Unmotivated nobody Subaru Natsuki has somehow stumbled into another world. “Prepared” in a sense for this unexpected occurrence by a lifetime of anime, he prepares to explore the fantasy world he’s entered and any dangers it holds while wondering if he’s gained any special powers. If he has, it may not be as useful as he hopes.
I’ve hardly been so simultaneously interested and annoyed as when reading this light novel. The concept is decent, there are good action moments, and SOME of the humor works…
..but a lot of the humor is overdone and/or unfunny, the main character is generally unlikable, and the writing style is atrocious. The attempts at self depreciation, such as Subaru repeatedly commenting how he’s a disaffected youth “poisoned by anime,” is more odd and off putting than amusing. He’s also pretty dense and it all combines to make him someone to be tolerated rather than interested in.
In the writing there’s constant redundancy of describing everything from Subaru’s point of view then summarizing the same thing again in dialog or his thoughts that’s clunky and unneeded. On top of that issue is extremely awkward phrasing that made the book a chore to get through. Whether the primary cause overall was the original text or the translation is unclear (and it’s likely to be a bit of both).
But there are obvious instances of poor translation. For example, there is an exchange joking about two characters’ ages prompted by the line “Well, it’s been a long time since anyone’s called me a girl.” Except no one did. The proceeding line is “She looks really used to fighting, despite her being a woman.” While I was able to follow the idea regardless and it may seem like a small error, using “woman” instead of “girl” there is clearly an inconsistency and there are similar things throughout the book. Writing that repeatedly draws attention to itself in such a way significantly hampers immersion.
Capping it all off is an approach that’s the epitome of telling instead of showing (this of course likely stems from the source text). Expectation versus reality is conveyed by endless exposition, with characters’ feelings being stated and described instead of felt. Not only does this tend to flatten the emotional impact of the story, over describing insignificant things takes away from the key moments when the extensive detail is appropriate (and as I mentioned earlier there are a few such moments that are very well done).
The pacing of the book is also hampered a bit by the production. If you somehow manage to avoid the spoiler on the back cover (which I had) about something that’s not really explained until a third to halfway through the book, it’s spoiled anyway in the color pages under the character descriptions. Since those descriptions came from the original publication perhaps it was never meant to be much of a secret, but knowing more than is explicitly revealed in the book itself for so long was another aspect contributing to make reading long sections specifically building up to that realization boring.
It’s a shame really, as again the core premise is intriguing. The way the author acknowledges and plays with genre conventions has great potential if refined/reigned in a bit, and the cast is a reasonably interesting collection of mysterious misfits. There are some plot issues that really should have been addressed in this book, but signs do point towards them coming up in the future. The epilogue reveals more about the story than the entire proceeding book, which is another pacing problem but admittedly provides a strong hook for the next one.
Overall I wanted to like this a lot more than I actually did. I’m curious about what happens to Subaru and company going forward but can’t see forcing myself to read more. I might try to switch to the anime at some point and see if the storytelling and style feel more natural in that.