by Theron Martin,

Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?!

GN 1

Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! GN 1
Kurihara Misato was an extraordinary girl, so much so that it isolated her from others, much to her chagrin. When she died saving a little girl from Truck-kun on the day of her high school graduation, God offered to reward her for saving a future VIP by reincarnating Kurihara, memories intact, in another world. Kurihara's one request: to be merely average so that she could earn her own happiness. But when Adele reaches age 10 and recalls her previous life, she also discovers God's funky interpretation of “average:” she's half as powerful as the most powerful creatures in her new world, which makes her several thousand times stronger than a typical human. Though she tries to hide this and manages to make friends first at a boarding school and later (under the name Mile) at a school for hunters, she keeps slipping up, which can be a boon to her friends but also attracts all degrees of unwanted attention.

Didn't I say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life? is a title that badly needs a shorter title, especially since an eventual anime version was announced earlier this year. It started in 2016 as a web novel before being picked up for physical release by publisher Earth Star Entertainment, with this manga version following shortly thereafter. It faces stiff competition in the already-crowded isekai reincarnation subgenre, so its biggest challenge is to carve out a distinct enough niche to distinguish itself. So far it's doing a respectable job at that crucial task.

Actually, one of the most problematic elements is a nitpick about its concept. The way the story sets Adele/Mile's ability level is much more accurately called a median, which can in some cases be the same as the average but is not inherently so. Given that elder dragons (which she's being compared to) sound more like outliers, average doesn't accurately fit in this case. So God is less creatively interpreting what Kurihara asked for and more outright ignoring it.

However, that has no real bearing on how the story plays out. This is essentially yet another story featuring an overpowered protagonist, but the angle being played makes a big difference. The pressure and isolation that Kurihara experienced in Japan for being a widely-gifted genius makes her request of God understandable, and being the reverse of the normal situation – i.e., an ordinary person seeking to become extraordinary – gives the approach a certain novelty. (Kurihara's observations on society are also a discussion-worthy point, though the story does not seem interested in exploring them.)

The irony that she ends up being super-extraordinary anyway is the point of course, but the more important plus in the series' favor is its effectiveness at making Mile/Adele into an endearing character. Her innocent but often misguided efforts to avoid sticking out are charming, as are the ways that she unwittingly wins over schoolmates who start out intending to be enemies. It's not just cases of them blithely falling for her moe charm either, although she definitely has that in her favor. Instead the story makes the effort to justify their reactions, including one case where Adele advises her potential adversary on a more efficient way to use magic, opening up much greater prospects for that girl's future. It's easy to understand why the girl would make such a turnaround in attitude under those circumstances. The camaraderie that develops with her second group of friends when she reaches the hunter's school is also a plus, as is the scene where she has to use a greater extent of her power to con herself out of a difficult situation with a princess, which I suspect will have lingering consequences.

The order in which the story is told isn't the greatest, however. At least half of the first volume is told in flashback, with the longest one concerning Adele's time at her first school coming well after a brief preview of it is given in an earlier chapter. The first flashback to her life and death as Kurihara is more understandable, but this approach with the rest of the material muddles the storytelling flow. Contrarily, basing the “magic” system on manipulation of pervasive nanomachines is an interesting variation; hopefully how the world came to be that way will get explained at some point. Having a nanomachine project an image to essentially serve as a mascot character is also a more unique trick.

The artistic effort by Nekomint makes characters visually appealing without being over-the-top cutesy, which isn't an easy balancing act; the cover art is a good example of what can be expected inside. The artistry doesn't commonly show much background detail, but this is a story entirely about the characters rather than the setting, so that isn't a big detriment. Japanese sound effects are sometimes replaced by translations and sometimes accompanied by them. Rather than including pages of 4-koma strips at the end, this volume instead has two short bonus stories in text form that cover a total of 13 pages. One is more elaboration on the involved system that Adele's class develops for protecting her from noxious attention at her first school, while the other involves some aftermath of the incident with the princess. The first is frivolous but the second seems much more consequential.

The series is still grounded enough in common isekai reincarnation elements that it will not blow anyone away with originality, but it definitely does enough to win an audience. If this volume is any indication, it should make for a charming eventual anime adaptation.

Production Info:
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B

+ Mile/Adele is very likable, satisfying character interactions
Use of flashbacks is cumbersome in places

Art: Nekomint

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Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! (manga)

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Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! (GN 1)

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