About Sean Gaffney

Sean Gaffney has been reading manga since 1996, writing fanfiction in the manga and anime world since 1996, but only decided to start a manga blog in 2009. No one is quite sure why, as talking endlessly is one of his favorite things. He’s also written guest posts at Erica Friedman’s Okazu. His favorite manga things to discuss are shoujo with cheerful yet oblivious heroines, defending angry tsundere girls, and pretending he doesn’t ship. His favorite non-manga things to discuss are classic cartoons from the 1930s to 1960s, William Shakespeare (and other Elizabethan/Jacobean playwrights), and Frank Zappa. But really, he’ll happily talk about anything, even if he has to Google it first to pretend he knows all about it. He lives in Connecticut.

When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace, Vol. 4

By Kota Nozomi and 029. Released in Japan as “Inou Battle wa Nichijoukei no Nakade” by GA Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Tristan K. Hill.

As always, this series tends to run on character-based comedy that is 50% decent, 30% good with a side of heartwarming, and 20% godawful. Usually the godawful part involves Andou doing something mind-numbingly stupid, but aside from one poorly-delivered euphemism that causes dangerous searches on the internet, he’s mostly fine now. It’s Sagami that gets the bulk of being awful. That said, it’s good in this case, because it’s showing off that he really IS the villain of this piece. For the most part the overarching plot of this series has been very hit and miss, and we haven’t seen that gang that attacked Hatoko since her book. But Sagami’s preening, salacious inability to see anything except as a fictional construct does make him a good antagonist. And of course this IS a fictional construct that is also a romantic harem comedy, so he gets the added aggravation of being correct. I think most readers were thinking the same thing Sagami was: in a harem of four girls, Sayumi is a distant fourth place.

Each volume has focused on one of the girls in the Literary Club, and as the cover suggests, this is Sayumi’s book. The actual present-day dilemma is fairly easy to resolve, but it also ties back to the past, so we see flashbacks, from Sayumi’s POV, of how she first met Andou and immediately did not get on with him. Unsurprising, this is Andou. In the present, the girls all present Andou with a game that they’ve been coding and ask him to play test it, which gives us a string of great humiliating gags as well as a wonderful sweet heartwarming bit at the end. As for the conflict, Andou discovers that Sayumi was going to run for Student Council President in high school, but never did… and he thinks that he’s the reason for this.

Sayumi is the most mature of the cast, meaning that thankfully we get less of the antics that we got last volume (though they’re still there, sadly, but at least Andou is NOT involved in the stupidity this time). It makes sense that her arc is resolved by simply telling Andou he’s gotten things wrong and that she doesn’t regret what happened. Of course, that’s not really what this book is doing. This is the fourth volume, so we’ve run out of heroines. It’s setting up the next arc, and doing so pretty well. All four girls are explicitly in love with Andou by the end of the book. Chifuyu doesn’t really know what it means, Hatoko knows what it means and who the “best girl” is and is ready to go to war, and Sayumi is getting advice from the devil himself. That just leaves Tomoyo, and if Sagami was here he’d no doubt say that she’s “best girl” at this point, or at least the most likely winner, if she can stop tsunning it up.

As always, I don’t recommend this book to anyone but those who are buried so far into otaku culture that they don’t really notice the bad things. If you’re that sort of person, this is a solid volume.

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex: “First Kiss Manifesto”

By Kyosuke Kamishiro and TakayaKi. Released in Japan as “Mamahaha no Tsurego ga Motokano datta” by Kadokawa Sneaker Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Gierrlon Dunn.

Last time I mentioned that the anime was just starting, and I wondered how it would be handled. Well, now we know, and we also know that apparently the anime producers like Akatsuki as much as I do. Almost the entire third volume was jettisoned from the anime, which decided it really did not need multiple episodes focusing on the world’s most toxic ex-couple. More to the point, they knew something had to go if they wanted to adapt this volume, which turns out to have the perfect “open ending” for an anime that might eventually get a second season. It focuses squarely on our main couple… well, OK, no it doesn’t. It focuses squarely on Yume. The back and forth narrative voices are skewed very much towards the feminine thins time around, because Yume wears her heart on her sleeve and is really easy to figure out, but Mizuto bottles everything up and is not. It takes a family reunion to finally crack the “my stupid ex” facade.

Mizuto and Yume have now gotten comfortable with each other, and with arguing. Perhaps a bit too comfortable, as their parents note they act like a couple that’s fallen out of the “honeymoon” phase. Because Yume is Yume, she looks up online how to deal with this, which apparently involves going with Mizuto to try on swimsuits. The reason for the swimsuit is that they’re making the annual trek into the rural hinterlands of Japan to see Mizuto’s extended family, and this is the first year Yume and her mother will be making the trip. Meeting the in-laws goes well enough, but unfortunately they also come with a hot older cousin, who Yume seems to be convinced was Mizuto’s first love. And in fact Mizuto has been acting even more remote and uncaring than usual lately. Is there something going on?

I don’t want to spoil one of the major emotional parts of the book, which involves Mizuto’s great-grandfather, but suffice it to say it’s really well handled and offers some insight into Mizuto himself. But what this book is really about is Yume coming to terms with the fact that she’s in love with Mizuto. I enjoy the way that it’s framed, as it’s not a case of “oh, I’ve been in love with him all this time”, but rather that the Yume here and now loves him, and her biggest rival turns out not to be Higashira (who is busy trying to write AO3 fanfics of herself and Mizuto, and failing) but her younger self, the one who first captured Mizuto’s heart. The reason that most of the narrative is from her perspective is because we need Mizuto to be mysterious and remote here. I do wonder what his reaction will be in the next book.

I may need to wonder longer, of course, given that the cover art and back cover copy of Volume 5 imply it’s a 100% Higashira focused book. In the meantime, this was an excellent romantic comedy volume… unless you’re Akatsuki and Kawanami, I guess. Sorry, guys, cute pool antics aside, you’re just not important enough.

A Late-Start Tamer’s Laid-Back Life, Vol. 4

By Yuu Tanaka and Nardack. Released in Japan as “Deokure Tamer no Sono Higurashi” by GC Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Yuko C. Shimomoto.

At long last, Yuto and his tamed monsters are finally starting to get good at the sort of combat that everyone else figured out three days into the game. Sure, later in the book he runs into two top-tier players who remind him that he’s still really weak by comparison, but there’s more here of him and the others actually defeating a lot of monsters. That said, fear not, because the main reason to read the book is still here, by which I mean Yuto telling Alyssa about everything he’s done recently and watching her reaction. I’m not kidding, this has become the highlight of the series, and I love it every time. He simply cannot accept that he is breaking the game in ways no one would ever think of before… but that also allows other players to do things the normal way, so everyone benefits. Indeed, another running gag, which has Yuto casually giving away powerful intel and items because he wants to, is all present and correct.

At long last, after three books hanging around the starter town like Lloyd Belladonna, our heroes finally move on to the next set of towns (though they maintain their farm back at the start as well). This allows Yuto to accidentally figure out how to access two powerful areas, where he can tame an undine (who is, of course, incredibly cute), gain odd new skills that will work out down the line, and have his monsters level up and evolve by the secret method of being nice to them and treating them like equals. We also meet the rest of Alyssa’s intel group, and they’re all as fired up about him as you’d imagine. And he runs into the game’s other top tamer, Amimin, and her summoner friend Mattsun, who both happen to fill the ‘shy girl and her aloof tomboy friend’ stereotype this series has desperately needed. Yuto’s circle of friends is opening up!

We do see the occasional sign that reminds us that Yuto is actually a middle-aged salaryman, and that it’s probably a good thing he’s unlocking so many things, as soon he will have to go back to the grind. For now, though, he’s essentially walking around this game like Maple from Bofuri, accomplishing things the development team had made ludicrously impossible by accident. The devs, at least, seem far more sanguine about it than Maple’s do – especially about Sakura’s evolution, which was supposed to be super incredibly rare and which (as we see in a battle near the end) proves to definitely be life saving. And… yeah, sorry. This is still a slow life book about a game, so I don’t really have much to analyse here. He makes lots of fish dishes. The treant from the last book evolves, but is a stay-at-home treant, so we don’t learn much about it. The undine seems nice, but the fact that none of the monsters speak makes character development more obscure.

Still, this is another volume of the series that does whatever the hell it wants, and does it in a way that I want to read more of it. For fans who would like to play this game themselves.