Reviewby Theron Martin,
Reincarnated as a Sword
He remembered being a 30-year-old office worker and otaku, and someone playing a phone while driving killed him, but he can't remember his own name. He quickly came to realize that he was now a sword – an Intelligent Weapon according to his stats – and this definitely wasn't the Earth that he knew. He wasted no time in making the most of his situation, using his Telekinesis power to fly around, kill increasingly higher-level monsters, and consume the crystals within them to level up and gain new skills, all while looking for a proper User. He eventually found a perfect fit in the most unlikely of people: an enslaved catgirl named Fran, who's emotionally reserved but proves to have enormous potential as an adventurer, even beyond the copious buffing and skill-sharing she gets from the sword. In just a few days, the two become a potent team, making Fran an enterprising adventurer – which is good for the town of Alessa, since a Goblin Stampede resulting from the formation of a new Dungeon is now imminent.
We've had at least two isekai about characters being reincarnated as vending machines, and the concept of sentient weapons is no stranger to fantasy, so an isekai series about a character getting reincarnated as a sword is hardly a stretch. The bigger mystery is how the isekai reincarnation boom got this far before one popped up.
To one degree or another, this series shares many ideas from a host of successful relatives. It has the tone and inner monologue of So I'm a Spider, So What?, while the sword's ability to gain skills via absorbing crystals rings of Rimiru's Predator ability in That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime. It also shares a gimmick with Reborn as a Vending Machine, I Now Wander the Dungeon, as its protagonist is reincarnated as an inanimate object to be carried around by a girl. Other elements, such as rescuing a slave girl, an Adventurer's Guild with a specific ranking system, game-like stat screen displays and experience point-based advancement, are common to many other isekai as well. In other words, not much is even faintly original about this premise or the novel's execution; even choosing a convertible rather than the infamous Truck-kun to initially kill off the protagonist is only a minor variation on cliches.
Despite its lack of innovation, the story works well enough because its central duo shares strong chemistry, despite neither of them being dynamic as individuals. Fran is multiple degrees of walking cliché, as a cute catgirl who's unflappably emotionally detached, speaks in stunted abbreviated patterns speech patterns, and has a knack and drive for fighting that go beyond the skills the sword lends her. Her goal to become the first of her kind to achieve evolution and thus elevate her race (cat people are regarded as the weakest of the beastmen because they have never achieved this before) is a unique motivation but mostly a background detail. The sword, who eventually gets named Teacher, mostly has the standard mentality of approaching this world like a game, including being ruthlessly amoral about killing anything that isn't at least demi-human. (He justifies it as playing to his nature as a weapon, which makes enough sense.)
The first third of the story is the slowest, where the sword is just wandering around killing things on its own. That changes when the two lead characters finally connect. The sword had it fixed in his mind that he needed a user, though how much of that is due to his sword nature and how much is a humanized longing for companionship isn't clear; hopefully this aspect will be explored in future volumes, as it would definitely add more depth to the story. Fran immediately needed some way to save her life and break free of her slavery, and in the long term she needed a way to achieve her goals, so their meeting was mutually beneficial. The sword effectively becomes Fran's teacher, guide, and guardian. She mostly follows his lead, but she also displays a will of her own in confrontations and can be assertive when it comes to pursuing her goals. In other words, theirs is not a standard master/servant relationship, but more a paternal mentorship with a student who could become like a daughter to him. That gradually leads to fight scenes that are less about Teacher directing Fran through everything and more about Teacher supporting Fran as she fights, which is a welcome rapport.
With not much real plot to the story, the weight falls on the fight scenes and mundane character interactions to hold the reader's interest. The interplay varies between insipid and lightly comical, with two of the funniest moments being Teacher's reaction to finally getting a sheath and a smith's reaction to what Fran named the sword. The combat scenes are generally crisper and more carefully choreographed. They don't achieve the same thrills of a top-shelf title like Spider, in large part because author Yuu Tanaka is not as successful at conveying a sense of danger. However, they are creative and dynamic rather than being driven by overpowered-ness, so they should be sufficiently entertaining if the source material ever gets animated.
Beyond the action scenes, Tanaka's writing skill is a little above average. Dialog and character development flows smoothly and world-building, though somewhat limited, does fit with the perspective of the central characters. (The story is told entirely from the sword's viewpoint.) The mechanic of how Dungeons work is somewhat interesting, though perhaps too beholden to game mechanics. The setting of the world in general slavishly follows fantasy RPG mechanics, even to the point of how well one can skin a kill being determined by skill points. Unless some rationale comes up later on for why this world is so grounded in game mechanics, it reads as a tiresome gimmick.
The novel is currently available from Seven Seas Entertainment in eBook form, though a physical release is due in August and a manga version is coming in December. The novel's 377 pages feature attractive cover and interior art by illustrator LLO (Oreshura, Unbreakable Machine-Doll), a five-page bonus story, and a three-page Afterword where Tanaka explains that this story was originally posted on Let's Be Novelists and was not his first attempt, just the one that actually succeeded. Though his work could stand to be fresher, the talent is clearly there and he understands how to exploit popular story beats. I'm not sure how much this particular story has room to grow, but we can probably expect better work from him in the future.
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Art : B
+ The sword and Fran make a likable central duo
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