The Fall 2022 Light Novel Guideby Rebecca Silverman,
Another seasonal round up, another batch of isekai! Yes, the subgenre continues to be strong in the slate of translated light novels, with the twin sub-subgenres of “villainess” and “overpowered hero” remaining on top. But we're also seeing a bit more variation within them, as Formerly, the Fallen Daughter of the Duke plays with the video game reincarnation trope for the former and Oversummoned, Overpowered, and Over It! takes on the latter. There are also some entries this time that are just good old-fashioned fantasy with no isekai element and a yuri romantic comedy that does quite well for itself, as well as the ambiguous tale of a certain gorgeous jeweler and his assistant. While it wouldn't be fair to call this the most variety we've seen in a while, it is still a good mix of genres and subgenres so that most light novel readers should be able to find something to their taste. I didn't quite have the time to cover everything coming out in our three-month window this time, but hopefully this selection will introduce you to something that will pique your reading interest.
Death's Daughter and the Ebony Blade
Story by Maito Ayamine, art by Cierra. Translated by Sylvia Gallagher. J-Novel Club, $6.99 digital.
Synopsis:Olivia is just a baby when the mysterious Z finds her at a temple in the depths of the Forest of No Return. From that day on, the temple becomes her home and Z her family. Z, a god of death, educates her in the ways of the world, in combat, and in the long-forgotten arts of magic—right up until the day Z disappears. Olivia leaves the forest for the first time in search of Z with its ebony blade in hand.
Out in the wider world, all is not well. A bitter war rages between the Asvelt Empire and the Kingdom of Fernest, and Fernest is losing badly. When Olivia shows up on Fernest's doorstep with a sack of imperial heads looking to volunteer, the royal army happily welcomes her into its ranks. Thanks to Z's training, she quickly proves herself as a ferocious warrior. In fact, she might be just what Fernest needs to turn the tide of the war...but will they accept her lack of people skills and disregard for discipline? And will she ever see Z again?
Thoughts: This is, first and foremost, a war story. One with plenty of lighter elements, but almost the entire thing takes place on the battlefields of a fantasy medieval kingdom where knights and soldiers alike strategize and kill. In large part, that's what makes Olivia such a fun character – raised by a purported god of death who goes by the name of Z, Olivia is more efficient than 99.99% of all the other characters, even at the tender age of fifteen. In part that's because Z bequeathed her their scythe, which Olivia uses in the form of a sword, but it's also because being raised by Death makes you a damn good fighter…and maybe a little lacking in the commonsense department.
The real joy of this novel is in watching everyone try to figure out what Olivia's deal is. She's super-efficient on the field of battle, but off of it she's like a particularly sheltered five-year-old, preferring to be paid in cake and cheerfully running over everyone's assumptions about her. It's worth mentioning that she's not the only lady soldier on this battlefield, so it's not her gender that throws people; rather it's the odd innocence that she has while she's merrily cutting people's heads off or hacking them in twain. It's not a juxtaposition that always works, in part because no matter how cute her dialogue, we always know how any given battlefield encounter is going to end, but it is one that makes for something a little different in an otherwise quite serious war narrative. It begins to drag around the midpoint, because there really isn't quite enough variety in the story, but it's also a gory good time and devotes a decent amount of space to the actual tactics of people who aren't Olivia. For a grim fantasy that isn't also dark, this is a safe bet.
DUNGEON DIVE: Aim for the Deepest Level
Story by Tarisa Warinai, art by Saki Ukai. Translated by Giuseppe di Martino. J-Novel Club, $6.99 digital.
Synopsis: An ordinary kid by the name of Aikawa Kanami winds up in a fantasy world operated by RPG video game rules—but this isn't good news. He awakes in the bowels of a gargantuan death trap called the Dungeon. Narrowly escaping thanks to his grit, cunning, and newfound arsenal of magic spells and skills, he wants nothing more than to get back home to Earth and the invalid sister who needs him. His only lead? It's said that whoever makes it to the hundredth and final level can have any wish granted.
In his desperation, Kanami cooks up the most efficient means of clearing the Dungeon and lies his way into a partnership of expediency with an aspiring swordfighter who's rubbish with the blade but unbelievably skilled at magic. Kanami's cool determination, however, is soon put to the test when he and his new comrade are faced with a surprise boss fight. How far will he go in order to emerge victorious? Find out in the first volume of this beloved, long-running series!
Thoughts: There's something to be said for a vaguely bland book where the author is fully aware of the tropes they're engaging with. And to be fair, Dungeon Dive doesn't stay bland for long – it plunks us down in medias res with Kanami's awakening in the dungeon, but by midway through the novel we're getting more an idea about what's truly going on. Kanami's got no idea how he ended up in a video game world (or at least none that he's sharing yet; backstory is doled out carefully), but he does know that he needs to figure out how to get home as quickly as possible; his younger sister is dying in the hospital and he's desperate to make it back before she perishes. But he's also smart enough to realize that he can't just go about this willy-nilly, so as soon as he manages to get out of the dungeon, he figures out a way to survive in this world. He does research, he gets a job, and he learns how to use his game-granted cheats (mostly his ability to see stats) to give himself an edge. He even comes up with an alias to use to make him sound less Japanese – and happily the transition from web to light novel updated it from Christ Eurasia to Siegfried. Kanami may not be happy with his isekai experience, but he's going to be as rational as possible to come out of it alive.
The game-like nature of his new world does mean that the annoying aspects of the genre are on full display, mostly in the forms of excessive status updates. But the author states that the goal was to have Kanami explore with a bunch of heroines rather than anything more harem-like, and that does wonders for his relationships with the three ladies introduced in this book. One of them, Dia, is crossdressing for her own reasons and Kanami never calls Dia out on this, even using masculine pronouns in the text, which is a very nice thing to see. The action scenes don't feel overly descriptive as these things go, so they move at a decent pace, and there's a good balance between Kanami's thoughts about himself as he worries that he's becoming too accustomed to life in his new world, a place where he has zero interest in remaining. There is the usual slave garbage, which I expect will be developed further in subsequent novels, and while I don't love that, it's certainly on the less awful side as far as how the trope is typically used. If you're already sick of the genre, this probably won't be of interest, but if you still enjoy a decent isekai adventure, Dungeon Dive fits into that category.
Formerly, the Fallen Daughter of the Duke
Story by Ichibu Saki, art by Nemusuke. Translated by Andrew Schubauer. J-Novel Club, $6.99 digital.
Synopsis: Claire Martino was supposed to have it all – as the daughter of a duke, she was destined to be blessed with great magic powers, a prince for a fiancé, and a loving family. But all of that comes crashing down when her half-sister Charlotte betrays her and sets her up for a fall. Now deprived of everything she should have had and framed for cruelties she did not commit, Claire has left her home and country…but things may not be quite as hopeless as they seem once she starts having some strange dreams.
Thoughts: Is this true isekai? Or is it a case of Claire and Minami switching places every time Claire uses up her magic powers and collapses? That question is what makes this light novel far more engaging than it strictly ought to be, because it otherwise is a pretty typical villainess story – Claire is framed by her younger half-sister Charlotte, left by her fiancé, abandoned by her family, and flees the country to save herself. On the road she meets Vik, the prince of a neighboring nation, and discovers that not only was Charlotte a twit, but Claire's far more powerful than she ever imagined. Happily ever after following some antics, right?
Not quite. Because Claire has dreams where she's a woman named Minami in modern Japan, and Minami's friend is playing a game that looks awfully like Claire's life – and that game may hold the clues to getting Claire's fate back on track. It's very reminiscent of the children's novel Charlotte Sometimes, where two girls named Clare and Charlotte switch places across time, and this element has a lot of interesting implications for Claire's life – mostly, it seems, in the form of guidance and a reset option should everything go down the drain. There are no game elements to Claire's life, which definitely helps keep this readable, and the intrigue really comes from Claire trying to figure out what role Minami plays for her. While there's a very straightforward story going on about Claire, Vik, and the issues surrounding Claire and Charlotte, the Minami sections keep things a little off-balance, and that really does help to keep the story interesting. While the characters' speech can sound affected (there's an overuse of the phrase “ever so”), the translation keeps the story flowing nicely and there are a good amount of illustrations. It's an interesting riff on the typical isekai villainess tale, so if you aren't villainessed-out, it really is worth picking up.
Oversummoned, Overpowered, and Over It!
Story by Saitosa, art by Tsugutoku. Translated by Geirrlon Dunn. J-Novel Club, $6.99 digital.
Synopsis: Name's Inori Takafuji. I'm not really much of a “go-getter,” if you catch my drift—sleep's more my style—but getting summoned to another world kinda messed things up. Bit hard to chill when you've got a king in your face telling you there's a bad guy you've gotta go slay or whatever, you know? Plot twist, though—it's actually not so bad. Getting the hero treatment sounds pretty nice, right?
But then it happens again! Some other clown summons me, I get my obligatory superpower, and off I go. And sure, that's fine. It happens, sometimes you get isekai'd to the wrong place. But then it happens AGAIN! Someone ELSE summons me, I get ANOTHER superpower, and then I'm somewhere totally new. Repeat ad nauseam.
All right, goddess, where to next? And lemme just say this—the next time I get summoned better be my last, because I am so over this!
Thoughts: It's hard to fault a book for doing what it says right there on the cover, but the late-breaking twist at the end of the novel is what ruined it for me. While it's not fair to say that the violence comes out of nowhere – because if you're paying attention, it really doesn't – it does feel like a somewhat abrupt shift from making fun of the typical overpowered isekai fantasy to something rather different. And when it is poking at its own genre, there's a fair amount to like here – the sheer ridiculousness of a character having the appropriate strength of soul to be isekai fodder not once, not twice, but seven times in quick succession is a great send-up of the typical genre premise. There's also a nice variety in the various summonses that Inori is subjected to – it starts out with a kind kingdom that will absolutely give he and his classmates a month to decide if they're willing to help and will happily send home anyone who doesn't want to to a full-on insane country that actually summoned three other kids from a parallel Japan and got Inori as a bonus…which they're not best pleased by. As a one-volume story, this could have been a very entertaining parody. But things begin to get grim in that final kingdom, which is of course the one that Inori is stuck in, and it feels as if someone (possibly the author, but it could have been an editor) decided that that wasn't where they wanted to go. I will say that the character writing is pretty good, because everything really is there in hindsight, but the tonal shift is jarring, and not necessarily in a Re:Zero or School-Live! kind of way. It's interesting, but not, perhaps, actually good.
The Saint's Belated Happiness: Newly Single, Now Living with the Demon Prince
Story by Hari Garasumachi, art by Yotsuba Hanada. Translation by Kai Sadler. Cross Infinite World, $7.99 digital.
Synopsis: Saint Marialite can't believe her ears when her fiancé, the crown prince, breaks off their engagement due to her age. She doesn't let that get her down, though; considering the hardship she has endured over the past few years, her mental fortitude allows her to calmly accept the prince's decision and return home. However, when she gets there, she finds…a boy with horns?!
The demon prince grows at an unbelievable speed, and in no time at all, he falls head over heels in love with Marialite. Now, he's determined to bring her back to his own country!
What might bloom between the easygoing saint and the naïve demon prince in this romantic fantasy?
Thoughts: Marialite may be a saint – a user of holy magic – but that doesn't mean that her life has been easy. In fact, it's been something of the opposite; her powers have caused her to lose two separate fiancés. Sure, she didn't love either of them, but it's still a blow, especially when Prince Rufus, whose father the king wanted him to marry her strictly because she's a saint, dropped her when he decided that twenty-seven was just way too old. Fortunately for our perky heroine, when she returns to her family home, there's a child in the abandoned house…a child who turns out to be an eighty-year-old demon prince who falls madly in love with her. (Demons, in this story, don't grow up until they meet their true love, and then age to adulthood and stop. This means that you can read their age gap however you want to.) Marialite is at first leery of love, but she gets over that pretty quickly, and now she's on her way to Sirius' homeland to become his crown princess.
If the term “fluffy read” had a dictionary entry, this book's cover would absolutely appear in it somewhere. While there are moments of danger, for the most part this is just pure sunshine, with Sirius being head-over-heels for Marialite and the saint herself acting as a genuine Pollyanna, looking on the bright side and charming and befriending enemies right and left. That means that if you're looking for something with some meat to it you're likely to be disappointed, but on those days when you just want to soak your brain in pure sugar syrup, this book is there to help. Marialite can been a bit too sweet to take, and the lack of any urgency to the plot won't make this work for everyone – there really isn't much to the story beyond the surface plot. It is, however, charmingly written and the illustrations are generally adorable, even if we don't get to see quite enough of Snow the flying cat or the weird plants Marialite's saintly affinity allows her to grow. There are some interesting world-building aspects, however, such as the eternal night meant to hide the demons' kingdom from prying (and greedy) human eyes and the way saints function – each as a specific elemental affinity, with Marialite's being plants, which makes her very attractive politically to a kingdom with no sunlight. While it can end up feeling a little empty, this is still an enjoyable light read for the days when “thinking” isn't high on your list of things to do.
The case files of Jeweler Richard
Story by Nanko Tsujimura, art by Utako Yukihiro. Translated by T. Emerson. Airship, $9.99 digital, $14.99 paperback.
Synopsis: When Japanese college student Seigi Nakata rescues a handsome young jewelry appraiser from a group of drunken assailants, he gets more than he bargains for. The appraiser is Richard Ranashinha de Vulpian, a brilliant and mysterious British jewelry expert. Seigi hires Richard to appraise a ring left to Seigi by his grandmother...and the adventures are just beginning. Together, they unlock the secret messages hidden in the hearts of jewels—and those who possess them.
Thoughts: If there's any one difference between the original light novels of The case files of Jeweler Richard and its manga and anime adaptations, it's that in the books, Richard is much more human. We certainly saw flashes of that in both adaptation formats, with Takahiro Sakurai's vocal depiction of Richard coming the closest to what the novel brings us, but in Nanako Tsujimura's source text for the story, we find the clearest proof that Richard's preternaturally gorgeous outside is merely a mask for the very real man underneath. Mostly this is accomplished by the descriptive tags applied to his lines; he says thinks sulkily, he tries to stifle laughter, he grumbles, he sighs heavily. While all of those things can be conveyed in the manga and anime, both can downplay them based on the adaptor's or director's view of the character. In the novel, we're presented with the Richard that Tsujimura intended, and he's someone who gets frustrated with relative ease and who is clearly putting on a bit of a show as the calm, gorgeous man that everyone sees.
There are a few small issues with Seven Seas' release of the book (at least in its initial digital publication), mostly to the tune of not giving us enough visual indication when the scene is making a major shift via an extra space or a central image. There are a couple of small typos as well, primarily capitalization and punctuation, but they're mostly noticeable because there are so few. The chapters do skip around in terms of time covered, with jumps forward that can be a little confusing, but overall this is well written and translated, with a lot of information given in ways that don't feel like infodumps. If you're torn between manga and novel for the story, I'd definitely go with the novels for the extra dose of humanity Richard gets, but whichever you choose, this is an interesting story.
Sugar Apple Fairy Tale
Story by Miri Mikawa, art by Aki. Translated by Nicole Wilder. YenOn, $8.99 digital, $15 paperback.
Synopsis: Anne Halford is a candy crafter determined to follow in her mother's footsteps and become a Silver Sugar Master, a title bestowed only by royalty. In order to travel to the capital and realize her dream, she purchases Challe, a handsome but foul-mouthed fairy, as her bodyguard. Anne wishes to befriend her new companion, but in this kingdom where fairies are treated as property, Challe wants nothing to do with humans.
Thoughts: One thing we can definitely say about Miri Mikawa: she may primarily write fantasy, but she's not just a one-trick pony. Unlike her previously-released series, Culinary Chronicles of the Court Flower, Sugar Apple Fairy Tale is a traditional western-style fantasy, taking place in a pseudo-European country at some point in the past. While there is a similar food element, Anne is exclusively a confectioner: she only makes candies. Specifically, she makes silver sugar candies, and she's aiming to become a Silver Sugar Master like her late mother. Mikawa does a nice job of establishing the role of the candy in high society as well as the reason that this particular sugar, made from the fictional sugar apple, is so sought after; we understand what's going on without tons of information being dumped on our heads. This, along with the unique role that the fairies play in the story's world, make this an easily grasped fantasy world.
Of course, it can't be all sugar and roses, and the fairies do play a part in that element of the narrative. Some readers may find themselves offput by the way that fairies are enslaved by humans, and that's something that heroine Anne is uncomfortable with as well. She's always been taught that fairies are no different than humans in terms of the value of their lives, and when she finds herself in the position of having to purchase Challe Finn Challe to protect her, she makes it clear that she intends to set him free as soon as possible. Does that erase the discomfort of having the main character purchase the guy who will likely become her romantic interest? Absolutely not. Fortunately, the rest of the novel is a better balance of cruel and exciting, and the overall fairy mythology is well developed, making it clear that Mikawa put a lot of thought into it. There's also a clear effort made to keep it obvious that neither Challe nor Anne are comfortable with the way their relationship begins, although I recognize that that won't help enough for some readers. But overall this is a well thought out story in an interesting fantasy world, a fairy tale that takes its name from the actual presence of fairies in it, and it sets up a story that I'm interested to follow.
Though I Am an Inept Villainess: Tale of the Butterfly-Rat Body Swap in the Maiden Court
Story by Satsuki Nakamura, art by Kana Yūki. Translated by Tara Quinn. Airship, $9.99 digital, $14.99 paperback.
Synopsis: In a kingdom inspired by historical China, five clans put forth their maidens as imperial consorts–but only one will be crowned empress. The frail and beautiful Kou Reirin, the so-called “butterfly” of the imperial court, is a shoo-in to marry the crown prince. But when “court rat” Shu Keigetsu lashes out at her during the glittering Lantern Festival, it's Reirin who wakes up in the dungeons. Body-swapped by her assailant to steal her position at court, Reirin's plight seems dire...to everyone else. Now that she's got a robust new body, not even the looming threat of execution can stop her.
Thoughts: There's something a little uncomfortable about this “be careful what you wish for” story. Mostly that's because while villainess Keigetsu does deserve punishment for her many bad acts, having her switch bodies with her chief rival Reirin and then imply that life in Reirin's sickly body isn't worth living is troubling. Reirin didn't think that way, which may turn this into more of a case of Keigetsu learning that nothing is as good as it seems than a statement about how Reirin's disabled body is objectively bad, but it also stands to turn some readers off – and I do think that would be justified.
The story itself is clearly meant to be more of a farce than anything else. Reirin in Keigetsu's strong, healthy body is having a wonderful time – she gleefully turns her punishments into the life of her dreams, working from dawn till dusk in her garden, sewing, crafting, and learning new dances until her cup of happiness runneth over. It doesn't really bother her that everyone believes her to be Keigetsu; she'd like it if people would allow her to help Keigetsu in Reirin's body to make the other woman more comfortable, but on the whole she's having a lot of fun. The court, meanwhile, can't figure out what's going on with the two body-swapped ladies at all, and at least two young men are baffled by their sudden attraction to a woman they previously thought was evil incarnate. Seeing Reirin in Keigetsu's body trample all over everyone's expectations is a lot of fun, and the swiftness with which she gets over not being able to tell anyone who she really is does allow for the lighter aspects of the story to shine through quite nicely. But the basic premise might be a bit too much for all readers to stomach, and this is a book I find myself more and more conflicted about the longer I dwell on it. If you can just read and let it wash over you, I think you'll have a better time.
Yuri Tama: From Third Wheel to Trifecta
Story by toshizou, art by Kuro Shina. Translated by Tristan K. Hill. J-Novel Club, $6.99 digital.
Synopsis: Yuna Momose and Rinka Aiba were made for each other, and their whole school knows it. Between Yuna's princess-like elegance and Rinka's prince-like charm, all their classmates see them as the ideal couple. Yotsuba Hazama is no exception to that, but she is exceptional in another way: she's somehow managed to become fast friends with both of them!
Having the whole school's favorite ship as her two best friends isn't exactly easy, though. Not only does it make everyone treat Yotsuba like a particularly obnoxious third wheel, it makes her feel like one too! Or at least it does, until one day, Yuna asks her out. And then Rinka asks her out too! And Yotsuba, whose social anxiety never seems to kick in until after she's already messed something up...says yes to both of them, without sparing so much as a single thought for the consequences. Oops!
Now Yotsuba only has one choice: keep her accidental two-timing under wraps and make both of her new girlfriends as happy as she possibly can!
Thoughts: Chalk this one up as another light novel that does precisely what it says on the tin: hapless heroine Yotsuba, after managing to befriend the most shipped couple at her all-girls high school, also soon finds herself dating both of them. She's not entirely sure how either of these things came to pass – up until her surprise admission to a school that's way out of her academic league, she just sort of falls into friendship with both idol-like Yuna and athletic Rinka when she returns a handkerchief that Rinka dropped. Why this becomes the price of admission to their exclusive two-person world she's not sure, but it definitely comes with the expected consequences of other girls being very unhappy with what they see as the third wheel to their favored pairing. And yet, that's not the sum total of Yotsuba's problems, because somehow both Yuna and Rinka fall for her and ask her out. From that point on, though, she knows exactly how she got into her present mess, because she's the one who couldn't bring herself to say no to either of them. It's a rom com setup that we see fairly frequently in shounen romance, with a male protagonist torn between two girls, and there is a bit of novelty at seeing it in a yuri light novel, although it must be said that there isn't actually all that much that all of the characters being girls does for the basic plotline. The twist (if we can really call it that) hinges on the fact that Yuna and Rinka were close friends to begin with and that Yotsuba is so worried about causing a falling out between them that she never considers that they might have already been in the habit of sharing everything with each other.
Yuri Tama: From Third Wheel to Trifecta is a bit predictable. It's also got Yotsuba's two younger sisters who introduce the potential for another staple of the shounen rom com, the overly attached younger sister, and there are real hints that that's where things are heading with them. But it's also well written enough that it doesn't really matter how many times we've seen this particular story before, and if you're a fan of slightly racier yuri, this goes more in on the kissing descriptions than a lot of other novels released in English. It isn't perfect by any means, but it's also a good execution of a familiar concept and has some very nice illustrations. Certainly, its status as a yuri light novel is enough for some people to pick it up, but if you're just looking for a cozy romantic comedy, this comfortably fits that bill as well.
Apparently, Disillusioned Adventurers Will Save the World
Story by Shinta Fuji, art by Susumu Kuroi. Translated by Luke Hutton. YenOn, $8.99 digital, $15 paperback.
Synopsis: Nick used to be a member of a veteran adventurer party, helping his undisciplined friends with the accounts whenever he could. But what was his reward? Getting accused of embezzlement and kicked out by the leader he respected. Before long, he finds a few other jaded adventurers and kindred spirits, and together, they form their own unstoppable party!
Thoughts: It can sometimes feel like a great discovery to find a classic sword and sorcery light novel that isn't also isekai. That's the case with this one – it's got all of the elements of an old D&D novelization without a lot of the baggage that weighs down light novels. There are no lists of stats, no excruciating scenes of powerups, and the characters, while all belonging to recognizable classes, feel more like people than archetypes. They've also got it rougher than many other similar characters through no fault of their own: all of them were summarily removed from their parties, schools, or parishes because of unfair and untrue accusations…and then they all made a few bad choices following their bad luck. So Zem the former priest sleeps around with sex workers, Tiana the rebuffed mage has a gambling problem, Nick's the redundant swordsman who became obsessed with an idol group, and Karan the beleaguered dragongirl consoles herself with food.
They're all very believable reactions to having the rug pulled out from under you in the worst way possible, and that all four of them manage to get back on their feet at all, never mind together, is a testament to the fact that it was the people who threw them away who were the bad ones. Of course, nothing goes smoothly for the newly formed party, appropriately named “The Survivors,” but what makes the book enjoyable is the way that they pick themselves up and try to make a go of things. There's perhaps a mild revenge element to the story, but mostly it's just about finding a reason to keep going and people to help you do it.
And fighting monsters in labyrinthine dungeons, of course. That's where the fun is, and while this isn't perfect or superbly plotted and written, it is still a good read if you're in the mood for some old-fashioned fantasy.
Story by Koushi Tachibana, art by Tsunako. Translated by Haydn Trowell. YenOn, $8.99 digital, $15 paperback.
Synopsis: Saika Kuozaki is an all-powerful witch with looks to die for. She's also the only woman who can thwart the mysterious entities attempting to destroy the world once every 300 hours. When Saika is mortally wounded, however, she bequeaths both her powers and body to the normal high school boy who happens upon her, Mushiki Kuga. But just because Mushiki has her abilities doesn't mean he can control them. To stand a chance of saving the world, he'll have to attend an academy for mages as Saika—all while keeping his identity under wraps.
Thoughts: Coming from the author of Date-A-Live – and the same illustrator, which is a nice bonus – King's Proposal is one of those books that gets better as it goes on. The first portion of the story is a fairly standard gender bender romp: hapless high school boy Mushiki falls in love at first sight with a dying girl he sees on the street, is injured himself, and the next thing he knows, he's waking up with his soul in her body. Okay, maybe it's not that standard, although the author is quick to inform us that Mushiki is neither a pervert nor a necrophiliac in a paragraph that's almost certainly not intended to be funny but somehow is. The more rote parts come once Mushiki realizes that he's in a lady's form; there are plenty of gags about how he suddenly has large breasts (he can't see his feet! Tee hee!) and the inevitable blindfolded bath scene, which comes complete with the one person who knows what's going on feeling him up in the tub and commenting how his sensitivity levels have changed now that it's Mushiki and not Seika running the show. All of this, however, makes at least a little narrative sense once the big twist comes three-quarters of the way through the book, and while it's not quite enough to save the story if you're not invested in it already, it does still liven things up, narratively speaking. By that point of the volume Mushiki is also doing a better job of being in charge of both brain and body, meaning that he's able to maintain his original, male form, which takes some of the weirdness of his brain being in love with the body it currently resides in. This really isn't without potential, and with most of the set up being out of the way, the series stands a good chance of improving drastically from here. It may not be the book to pick up if you're looking for a straight magic school or gender swap story, but if you like both of those things combined, it's an interesting read.
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