J-Novel Club Titles to Try

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Update [4/3/17]: Added Bluesteel Blasphemer

Update [2/20/17]: Added In Another World With My Smartphone and Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest

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Update [12/29/16]: Added How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom and Paying to Win in a VRMMO

Originally published 11/20/16

If you’ve been hanging around anime sites in the last month, you may have heard about the new digital light novel publishing company, J-Novel Club. You may have even read Taykobon’s interview with the founder, Sam Pinansky (if you haven’t, you should totally check it out, because it’s fascinating stuff). I was sold on the service and got myself a membership the other day, and just finished catching up on all the series (currently) available. Now, if you’re intrigued by the concept, but not sure if you want to take the plunge, I’m here to offer my wisdom.

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The Service

As a brief summary of how J-Novel Club works, it’s basically a normal e-book publishing company with one major twist: you can subscribe, and that will give you access to read the e-books that are currently in the process of being translated and prepped for publication. They release the books in sections as the translation is completed (~8-12 per volume), and subscribers can read them either on the website or through the app.

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There may be slight differences between the pre-publication text and the finished e-book version, and that’s a good thing! They actually encourage readers to post any typos or mistakes in the forum so they can fix them up before the finalized version is published. That’s why there’s always a couple of weeks between the final pre-publication part being released and the finalized e-book being published.

Now, because they only have the books that are being prepped for publication available on their subscription service, that means that as soon as an e-book is released, they pull all those chapters off. It’s not like they’re gone forever; you’ll just need to fork over extra to buy those e-books from your favourite store. Or, alternatively, you can get a premium membership, which costs more ($10.95/month vs. $4.95/month), but gives you a credit for 1 free premium e-book every month (which has higher quality images and possibly extra content), and the credits don’t expire as long as you are a member (and the e-books you redeem them for are yours forever). Not a bad deal.

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Anyhow, on to the actual available series. The following list is ranked according to my personal preference, but obviously everyone’s tastes are subjective, so take my ranking with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, I want to give you enough detail that you can actually make an informed decision about what’s worth your time.

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1.) The Faraway Paladin

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Volume 2 available until April 5th, 2017 

Genres

Drama, Fantasy, Another World

Summary

He had lead a meaningless life. Hadn’t accomplished anything, hadn’t taken care of himself, and had no one with him when he died. But when he woke up as a baby, he decided that this time, he was going to do things right. Born into a different world and raised by three undead: a mummy, a skeleton, and a ghost. As he grew, he resolved that this life was one he wouldn’t waste.

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Thoughts

The best words to describe this story so far: slow burn. At the halfway point of the first volume, it feels like the story hasn’t even begun yet, because it kind of hasn’t. It starts at the very beginning, with the main character’s birth, and it slowly works its way forward through his growth and development and eventual independence. Don’t take this as me complaining though; I do have it ranked at #1, after all. It’s been pretty good about doling out information about this new world, and the pacing is really helping to grow our understanding of the characters before the other shoe inevitably drops.

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One of the things that makes this story stand out from the other fantasy world series is that this is clearly based off of Western fantasies like Lord of the Rings, rather than styled like a JRPG à la Final Fantasy. I’ve been particularly pleased by the handling of magic. It’s genuinely dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing, so people treat it with a proper amount of fear. Not only that, but the way it works is the same as something I dreamt up while bored in driver’s ed class back in the day: when you write out a word in the ancient script and then speak it, that word manifests. This is probably particularly resonant with the Japanese audience, since the ancient script is basically Kanji.

I really like our main character. He’s calm, collected, and tries his hardest to live a good life and make the best choices all the time. The story is from a 1st person perspective, and he’s a guy that I don’t mind being inside the head of. The other characters that he interacts with are all pretty well fleshed out too, each with their own unique motivations and personal hangups. It all helps make the world feel more believable.

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The art is gorgeous. It’s not a crisp, clean art, nor is it highly detailed. Instead, it’s messy, and kind of fuzzy, like a charcoal painting done with broad strokes and kind of smudged a bit. It really gives it an otherworldly feeling, like we can’t quite get a clear image of where they live, but we know it’s ancient compared to us.

Status in Japan: 4 volumes, Ongoing


2.) How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom

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Volume 2 available until ~early-May, 2017 

Genres

Comedy, Economics, Another World

Summary

Souma Kazuya’s experience getting summoned as a hero to a fantasy world didn’t play out exactly as he would have expected it to. Not only did he not gain any magical fighting abilities, but he was actually summoned by the weakest kingdom around, who really just want his advice on what they should do. Unfortunately for him, his advice is so good that the king decides to abdicate effective immediately and give Souma his job (and daughter). Souma didn’t really want all this extra work, but with his newfound bureaucratic prowess, he’s going to turn this tiny kingdom into the most powerful and advanced one around.

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Thoughts

I’ll be honest, this series sounds like it was tailor-made for me, so unless it makes some massive misstep, it’s likely to remain near the top here. I love Spice and Wolf and Log Horizon, and this series has some of that flavour, though it’s not nearly as detailed as either of those go into. Actually, this is probably pretty close to Log Horizon, though I’ve only seen the anime of that, so I can’t really compare the books. In addition to economics, this series also touches on governance and how to run a country, more topics that I adore. Souma seems to have a bit of a fixation on Machiavelli’s ideas, which is pretty heady stuff for a light novel.

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The writing here is a bit strange, and does a few things that I’m not used to seeing. Within each chapter, it’s usually broken up into several shorter segments that hop 1st person perspective between several characters, where each segment covers the same events to some extent. I like this ability to see what the different people think about the same things they’re experiencing; it goes a long way to making them seem like individuals. The other thing they do that I’m not such a big fan of is telling the reader the effects of a choice a character has just made. It’s almost like it’s being written from the future... but only some of the time, which is kind of confusing. And on top of all that, the author loves to infodump. They know they’re infodumping, and even say something to the effect of “I’ll spare you the details” early on showing that they know infodumping is bad, but they still do it. Knowing something is bad does not make doing it ok.

Our main character Souma is a decent enough lead. Fairly relateable, but also unique in some traits (such as being excessively practical). The secondary characters have a good mix of both men and women too, which is nice to see. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean there won’t be a harem; in fact, it’s already started to form. At least we have a large variety of characters, and they all seem quite competent.

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The art in this series is definitely focused on the characters, and not much else. Often, drawings don’t even have any backgrounds beyond a simple gradient. They’re all fairly simple drawings, clearly with the goal of making the characters as attractive as possible. Each of the characters have unique designs to match their personalities, and the men do get drawn occasionally too. They even draw super-deformed style during comedy bits sometimes.

Status in Japan: 3 volumes, Ongoing


3.) Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash

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Volume 3 available until April 21st, 2017 

Genres

Drama, Fantasy, Another World

Summary

The moon is red. They can’t quite remember the life they came from, but they know that wherever it was, the moon wasn’t red. But that doesn’t matter; they’re in this world now, and they need to survive. So, in order to survive, they become volunteer soldiers. Their job is to go out, hunt monsters, collect their belongings, and sell them back in town. It’s a tough life for those who had never fought before, but above all else, they just want to survive.

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Thoughts

I’ll try really hard not to focus on comparing this to the recent anime adaption, because in almost all aspects, the novel loses. To be fair, not everyone liked the anime as much as I did (though apparently Rock did) due to its slow pacing and contemplative tone, but I felt that it was a revelation; a truly heartfelt story of these strangers thrust together and doing their best to survive this unforgiving world. The first two novels cover all the same story beats, but the tone is just ever so slightly different. It’s more... normal than the anime. It is, like so many other light novels in this genre, fundamentally about these characters interacting with the world they’re now in, where bad things occasionally happen. The anime, on the other hand, is about how the characters cope with one particularly bad thing that happens. Disappointing to me, but perhaps more to your taste.

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Grimgar and The Faraway Paladin are definitely the most similar titles on the service at the moment, what with their similar settings and meandering pace, but they aren’t quite the same. The biggest difference is probably the oppressive feeling of despair that permeates Grimgar. The world they live in is tough, and these characters are not ready for it. Also, the act of killing has much more weight at this point. The enemies they fight are clearly intelligent creatures, and they don’t want to die. Killing them is visceral and scarring. The settings are similar, but Grimgar feels more like it follows JRPG rules. And as a final point of differentiation, Grimgar is really about a group of people: the whole party, not just the main character. Also of note, the action is surprisingly clear and easy to follow on the page. Some of the battles get pretty complicated, but I was still able to imagine what was going on without much difficulty.

The story is told from the 3rd person limited perspective, where we see inside the mind of Haruhiro, the party’s thief. Since we can see his thoughts, we’ve actually been able to see him grow a bit over the course of each volume, and we can see the rest of his party changing too. Unfortunately, Haruhiro’s big thing is his inferiority complex and generally low self esteem, which can cause any sense of growth that he’s had to grind to a halt fairly often. It can feel like he has to learn the same lesson over and over. I just pray for the day when Ranta stops being so annoying.

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Another place where your mileage may vary is the art. I loved the soft pastel aesthetic of the anime, but that’s nowhere to be seen here. Instead, the art is... let’s say pointy. The hair and eyes and faces and clothing and stuff are all at sharp angles and just generally not very attractive to me. You can see it in the cover art above.

Status in Japan: 10 volumes, Ongoing

You can read Taykobon’s review of the first volume here.


4.) In Another World With My Smartphone

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Volume 2 available until May 3rd, 2017

Genres

Comedy, Over Powered, Another World

Summary

God really didn’t mean to kill Touya; it was an accident after all. To try and make amends, he says he’ll bring him back to life, this time in another world, and he’ll also grant him a few blessings to make his life easier; it was an accident after all. He’ll even let him keep his smartphone, though after he disables the calling features so he can’t contact anyone back home; it was an accident after all. And that’s how Mochizuki Touya found himself in a world of magic and swords and quests and adventure... with his smartphone and a blessing from God that may have made him one of the most powerful men in the world. Nothing to do now but enjoy his new life.

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Thoughts

Alright, I’ll admit it, I like the premise. Being the only person with Google Maps and access to Wikipedia in a different world is pretty cool. Plus the ability to take pictures and record video, and who knows how many other features he’ll make use of. I can see a whole bunch of interesting directions that this story can go from here using that hook, and it’s enough to make me excited and place the series high up the list.

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This series could very easily stumble in the execution of this idea, but the longer that it goes on for, the more I feel like the author just wanted to have as much fun as possible writing this series. We are clearly building up a harem right from the start, and the main character is the most OP guy this side of the One True Tatsuya, but even that isn’t enough to drag the high spirits of this series down. Everyone is just so happy all the time, and the fact that the main character is OP is used to make sure the stakes never get to the point of causing the reader stress, while still managing to put everyone in exciting, over the top deadly scenarios.

Seriously, from the very first chapter he’s able to resolve every problem in an instant, so there’s never any tension or worry. Hopefully he’ll fail at something eventually, but nothing too big. The other characters thus far are still mostly just ornaments to hang in the window of his harem but there’s still plenty of time for them to come into their own. As long as the author doesn’t keep introducing new characters to the harem every volume like in Little Apocalypse. I’m particularly a fan of the precocious princess, but since polygamy is legal in this fantasy world, it seems likely that no one girl will win this harem.

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The art’s pretty good. I mean, it didn’t blow me away like The Faraway Paladin did, but it gets the job done. The artist even bothered to paint backgrounds into the scenes depicted, which is more than some of the other series can say. Overall, I’d say it looks pretty... normal. Pretty much like anime. It does have some nice shading on the characters, giving them a sense of depth, which I do appreciate. Keeps things from looking too flat.

Status in Japan: 8 volumes, Ongoing


5.) Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest

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Volume 1 available until ~mid-May, 2017 

Genres

Drama, Over Powered, Another World

Summary

Being bullied and ostracised by your classmates sucks, but Hajime Nagumo can’t really see any way around it. That’s just what happens when the most popular girl in the school talks to you every day; ignore her or respond, either way everyone will hate you. But when his entire class gets transported to a fantasy world and gifted with amazing powers to fight, he thinks this might be his chance to turn things around... until he discovers he has the lowest stats and the most useless power for combat. How is he going to survive in this new world now?

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Thoughts

Another “transported to a fantasy world” story, another slightly fresh take on it. This time, instead of just our main character being taken, his entire class of a few dozen students (and his teacher) are taken too. And he’s the weakest of them all. It’s a neat enough twist, even if they still went with the standard fantasy stuff of status cards and levels. Actually, the leveling system sounds like the one in the Elder Scrolls games, which are my RPGs of choice, so I can let that slide. It’s also taking the premise fairly seriously, which I take as a good thing in this case.

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Although I may have listed the “Over-Powered” tag, it takes a while to get there; at the start of the series, our main character is actually the weakest of everyone for the first half of the first volume or so. Unfortunately, the way he gets stronger eventually left me kind of cold. It’s not through hard work, or even from some secret innate ability of his. No, he just happens to get really lucky and finds a magic stone. And that’s basically it. It could have happened to anyone. I mean, maybe some people will take that as a plus, but I personally don’t find it very exciting.

Aside from being weak at the start, our protagonist is a pretty strange guy for this type of series. He starts out not quite a pacifist, but he is non-violent when he can get away with it, choosing to take hits from his bullies rather than fight them, on principle. And then the author throws that personality out the window and gives him a new one, far more in line with your typical action protagonist. It just kind of feels like wasted effort. He also scoffs at the idea of God and religion which, for a religious person like myself, is a bit disappointing. I suppose it’s possible the author is setting him up to be proven wrong about that, but it really feels more like he’s just articulating the author’s thoughts on the matter. The other characters are more like what you’d expect to see in this type of series, their heroic or vile traits brought out by being in this other world now.

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In general, I’d say the art looks good, with the characters’ clothing in particular drawn quite well compared to everything else. I don’t know why, but the shading on the clothing is much thicker, and really makes them pop. I will take this moment to complain about the first drawing though, where the edge of the frame contains a flipped up skirt with a glimpse of panties, which really didn’t need to happen. That’s a bit of a warning sign there. And, of course, the drawing of a fully naked girl (with private bits obscured by hair and whatnot).

Status in Japan: 5 volumes, Ongoing


6.) I Saved Too Many Girls and Caused the Apocalypse

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Volume 3 available until May 20th, 2017

Genres

Comedy, Fantasy, Harem

Summary

Rekka Namidare has a problem with girls. He doesn’t have trouble talking to them or meeting them, like you might expect with a boy who just started high school. No, his trouble is that he can’t stop meeting them, and that every girl he bumps into seems to be caught up in a convoluted plot that he needs to solve. And then he gets worse news: because in the future he failed to ever choose a girl he saved to settle down with, they all end up starting an inter-dimensional war over him, dooming the universe. But that’s a long way off. For now, he just can’t bare to see all these girls he keeps bumping into suffer.

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Thoughts

Does that summary sound dumb? Good - it should, and that’s perfectly ok. It’s a ridiculous concept, and it’s what you get when you take the harem to it’s logical extreme. No girl wants to be in a harem, so to end up with the guy, they decide to fight for him. Makes sense to me.

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I wouldn’t call this series a satire of the harem trope though. Really, it’s more of a celebration of it by putting such a big focus on the hijinks it can cause. So far, none of those hijinks have been the dumb sexual stuff you see some series flounder around in, and hopefully it will stay that way. The rest of the story is so overblown, it doesn’t need fanservice like Highschool DxD to cover for it.

This series is so all in on being a harem, I won’t waste too much time talking about the protagonist. He’s pretty boilerplate nice guy, which is fine since he’s clearly not the focus of this story. Three heroines are introduced in this first volume, and they’re all pretty standard too. There’s the childhood friend with the cosmic destiny, the alien in an arranged marriage, and the sorceress from another world who needs to fight the demon king. And that’s just the first volume; we get several more in volume 2 as well. I get the feeling that there will be so many heroines eventually that they’ll never get a chance to grow into full characters, but I’ll keep hoping just in case. After all, the heroines from volume 1 still had important roles to play in volume 2. Plus, it’s the combination of all these character tropes from so many different types of stories that’s the fun here.

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I don’t have much to say about the art here. It’s a pretty typical style, though it does have two quirks I noticed: there’s a lot of highlighting with pure black, which really makes things pop; and all the characters look younger than I would have expected. Maybe I’m just getting old.

Status in Japan: 16 volumes, Complete


7.) Occultic;Nine

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Volume 2 available until February 25th, 2017

Genres

Drama, Mystery, Science Fiction

Summary

From Chiyomaru Shikura, the creator of Steins;Gate, comes a new story of crazy conspiracies and strange... science? This is the story of nine people who get caught up in something bigger than they know. Curses, devils, disappearing men, fortune telling, and a sudden supply of dead bodies; occult activities are suddenly on the rise in the town of Kichijoji, and the blog Paranormal Science Kirikiri Basara is going to point out how stupid it all is. But as the site’s creator, Yuta Gamon, starts to dig deeper into these incidents, things start happening that he can no longer explain...

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Thoughts

I was pretty hyped for this, since I love Steins;Gate, and thankfully I haven’t really been disappointed. This title may have a semicolon in the name too, but it isn’t technically part of the Science Adventure series that Steins;Gate and Robotics;Notes exist in, which I think helped free Chiyomaru to make some new choices. Unshackled from the big Committee of 300 plot that he had built up in the other series, he’s able to come up with new conspiracies to surprise the reader with.

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By now, the first episode of the anime version is legendary for the blistering pace it moves at and the amount of content that it crams into just 22 minutes. In fact, almost this entire first volume is covered. That pacing is also shared by this novel, though not to quite the same degree. The story loves to jump around and tell short sections of numerous story lines, changing our perspective character each time. It even switches between 1st and 3rd person to signify when we’re supposed to be involved, and when we’re a detatched third party. There are some other nice touches, like transcribing walls of internet comments, which really helps give flavour to the world.

The characters are unfortunately a few too many to fit into one, or even two volumes, so only a few of them have gotten much focus so far. Even more unfortunate, the supposed main character, Yuta, and his sidekick Ryotasu are both super obnoxious. Now, I’m not sure if they actually got better or if I just got acclimated, but by the end of the first volume, I wasn’t nearly as bothered by them. The other characters who get some focus time in this volume are actually pretty interesting, and as we learn their backstory, they start to feel like more than just a caricature.

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The art is pretty solid. Fairly clean, and generally simple scenes depicted, usually focusing on a character or two. By the end of the first volume, 8 of the 9 titular characters have been in at least one illustration. Actually, it really does look astoundingly close to the anime’s art.

Status in Japan: 2 volumes, On Hiatus?

You can read Taykobon’s review of the first volume here, and thoughts on the anime here.

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8.) My Big Sister Lives in an Fantasy World

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Volume 3 available until April 7th, 2017 

Genres

Comedy, Action, Fantasy

Summary

What would you do if you suddenly started seeing descriptions of people floating above their heads? For new high schooler Yuichi Sakaki, the answer is apparently “try to ignore them”. Unfortunately for him, he’s not very good at that, and can’t help but stare when he spots a classmate with “serial killer” above her head. If that wasn’t frightening enough, it turns out to be true, and she threatens to kill him to keep her secret. Does that mean the “vampire” and “witch” in his class are real too?

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Thoughts

Man, the first chapter has so much promise. It has an interesting hook and a real sense of mystery that quickly turns to fear when the serial killer turns out to be real... and then it squanders all that potential by bashing itself into the typical light novel formula. Not to give too much away, but it turns out that the main character isn’t just some hapless kid who got a magical gift one day; he and his older sister have somehow trained their bodies to the point of near magical power. It makes no sense, and it feels like the author just put it in so that he could have superpowered battles like so many other series have.

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And that’s not all. This series is set in a high school, so that means two things: there needs to be a weird after school club, and a harem, both of which it’s happy to provide. In this case, the club is the “Survival Club”, which prepares for all sorts of improbable situations (zombie outbreaks, being transported to another world, etc.). I’m just frustrated because I was really hooked by the first chapter, and then it was so quick to just give up and settle for being something more banal. I still don’t hate the series, but I do feel let down. Still, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt for a little while longer.

There isn’t really any depth to the characters yet, if there ever will be. The main character is your typical male high school protagonist with a saviour complex, and so far the rest of the cast could each be given a single phrase that would sum them up in their entirety. And because we’ve got the harem angle going, four of the five female characters we’re introduced to in volume 1 are attracted to Yuichi for no clear reason (including both his younger and older sisters).

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Thankfully, the art is pretty appealing. It’s a clean and quite traditional rounded moe-ish style, but that works for this type of series. There is an illustration of a walk-in-on-girl-while-changing scene, and a bathing scene, and a comparing breast size scene, because, like I said, that’s this type of series.

Man, the more I write, the more I wonder why I’m still reading this.

Status in Japan: 7 volumes, Ongoing

You can read Taykobon’s thoughts on the first 3 parts of volume 1 here or the first 4 parts of volume 2 here.

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9.) Paying to Win in a VRMMO

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Volume 2 available until April 5th, 2017 

Genres

Comedy, Action, Virtual Reality

Summary

Ichiro Tsuwabuki has way too much money. Yes, he may be the heir of a massive corporation, but that’s not why he’s loaded. No, he earned all his money himself, and he’s not afraid to spend it. One day, his (poor) 2nd cousin Asuha asks him to join the new VRMMO she’s part of to help her look for her reclusive childhood friend Sera. And thus, the greatest whale in the history of VRMMOs is born, completely counter to Sera’s playstyle of being the most talented solo player in the game, never spending a dime. What will happen when Sera and Ichiro meet up? They’ll fight, of course.

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Thoughts

Considering how many “another fantasy world” stories are available on this service already, it’s was only a matter of time before a VRMMO story was put up. At least they aren’t trapped in the game though, right? If I have any problem with this story, it’s that I’m not really sure who the main character is supposed to be. I kind of had the impression it was supposed to be Ichiro, since he’s the whale the series’ title is clearly referring to, but the first volume spent a lot of time from his cousin Asuha’s perspective. I think by now there have actually been 4 or 5 different characters who have been given the point of view so far. I think, when it comes down to it, it really is all about Ichiro though.

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I am a bit confused by this series, as far as copyright law goes. I thought that Japan was really strict on things like parodies or overt references; you often see gags where characters will interrupt each other when one is about to say even the name of a series, and the first episode of Osomatsu-san was taken down from everywhere because of all the parodies it did. And yet this series is spending a lot of effort obviously referencing Sword Art Online. Heck, Sera, the legendary solo player, dresses up like “Kirihito”, the main character from a “fameous novel about a VRMMO” who wears all black and fights solo with a sword. It can’t get more obvious than that, really.

One thing to note is that Ichiro feels more like a walking money bag than a real character. He’s described as perfect at everything, and the man is so conceited because he knows that he’s perfect at everything, too. I can’t buy into him at all (no pun intended), so they’ll need to work really hard to make him feel like more than a coin purse. It’s certainly possible; that’s basically the premise of Don’t You Know, I’m Sakamoto? and they pulled it off great. There’s still a lot of books left, so maybe I’m being overly harsh, but most of the characters feel kind of like cardboard cut-outs too so far. I mean, come on, an otaku secretary/helper who chooses to dress in a French maid costume?

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I have no complaints about the art here. Each drawing is actually pretty detailed, with nice attention paid to outfits and shadowing and the small stuff like that. This could be a mistaken impression of mine, but it does feel like there are fewer illustrations than some of the other titles for whatever reason. Also, the drawings in parts 3 and 4 of volume 1 look like they could have been taken from a Sword Art Online book. How are they getting away with this?

Status in Japan: 6 volumes, Complete


10.) Bluesteel Blashphemer

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Volume 1 available until May 13th, 2017 

Genres

Drama, Action, Guns

Summary

How do you kill a god? For Yukinari Amano, the answer is simple: blow its head off with a high power rifle. In this world of fantasy, the gun reigns supreme, but sometimes killing the guardian deity of a village during the ritual sacrifice of a young girl just leads to more trouble down the line. Now, with ferocious beasts approaching and no deity to protect them, the village turns to Yukinari, the man stronger than a god, to keep them safe. But to Yukinari, there is nothing more important than protecting Dasa, his young companion he is on the run with, even if it means potentially abandoning this village to its fate...

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Thoughts

I want to like this series, I really do. I mean, guns and fantasy, right? (never mind that Arifureta has already done that). I want to... but it’s making it very hard for me. Sure, the basic setup isn’t bad with guardian deities (“erdgods”) and terrifying monsters (“xenobeasts”) that completely outclass humans. I can even get behind the idea that the erdgods would require human sacrifices to keep protecting the villages. The problem that I have with it is the author has made this one of the most sexualized series on this whole list, up there with Mixed Bathing. I know some people like that sort of thing, but I’m really not a fan, especially when there are some weirdly erotic moments like the eye checkup that’s written like a sexual encounter. Or the large focus the virgin sacrifice and her body get. It just takes me right out of it.

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On the other hand, the series does do some things well. The pace at which new information is doled out to the reader has, thus far at least, been quite good. The author hasn’t thrown too much at us in one go, and has kept the drip of new information coming, so there’s still quite a bit of mystery, but we don’t feel like the author is withholding information from us unfairly either. The action scenes aren’t poorly written either, with me being able to follow along with what’s happening fairly well.

It’s hard to make any judgements on the characters so far, since so little of the book has actually been released thus far, but if I had to describe them as a whole, I’d say that the author came up with some pretty interesting foundations for the characters (the probably artificial man, the blind girl, the largely ignored deputy mayor, etc.), but then just wrote bland, trite personalities onto them. Of course the main character is confident and able to do anything. Of course the girl who travels with him accuses him of being a lecher. Hopefully this will get better with time as they flesh everyone out; the sacrifice has already had some growth by showing her older sister side, so she’s more than just her body. I’d like it if the main characters would grow on me over time too.

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In general, the art is pretty great, if only because of the style. It stands out from most of the other series available by having more of a hand-sketched feel to it rather than the super crisp lineart of a series like Little Apocalypse, especially any details in the background. There’s one drawing in particular in part 4 of volume 1 where the characters not in focus have pretty derpy faces (which I actually enjoyed as an aesthetic). The afore mentioned virgin sacrifice also gets several illustrations of her own, one of which is probably the most risqué of any series that’s been released yet. It is, of course, a bath scene, with very little fog obscuring the artist’s view.

Status in Japan: 4 volumes, Complete


11.) Mixed Bathing in Another Dimension

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Volume 3 available until ~early-May, 2017 

Genres

Comedy, Ecchi, Harem

Summary

Each of the five heroes summoned from another dimension were given a gift by the goddess so they could fight the demon lord. Unfortunately for Touya Houjou, his gift was to summon a Japanese-style bath anywhere. That’s it. It doesn’t seem like it could be useful for fighting the demon lord, but it is a much nicer bath than exists anywhere in this world, and it does have an effectively unlimited amount of shampoo, towels, and fresh water. Maybe he can find some other way to make use of it, and if he can take some baths with attractive ladies along the way, well, that wouldn’t be bad at all.

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Thoughts

Alright, yeah. I don’t blame you for backing out now. That summary sounds dumb, and like a flimsy excuse for seeing girls naked in the bath. And it kind of is, and is getting to be more so every chapter. I have been genuinely surprised by the thought that’s been put into what this premise actually means though. He has an unlimited supply of magically imbued fresh water in a fantasy world that still draws its water from wells. That’s straight up revolutionary, and the author hasn’t let that slip past him.

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On the other hand, I am fully expecting this to devolve full time into the teen wet dream it opens with, but we’re thinking positive here, so maybe it will cut down on the bathing and focus more on the “defeat the demon lord” plot, which is actually reasonably interesting for having been done a million times already. The harem is strong with this one though, second only to Little Apocalypse.

The characters are actually surprisingly well defined. Or at least, some of them are. The female lead is more than just someone to be romanced, and has her own insecurities and issues. Too bad she vanishes from the story pretty early. The lizardman companion has an actual motivation for his position. The main character is shockingly thoughtful about how he can use his gift in a practical way. He’s also a teenage boy and, well, he spends his time thinking about what teenage boys think about: the bodies of the attractive women around him. And boy does the author like to describe the bodies of the women. He’s absolutely not afraid to leer, and the story has already gone into naked groping/fondling territory (with accompanying illustrations, of course).

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The art loves to stare, too. The story opens with a dream of a bunch of naked women in the bath with Touya (surely where this series is headed), and of course that gets an illustration. As do the wet t-shirt scene and the underwear shopping scene and the hair wash practice scene, and a bunch of other bathing scenes. But, there are also some useful illustrations, like the one depicting the lizardman, which I needed because the text description was not making things clear. The art style is pretty typical, though it seems like it’s lacking detail, and the shading makes it feel flat to me.

Status in Japan: 4 volumes, Ongoing


12.) My Little Sister Can Read Kanji

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Volume 3 available until May 21st, 2017

Genres

Comedy, Satire, Incest

Summary

Japan, 2202. The world has changed. The Prime Minister is an elementary school girl... and an anime character. The orthodox style of writing is to open with a panty flash and tell the story of an incestuous relationship with a little sister. And writing itself has fallen apart, with kanji being forgotten and emoji reigning supreme. Gin Imose wants to be a writer in this orthodox style, but his little sister thinks it’s garbage. And somehow this is all supposed to be a satire of the current state of Japan.

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Thoughts

How high is your tolerance for incest? How about paedophilia? Mine is low, so this series is ranked low. I know this is supposed to be a satire, but I’m not sure that it does. Yes, overexaggeration is part of satire, but a satire needs to actually critique things, not just show them. See, the problem here is that Gin’s idol is a dirty old man who keeps trying to make passes at Gin’s 10 year old sister. And Gin is ok with it! The sexualization of a 10 year old girl that comes out of this old man’s mouth just makes me feel dirty, but only one character ever points out how wrong it all is (Gin’s other younger sister), and she’s always immediately told how she’s wrong. It honestly feels more like an endorsement of paedophilia than a criticism so far.

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Still, I’ll hold out hope that they get their act together. About halfway through the first volume they end up engaging with the modern 21st century state of Japan more directly, so hopefully the author will take this opportunity to actually lend some bite to this satire. I haven’t really seen any evidence of that by the end of volume 2 but... optimism?

The characters are nothing to write home about. The protagonist is stupidly naïve, the old author he idolizes is disgusting (and really has no other facets to his character yet), and the 10 year old sister is just a ball of energy with a sharp tongue. The other two characters are actually pretty similar to each other, and are the most well rounded. In time, I could see at least one of them becoming genuinely compelling. I do smell a harem coming though.

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The art... well, the art’s a thing. Not bad, but it feels like it’s lacking some oomph. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but it doesn’t seem to be quite as high quality as the other series available. Maybe it’s because this series is older than most of them, so the style is just different; I’m not sure.

Status in Japan: 5 volumes, Complete

You can read Taykobon’s thoughts on the first 3 parts of volume 1 here.


13.) Brave Chronicle: The Ruinmaker

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Volume 1 unavailable

Genres

Drama, Action, Fantasy

Summary

Kokuya Kuruno’s parents were killed by invaders from another dimension several years ago, when he lost his arm too. Now he attends school while living with his younger sister and the headmistress, who happens to be his same age. At school he practices battling with star sorcery which, based on your affinity and weapon, lets you do a particular type of magic. But trouble is brewing, and as much as he hates it, he may need to transform his sister - the ultimate weapon the Ruinmaker - into his missing arm so he can stop it.

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Thoughts

I tried to sum it up there, I really did. It’s just... so weak. This is the most light novel-y light novel available here, and that’s not a compliment. This is super-generic-battle-school-with-overly-complicated-magic #10,734 and I just had trouble caring. It didn’t help that everything else is super generic too, including dead parents, some big nebulous destiny, and a walk-in-on-a-girl-while-changing scene within the first few pages, with some incest and A cup angst thrown in for good measure. But hey, the battles aren’t terrible (though the star sorcery magic is a bit convoluted).

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The characters are pretty terrible. The protagonist is a tsundere pervert who’s constantly trying to grope his younger sister, the female lead is a superpowerful tsundere who’s insecure about her body, and the younger sister is a nice girl with a full figure. Add a dash of angst in there, and that’s all the characterization they get. Heck, the main villain gets more than they do.

The art’s probably the best part. Clean, yet detailed. Solid character designs, and deciding to illustrate moments that actually help the reader understand what’s going on, rather than just titillate the audience. It’s a shame the story’s such a mess.

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Status in Japan: 1 volume, Complete


And that’s the list. I’ll probably come back and update this as new licenses are released. You can always find an up to date version of this list on my Anime-Planet profile. I also keep a similar list of the series on Crunchyroll Manga (though that list is still somewhat incomplete).

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