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by Theron Martin,

Combatants Will Be Dispatched!

Novel 1

Combatants Will Be Dispatched! Novel 1
The Kisaragi Corporation, which prides itself on being an evil organization, is finally close to completing its goal of conquering the world. For various practical reasons, they need to find additional worlds to invade, so a roll of the die determines that the organization's most senior soldier, Combat Agent Six, will be the one to use an experimental teleporter to travel to another planet to survey it. Accompanying him is the “high-spec pretty girl android” Alice, but they aren't a twosome for long. Shortly after arriving in what initially appears to be a fantasy world, they find a golden opportunity to pretend to be mercenaries for a local princess while they carry out their duty. That leads to them being in the same squad as a trio of female problem cases: an ambitious Knight-Commander, a Chimera who can gain powers from monsters by eating them, and a curse-specializing archbishop in a wheelchair with an odd habit of being unkillable. And oh yes, there's also a rival evil organization called “Demon Lord” that will have to be dispatched before invasion can begin.

Combatants Will Be Dispatched! is a light novel that challenges the exact definition of isekai, though probably not deliberately. The two main characters are transported to another world, it's basically a fantasy setting, and they have important (if unintentional) roles to play there. But does it still count as isekai if the world-jumper is transported on purpose and on orders from his original world? Whether or not this world is actually in the same universe isn't clear – there are mentions of another planet, but magic does work there – so the details are left undefined.

It is clear that this novel can easily be summed as flippant. Though its basic shell is standard fantasy fiction, it freely engages in parody and traffics in all manners of preposterous ideas. This begins with its most foundational elements. The Kisaragi Corporation so thoroughly prides itself on being evil that it uses accumulation of Evil Points much like many businesses use merit point systems; operatives can use points to get special equipment, and re-education is a possible consequence if an operative's point total goes into the negatives, and personnel earn points by doing evil acts. Naturally, the organization's chief scientist is crazy, and Six notes that it's practically a rule in the organization that the higher your rank, the skimpier your outfits will get. References to fighting Heroes in spandex are also tossed out from time to time but never dwelled upon, giving the impression that this is one of those stories where the villains are the protagonists. However, unlike other such stories, it's a minor detail that the villains are winning. The real story is what's happening in the other world.

The story focuses almost entirely on Six and Alice; a couple of scenes briefly explore the viewpoints of other characters, and the epilogue looks at what's transpiring back on Earth, but those scenes only total a handful of the novel's 247 pages. Six is a classic meathead, stalwart at combat but bad at being truly evil, resulting in his Evil Points mostly coming from juvenile or petty sexual antics; changing a password that had formerly been a prayer into an obscene phrase that a princess must say in public or forcing a captive female Demon General to pose provocatively while he takes pictures are in his wheelhouse, though he has no qualms about slicing and dicing opponents in a fight either. Alice is the acerbic android girl who seems almost too human but still provides more responsible stability to the duo. They are eventually joined in a squad with a trio of local ladies who all have major personality and ability quirks, but also provide a vaguely haremlike situation for Six, with a princess who acts as the local country's real power also potentially in the mix.

Because very little in this story is meant to be taken seriously, world-building is somewhat haphazard on the fantasy end and very thin on the Earth side, although in the latter case we do get several random details: America had an unusually high number of Heroes, for instance. Another running joke is that the other world is so suspiciously like a fantasy RPG from Earth that even Six makes that observation. The setting is complete with a high number of female combatants (reasonably explained as a consequence of young men having died off in earlier war efforts) who are, of course, unusually attractive to boot. The other world has relics that suggest a past technological base and some adaptation of modern technology into magical terms, and it even pokes fun at the concept of a Chosen One. Little effort is put into developing further details, but what is present suffices for the story.

The writing style is every bit as casual as the overall tone, with a heavy emphasis on snappy dialogue exchanges that even backgrounds the action in favor of doling out more quips. Chapters end with reports sent back to the Kisaragi Corporation that put Six's antics in more official-sounding terminology, with fantasy elements cast in modern terms (the Demon Lord's army is a “rival organization,” for instance). There is one blatant reference to Konosuba in this volume, which shouldn't be surprising since this novel was written by the same author; in fact, author Natsume Akatsuki explains in the Afterword that the first volume of this work was actually posted online before he started Konosuba. The artwork in the color glossy pages at the front and the black-and-whites scattered throughout is anime-standard in style but well-illustrated.

The epilogue includes a big amusing twist that holds great promise for future volumes. As of the time of this writing, three more volumes have been released in Japan, so the story will continue. Given its pedigree and the nature of the content, an eventual anime adaptation would be welcomed, as I think this would translate well into anime form. If you're looking for a lighter side to your light novel roster, then this one should fit the bill well.

Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B+

+ Has a lot of fun with its concept, plentiful parodies and genre references
Depends too much on dialogue over exposition or prose detailing the action

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Production Info:
Story: Natsume Akatsuki
Licensed by: Yen On

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