My Friend’s Little Sister Has It In for Me!, Vol. 3

By mikawaghost and tomari. Released in Japan as “Tomodachi no Imouto ga Ore ni dake Uzai” by GA Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Alexandra Owen-Burns.

Someone needs to tell Japan that “having the rest of the cast being creeped out about the appalling character” is not a get out of jail free card for everything the character does. I’ve said in the previous books that the shotacon tendencies of Sumire are not funny but awful. Well, she’s the main character of this book, and so we get a lot more of it than even the previous two, and it’s still awful. Saying that a guy would be the perfect husband if only he were 5 years old is not a “LOL” moment. So be aware as I write the rest of this that this is a big black mark, and made me not enjoy this book nearly as much as the previous two. That said, I’m still reading it, because I do like the cast and the romantic comedy situations. With, well, one exception. Fortunately, this is not We Never Learn, so the teacher has precisely zero chance of winning the romantic sweepstakes.

We pick up right where the cliffhanger left off, as Sumire begs Akiteru to marry her. As expected, her family has decided enough is enough, and is going to arrange marry her soon… which means she won’t be able to draw anymore. This is basically the only reason Akiteru agrees to the scheme. After some “wacky” date situations, which I will not go into as they are dumb, a trip that’s supposed to be to the beach becomes a trip to her remote mountain village, where her father wants to meet Akiteru… and force them to get married immediately. Can they possibly get around the marriage ceremony with a 100% success rate? Can Iroha continue to try to cleverly juggle all these relationships in the air, given sempai is a dense MF and won’t do it for her? And can Mashiro finally admit she’s secretly their star writer?

Again, this series leans pretty hard on the Higurashi pastiche. Their game is subtitled “When They Cry”, and Sumire’s home village essentially turns out to be Hinamizawa, complete with terrifying elders and obscure rituals. Having already mentioned the volume’s big weaknesses, I do want to applaud its really good moment, when Mashiro’s editor (who we meet here, ad boy does it take some fancy footwork to explain her presence) points out to Akiteru that he needs to be able to offer his fellow game creators a reason to stay on with him, or else they’re going to look for other opportunities. What can he personally offers them? (Other than, of course, being the romantic lead who has no idea half the cast are in love with him.) It’s not a question that’s answered here, but I do appreciate it was brought up. Iroha also remains quite enjoyable, a bit less “annoying” than the first two volumes, probably as she’s trying harder to have him “get” her feelings.

That’s unlikely to happen soon, and a cliffhanger means we don’t even get this one resolved in one volume. Still, hopefully it won’t take up all of Vol;. 4. I think two volumes starring Sumire is two too many.

My Friend’s Little Sister Has It In for Me!, Vol. 2

By mikawaghost and tomari. Released in Japan as “Tomodachi no Imouto ga Ore ni dake Uzai” by GA Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Alexandra Owen-Burns.

In my last review, I compared this book to McDonald’s fast food, and nothing here changes that opinion. I enjoyed it a great deal. It has characters who I enjoy reading, dialogue that’s a lot of fun, and clearly has a long-term goal in mind as opposed to just being written volume to volume. On the other hand, wow, the plot beats here make me cringe. “Let’s save the drama club!” is not something that a self-respecting series should be doing when it’s only the second book, and the ludicrous coincidences that lead to our leads ending up in the production are even worse. Now, I get the sense the author knows this, as the situation really is pretty ludicrous, but yeah, don’t read this for the plot. That said, it should make this pretty fun to adapt when it becomes an anime, and Iroha will no doubt please fans who are already over the moon for Uzaki and Nagatoro, though I warn you her dialogue is a bit slang-filled.

This volume picks up right where the last one left off, as Akiteru tries to figure out how to respond to Mashiro’s confession, and Iroha knows about this confession but has to pretend she doesn’t. Akiteru knows he has to respond quickly and decisively, because he’s read dumb romantic comedy light novels. Unfortunately, it turns out that while he tries his hardest to be the best Eliezer Yudkowsky he can be, he is not quite able to get past the fact that he’s really goddamn happy he got a confession -though it takes him most of the book to figure this out. As for Iroha, well, she’s dealing with jealousy as well, plus her dimwitted senpai not figuring out her feelings (which Mashiro sure can by the end of this book), and it’s even affecting her voice acting work. Hrm, this sounds complicated, maybe saving the drama club *is* what’s needed…

As I’ve said before, Akiteru interests me, mostly as I think he’s screwed up in a very different way from cynics like Kyon or nihilists with a heart of gold like Hachiman. His raw panic when Iroha points out he’s overslept by an hour, and desperation to get to school on time so it doesn’t mess up his regimented life, is very telling. There’s no denying that he’s excellent at directing, be it games or plays, and despite his own denials, he’s a pretty good actor too. But improvisation seems to be a kryptonite for him. The only reason he can do the play is he’s so familiar with the material, and the problems with Mashiro and Iroha that he “solves” here are done after thinking them out in bullet points in his head. The first epilogue suggests that he’s going to have to figure out a way to break through that soon, as he may need to improvise even more in the future.

Despite adding a new cast member to the game group (a classmate of Akiteru’s who is a genius sound designer), this still feels like only three of the cast are really important, and I’m hoping we’ll flesh out the others soon. Unfortunately, next time it looks like the one I didn’t want fleshed out will be getting the spotlight. I smell an arranged marriage… In any case, this is a lot of fun unless you take light novels too seriously.

My Friend’s Little Sister Has It In for Me!, Vol. 1

By mikawaghost and tomari. Released in Japan as “Tomodachi no Imouto ga Ore ni dake Uzai” by GA Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Alexandra Owen-Burns.

I’ve said this before, but sometimes you just want McDonald’s. You know that you could walk two more blocks and go to a nice steakhouse or an expensive Asian restaurant, but you can’t have that every day, and you feel like McNuggets, dammit. Sure, you’re probably going to get some bad along with the good, but you at least know exactly what you’re getting and are not surprised. This applies, believe it or not, to light novels as well. Sometimes I want to be amazed and transported to another world by wings of song, etc. And sometimes I want to read a harem comedy where the hero is as dense as lead and the heroines are all variations on “I hate you because I love you”. Good news! This book is McDonald’s. It won’t blow you away, but it will fill you up, and you know what? It came with a nice Apple Pie as a treat. (Have I finished grinding this metaphor into the dirt? Yes? Let’s get to the plot.)

Akiteru is our main character, and he has a lot on his plate. He’s the head of an amateur game development group, their new release is selling great, and he wants a job with his uncle, who runs a MUCH LARGER game company. The uncle agrees, on one condition: that he pretend to be his cousin’s boyfriend for the next year. She’s transferred schools after being bullied. And then there’s the titular little sister, who has apparently been reading the books of Takagi, Uzaki and Nagatoro and taken them to heart. She flirts aggressively with Akiteru, whose one main fault, as with most LN protagonists, is a complete inability to recognize anything as love. To him, her flirting is just plain mean bullying. And as for his cousin, well, she hates him too. Right?

To get the bad out of the way, there’s a character here who can be summed up as “shotacon”, and it’s as annoying as you’d expect. Also, the “friend” in the title gets very little to do, but I am hoping future books will change that. The reason I am hoping this is because the book’s chief strength is balancing out the love triangle that is forming around Akiteru with the game group he’s created, a tight-knit group of friends. Mashiro, the cousin, is the seeming newcomer to the group (though she has a rather obvious secret), and most of the second half is getting her introduced, loosening her up, and dealing with the bullying she had to content with at her previous school. I enjoyed that. Iroha, the little sister, is terrific, being obnoxious in the fun way rather than the irritating way. As for Akiteru, he’s hard to get a handle on. He does nice things, but his narration is basically “grumpy old cuss”, and he needs a shot in the arm of idealism. He’s not as bad as, say, Hachiman, but it can make him hard to read on occasion.

This just had an anime announced, and it’s not hard to see why – it isn’t due to the quality of the writing, it’s due to the fact that it checks a whole lot of ‘this should be an anime’ boxes. Despite reservations (see above), I think it’s the best of the three GA Bunko romcoms that J-Novel Club recently licensed. Fans of that genre who don’t mind the usual dense hero should get a kick out of this.