Wataru!!! The Hot-Blooded Teen and His Epic Adventures in a Fantasy World After Stopping a Truck with His Bare Hands!, Vol. 2

By Simotti and RELUCY. Released in Japan as “Truck Uketome Isekai Tensei! Nekketsu Butouha Koukousei Wataru!!!” by Overlap. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Adam Seacord and Roko Mobius.

I have been known to say that the reason I don’t review light novels in the “Bookshelf Briefs” column on Manga Bookshelf is that there is always a way I can spin out 500 words on a light novel no matter what, but I will admit that some series test that to the extreme. Wataru!!! 2 is exactly what Wataru!!! 1 was, and if you liked that you should like this, though probably a bit less as the shtick is no longer new. But this is a gag series. I can’t talk about character development, there isn’t any. We’re literally told that backstories dropped on us will be totally irrelevant later in the book, so it’s OK to forget about them. This book invites anti-criticism. This volume does indeed appear to be the final one, and that’s probably for the best, as even though I enjoyed both I’m pretty sure I don’t need to read a third book of this.

The plot of the 2nd book borrows heavily from Dragon Ball. Wataru and friends are sent to fight a dragon who is destroying villages, but in order to fight him fair and square, they need to collect six orbs that are scattered around the area. Wataru does this by a) winning a hot dog eating contest, b) beating up an isekai author, c) fighting a cute young assassin who immediately falls in love with Wataru, d) solving the most obvious murder ever; e) playing a card battle game in one of the few stores Aria hasn’t been banned from; f) fighting a possessed Résistance, and g) actually fighting the dragon. Throughout all this we get the usual loud shouting, ridiculous fights, dumb gags, and fourth wall breaking. It is quite good at all of those things.

The most amusing parts of the book are probably when it tries to bite the hand that feeds it. The orc who writes OP isekai novels is pathetic, and it’s no surprise that rather than trying to impress him our heroes simply knock him out and take his stuff. That said, they each try their hand at writing a light novel. Aria’s is a typical shoujo LN, with perhaps more swords than usual; Wataru’s is an anime commercial, and Résistance writes a dark emo fantasy. The payoff is at the end, in a side story where we find Résistance’s light novel has been purchased by “Sky-Novel Club”, who get quite a few caustic comments from Aria and Wataru. Other than that, well, there’s lots of punching things, and leaping high into the air, etc. Still no real romance. Aria just isn’t into Wataru, Résistance is too passive, and Elphabelle is pretty firmly rejected. Wataru is a hot-blooded teen in the Ashita no Joe sense, not the Ataru Moroboshi sense.

Again, this is worth picmking up if you really enjoyed the first volume, or just like people shouting, getting grievous head injuries (that can be easily fixed with healing magic), and writing epic tales where Luffy, Detective Conan and Pikachu team up, but fans who like subtlety should stay well away.

Wataru!!! The Hot-Blooded Teen and His Epic Adventures in a Fantasy World After Stopping a Truck with His Bare Hands!, Vol. 1

By Simotti and RELUCY. Released in Japan as “Truck Uketome Isekai Tensei! Nekketsu Butouha Koukousei Wataru!!!” by Overlap. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Adam Seacord.

There are times when you want a light novel that delves into the depths of the psychological consequences of being sent to another world, or what it means to have modern-day culture impinge itself on a medieval fantasy world. Perhaps you want to delve deep into what the power structures of a demon lord’s minions would really be like, and immerse yourself in gripping fights where you’re not even sure the hero will win. If this is what you crave… there are other light novels elsewhere, I’m sure. If, on the other hand, you love exclamation marks, shouting, and most everyone being as stupid as they can possibly be, including the author, then Wataru!!! is right up your street. This series is here to be dumb and loud and have a ton of fun, and nothing else. It can be a bit exhausting… indeed, I worry that future volumes may wear out the welcome… but it succeeds in what it wants to do. Which is mock isekais with everything it has.

The book begins with the subtitle, as our hero is suddenly accosted by a truck, and does indeed stop it, but then realizes that this would kill the driver, so lets himself be hit, and ends up… in another world! There he meets Aria, a standard heroine with a nagging tendency to get bloody head injuries (but don’t worry, she knows healing magic). She tells him that her parents have been kidnapped by the Demon Lord, who’s super strong. One of these facts seems to matter more to Wataru than the others, and so he sets off to defeat the demon lord to prove who’s stronger. In the interim, he gains another companion in enemy-turned-neutral friend Résistance, has a rap battle, has a battle of the bands, has a literary critique contest, and yes, also has quite a few fistfights. Throughout, though, he stays as hot-blooded as possible.

Gonna be honest, I enjoyed this book but I suspect its core audience is going to be small. Everything is shouting. An audiobook would be amazing but also the worst thing ever. Wataru is more nuanced than you’d think, being kind at heart, and also not the rock-headed muscle guy that you’d normally expect. (My favorite part of the book is the fact that he speaks his own sound effects, which are abbreviations of what he’s doing. He stops the truck while shouting “TRK!!!!!”.) Aria is a rather flakey heroine by design, and when she’s not getting devastating head injuries or cheering Wataru on, she also shows off her passion for Beyblade… erm, sorry, Payblade toys. (The book doesn’t have WcDonald’s, but we do get Tot Hopic, which also made me laugh.) Résistance is the closest to a normal character in the book, but even she has a soft spot for really tacky jewelry, which Wataru convinces her is not a character flaw.

So yes, there is more here than just shouting and silliness… but not much. I’m not sure it can carry a series. But for a single novel, it’s recommended. Read with earplugs.