Reviewby James Beckett,
Me, a Genius?
After dying in a motorcycle accident in our world, our hero finds himself reborn on an Earth with a slightly different historical timeline as Kouki Arakawa, the only son of one of this reality's all-time great geniuses, Miki Arakawa. Though this world doesn't contain any magic or monsters, Kouki does retain many memories of his original world, and his mother ends up using his childhood drawings and stories to build all sorts of fantastic and incredibly high-tech inventions. This leads the world to believe that Kouki himself is a mastermind in the making, and the terrified United Nations has Kouki sent off to the International Science and Technology Academy to learn the ethics needed to balance his supposedly dark intelligence. Now Kouki finds himself having to constantly counter the misunderstanding that he's a teenage genius bent on world domination!
Given the spotty history I've had with some poorer examples of the isekai genre, I was pleasantly surprised when I dove into the first volume of Me, a Genius? I Was Reborn into Another World and I Think They've Got the Wrong Idea! Right off the bat, it goes out of its way to establish that Kouki Arakawa is not the supreme genius and mastermind that the whole world thinks he is. He's been gifted with memories of life on our version of Earth, which gives him a leg up as a baby, but his entire life has been defined by his overeager mother Miki latching on to his drawings and innocent suggestions to make all manner of weapons, gadgets, and scientific breakthroughs, or by Kouki himself simply getting in over his head. Some drawings inspired by anime Kouki used to love lead Miki to basically invent power armor and proto-mecha, or a childhood attempt to help his mother with lawn work accidentally results in the creation of a deadly chemical agent, and so on.
It's a simple gag that relies on Kouki being generally clueless as the world around him builds up this image of a sociopathic boy genius who could end society as we know it on a whim, but it's pretty funny, especially once Kouki finds himself surrounded by real young geniuses at the International Science and Technology Academy. He makes fast friends with the chubby and weird Saito Shingo, who is obsessed with military tech, and eventually Kouki even catches the eye of the beautiful Canadian pharmaceuticals expert, Alice Alford. Me, a Genius? balances out its single-gag formula with your basic high-school anime clichés: Kouki and Saito try to figure out dating, the gang works on their respective science projects, and Kouki tries (and fails) to live life as an average teenager while his mother stamps his name on every scientific breakthrough she stumbles upon. The only difference is that Kouki's adventures also involve inventing active-camouflage to use while peeping on the girls' shower, inadvertently crafting a cure to a world-wide plague, and so on.
Me, a Genius? wisely doesn't try to get too ambitious with its storytelling in this first volume, at least not often. Author Nyun works a hefty (and somewhat tedious) amount of world-building into the book's first fifty pages, but after that the story is content to mostly let Kouki and company do their thing at the Academy, and those more low-key stories were my favorite. None of the characters or plotlines are particularly deep or original, but they're fun enough in their own right. The central stylistic gimmick of the book is the constant switching of perspectives between Kouki and the other characters, which usually involves Kouki saying or doing something completely innocuous, while the adults in his life completely misunderstand his intentions and assume he's being brilliantly enigmatic. It's a trick that works well enough most of the time, and it does make the book a quick read, since each character's segment lasts only a few pages before switching over. However. there are a couple of characters who don't offer much of value to the story; Saito's eventual girlfriend, Megumi Aikawa, barely makes an impression, and some side characters, like the bald agent who tails Kouki throughout his adventures, probably could have cut entirely.
But the main issue with the novel is that a lot of scenes end up feeling needlessly repetitive, which isn't helped when you factor in Nyun's basic and blunt writing style. There are also several plot points, including a trans-dimensional trip to an actual magic realm, that get resolved remarkably quickly, so they feel too tacked on as foreshadowing for future volumes. The novel's scant few illustrations were done by Sakana, and they're okay; the character designs are average and the interior art is basic to a fault.
J-Novel Club is responsible for the publishing and translation of this eBook, and it's a tight product overall. Subscribers to the publisher's Premium Service get access to a handful of extra chapters, which are all brief sketches of Kouki's family life or adventures of side characters we didn't see much in the main story. If anything, these bonus stories show just how much thought Nyun has put into building the alternate history that Kouki finds himself living in, and it's clear the author has bigger plans for future volumes. Though Me, a Genius? is a bit too basic to fall in love with, it does a good enough job with its modest ambitious, and I'm interested to see how Kouki's misunderstandings develop in future volumes.
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Art : C
+ Funny premise, likable cast, surprisingly in-depth world building
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