Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Mixed Bathing in Another Dimension
Ever since the first Sacred King was summoned from Japan 500 years ago and successfully defeated the Demon Lord, the disciples of the Goddess of Light have made a habit of calling their heroes from that same country. Now with the resurrection of the Demon Lord rumored to be imminent, the Kingdom of Jupiter once again calls for five heroes from that mystic land. Each hero is blessed by the Goddess of Light with a special power…and Touya seems to have drawn the short straw. His gift is to be able to summon a modern Japanese bath in its own pocket dimension, which is nice, but not helpful in fighting off monsters. Despite this, Touya is determined to make the best of his situation – he'll still work on fighting, but why not make sure his party is filled with girls to share his tub while he's at it?
Mixed Bathing in Another Dimension's premise may be one of the more openly sleazy of the wish-fulfillment light novels. Not only is it the now-ubiquitous isekai tale of an ordinary Japanese high school boy summoned to another world as a hero, but it's also blatant in its apparent objective: Touya wants to take advantage of his magical ability to summon a Japanese bath to indulge in mixed bathing with attractive females. Those leery of fanservice could be forgiven for running screaming in the opposite direction.
However, that's only the surface story of Nagaharu Hibihana's series. Underneath the fanservice aspect, there's a surprisingly good story about trying to piece together what actually happened five hundred years ago when the first Sacred King fought the Demon Lord, Touya learning how to take advantage of his skill in non-bathing related ways, and decently interesting world building. Even more important, consent is very important to protagonist Touya; he always asks before he touches any of the women (even to heal them) and he comments repeatedly that he's in no way interested in doing something that a girl doesn't like or want. While it's depressing to think that this is unusual enough in the harem genre to merit praise, it's still one of the better aspects of these novels and helps to make the series palatable for those who might otherwise enjoy the fantasy parts of the story.
Although the first novel makes it clear that Touya was summoned with four other heroes, the story really only focuses on two of them: Touya and a high school girl named Haruno, who spends the first half of novel one (The Hero of the Unlimited Bath) trying to decipher her gift from the Goddess of Light. The fact that Haruno's gift is unknown and Touya's is regarded as useless means that they've essentially been rejected by the kingdom of Jupiter, which has embraced the other three summoned heroes. This puts Haruno and Touya into the Temple's care, which in the long run turns out to be a much better deal for them – while Jupiter is just one country threatened by the return of the Demon Lord, it isn't necessarily on excellent terms with all of its neighbors; the Goddess of Light is worshiped in every kingdom and has a temple in each capitol city, making it much easier for its proprietary heroes to get around and receive aid. This is an interesting way for Hibihana to solve the basic issue of few heroes serving multiple nations while also allowing for the differences between the countries to be explored. As you may have guessed, in the story's world, each country is named for a Greek or Roman deity, with its capitol adding the Greek suffix “opolis” to the name of the god or goddess. Thus Touya begins in Jupiteropolis and travels to Ceresopolis, and so forth. Linguistic purists may be irritated by the combination of Greek and Latin and I certainly can't find any reason thus far for the story to mix deity names the way it does, but it does make for easily accessible world building – when Ceresopolis turns out to be an agriculturally advanced city, no one is surprised.
Hibihana takes care early on to pair Touya and Haruno up romantically, which is an interesting choice given Touya's plans to assemble an all-female party for mixed-bathing purposes. There's definitely a sense of having his cake and eating it too, especially in volume two, which makes it clear that Clena, a noblewoman he meets midway through volume one, is both interested in him romantically and not opposed to some physical activity. However Touya himself also makes it clear that he's got different feelings for Haruno and simply wants to enjoy some (naked) time with the other girls, although again, only with their explicit consent. Interestingly enough, Hibihana allows Clena, Rium, and Roni to all express interest in Touya's naked body as well, eschewing the usual conventions about “purity” that would make the girls out to be too embarrassed or innocent to acknowledge any interest in sex.
As far as actual plot goes, Touya's first order of business is to figure out how to utilize his goddess-granted gift for things other than bathing. When he learns that he can take water out of the bath, this puts him in a unique position in a medieval world – a source of clean water. It is this skill that ultimately sets him on his way; he “buys” an indentured servant (known in-world as a raver) who is a lizardman looking to raise enough money to supply his desert village with water. Touya offers to be that source if Rulitora joins his party – as a lizardman, he has no interest in the bath, and he's a strong warrior. Touya and Rulitora then set out into the desert to the sand lizardman village, which throws them into the path of Clena and her raver Roni, who are looking for the mysterious lost kingdom of Hades. Suspecting that this has something to do with the impending resurrection of the Demon Lord, Touya and Rulitora join them on their quest once the village is safe and hydrated. It manages to avoid feeling contrived for the most part, and the story itself flows smoothly, with some good plot revelations in volume two that are both unexpected and at times (intentionally) funny.
On the whole, volume two is stronger than volume one, as if Hibihana had firmly decided on where he wanted to take the story at that point. Although both have their very awkward scenes of wish-fulfillment and weird descriptions of the female body, for the most part by volume two the book is more interested in moving the quest plot forward than in soapy shenanigans. It's worth giving this series a chance even if fanservice titles aren't your thing – and if they are, Masakage Hagiya's illustrations do add to the experience, even if only as a tease. Mixed Bathing in Another Dimension isn't the most creative isekai series, but it definitely has its own way of telling its story, and it's one that's fun if you give it a chance.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B-
+ Protagonist prioritizes consent in all fanservice scenes, story begins progressing nicely once he meets Rulitora, no cliches of female purity
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