Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Magic in this Other World is Too Far Behind!
When the world is threatened by a demon invasion, there's only one thing to do: summon a hero from another world! That hero is Reiji, a high school boy from Japan, but unfortunately, he isn't summoned alone; when the ritual is enacted, his best friends from school Mizuki and Suimei come with him and end up in another realm. Reiji and Mizuki are fine with this, but Suimei is not amused and flat-out refuses to help. As a magician in our world, Suimei made a promise to his father that he needs to keep, so that means getting back as soon as possible. The bad news is that there's no way to reverse the magic spell that brought them there, but the good news is that Suimei's magical skills are years ahead of the Medieval-style world he now finds him in. So Suimei hides his powers and sets off to determine how to get back home—if only the rest of the kingdom would leave him alone.
Stories about high school age heroes summoned from modern Japan and made to fight against a demon invasion in a Medievalesque fantasy world are a dime a dozen in light novels, anime, and manga. That makes it easy to initially write off The Magic in This Other World is Too Far Behind on the basis that you've probably read it before when it had a differently long and convoluted title. And there are similarities inherent to the genre, from the over-powered protagonist to the many lovely ladies he's involved with. The difference here, however, is that the protagonist of the novels is not the summoned hero – it's his unfortunate best friend who just happened to be with him when he was summoned.
Suimei, whose name is intentionally unusual; it's even brought up in the text, is most definitely not pleased about the summoning, and you get the feeling that it's not because he's second fiddle either – he'd have been just as angry if he was the hero. He's got important things to do in his world which involve not only a promise to his deceased father, but also his mother's life, so this whole summoning ritual smacks of kidnapping to him. He's not quiet about it: he essentially pitches a fit when he realizes not only what's happened, but also that the King has no way to send him back to his own world. He then not only accuses the King of kidnapping him, but also begins reaming him out for not solving his own problems, because what kind of country relies on kidnapped children to solve their problems for them?
What's interesting about all of this is that Suimei isn't wrong. If you think about the Summoned Hero school of isekai novels, that's precisely what most of them are doing; the only difference is that the summoned heroes are usually pleased or at least quickly willing to be there because it's so much more interesting than their normal lives. Apart from Suimei, Naofumi from The Rising of the Shield Hero is one of the only ones I can think of who actively wants and plans to go home; most others are fine with their new circumstances. Suimei, however, has things he was actively working towards accomplishing and a family he's worried about, plus his area of expertise is so much further advanced than his new world that it's like a devoted video gamer being told that all that's available to play is an old game of Sorry and a backgammon board missing a few pieces…for the rest of their lives.
As far as reasons for the protagonist to be overpowered, the state of magic in his new world isn't a bad one. It certainly allows for Suimei to move more as he wishes simply because he's centuries ahead of everyone else in terms of skills, but it also isn't something that he's consciously aware of as a person. He knows that at home he was a powerful magician (magic users in the new world are called mages to differentiate), but the sheer power he now wields is at times a surprise to him as well – as is the fact that things do not always work precisely as he anticipates. This is more of an issue for him in the second novel, when he has officially left the palace to research ways of reversing the summoning ritual. During his first encounters with demons he has to understand that spiritual beings here and at home are not necessarily analogous, so he's forced to swat flies with bazookas without any of his usual finesse due to the situations he finds himself in. It's frustrating for Suimei, and that largely saves him from feeling like a self-obsessed character.
Each book introduces a different girl for Suimei to potentially romance, which is an interesting route to take and keeps it from feeling too much like a typical harem story for now. Book one is Felmenia's, while the second belongs to Lefille; the former is a royal mage while the latter is a swordswoman. Neither of them slot neatly into any particular trope, although Felmenia could evolve into a tsundere, and both have their own specific circumstances that lead to them interacting with Suimei. Lefille is outwardly the more sympathetic, and the events she's subjected to in the second novel are truly horrific in terms of her treatment by both demons and humans. It's easy to see why Suimei befriends her even without some of the more convoluted explanations of his past – this is a young woman who has been beaten down until she's not sure it's worth it to stand back up, and Suimei doesn't want that for anyone. Felmenia feels like she may be a bit more on equal footing with Suimei, and she has a lot more within herself to overcome in terms of prejudices, so I feel that she gets a bit more character growth in her book than Lefille does in hers. Basically the first novel is more about character interaction and the second focuses on more action, which gives us a chance to see Suimei in more than one circumstance, but limits the novel-exclusive (thus far) characters in terms of growth.
On the whole, the second novel does feel a bit less well done than the first. Gamei Hitsuji lapses more into magical technobabble, so there are swathes of text that are just jargon and drag a bit. It's also simply more of a typical isekai book, as Suimei is less overtly angry now that he has a plan and is setting off on a quest, albeit not the same one Reiji and Mizuki left on. But both books are good reads, and they play enough with and within the tropes of the genre to make them interesting. If you're looking for a different angle on isekai, The Magic in This Other World is Too Far Behind is a good series to check out.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B-
+ Suimei's reaction to being summoned is a nice change, love interests aren't too stereotypical, interesting approach to the genre
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