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. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Reincarnated as a Sword, Vol. 7

Book Info

Reincarnated as a Sword, Vol. 7
Reincarnated as a Sword, Vol. 7
  • Format: light novel
  • Author: Yuu Tanaka
  • Illustrator: Llo
  • Translator: Michael Rachmat
  • Adaptation: Cae Hawksmoor
  • Publisher: Seven Seas

Review

I think this volume of Reincarnated as a Sword might feature the least amount of curry eating to date. Instead, Fran spends her time… teaching newbies how to fight?

The focus of this volume is the trip to the Beastman Nation. Before taking off, Fran helps the local guild master school some overconfident young adventurers. Afterwards, she signs onboard a ship heading for the Beastman Nation, serving as a guard against pirate attacks if needed.

She’s not the only adventurer who will be on board for the trip – there’s a handful of other parties, including the group of overconfident adventurers from earlier. They make an smart request – they ask Fran to help instruct them so they can be better adventurers. This isn’t something Teacher pushes on her – she wants to do it.

Unfortunately, we don’t get to see much of the teaching sessions. But the fact that Fran is becoming a teacher of her own, of her own volition, is interesting to see. I hope we see more of this in future volumes.

Instead of focusing on the teaching sessions, we’re treated to a naval conflict with the former king of the pirate nation of Seedrun. There’s nothing new here for people who have been reading Reincarnated as a Sword all along – it’s the same process we’ve seen in prior books, with Teacher and Fran unable to defeat the new foe until they level up their power again. And engaging in a spot of unnecessary torture along the way.

In the end, Fran arrives at the Beastman Nation, finally putting her in place to pursue the business promised at the end of volume 6.

Summary

Nothing particularly new here. A bit of character development, though I would have liked to see more. But mostly just moving the plot along to set things up for the next volume. ⭐⭐⭐

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation, Volume 8

Book Info

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation, Volume 8
Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation, Volume 8

Review

Volume 8 of Mushoku Tensei picks up about a year after Volume 7 ended. Where the last volume ended with a side-step to the Ranoa University of Magic, we open with protagonist Rudeus Greyrat receiving an invitation to become essentially a graduate student there – full scholarship, no classes, able to spend all of his time working on magic research.

Even though it’s the alma mater of his elementary school crush, Roxy, Rudeus isn’t willing to go; he wants to keep looking for the last member of his family missing from the Fittoa Displacement Incident. But the Hand of the Author Man-God tells Rudeus that he should go to the university and take advantage of the offer and spend his time researching the Displacement Incident. Cannily, the Man-God promises Rudeus a fix for his erectile dysfunction if he goes. As should surprise no readers at this point, that’s more than enough to convince Rudeus to go.

The university ends up being something of an old home week for Rudeus. The overall experience is reminiscent of the high school life that he missed out on, down to the Japanese-style uniforms and start-of-term speeches from the principal and the student council president. Rudeus makes a good start, diving right into his research. Unfortunately, he ends up quickly engaging in some morally questionable actions, beyond his usual gentleman-pervert status.

The problems start with Rudeus helping a fellow student purchase a slave for Rudeus to train up as a magician. While Rudeus does try to make sure she’s treated well – more like an adopted child than anything – the fact that he doesn’t even say a word about the practice is disturbing. Rudeus then quickly follows that up by abducting some of his fellow students for a fairly tenuous reason, and briefly molests them in the process.

In the end, the volume fizzles out. Rudeus’s actions in the back half of the book aren’t great. Afterwards, the volume ends, without any sort of a climax in the plot.

But while the contents of the book were terrible, I still found it compelling enough to keep reading. So, kudos to the author, translator, and other contributors for managing to keep my interest despite Rudeus’s moral failings. The lack of an ending was disappointing, not a relief.

Summary

While the time jump could have been a new jumping-on point, the fact that Rudeus was kind of a dick throughout the book makes it hard to recommend for anybody new. But the writing still kept me hooked for the rest of the book, making the weak ending even more disappointing. ⭐⭐⭐

Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World, Volume 4

Book Info

  • Format: light novel
  • Author: Kei Sazane
  • Illustrator: Ao Nekonabe
  • Translator: Jan Cash
  • Publisher: Yen Press

Review

It’s time for the beach episode!

No, seriously, the book starts off with Iska and the other members of his squad being sent on a vacation because they’ve spent too much time on the front lines without a break. His unit’s captain selects a desert oasis resort, a small independent nation, for their trip, and Iska is quickly dragged into helping his female compatriots shop for swimsuits.

Meanwhile, in the Sovereignty, we get introduced to Alice’s older and younger sisters. It turns out that her younger sister, Sisbell, is the witch that Iska freed back in his Saint Disciple days. Her powers aren’t combat-oriented like Alice; instead they’re much better suited to spy work. Sisbell is ordered to the same independent nation on a diplomatic mission, to determine how likely they are to join the Empire. (A coincidence, hardly a first for this series, but somewhat more reasonable than some of the others Iska and Alice have endured in the neutral cities!)

Once they get to the resort, we quickly see things descend into a reprise of the prior volume for Iska. Sisbell’s powers let her find out that the soldier who freed her from captivity is in the same city, and uses them to make contact with him. Unfortunately, another political player from the Sovereignty thinks it would be a good time to take Sisbell out to improve his claim to the throne, and it’s up to Iska to once again defend a witch of the Nebulis family.

While this is going on, we get a peek at the political homefront with Alice and her other family members. Her mother appears, and gets to show a bit of a maternal side that wasn’t expected after hearing about her in earlier volumes. Alice’s sister, however, doesn’t seem to have much time for her family. After learning more about how the Sovereignty passes power between generations – not by birthright, and not even necessarily to the Nebulis family – we understand why.

Summary

While the Imperial story feels like a retread of the last volume, the Sovereignty’s story introduces new political dimensions that promise interesting stories to come in future volumes. Hopefully the Imperial story can bring something new soon too. ⭐⭐⭐

Adachi and Shimamura, Vol. 2

Book Info

Adachi and Shimamura, Vol. 2
Adachi and Shimamura, Vol. 2
  • Format: light novel
  • Author: Hitoma Iruma
  • Illustrator: Non
  • Translator: Molly Lee
  • Publisher: Seven Seas

Review

It’s been several months since I read volume 1 of this series, so apologies in advance for anything I’m not remembering correctly.

Volume 2 of Adachi and Shimamura shows us Adachi trying to come to terms with being in love with Shimamura, while Shimamura continues to be blissfully ignorant.

Yashiro the alien astronaut takes a back seat this time around, only making a few cameo appearances in interludes. The focus of this volume is a Christmas outing. After Adachi invites Shimamura out, they each go shopping for a present for the other (each accompanied by one of Shimamura’s other friends from the first volume – serious Hino with Adachi, and offbeat Nagafuji with Shimamura), before we get to the outing itself. There’s no interruption from Yashiro this time; it’s just the two title characters, spending Christmas together.

Is it a date? Depends on who you ask.

The book is tough to read, in a good way; Adachi’s social awkwardness comes through very well on the page, and I very much empathize with her. She knows what she wants out of her relationship with Shimamura, but she has problems getting her feelings across. Shimamura, meanwhile, seems almost deliberately clueless of Adachi’s feelings – and when she asks Adachi outright, Adachi can’t bring herself to admit what she wants.

The series continues to feel more realistic than the other romance light novels I’ve read so far. No forceful intervention from a teacher, no uber-rich neighbor, no socialite training the protagonist for unclear reasons… just one ordinary girl trying to get across what the other one means to her, and too often failing.

Summary

If you didn’t like the first volume, this book isn’t going to change your mind. But I like seeing Adachi try to work her way through her feelings in a way that I never could, even without the same-gender complication. I want to see where this goes… and I hope neither Adachi nor Shimamura gets hurt along the way. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter, Vol. 2

Book Info

The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter, Vol. 2
The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter, Vol. 2
  • Format: light novel
  • Author: Meguru Seto
  • Illustrator: Takehana Note
  • Translator: T. Emerson
  • Adaptation: Cae Hawksmoor
  • Publisher: Seven Seas

Review

Volume two of The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter doesn’t change much from the first volume. The overall story for this volume is the first set of exams at the Hero Academy. To pass them with a high enough score to skip summer school, Noir and Emma will need to turn in 100,000 points worth of monster loot – which means slaying a dragon. But before they can do that, they need to get strong enough to take one on.

It may be just me, but it felt like the second volume toned down the lasciviousness. Noir still indulges in physical interactions with his harem women for the sake of building up his LP, but – outside of one of the bonus chapters – it felt much more perfunctory this time around; it happened but wasn’t as detailed as I remember from the first volume.

There’s not much to note in character growth in this volume. Noir and Emma’s stat numbers go up, but they don’t really learn anything new. Noir continues to put his Get Creative ability and its cohort to good use, coming up with solutions unique to each set of enemies that he faces.

Summary

Hidden Dungeon volume 2 is just as much a quick read as the first volume. While the characters are relatively static so far, as long as the Get Creative logic puzzles keep coming I’m happy to keep reading. ⭐⭐⭐⭐, Recommended for fans of the series.

The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter, Vol. 1

Book Info

The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter, Vol. 1
The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter, Vol. 1
  • Format: light novel
  • Author: Meguru Seto
  • Illustrator: Takehana Note
  • Translator: T. Emerson
  • Adaptation: Cae Hawksmoor
  • Publisher: Seven Seas

Review

The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter‘s premise is two-fold. The first half is right there in the title – there’s a hidden dungeon, that only protagonist Noir Stardia can enter. The second half cranks the power fantasy up to 11: he has the near-unique ability to create, edit, and bestow magical skills on people and things, provided he has sufficient LP. And LP are earned from indulging his base desires.

This is not an 18+ novel, so said desires don’t go too far. Good food, hugs, kissing… nothing that requires removing or going under clothing. However, this is still probably enough to lose much of the reading audience. (The definition of LP is not given that I noticed, but I suspect it stands for “lust points”.)

The setting is a typical fantasy-world-with-a-stats-system. Noir is a member of an adventurer’s guild, as well as attending an academy for would-be heroes. In morning he attends classes with his childhood friend, Emma Brightness; in the afternoon they go on guild quests for money and rank points.

Being a fantasy light novel, Noir can’t help but acquire a harem on his adventures. He starts with Emma, but gains other members through his adventures in the book, including the guild receptionist. (And of course his little sister wants in too.)

The story arc of the first volume is about getting into the Hero Academy, and introducing his harem fellow students, as well as an elf healer who wil join him on his future quests. So far there’s not much of an overall plot to the series, beyond Noir’s classroom and adventuring life.

The unique selling point to the series isn’t the Hidden Dungeon itself; it’s Noir’s skill creation and editing abilities. He can’t just win with power; he needs to “Get Creative” in order to succeed against his foes. The limitation on requiring LP helps keep this focuses, meaning we should continue to see unique (cheap) solutions to conflicts rather than Noir just making himself overpowered.

Summary

If there’s such a thing as “wholesome ecchi”, then Hidden Dungeon is it. The setting is cliché but I liked the characters, and Noir’s editing skills keep things interesting. This is not highbrow literature in the slightest; but I thought it was a quick, enjoyable read. ⭐⭐⭐⭐, Recommended for harem fans.