ARC REVIEW: Date a Live – Tohka Dead End

Thank you to YenPress and NetGalley for a copy of the ARC

Despite this series being around for several years now, the first I heard about it was when Sword Art Online author, Kawahara Reiki, was tweeting about the mobile game in Japan. Knowing he enjoyed it, I requested to review this light novel that’s being translated into English at long last.

Going in completely blind like I did, I can’t exactly say that it wasn’t what I was expecting, but… Date-a-Live was definitely not what I expected.

The series – as described by the author, Tachibana Koushi – is a big “what if a dating sim was the key to saving the world from an unearthly power?” In the future, there are tears in reality that cause mass destruction and chaos and death. These tears, known as “spacequakes” are caused by Spirits, beautiful girls with massive amounts of power, and an elite team of warriors are equipped with special gear to try and take them down. However, these warriors aren’t making much progress and a special team has decided to take matters into their own hands and having a high school-aged civilian seduce the Spirits into peace.

Shindo is a ridiculous protagonist who cares a lot for his younger sister and is absolutely useless with girls. So naturally he is tasked with seducing the Spirits. In the first third of the book, he reminded me a lot of Rentaro from Black Bullet, especially with his relationship with his adorable younger sister (whose appearance even reminds me of Enju from Black Bullet). And then the dating sim (for anyone unfamiliar with the term, it is like a choose-your-own-adventure video game where you date a cast of characters) aspect happened and I wasn’t buying it. At first it came off as very “this is just another gimmick to use towards the harem trope”, but then it continued on to when Shindo meets with the Spirit, Tohka for the first time and it got me intrigued.

It’s my own fault for expecting an all-out action story, but the comedy aspect of the novel was an unexpected bit of fun. I’m iffy on where the story is going since I’m not the biggest fan of the harem trope, but I think this is definitely a series worth giving a chance to. It’s goofy, the art for the illustrations is cute, and it’s a finished series over in Japan.

ARC REVIEW: Reign of the Seven Spellblades #1

Thank you so much to YenPress and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this (now available) incredible light novel!

When this series was announced to be licensed by YenPress, I had it on my TBR instantly. The cover was so beautiful I was here for the character designs immediately and the little blurb that was shared alongside the reveal had me interested for sure. So when I received the email from NetGalley that I was approved for a copy, I was so excited!

Right away, this light novel wasn’t what I was expecting. Really cute and funny right off the bat, it gave me Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya vibes with how ditzy but determined Nanao was and Oliver’s exasperation with all of his new friends was very much like Kyon. However, the comparison is more of a personal one, and each of the characters is honestly so much fun and I loved all of them right away. Then we get to Kimberly Academy, a magical school where death is damn near imminent at all times and the risk of losing your mind to the darkness of magical studies is a constant threat. As fun and light-hearted as the first half of this book is, it does get dark around the half-way mark as the true dangers of Kimberly begin to show themselves and hidden traits are revealed in the students themselves.

I got entirely sucked into this light novel and, again, I loved everything about it. The ending was such a drastic 180° flip from the rest of the story but that only makes me more desperate to get my hands on volume two. I can’t wait to see what Oliver does and how his relationship with Nanao develops! Someone give this series an anime deal immediately.

REVIEW: re:ZERO ~ Starting Life in Another World 1

As the world awaits for more SAO, Crunchyroll ads seem to be doubling down on promotion for the latest season of re:ZERO. I decided to give this series a try because of all of the Crunchyroll ads across social media. It got me curious. Not to mention how obsessed the anime side of the internet is with Rem. I’m a sucker for an isekai these days, so I jumped right into it.

re:Zero follows Subaru as he is just randomly thrust into a fantasy world while walking home from the store. In the real world he had no goals, no friends, no aspirations. He was constantly cutting class to watch anime or work out and has done nothing with his life. Now in a strange world and armed only with a small bag of snacks, Subaru learns very quickly that something strange is going on. As he offers to help a beautiful girl find a lost item of value, things become an anime version of Groundhog Day, and every time Subaru is killed from biting off more than he can chew, the day starts over in the exact same way it began.

While I loved the premise and the murder-mystery Groundhog Day (or Mystery Spot if you’re a fan of Supernatural – season 3, episode 11, by the way), I found this first volume really struggled with pacing issues. The story doesn’t move fluidly and some of the lengthier parts just felt unnecessary. The translator did a great job of getting the sass and the silly jokes to land properly in English, but despite the entertaining factor in his character, I still don’t know if I like Subaru as the protagonist. He’s funny, sure, but I feel like his growth as a character is going to take a lot longer than it should. I’ll probably continue to the series out of curiosity since Rem and Ram didn’t show up in this volume, but I find myself debating on just watching the anime without reading the books.

REVIEW: JK Haru is a Sex Worker In Another World

Note: This novel is basically hentai and involves heavy amounts of sexual violence as well as gaslighting, physical abuse, gore, violence against sex workers, and toxic relationships

JK Haru is a Sex Worker In Another World was a title I just stumbled across and thought I’d give it a go out of curiosity. I’m often really curious about the depiction of sexual content out of other countries, especially when the countries aren’t as liberal as we are here in Canada, so I was intrigued by the concept of a light novel involving sex work. Especially as an isekai novel (meaning the character is from the “real world” and is transported into a fantasy land).

I won’t lie when I say this wasn’t exactly a good read. I’m not sure if it’s a translation issue or if the writing was originally choppy and disoriented, but the other possibility for why I wasn’t super into it was it felt like it was less of a novel about a sex worker and more of a hentai on paper… I might not have minded that so much had the content not including a huge amount of sexual violence and humiliation towards the girls who worked in the brothel. Maybe the “story” would have worked better in an adult manga or as a straight-up hentai animation series, but there was a lot lacking in terms of depth.

What I will say though, is that it did have some pretty great lines targeting the misogyny of isekai fantasy series and fantasy in general. It also talked a lot about toxic relationships and the value of self-worth while also being pretty sex positive when it came to the fact that Haru was a sex worker and she didn’t feel bad or guilty about her job – in fact she likes and excels in it which is nice to see.

The best line was most definitely from one of Haru’s internal monologues, “A person’s worth is decided in ways that they can’t do anything about. All you can do is decide how you’ll live your life regardless of your worth.”

Will I continue reading this series? Probably not. Would I recommend it? Also probably not. But it was at least a fast enough read that I don’t regret giving it a go.

REVIEW: The Alchemist Who Survived Now Dreams of a Quiet City Life #1

One of my 2021 goals is to read more light novels and honestly, one thing that always makes me laugh are the series with overly long titles. When it comes to The Alchemist Who Survived Now Dreams of a Quiet City Life, the long title was half of the reason why I picked it up, but the other half was the cute art for sure.

For those unfamiliar with light novels, it’s a genre of Japanese novels that are a more serialised format that also tend to feature full-page illustrations with varied frequency throughout the novels. It’s basically a genre made from anime-in-book-form without being manga. The majority of the light novels I’ve read have fallen into the action-fantasy genre but there are also slice-of-life romance novels as well. But back to reviewing this one.

The Alchemist Who… follows Mariela, an alchemist who put herself into a magical state of suspended animation in order to survive a huge monster attack on her home city only to wake up 200 years later. Realising that she is now alone in the world with no home, no friends, and no knowledge of what has happened while she was “asleep”, Mariela is in a bit of a fix. Even when she makes friends out of a group of adventurers, she learns quickly that there are hardly any alchemists in the world, and none within her old home city.

The synopsis makes it sound like a typical action-packed fantasy novel, but this series is definitely more slice-of-life, at least for the time being. The story is about Mariela’s loneliness and her fears from being asleep for so long. It’s about her kindness and generosity towards others that may stem from her naivety, but deep down all Mariela wants is to care for others. The guards she befriends look out for her, knowing that she’s just a young woman, but more than that is the man, Sieg, who she saves from a death sentence of slavery.

I know the inclusion of slavery is very off-putting for many readers even in “English” fantasy novels. What I will say is that I think it is more of a translation thing here. In this world, those with massive debts have the option of being a debt-labourer, given the option to sell their labour to nobles or other wealthy folk in order to pay off those debts. However, if the person in question commits a major crime or violates the terms of their contract, they are condemned to being a penal labourer until the end of their days. Sieg falls under this category, but is saved from his fate as a penal labourer when Mariela sees how unwell he is and how abused he is at the hands of the other guards.

Her kindness towards this man who feels he is unworthy of such generosity is so heartwarming and as we learn more and both of them, I found myself adoring Sieg and Mariela with my entire being. The book on the whole is so sweet and stress-free with how soft it is and how tender the characters are. The only issue I really took with it was that at almost 400 pages long, it could have been shortened significantly had all of the repetition been cut out. The herbs and plants Mariela requires for her secret alchemy get a little complicated, but the constantly repetition of three of the plants’ effects does get tiresome.

What I have found interesting though about reading as many light novels lately as I have been, is how the fantasy genre specifically still tends to be very video game or TTRPG (table-top roleplaying game – think D&D). By that I mean in three separate light novel series that I have stuck my nose into, there is a levelling system and a magical power system that feels very much like it would in a game. It’s curious to see in novels that are not game based (such as Sword Art Online) and I’d love to do more readings into why this might be such a common trope with light novels. I also wonder if that kind of system is common in other Japanese fantasy novels that don’t necessarily fall under the light novel categorisation.

All in all I really loved this book and look forward to getting deeper into the series. As of right now, there are five volumes of 350+ pages each translated into English by YenPress, and I’m looking forward to reading them. I definitely had to fight the urge to immediately jump into the second book once I finished this first one. Mariela and Sieg are just so perfect I need to read more about their relationship as I hope it moves from a budding friendship into something more.

REVIEW: Mirai

Thank you NetGalley and YenPress for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for my honest review.


I love Japanese stories. I find there’s just something that’s always different about Japanese lit that tugs at my heartstrings no matter the book. Having loved all the recently translated light novels I’ve been reading, I was so excited to have been approved for Mirai by Mamoru Hasoda, especially given that I’m such a huge fan of his films.

Mirari is the story of a little boy, Kun, who is livid to find he isn’t receiving as much attention or affection from his parents now that he has a baby sister. However, Kun is then visited by a future version of his sister as well as other versions of all of the people around him in an adventure of love, family, and learning.

Now, this story was presented as an anime film first and then later adapted into the light novel as presented with this book. Much like your name. or even manga adaptations such as Wolf Children (also a film by Hasoda) or the Boruto series, it’s not uncommon to have the books come after the film/series is released. It doesn’t always work, and despite enjoying the story, I do feel like Mirai is an example of one better seen rather than read.

It felt a little jumbled in places and I am honestly not sure if that is due to parts of the story being lost in translation between the original Japanese and this English edition, or if it just is simply how the story is paced. It was still very cute and an interesting look into modern family living in Japan, but I think it would have had more emotional value in the form of a manga rather than a novel.