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.

A Late-Start Tamer’s Laid-Back Life, Vol. 3

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, this series has a big event that threatens the lives (well, the virtual lives) of its players. There’s missing kids. There’s killer bears. There’s dying magic trees. There’s two demon lord minions and the demon lord himself. Everyone will have to band together in order to find a way to defeat this horrible disaster. As for Yuto, he’s really excited about making pizza. Yuto will never really change who he is, and thus while all the other folks are going around finding quests and figuring out where the hell to sleep, Yuto immediately befriends a local NPC farmer and starts odd-jobbing his way to success. Which is good, because this event was designed with Yuto’s skill set in mind, and honestly the main problem may be getting Yuto to actually want to help them in battle against the boss. Why would he do that? He’s a terrible fighter. Much better to try to fish and grab some really nice pears. (No, not like that.)

While all the actual fighters are off having their tournament (which we never even hear the result of), Yuto and the other non-combatant players get an event to themselves. they arrive in a village of NPCs and have to figure out what’s going on. Yuto, as is his modus operandi, does not really bother and just sets about meeting all the NPCs, helping them out, getting useful bits of advice, and getting cool ingredients and recipes to cook with. That said, when the boy that he was fishing with vanishes, Yuto’s investigation ends up uncovering that they need to stop trying to kill the Shardik that’s trying to destroy them but instead find out why he’s doing that – as it turns out he’s meant to be a Guardian Bear who protects the village. Could it be demons? And if so, will Yuto just die like the terrible fighter he is?

Again, a lot of this series runs on Yuto underestimating his own playing style – he doesn’t see what he’s doing as great or unusual, but the other players don’t even THINK of it. That’s why he’s a pioneer. He also gets a coup;le new monsters by the end of the book – one, a treant he tamed that turned into a plant, will wait till next time, but Sakura and Olto’s egg turns out to have a singing fairy inside – though the singing is as wordless as all his other monsters. Unfortunately, he also suffers from his monsters being adorable – meaning they attract “fans”. The other players manage to stand on the edge of being creepty stalkers without ever quite going over it, but it’s a close thing, and I agree with his discomfort. That said, I fear this is the book’s running gag.

This was a stronger volume than the first two. If you can put up with Yuto’s narrative modesty and the long length of each volume, it’s a must for slow-life fans.

A Late-Start Tamer’s Laid-Back Life, Vol. 2

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.

It can often be very tempting to say “please see previous review” rather than trying to find 500+ new words about a series. Oh, there’s nothing particularly bad about this second volume. It continues to manage to make me want to keep reading it despite the fact that it is really just a gaming log of this guy building up his stats and choosing his bonuses. For 350 pages. The fact that I enjoy it is a big point in the author’s favor. And yet… there’s not really a lot to delve into here. Yuto is never really going to have major character development, as this is not that sort of book. He’s in an actual game, rather than trapped in a game or in a fantasy world that looks like a game, so there’s never any worry of bad things happening to him. Heck, it’s a G-rated game, so his two tamed monsters have a child by their magic intermingling, rather than for any more sordid reason. It’s not boring per se, but boring surrounds it like a cloud.

Yuto continues to chug along. He’s now hatched his monster egg, which produces a bear. No, not a normal, realistic bear – a teddy bear. Who Yuto promptly names Bear Bear, because that’s the kind of guy he is. He also meets a few other people, mostly young women (aside from his friendship with elf boy Sawyer, who is attractive and thus forces us to trot out the loathed “I’m straight, though” rejoinder) who assist him in running his farm, not dying from fighting ghosts, or just building him woodworking projects because his tamed animals are so KYUTE! Admittedly, he does still have a bit of negative attention. Not as bad as the first book – permabanning can send a message – but they’re not happy he always seems to be getting cool new things and has some hot babes hanging out with him. That said, he’s more concerned with tea and cookies.

It really does feel as you read this volume that the author is someone who wants to play a very specific kind of game, the one we are seeing in this book, but can’t quite find the one that has all the bells and whistles they want so has decided to just write it as a light novel. It is an ode to the sort of player who actually tries to do the useless quests everyone else avoids, or experiments with combining two completely disparate things into a recipe because why not? It also shows how rewarding this kind of thinking is – though only if you’re original about it, as people who are trying to do the exact same things that Yuto did are finding the game does not crank out the same cool rewards. I will admit I do also like the fact that Yuto is the opposite of a fighter. He’s saved by badass women from certain death twice in this book, and the book ends with a special event literally being created for him because he’s clearly not interested in the martial arts tournament. The devs have their eye on him. (Possibly in a disturbing way.)

Again, if you like Bofuri, you should give this a try. It really does make ‘a +3 boost to strength for 30 minutes’ come alive. (OK, no, it does not do that. But it tries.)