by Rebecca Silverman,

Loner Life in Another World

GN 1 & 2

Loner Life in Another World GN 1 & 2
Haruka's a voracious reader, so when a summoning circle forms in his third-year high school classroom, he knows he wants to get the hell out so that he doesn't end up stuck in another world with his classmates. Unfortunately for him, all that happens is that he gets there after everyone else, and all of the good skills and items are already taken. Stuck with jobs like “NEET” and “Loner” along with “Villager A” clothing, Haruka's not looking forward to his new lot in life. That it turns out better than he originally thought is a nice surprise, but how did he get stuck helping all of the girls in class? Isn't a Loner supposed to be…alone?

If there is one thing that sets Loner Life in Another World apart from the plethora of other isekai tales, it's that it has a pretty good sense of humor. Protagonist and eponymous loner Haruka has read more than his share of light novels, which means that he's got a decent idea of how things are supposed to work, but more than that, he's got a clearer head than many of his equally well-read classmates, because he doesn't just read light novels, so he's not suddenly living the dream. That he's also something of a loner in school also turns out to help him, because he's not part of the classroom politics, so he doesn't get caught up in whatever nonsense all of the various social groups get sucked into from the get-go either. Add to this that he's got a very clear view of his own weird skill set and an occasional tendency to break the fourth wall and you've got a series that is very much aware of its own cliché status, something that definitely helps to make volume one at least a lot more enjoyable than you might otherwise expect.

One interest aspect of this is Haruka's fourth-wall breaking. He seems to be doing it not because he's actually aware of the fact that he's a character in a story, but because he's read so many isekai stories himself. Therefore when he makes a comment about “the author” or “the story,” there's no real sense that he's directly addressing original light novel creator Shoji Goji or manga adaptor Bibi; instead he's making a general comment about the overall ridiculousness of his situation. Since his leftover-quality skills actually do him quite well, he's definitely got some questions about the world-building of his own story, but there are also some nice touches of pseudo-realism that he vents his frustration about, such as the fact that he has zero skills related to hunting and fishing and is consequently stuck living on fruit and mushrooms because these aren't things that he as a modern Japanese teenager ever had the call to learn in his regular life. (The kids who can do those things either have special skills or are part of the “nerd” faction and have been training for their inevitable isekai experience.) And because he's alone, Haruka has no one to talk to but himself, which again makes his narration less of a metafictional device and just something he does because there's no one to talk to.

This, however, largely goes away a little over midway through the first book. It's at this point that he meets up with the group of boys the class calls “the nerds,” who tell him what's been going on with everyone else. The class representative has tried to keep the group together, but only the girls are listening to her, and because the delinquents have been slowly turning into predators, the group has largely broken up with all of the girls sticking together and the boys leaving in their own social packs. This leads to Haruka becoming essentially the caretaker for the girls, and that's really where the series starts to turn downhill.

Unlike in something like Cage of Eden (which has some distinct similarities to this story, although Loner Life in Another World is much lighter in tone), where the girls are all perfectly capable of learning new skills and fending for themselves, the girls in this story seem to feel like they need a boy to protect them, and that's more than a little off-putting, especially since there's a group of girl athletes in the mix. Only the class rep has any real agency, and while the group Haruka thinks of as “the bimbos” (certainly not a winning designation) does want to find and apologize to the nerds, they're still not proactive in doing anything but following after Haruka. (Fortunately he's completely freaked out when he accidentally activates his “subservience” skill on them and just wants to cancel its effects.) That almost none of them have names is a bit less of an issue because Haruka barely remembers anyone's name, with the exception of a nerd named Ota whom everyone else thinks is named Oda, meaning that the name is more for joke purposes than anything. It's also not great that everyone is divided into the basic teen drama cliques in Haruka's mind, but this is a thing that often happens in schools and given Haruka's desire to remain alone with his books, it does make a certain degree of sense. Another issue is that volume one starts out referring to Ota and his pals as “otaku” before it randomly transitions to “nerds” partway through; it consistently remains “nerds” in volume two. Because of this, it seems possible that “bimbos” may have originally been “gals” or “gyaru”; if that's the case, I'm not entirely certain that localization was the way to go.

When Loner Life in Another World is being sarcastic about its tropes and sticking with Haruka as he learns the pitfalls of his crummy leftover skills (such as his slow leveling), it's a fun series. Bibi's art is cute, particularly the monsters, and the landscapes are just detailed enough to give us a good sense of place. The prose short stories at the end of each volume aren't terrific, but the main portion of the books has its appeal. Haruka's interactions with the other characters, particularly the girls, bring things down though, and there's a degree of casual misogyny that undermines the plot and characters. Simply put, this starts out good and meanders over to “good enough”. The question will be whether it continues that downward slide in volume three.

Overall : C+
Story : C
Art : B-

+ Nice sense of humor, Haruka by himself makes the story fun. Cute art.
Some casual misogyny, Haruka interacting with classmates brings the story down. Some inconsistencies or word choice issues in the translation.

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Art: Bibi

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