Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
The Wrong Way to Use Healing Magic
High school nobody Usato was just waiting for the rain to stop after someone took his umbrella when he unexpectedly meets two of his school's most popular students. Happily, they're both really nice, and Usato quickly feels like they're all on their way to becoming good friends. Unhappily, the two of them get summoned to another world, and he's pulled along with them! Kazuki and Suzune are of course the heroes the kingdom was looking for, but Usato's far from useless – he turns out to have the rarest of all powers, healing magic. He'll be really helpful in fighting off the demons…assuming that the training doesn't kill him first.
The Wrong Way to Use Healing Magic is translated by Kristi Fernandez.
What, exactly, is The Wrong Way to Use Healing Magic? It's a question we've seen pondered before, both in silly forms like in the old Slayers franchise and when Priestess uses it against monsters in the Goblin Slayer novels. The answer isn't fully clear in this first volume of Kurokata's isekai light novel series The Wrong Way to Use Healing Magic, but there are hints provided, and it's likely to be something along the lines of “to strengthen yourself so that you can be a frontline fighter rather than a healer.”
If that sounds like video game jargon, well, it more or less is. Usato, our hapless protagonist, finds himself caught up in the hero summoning of two other kids at his school, the popular Kazuki and Suzune, mere moments after he befriended them. He'd probably be the first to admit that both of them are perfect candidates for the isekai experience: student council members, attractive, athletic…they practically scream “hero.” Usato's much more average, at least in his estimation, and he's not entirely surprised when he turns out to be bonus content to their summoning. But then all three are tested for magical affinity, it's Usato who turns out to be the most impressive: he's got healing magic, the rarest form of all, even more unusual that Kazuki's light and Suzune's lightning. But what Usato's not expecting is for everyone to start panicking about hiding him once his affinity is revealed – if healing magic is that valuable, shouldn't they be excited?
The answer turns out to be, “Not if Rose is involved.” Rose, the head of the kingdom's healers, is what you might kindly call a difficult person. She's got very firm ideas about how to train her squadron, and none of them are healthy ones. The king's moment of panic is because he doesn't want to lose Usato to Rose's not-so-tender ministrations, especially since she has a habit of going through trainees like tissues. But like all people who you'd rather avoid, Rose has an unerring sense of when someone she wants appears, and before anything can be done, Usato is separated from his friends and whisked off to the healers' compound.
Rose is, in many ways, the piece of the story most likely to alienate readers. While a real attempt is made to give her a backstory that allows for and explains her extreme training methods, she's also undeniably cruel in her methods, which feel a lot more like hazing than training. Usato manages to survive and thrive (physically, anyway), but there's an implication that this is because he's from another world and more or less fulfills the requirements of a summoned hero. Other former disciples of Rose have not fared so well, and while none of them appear to have died under her care (the battlefield's another story), she's definitely broken a few emotionally. In fact, most of the other squad members, who aren't healers so much as paramedics tasked with whisking the wounded off the battlefield, are certifiable meatheads, impervious to harm because they're implied to have muscles for brains. I did feel more kindly disposed towards Rose by the end of the volume, but she was a major barrier to enjoyment for the first half or so, even if Usato adapts impressively quickly to her methods.
Rose actually is symptomatic of the issues with the four female characters in the novel in that she's fairly one-note, at least for most of the book. Suzune, the ostensible female lead, doesn't get quite enough development to classify as the heroine, although again there is a real effort made at times. She's got more enthusiasm than sense in many cases, with the most interesting element of her character being that she's the one who's been waiting for her isekai experience to come knocking. Usato's kind of meh about the whole thing, Kazuki wants to go home, but Suzune's busy making up finishing attacks and expressly states that she's happier in her new fantasy realm. That's a nice change, and it's only undercut by the fact that her first-person narration is virtually indistinguishable from anyone else's, which suggests both that creating different narrative voices isn't the author's strong suit and that together all of the characters make a single well-developed one. (The princess and the female healer are both barely characters at all at this point, although that could easily change going forward.)
This lack of distinguishable narrative voices is the major issue with the way the book is written, and it otherwise avoids a lot of the usual pitfalls of light novel writing, such as excessive food descriptions and overwrought fight scenes. There's a bit of a weird focus on girls wanting to pet animals even when explicitly told not to, resulting in injury, but the plot is easy to follow and Usato is a comfortable character to provide us with most of the story. The illustrations are also quite nice, even if it took me a ridiculously long time to be able to tell Usato and Kazuki apart; it turns out that Usato has longer hair, which wasn't really mentioned in the text at all.
The Wrong Way to Use Healing Magic may not live up to its title yet, but it does have potential. It plays with the healer archetype decently well and the story is engaging enough to wonder where it's going to go from this point. It's not the best written, and there are a few typos in the text, but it's also a nice little fantasy escape, and that's all it really needs to be.
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Art : B
+ Nice art, interesting angle on healers and the genre.
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