By Patora Fuyuhara and Eiji Usatsuka. Released in Japan as “Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni” by Hobby Japan. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Andrew Hodgson.
It’s a bit difficult to know where to begin. I guess I’ll start by saying that by the end of this book, I was enjoying it immensely and had a big smile on my face. The second thing I should say is that this does not actually make the book “good” in any sense of the word. For a few years I’ve had to review the occasional awful manga, and people have sometimes asked me “do you mean that it’s bad in an MST3K way or bad in a bad way”. Sadly, I’ve always had to say that it’s actually the latter. Most terrible things are not remotely entertaining. In Another World with My Smartphone is an exception. Every ridiculous power the hero has, each new cliched heroine that appears, every time the plot rearranges itself so that everything is as “awesome” as possible, and most importantly the complete lack of any sense that things are about to get difficult for anyone makes this book bad in an absolutely wonderful, hilarious way. Everyone who says Kirito or Tatsuya are overpowered self-insert wannabes need to read this immediately.
I should lay out the plot here, though if you have read any isekai you’ll get the gist. Touya (no, not the Touya from Mixed Bathing in Another Dimension, though I now wonder if the name has significance for isekai works) is accidentally killed by a lightning bolt. He’s granted an audience with God, who offers to reincarnate him in a fantasy world where he can have adventures. Touya, a modern thinking sort, asks if he can keep his smartphone, and God obligingly allows it to remain working and gives it unlimited battery. He then arrives in a new world, where he quickly meets up with Kyou and Ryou Fujibayashi… (cough) sorry, with Elze and Linze, two beginning adventurers who he joins forces with. Joining an adventurer’s guild, he gradually adds incredible powers, more cute girls, and heroic feats that make everyone’s jaws drop. In fact, the author literally apologizes for not using the smartphone enough in the first volume – why would Touya need it, when he can fight like a champ, use every single kind of magic, and summon Heavenly Beasts that then become adorable tiger cub mascots?
This is taken from a webnovel, and it’s really, really obvious. Usually with most conversions to published works they at least try to get rid of the excited sense of “I’m going to put absolutely everything into this book!”, but not here. Touya has impossible magic powers. Touya can read the moves of other fighters so he’s able to dodge or counter them. Touya can heal the blind. Touya can solve crimes, provided the suspect is an obvious cliche of an evil Duke. Touya is so pure of heart that the Princess of the land immediately falls in love and declares that he will be her husband. (Touya’s complete panic at this idea is possibly the best he’s written the whole book, and I hope (probably in vain) that future volumes throw him off his game like this.) Touya can read ancient scripts (just like Bob Hope and Steve Allen!), and can make magical reading glasses to allow other to do so. Touya can even accidentally look as if he’s been to a brothel and get lectured by all his girls, because this is still a harem comedy. Is there anything Touya cannot do? Sadly, yes. Touya cannot stop his friends’ menstrual pain. Some things are simply beyond any power.
I mentioned Touya’s purity of heart, and I think the same thing applies to the book as a whole. The reason that this is fun bad and not bad bad is that it’s so innocent of the normal cynicism you tend to see in these works. I joked on Twitter that this was “Baby’s First Isekai”, and that’s not far off. I think authors are allowed to write this sort of thing to get it out of their system. Being mean to it would be like kicking a puppy. There’s apparently an anime of this coming in the summer, and I cannot WAIT to see how the typical male anime fan who hates Kirito is going to react to this. I think I’ll bring popcorn. I’ll also be reading more, because this proved to be insanely fun. Which makes it a big success after all.
By Canno. Released in Japan as “Ano Ko ni Kiss to Shirayuri wo” by Media Factory, serialization ongoing in the magazine Comic Alive. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Jocelyn Allen.
Those who follow my reviews know that I have a certain penchant for mocking the monthly manga magazine Comic Alive, which has always seemed to cater to the audience who wants fanservice, tie-ins, and the latest trends, and they want them now. Sometimes that can be a disaster, but on occasion Comic Alive will throw me a curveball and give me a series I can truly enjoy. Kiss & White Lily for My Dearest Girl is one of those series. I came to it at the end of a glut of yuri manga volumes (and who’d ever imagine I’d be typing that phrase even two years ago?), and was worried that a lot of this review would be finding ways to say the exact same thing again. But this title is different enough from its predecessors that there’s some interesting things to discuss.
The cover is somewhat deceptive, leading me to believe that we’d be seeing one of the common default yuri pairings (or CDYP for short), the shy easily embarrassed girl and the overly genki enthusiastic girl. Luckily, that’s not the case. The premise is actually similar to the old shoujo manga Special A – Ayaka is a hard-working diligent student who always gets the best grades, but now in high school she’s up against Yurine, a lazy and apathetic girl who nonetheless always manages to get first place in everything. Ayaka’s competitive nature (instilled by her parents, it’s hinted) won’t allow her to accept this, and so she grows more and more frustrated with Yurine. As for Yurine herself, nothing challenges her anymore, and therefore nothing is interesting… except maybe Ayaka.
By itself this would probably be enough to sustain a series, likely about 2-3 volumes. But halfway through we shift to Ayaka’s roommate and cousin Mizuki, who’s athletic, handsome, and the male half of the Takarazuka pair she has with her friend Moe, who manages the track team and is angling to get Yurine on it. Yes, you guessed right, this is a School Full Of Gay (TM), and so the second half of the story focuses on another couple and their own travails. This one is more easily solved, while it appears that Ayaka and Yukine will be the developing pairing we keep coming back to after wandering away for a bit. There’s also a few one-page shorts detailing that yes, everyone in this school is indeed gay, and while it’s unrealistic, it’s also quite cute.
As I said above, the thing I enjoyed best about this series is the way that Canno’s characters don’t quite go the way I expect them to. They’re still types to a degree, but this first volume gave them a bit more depth than I’d expect for a series like this, particularly Yurine, who also gets a chapter near the end where she hangs out all day with the exceedingly hyperactive Ai, partly in an effort to try to be more open and sociable. (She’s lucky she tried it first with Ai, who plows through social cues like a train.) I have a sneaking suspicion I’ll see more of ai and her own romantic travails in a future volume. In the meantime, Kiss & White Lily for My Dearest Girl may walk on some well-worn paths, but there’s surprising depth here. A must have for fans of yuri.
SEAN: The 5th week of the month used to be a very quiet week, but this is manga boom time, so don’t expect quietness.
Dark Horse has the 2nd RG Veda omnibus, filled with early CLAMP pretty boys.
MELINDA: This never gets old for me.
Kodansha has a number of new titles. Cells at Work! has a 3rd volume.
ASH: The first volumes were a lot of fun, and surprisingly informative, too!
ANNA: We got the first couple volumes in my library, but I have not yet read them due to them being perpetually checked out.
SEAN: And House of the Sun continues to be a very fast digital release with Vol. 3.
MICHELLE: Huzzah! Not that I have read the first two volumes or anything.
ANNA: Should I be happy about this? I haven’t read it either but I feel I should be excited if Michelle likes it!
MICHELLE: It’s shoujo from Dessert magazine, which also brought us Say I Love You. and My Little Monster. So, I’m basically just assuming it will be good because of that connection.
SEAN: There’s also a 9th volume of L♥DK, in case you’re reading the new digital Gakuen Prince volumes and want even more like that.
Otomo: A Global Tribute to the Mind Behind Akira is a new artbook from Kodansha dedicated to said mind, with lots of famous artists coming together to pay tribute.
ASH: I haven’t read much of Otomo’s work beyond Akira, but I’m really looking forward to this volume.
SEAN: Real Account gives us a 6th volume.
And there’s a 5th Sweetness and Lightning. Sorry for the lack of witty comments, I just don’t have much to say about these.
ASH: Awww, but Sweetness and Lightning is delightful!
MICHELLE: It is! As much as I love food manga, only Sweetness & Lightning regularly features things that I feel like I could conceivably make myself.
SEAN: Seven Seas also has a pile of titles, starting with the 4th volume of Monster Musume spinoff I Heart Monster Girls.
And the 4th and final volume of The Other Side of Secret, which is so very, very Comic Alive.
Servamp has a 9th volume, and rumor has it vampires still figure in it.
I know very little about the new debut, Species Domain, except that it runs in Bessatsu Shonen Champion and is another “Monster Girls” type series.
ASH: Personally, I’ve lost most of my interest in the various monster girl manga, but I know it’s a popular niche and so am glad for those who enjoy it.
SEAN: And the 5th Testament of Sister New Devil shows that Shonen Ace can be even worse than Comic Alive if it really wants to be.
SEAN: Vertical debuts Flying Witch, which runs in Bessatsu Shonen Magazine and has both an anime and good word of mouth.
MELINDA: i’m probably interested in this.
ANNA: I’m maybe interested in this.
And there’s the now standard “Yen delayed these till one week later” releases. A 9th volume of Sekirei is out digitally.
And out in print, we have a 5th How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend. (Spoiler: girlfriend still boring.)
Lastly, there’s a 6th Prison School omnibus.
ASH: Assuming someone isn’t simply outright offended by Prison School (which would certainly be more than understandable), the series can actually be legitimately funny.
SEAN: Something for everyone next week. What are you getting?
Akira Himekawa is the joint pen name of A. Honda and S. Nagano, two women who have been collaborators for over thirty years. The two-person creative team is probably best known for their work on the manga adaptations of The Legend of Zelda series of video games, although some North American readers may associate Himekawa with the Avatar: The Last Airbender comics as well. Despite being a fan of both franchises, I actually hadn’t made a point to read any of Himekawa’s work until after meeting the two women briefly at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival in 2014. Twilight Princess is the most recent entry in Himekawa’s series of The Legend of Zelda adaptations. Initially Twilight Princess was intended to be a children’s series, but when the original 2006 video game it was to be based on became the first in the franchise to be rated for teens, plans for that manga were cancelled. It wasn’t until 2016 that Himekawa would begin serializing Twilight Princess digitally, the first volume subsequently being released in Japan in print later that year. Viz Media’s English-language edition of Twilight Princess debuted in print in 2017.
Link is a young man trying to outrun his past. A year and a half ago he wandered into the border village of Ordon, hiding his personal history in hopes of establishing a new life for himself. Ordon is idyllic, seemingly a perfect place for Link to retreat. The land is said to have been blessed by the spirits and the village is well-known for its bountiful harvests. Although Link arrived as a stranger, he was warmly welcomed by the villagers and has since become an integral part of the community. Link loves Ordon and its people, but there’s always a small part of him that feels like he doesn’t quite belong. He is still plagued by guilt over the tragedies of his past, dealing with a weighty feeling of responsibility which is impossible to ignore. Having experienced disaster before, Link may be one of the few who can prevent it from happening again. Most of the other people in the sacred kingdom of Hyrule are unaware of the looming threat that the long-forgotten Twilight Realm poses. It’s a danger that grows even greater when the ambitions of one man to rule both the light and the dark begin to come to fruition. As the shadows of darkness gather around Ordon, Link will have to face his past and his fears, confronting the possibility that he will once again lose everything that he holds most dear.
Although I’ve played some of the original Twilight Princess, familiarity with the video game is not at all necessary to enjoy Himekawa’s adaptation. At least so far, the series can stand on its own as a work–the manga largely comes across as a freely-developed fantasy rather than a strict reimagining of a video game. Himekawa’s narrative in Twilight Princess is streamlined and quickly paced, incorporating elements of the original game in clever ways. Some of the wonder of having a world to leisurely explore and discover is lost as Twilight Princess is adapted into a different medium, but in exchange the manga emphasizes depth of characterization. As the protagonist, Link is generally the most fully-realized character. I really like Himkeawa’s multi-faceted interpretation of Link in Twilight Princess. While at heart Link is a troubled and brooding hero, he also exhibits happiness and joy and there are moments in the manga when his good-natured goofiness shines through. The Twilight Princess manga, much like the video game itself, is intended for a more mature audience than many of the previous incarnations of The Legend of Zelda. The story tends to be fairly dark and can be strikingly violent at times.
One of the things that I appreciate the most about Himekawa’s work on The Legend of Zelda manga is the creators’ ability to adjust their tone and style to fit the requirements of a given series. Himekawa’s skill and flexibility as artists can be seen as they move from one adaptation to the next, but can also be exhibited within a single manga. In Twilight Princess specifically there is a wonderful contrast between the serene, pastoral setting of Ordon and the ominous darkness and shadowy creatures encroaching upon it. The artwork in Twilight Princess is beautifully executed, ranging from the gorgeous to the grotesque as demanded by the story. In comparison, the storytelling itself isn’t nearly as strong. The first chapter of Twilight Princess in particular suffers from some awkward exposition and Link has a tendency to ask questions that he should already know the answers to having lived in Ordon for so long. Still, I do like the story, characters, and settings of Twilight Princess. In the past, Himekawa’s The Legend of Zelda manga have only been one or two volumes long. I would be surprised if Twilight Princess could end satisfactorily in such a short span, so I hope that the series will be longer to allow the story to unfold more naturally; I enjoyed the first volume of Twilight Princess a great deal and look forward to reading more.
Thank you to Viz Media for providing a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Volume 1 for review.