Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! Everyday Misadventures!, Volume 1

Book Info

Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! Everyday Misadventures!, Volume 1
  • Format: manga
  • Story: FUNA and Itsuki Akata
  • Art: Yuki Moritaka
  • Translator: Diana Taylor
  • Adaptation: Julia Kinsman
  • Letterer: Simone Harrison
  • Publisher: Seven Seas

Review

The title for the original light novel series Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! obviously wasn’t unwieldy enough, as here is its spinoff manga, subtitled Everyday Misadventures!

In format, the book is mostly a fairly standard 4-koma in both content and panel design (though there are times it breaks out into a more traditional panel format too).

Where the original novels focus on the bigger events in the adventuring party’s lives, we get to see here a number of fun, smaller adventures. These range from finding a lost cat, to selling vases, to fishing. Each chapter is a standalone story; there’s no overarching story going through the volume, nor are there any firm ties to specific events from the novels. (Unlike, say, the Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid spinoffs.)

The book assumes the reader is already familiar with the characters; it doesn’t make any effort to introduce them, and to a certain extent they’re reduced to well-known quirks readers would be familiar with. Some of these work well, like Pauline’s love of money; others, not so much. (Namely, the heavy play given to Mile’s interest in beast girls comes across as creepy, if you’re not already familiar with her and know she’s a more well-rounded character.)

Summary

If you’re not already reading the Abilities Average novels, start there instead. But for fans of the novels, Everyday Misadventures is a fun set of side stories. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

How Do We Relationship?, Volume 2

Book Info

How Do We Relationship?, Vol. 2
  • Format: manga
  • Author: Tamifull
  • Translator: Abby Lehrke
  • Letterer: Joanna Estep
  • Publisher: Viz Media

Review

Volume 2 of How Do We Relationship? picks up right from where the first volume left off, with the protagonists Saeko and Miwa in bed together for the first time. As you probably expect if you’ve read the first volume, it’s not an instant success; Miwa’s inexperience makes her hesitant. But they’re able to talk and work things out like partners.

Now that Saeko and Miwa are in a good place with each other, though, they now need to figure out how to interact with others. Unfortunately, while they’ve come out to their band, they still hesitate with their fellow students. They feel that society as a whole won’t be as accepting of their lesbian relationship as they should be. So while Saeko and Miwa have figured out how to relationship in private, now they’re trying to figure out how to relationship in public.

Unfortunately, the couple’s efforts to hide in public end up putting strain on their private relationship as well. “Lack of communication” is becoming something of a recurring problem for Saeko and Miwa. Which… is realistic.

(The two characters have a fourth-wall breaking “Commentary Track” comic at the end. It makes some salient points about Saeko’s approach to relationship troubles – I hope we see that come to roost in the main story in the future.)

The characters’ beliefs about how society at large will handle their lesbian relationship are unfortunate but believable. The copyright page indicates that this came out in Japan in 2019, so this is a relatively recent story. I’d like to think the characters’ fears aren’t as applicable to Western society – but I can’t speak through experience either way.

Once again, Viz rates the book as “Teen Plus”. That seems fair, if not slightly low. The first chapter is where most of the goods are, so if you’re uncertain about suitability, finding an online preview should give a good idea.

Summary

This time the ending isn’t a point of any particular note for the relationship itself – more a pause than anything else. But that’s fitting for what the manga is about. I’d like to see Saeko and Miwa get better about proactively communicating, to try to head off their worst problems at the pass; but they’re still learning how to relationship, so I can forgive them. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

How Do We Relationship, Vol. 1

Book Info

How Do We Relationship?, Vol. 1
  • Format: manga
  • Author: Tamifull
  • Translator: Abby Lehrke
  • Letterer: Joanna Estep
  • Publisher: Viz Media

Review

How Do We Relationship? is unusual for romantic manga: by the end of the first chapter, one of the two main characters (Saeko) has confessed to the other one (Miwa). Normally the relationship is the end goal of the story. Here instead the relationship is the story: we get to see the two main characters figure out what a romantic relationship, especially a lesbian one, looks like.

(You’d be forgive if this reminds you of Fly Me to the Moon. However, Relationship is a much more serious take. And also lacks a fantastical backstory for the characters.)

As might be expected from her having confessed first, Saeko is the more outgoing of the pair. Her first time meeting Miwa, she blurted out the rather base “Whoaa… that’s some mad cleavage!” Fortunately, they still ended up becoming friends. Eventually they end up admitting to the other that they’re lesbians, leading to Saeko asking Miwa out.

This is Miwa’s first real relationship – and Saeko isn’t terribly experienced either, despite both being in college – so the two of them are figuring out together just what a relationship looks like. The rest of the book sees the pair slowly growing closer together. They go on dates, they learn more about the other. They even hit some speed bumps, mostly due to inexperience, but they get through them.

By the end of the volume, they’ve gotten more comfortable talking about each other with what they want, and have been able to work through their problems so far. But, like any real relationship, there’s no happily ever after – the pair’s relationship will be an ongoing process, not an end. I look forward to reading more in future volumes.

I should note that Viz rates the book as “Teen Plus”, which sounds right to me. While the art is perfectly tame, there is some frank discussion of sex. As such, this book probably isn’t suitable for younger readers. (But then, I doubt anybody not ready for the book would be interested in a romance-focused title like this anyways!)

Summary

How Do We Relationship? is a good exception to the typical romantic manga fare. It’s great to see a romance that’s about the romance, and not just a prelude to it. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Kokoro Connect, Volume 11: Precious Time

Book Info

Kokoro Connect, Volume 11: Precious Time
  • Format: novel
  • Author: Sadanatsu Anda
  • Cover Artist: Shiromizakana
  • Translator: Molly Lee
  • Publisher: J-Novel Club

Review

While Kokoro Connect‘s ongoing story was brought to a close with the two-part Asu Random, there’s still one more volume to go in the series. Precious Time serves as an epilogue to the entire series, showing us snapshots from the CRC’s senior members’ third year

“The Rina Report” – The first story focuses on Rina, Taichi’s younger sister who had a part to play in the events of Asu Random. She finally gets to meet the rest of the CRC – including Taichi’s girlfriend, Inaba. As with the first story in Step Time, it’s a good reminder of our characters, but not much of consequence happens.

“Couples’ Battle Royale” – Fujishima, up to her usual hijinks as the Love Guru, creates a new school event nominally as a celebration of two teachers’ upcoming wedding (following up on the CRC getting them together back in Clip Time). The idea is to get couples from the school to compete, in events of their choosing.

Once again I think that Fujishima’s story was the highlight of the volume. It brings her arc from Step Time to a close, and gives the junior CRC members some good moments together too.

“Fly High, New Kid” – It’s time for the junior CRC members to become senpai themselves, as the now third years take a back seat and the second years need to recruit new club members from among the incoming students, lest the club be disbanded for lack of membership. While the club started as a place for misfits, Chihiro and Shino need to figure out what its purpose is going forward if they’re going to be able to recruit new members. I think they came to a good answer – while it may have not been codified until now, they realize what the club has been doing all along.

“The Rest of Our Lives” – This story is not a look ahead like the title implies. Instead, Iori gets to take the spotlight for the last story – only fair, since she’s the one senior CRC member who doesn’t have a romantic partner – as she tries to figure out what she’s going to do with her life after high school. Her plan had been to be a teacher, but both the CRC’s club advisor and Fujishima give her opportunities to make sure that’s really what she wants to do with the rest of her life.

Summary

The stories in Perfect Time let Anda bring closure to some of the character arcs still left hanging at the end of Asu Random. The only real disappointment is that I would have liked to see more of the CRC going forward without its founding members; “Fly High, New Kid” could have been great setup that we don’t really get the payoff for. But that doesn’t detract from what we got: a coda tying off loose ends and giving Kokoro Connect to a well-deserved conclusion. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Fly Me to the Moon, Vol. 2

Book Info

Fly Me to the Moon, Vol. 2
  • Format: manga
  • Author: Kenjiro Hata
  • Translator: John Werry
  • Letter: Evan Waldinger
  • Publisher: Viz Media

Review

The first volume of Fly Me to the Moon was a fun comedy, watching Nasa Yuzaki and Tsukasa Tsukuyomi quickly confess and get married, and then need to figure out romance almost after the fact. While the first half of the volume doesn’t feel as fresh due to its indulgence in tropes, the second half hits the same tone as the first book.

The first two chapters are that manga and anime staple, the public bath episode. Its main saving grace is that it manages to keep the art as chaste as possible given the events (even calling out the reader in the process).

From there we get to meet Tsukasa’s… unusual… family, and get some more insight into her background. The clash with her sister, thinking Nasa isn’t good enough for Tsukasa, feels somewhat rote; but it was well-executed.

The back third of the book takes more advantage of the story’s unique premise, and is the better for it. We learn that Tsukasa’s a major pop culture geek, and Nasa… isn’t… to obvious results. We also see Nasa learn about wedding rings at this late date, and try to figure out what they mean (and what not having them means to their relationship).

Summary

Volume 2 of Fly me to the Moon doesn’t quite hit the same heights as the first book. When it focuses on what makes the relationship unique, it’s great; and the rest of it is still solid. Hopefully future volumes will continue to focus on the pair, their differences, and their lack of experience in relationships, as that’s where the best parts of the series lie. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(Tempted to dock another point because they overlooked Roland Emmerich’s best movie, but I’ve refrained.)

Kokoro Connect, Volumes 9-10: Asu Random

Book Info

Kokoro Connect, Volume 9: Asu Random, Part 1
Kokoro Connect, Volume 10: Asu Random, Part 2
  • Format: novel
  • Author: Sadanatsu Anda
  • Cover Artist: Shiromizakana
  • Translator: Molly Lee
  • Publisher: J-Novel Club (volume 1, volume 2)

Summary

Summary’s coming up front this time because I can’t figure out how to talk about the text without major spoilers.

In short: An excellent climax for the series. The Cultural Research Club’s final phenomenon sees the Club having to work on a bigger scale, and watching them figure out how to strengthen their connections to get through it is a delight as always. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Review

Kokoro Connect is unusual for a light novel series in that it has a finite ending instead of stalling or getting cancelled. Not only that, but it managed to stick the landing too.

(Okay, there’s one more epilogue volume to go, so this may be slightly premature – but I doubt it.)

Asu Random is very much a book in two parts, rather than two distinct entities, so I’m going to talk about them together. One note: if you haven’t read Step Time yet, I suggest reading at least the last story first. It’s actually doing more setup for Asu Random than I suspected at the time.

The first volume takes a little bit of time to get going, but that’s something it can afford. It starts off by giving us a contrast to the last story in Step Time. There, the CRC was seen by a number of other students as being “cool”, even if the first years weren’t quite sure why. Suddenly, we see them being feared. It isn’t until Heartseed shows up halfway through that we finally learn why… and also learn about the giant ticking bomb. This time it’s other students going through phenomena, not the CRC; but if they don’t do something, they’re about to lose all memories of the past two years.

The second volume is where things get interesting. What could have become a repetition of the earlier volumes in the series is turned into something bigger. By adding the memory loss threat into the mix, stakes are raised; by not giving the CRC their own phenomena, interesting conflicts with the other students are sparked. But seeing the same phenomena play out for others also serves to showcase just what makes the CRC so special.

The climax of the book requires the CRC to yet again put the title of the series into action, forging connections with the hearts of the people impacted by the phenomenon. That’s hard enough with a group of five or seven people; but now they need to do it with dozens. But when they do, Sadanatsu Anda manages to make it feel like the CRC earned it; it’s not hokey or hollow.

The one complaint I have is that the two first-year club members are given shorter shrift than the second-years. That’s perhaps inevitable when you are adding two new cast members to an already-large series; but I would have liked to see them contribute more, or even just be included in more of the “Club” scenes that left them out.

But even with that, the two first-years still had their moments to shine. Overall, Asu Random was (were?) fantastic, and I’m glad the climax was everything I could have hoped for.

Kokoro Connect, Volume 8: Step Time

Book Info

Kokoro Connect, Volume 8: Step Time
Kokoro Connect, Volume 8: Step Time
  • Format: novel
  • Author: Sadanatsu Anda
  • Cover Artist: Shiromizakana
  • Translator: Molly Lee
  • Publisher: J-Novel Club

Review

It’s been over a year since read the previous volume in the Kokoro Connect series, so Step Time was a great reintroduction to the series for me. The second (of three, it looks like) anthologies in the series, it’s split between the beginnings of the Cultural Research Club, and the current-day Club happenings.

Unfortunately, these stories are all Heartseed-free – no supernatural phenomena this time. Instead, the Cultural Research Club members have only themselves to blame for their awkward shenanigans…

“First Encounter”: This story is exactly what it sounds like: the gathering together of the Cultural Research Club at the start of their first year at school. There’s not much to the plot here, but it was a good character piece, showing how much these characters have, and haven’t, changed over the series.

“A Tale of Two Loners”: Another flashback, to about a month into the Cultural Research Club’s first year. This time it focuses on Inaba and Iori, showing how they became friends instead of just clubmates. This is the most plot-heavy story in the book. It felt a bit weird seeing Iori as she was back at the start of the series; thinking about it, she’s probably the character who’s grown the most.

“DATE X DATE X DATE”: The back half of the volume is set in the present, and is more heavily focused on romance. Iori, the only member of the second-years without a partner, and another member of her class (Kurihara Yukina – I don’t remember her, but I won’t guarantee she’s actually new) are frustrated with the lack of romantic progress for the two couples, as well as another couple from their class (that I believe *is* from earlier books). So they champion a massive group date where the two loveless ones can teach the three couples the ropes.

This is my favorite story in the book. While there’s very little plot, there’s lots of fun character moments for all three couples. And most importantly, they realize at the end that it doesn’t matter if their romance isn’t “normal” – as long as they’re happy, everything is good.

“A Mad Dash Down My Destined Path”: While Iori cheers on her fellow second-year students in their romantic lives, the first-years (with the help of the Love Guru) try to figure out why the CRC seems so “cool” to both them and their fellow students.

Despite being an investigation of the other CRC members, this ends up being more about the two first-years better understanding themselves. There’s always been hints that they’re interested in each other, but now they both seem to finally realize it.

Summary

Overall I liked the anthology. While none of the four stories seem particularly essential, none of them were a duff either. They were enjoyable character pieces that helped jog my memory going into the finale. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Banner of the Stars, Volume 3: Dinner With Family

Book Info

Banner of the Stars, Volume 3
  • Format: novel
  • Author: Hiroyuki Morioka
  • Cover Artist: Toshihiro Ono
  • Translator: Giuseppe di Martino
  • Publisher: J-Novel Club

Review

Where earlier volumes of the Stars saga did a good job of keeping both of the protagonists in play, Dinner with Family sees its focus firmly set on Jint. The “family” here is his family on Martinh, going back to the beginning of the saga in the first volume of Crest of the Stars. As promised in the epilogue of the last book, What Needs Defending, Jint finally goes home to take over as the Count of Hyde, lord of his home planet of Martinh.

So far we’ve mostly seen Jint in a military context. Dinner with Family shows that he’s familiar with his political duties as well. The book starts with Jint staffing up his countdom, preparing for his work as the Count of Hyde. While Lafier doesn’t get much of a spotlight in this volume, she’s still by Jint’s side, giving him advice and reminding the reader of the Abh perspective on things.

Of course, with the Empire still at war, Jint’s trip home isn’t as straightforward as he might have hoped. Martinh is chosen as a site for military maneuvers, not only delaying Jint’s return but increasing tensions with the reluctant landworld.

When Jint finally gets home, he is forced to confront the fact that Martinh doesn’t want him. The volume ends on a bittersweet note; Jint ends up having to do what’s best for his people’s future, even if it hurts him personally.

In the afterword, the author mentions that the original plan was to have Jint and Lafier part at the end of this volume. I’m glad that plan changed – seeing these two characters bounce off each other is always a delight, and I’m looking forward to that continuing in future volumes.

Summary

While “let’s go home” doesn’t seem like enough to sustain an entire book’s plot, author Hiroyuki Morioka manages to provide enough political and military hijinks along the way to keep the reader entertained on the way to the unexpected fate for the Count of Hyde. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro, Volume 4

Book Info

Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro, Volume 4
  • Format: manga
  • Author: Nanashi
  • Translator: Kumar Sivasubramanian
  • Letterer: uncredited
  • Publisher: Kodansha

Review

I’ll admit that the first few volumes of Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro haven’t shown the most wholesome of relationships. But outside of Nagatoro bullying her senpai, we’ve gotten hints of her actual interest in him – the asides in the omakes, and how she tries to protect Senpai from her friends’ bullying.

Nagatoro protecting Senpai is almost a running theme in this volume. It starts off with Senpai going to a festival alone, and getting captured by two of Nagatoro’s gang. She ends up rescuing Senpai, after which they almost act like a normal couple: going around the festival, enjoying the fireworks, and even making plans to come back together the next year.

Several of the remaining chapters of the main story also feature Nagatoro stepping in-between Senpai and her friends, protecting him in various scenarios. It’s good to see more signs of her interest in him – that he’s not just a target for bullying.

The final chapter of the main story doesn’t adhere to that theme, but it’s so lighthearted that I almost thought I was reading Teasing Master Takagi-san instead.

In the end, neither character is still willing to admit interest in the other out loud. But both characters seem to be willing to admit it to themselves, finally. It’s good to see their relationship slowly progress from the early bullying into something more recognizable as romantic.

Summary

If you’re uncomfortable with the bullying, volume 4 won’t change your mind. But if you find it amusing, then this volume manages to provide in both the comedy and the romance. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Fly Me to the Moon, Vol. 1

Book Info

Fly Me to the Moon, Vol. 1
  • Format: manga
  • Author: Kenjiro Hata
  • Translator: John Werry
  • Letter: Evan Waldinger
  • Publisher: Viz Media

Review

Where many romance stories end with the confession, Fly Me to the Moon makes an different choice: it starts there. We only get a brief introduction to the main characters, Nasa Yuzaki and Tsukasa Tsukuyomi.

First few chapters show us the first meeting of these two characters – Nasa tries to get himself inducted into an isekai is run over by a box truck trying to cross the street to introduce himself to Tsukasa. Even after his injuries, Nasa still tries to ask Tsukasa out. She says that she can only do that if she marries him. Rather than scaring Nasa away, he proposes. And Tsukasa accepts.

The book dives right into their life together. We get to see these two characters get to know each other and figure out how romance works, at the same time as they’re trying to figure out the specifics of living together an marriage. Only a few pages separate holding hands for the first time, from trying to buy bedding, to discovering that Tsukasa is a restless sleeper.

So far this isn’t a plot heavy manga; the focus is on Nasa and Tsukasa’s interactions. The afterward indicates that there’s more behind Tsukasa’s backstory that we haven’t seen, though, so I expect future volumes to mix some reveals in with the fun relationship moments.

Summary

Fly me to the Moon is a fantastic romantic comedy. Nasa and Tsukasa’s relationship is gold, and I’m fervently looking forward to future volumes in this series. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐