by Rebecca Silverman,

I Became the Secretary of a Hero!

Novel 1

I Became the Secretary of a Hero! Novel 1
Aki Konishi is an average twenty-something working as a paralegal in Tokyo. Her younger sister, college student Nako, shares her apartment while their parents are overseas, and the sisters get along just fine. Then one day, Aki comes home to find Nako being kidnapped by the Dark Lord from another world – and Nako seems strangely okay with it. Unable to let things stand, Aki jumps through the transdimensional portal behind the Dark Lord, only to discover that she's landed in a totally different place – the land of the Hero who's supposed to fight the Dark Lord! Aki is hailed as the Hero's summoned Right Hand, but her only skills are secretarial. Can she really be of use to the Hero Elias she's starting to fall for? And what about her sister?

The latest of Cross Infinite World's female-oriented light novel translations, I Became the Secretary of a Hero is both the sweetest and the most lighthearted so far. It also features the oldest heroine we've yet seen – Aki is a college graduate, working as a paralegal when she takes up the mantle of isekai protagonist. She's still not the most mature person, but she's definitely got a different perspective on things from a teenager. At the same time, she's cognizant of the fact that boring paralegals in their twenties don't typically get to be the heroines of stories, much less get the handsome hero, and that gives her an edge of uncertainty that tempers her behavior. At times it can get annoying as she desperately tries to distance herself from Elias even as they're clearly falling in love, but for the most part she's a heroine who's just different enough to enjoy following.

That can be said about the plot as well. While it begins fairly standard, with the whole “summoning from another world to fight” trope that's more than getting old by this point, it slowly begins to edge away from the more typical fantasy isekai elements. It's her sister rather than Aki who initially gets summoned, making us question whether or not Aki was ever supposed to arrive in the other world, and although she is granted powers by the world's Goddess, there's still a lingering question as to that being's motivations, especially since Aki jumped into the portal of her own volition rather than being called. This means that Aki isn't especially useful to her party, which consists of Elias the Hero, the mage Leo, and the priest Johann. All of them are far more experienced and knowledgeable, while Aki basically just tags along. This makes her romance with the Hero a product of her personality rather than her usefulness or amazing skills – Aki sees Elias as a person who just so happens to be the Hero, not a Hero who's so amazing that he can't possibly be human. As a result, she treats Elias like a regular guy, seeing through the reputation to his hidden insecurities. In other words, she's the first person to treat him like a person, understanding that he's not perfect and has the same problems as anyone else.

This makes Aki and Elias' romance truly sweet. Yes, it can get a little gratingly tame and cutesy at times, but the underlying insecurities – Aki feels that she's not good enough and Elias doesn't allow himself to pursue his own happiness – help to explain those issues. It's also a remarkably healthy relationship; the two see themselves as people first and party members second, so there's no real power imbalance and both of them are concerned with not making the other uncomfortable, physically or emotionally. Everyone else in the book being supportive of their relationship is a nice bonus, making it easy to cheer them on.

Interestingly enough, Nako's is the more typical story. She does come back into the book about halfway through, at which point we learn that she's the one with latent magical powers, that she met the Dark Lord as a child and promised to marry him someday, etc etc. In other words, in almost any other book, this would be Nako's story, not Aki's. Nako is also described as the more beautiful of the two sisters, setting her up to be the one at the center of romantic conflict instead. It's one of the more enjoyable aspects of the book that we see all of this as ancillary to Aki's tale – we're basically following a side character rather than the usual heroine.

While there are some clunky aspects to both Yamazaki's storytelling and the English adaptation (the occasional sentence fragment and a few overused words), for the most part the novel reads well and is devoid of odd sentence structures. The ending is enough of a cliffhanger that it really makes you want the second book, and the setup for future reveals is nicely done. The side quest that Aki and Elias set off on is a little worrisome, but it does seem clear that companions Mina and Louis will be important characters going forward. Kiyu Kanae's illustrations are nice albeit a bit bland; she's clearly got more of a gift for the color images that are included in the beginning.

I Became the Secretary of a Hero's first novel is just different enough from other isekai stories that it's worth reading if that's your genre. Even beyond that, the inversion of plot tropes and the older heroine make this fun, and if you're looking for sweet romance, this is definitely the place to go. It does wander off-track sometimes and has a few language issues, but on the whole, I Became the Secretary of a Hero is the kind of book that it's hard to dislike.

Production Info:
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B-

+ Sweet romance between the main characters, plays with isekai tropes, leaves you wanting book two
Some translation issues, art is a bit bland, plot meanders near the end

Story: Tsukasa Yamazaki

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I Became the Secretary of a Hero! (light novel)

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