is bad at studying and on the verge of failure. Et cetera. I wouldn’t be complaining nearly as much if it weren’t taking away from the actual interesting parts of the book. Kou’s avoidance tactics and trauma are fascinating! The way that the weird pervert from the start of Book 1 ties into the fantasy world is something I really want to hear about… till it is thrown away because they can’t discuss it in front of “civilians”. It *is* made clear that Hikari is (no big spoiler here, it’s obvious) the reincarnation of his fantasy love… but then the book ends. Sigh.

I’m sure you’re reading this and wondering why I’m so annoyed, rather than just mildly disappointed. m Well, it’s mostly because the novel series ends here. The webnovel apparently went to a decent conclusion, but PASH! Books has shown no signs of publishing any more in print form, which probably means Japanese readers were as frustrated as I was. There’s an interesting story here that’s struggling to get past the author shoehorning in their favorite scenes from 2006 comedy anime. But… grr.

The Sidekick Never Gets the Girl, Let Alone the Protag’s Sister!, Vol. 1

By Toshizo and U35. Released in Japan as “Shinyuu Mob no Ore ni Shujinkou no Imouto ga Horeru Wake ga Nai” by PASH! Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Tristan K. Hill.

Sometimes you just have to be patient and wait for the author to get around to The Hook. This is especially true with this book, where we get a prologue that clearly shows us that this is not merely just another dumb high school romcom… and then spends most of the first half of the book trying its damndest to hide that fact once again. That said, that fits well with the protagonist, and it’s his narrative voice that we’re getting. As such, you get a book that is about 75% what would happen if the annoying loud guy who’s always best friends with The Main Character was the viewpoint, and it can be really annoying. Like, really annoying. As I said, sometimes you have to be patient, but it’s hard. Fortunately, in the second half, especially the last quarter, we actually get to the meat of the book, and find that “sidekick” is the biggest PTSD-coping mechanism in our hero’s armory.

After a grim, death-filled prologue that makes you wonder if you picked up Roll Over and Die by mistake, where our hero Koh battles the Archfiend… we suddenly cut to modern-day Japan, where Kunugi Kou is late for school, running out of his house with a piece of bread in his mouth (doesn’t work as well as you’d think), and stopping a naked pervert from attacking a young teenage girl. When she asks who her savior is, he says he’s Ayase Kaito… actually the name of his best friend. He then goes off to live his normal school life, where he watches the same Kaito deal with what appears to be a love quadrangle and enjoys being a dumb, loud guy who is on the outskirts of this fun. Unfortunately, the girl he saved is Ayase HIKARI… Kaito’s little sister. Also unfortunately, she’s now really taking a shine to him. And that’s not even getting into the fact that the love quadrangle may be tailing off of its own accord. And what does this have to do with that fantasy scene featuring… Kou? Or Koh?

When we actually get to the serious meat of the story, it’s really good. It’s also something of a spoiler, and I don’t want to give everything away. Suffice it to say that almost everything Kou does is a front, and there are several people who either knew this from the start or become aware of this as things go along. This is really good. I enjoyed it. But it does mean walking through a lot of cliched scenarios written better in titles such as the Rascal series or My Youth Romantic Comedy series, both of which this seems to pastiche in many ways. It’s good in that it eventually gives you insight into how Kou is surviving, and the somewhat bad job he’s doing at it. It’s not good as a reader because it’s not really that FUN. I suspect the author wants it to be, but… sorry.

That said, this is not a long-running series – it apparently ends with the next volume, though I’m not sure if it has an actual ending or if it suffers from cancellitis. And certainly after the cliffhanger we get here, I suspect it will be harder to have “ha ha ha look I’m a goofball!” throughout. Nevertheless, I do recommend reading this if you can tolerate the romcom cliches. It is a very good Hook.