Here it is! The Light Novel Club discussion featuring the longest and silliest title yet is upon us, and TWWK and JeskaiAngel have joined me in discussing this isekai title. With an anime adaptation coming this fall, now is the perfect time to take a look at what awaits us in FUNA’s not-so-average journey into another world!
In general, what did you think of the novel?
JeskaiAngel: It was hilarious. I wasn’t sure what to expect, since the beginning is kind of dark (the girl dies, reincarnates, then loses her mom and is mistreated), but once I got past that opening stage, it was one of the funniest light novels I’ve read.
TWWK: I really enjoyed it! At first, it felt like a bit of a mess to me—I wasn’t sure where it was going, and it didn’t seem the author did either. But my assessment was wrong. By the end of volume one, a really nice story has formed, and the volume really felt to me like the origin story of a hero. Really good stuff.
stardf29: Yeah, I definitely enjoyed the novel for a lot of reasons. I liked that we had a girl as a protagonist, with the focus more on her female friends than on any sort of romance. I also liked how, despite all her overpoweredness, she tries to pass herself off as “normal,” but doesn’t really do a good job of it.
What do you think of the protagonist? What about the other characters? Any favorites?
JeskaiAngel: Adele / Mile was great. The fact that she (as a Japanese high school grad) dies saving a child’s life instantly sets her up to be likeable, and she builds on that by being a consistently kind person once reincarnated. That she repeatedly shows compassion to others (even when it risks showing she’s not “normal”) speaks well of her. Her desire to be “average” is a source of levity, but as one realizes that it stems simply from wanting friends, it also makes her even more sympathetic. I appreciated how the author integrated Mile’s physical age with her slightly older mental age. Her behavior really felt like what I’d expect from a person who was a blend of 10 and 18; she wasn’t just an 18-year-old in a child’s body. Sometimes she showed a sense responsibility or cunning that clearly came from her older self and would have made little sense for her physical age. Other times, she displayed all the naivete or impulsiveness I’d expect from her younger self. The two sides came together in a way that made sense to me, yet also made her delightfully dynamic and unpredictable.
TWWK: Jeskai said it best! And to respond to his question, I hadn’t thought of that, but I bet the author did. I really loved how the volume return again and again to the idea of being “average,” and I absolutely loved how that was interpreted in this framework. A really humorous touch!
I enjoyed many of the other characters, and Veil especially. I always enjoy that type of character, and honorable and earnest one that’s easy to root for (and with whom I can ship the MC!). Reina was also fun—balanced enough (meaning she wasn’t too tsundere) that I could see her actually being a good friend and supporter instead of just all huff and puff.
stardf29: Jeskai hit on a lot of what makes Mile such a great protagonist. I especially like the point about how she has aspects of both her older mental age and her younger physical age, as there’s definitely a lot of fun in her “younger” actions that doesn’t always think through her actions. I also like how she wants to help the others around her, teaching her some of the secrets to her powers, while trying to not make them too dependent on her or make them too overpowered like herself. As for the other characters, they definitely have their charm, especially the other girls Mile groups with in the hunter’s school. Considering that they looked to be the main girls that Mile will be traveling with, I was definitely looking forward to seeing more of them.
Bonus question: What are your thoughts on how the story makes Adele/Mile “average”?:
stardf29: As someone who likes math stuff, I had a very good laugh about how “average” got interpreted here. The “midrange” is what’s largely used here (the midpoint between the lowest and highest values), which is a bad choice when there are major outliers in the data… and that’s exactly what we have here.
JeskaiAngel: Did anyone else wonder if losing her mom and getting an evil stepmother part of being “average?” Like it’s “average” for a fairy tale heroine to have an evil stepmother?
stardf29: Heh, that’s an interesting take on being “average”. I think it’s more just that in being born to a noble family she was more likely to end up in that sort of situation to begin with but who knows what that god was thinking…
My favorite use of “average” though was how Adele/Mile was attractive to all the boys because of how her face is a composite average of all people’s facial features; that was something I actually did learn in psychology class, and to think it would come up in this way was too good.
What do you think of the novel’s shift from Adele’s life at a noble academy to Mile’s life as a hunter?
JeskaiAngel: It was a little surprising to me that after developing the academy setting and a cast of characters connected it, the story set it all aside. However, it created a good opportunity to observe Mile’s growth. With each new situation where Mile got to reboot her identity — noble academy, solo hunter, hunting school — she seemed to become a little more skillful about not exposing her abnormality too much.
Tangentially related to the shift from noble academy to hunting: I thought it was really neat how what got Adele in trouble and resulted in her flight was attempting to save a child in the street — it’s exactly what got her killed in her previous life, but that doesn’t keep her from doing it again. I also loved loved loved how this whole turn of events led to exposing the crimes of Adele’s father and stepmother.
TWWK: The change in setting really threw me—and I didn’t like it at first. It get like all the investment in the original setting was for naught, and I didn’t like how the entire genre seemed to be shifting as well. But Mile’s time as a hunter and then her schooling was very engaging, and I much preferred her roommates to the original frenemies that Adele had, who were underdeveloped (for a reason now, it seems, as they served only to strengthen Adele’s character). By the time the volume ended, I had completely bought into the new setting and journey.
stardf29: It took me a while to warm up to the change, too, but the new characters definitely helped a lot, and overall I think the whole “hunter” path makes for a good one for the future of the story. It also can make for some potentially interesting future events when she inevitably reunites with her old friends and the princess, so I’m looking forward to that.
What are you looking forward to seeing animated in the anime adaptation this fall?
JeskaiAngel: I guess my biggest question is simply how faithful the adaptation will be the source. How effectively will it capture the humor of the book, and will the characters stay true to their book identities? Also, how many vols. of the LN will actually get adapted?
TWWK: When I read light novels, I often wonder how they would look like as anime—this volume was more challenging than others. There really isn’t a whole lot of dialogue, for instance, and I’m looking forward to how the the anime makes these necessary changes to bring words to life.
stardf29: I’m definitely also wondering how the anime will be paced. I’ve seen anime adaptations that take their time with events and ones that rush through things, and while there’s always the concern of “will covering X volumes make for a reasonably satisfying story within 12 episodes”, rushing things definitely would not be ideal, either. Other than that, I hope the show nails the comedy. Also, I’m curious to see how the nanomachines will be depicted.
Time for some more in-depth questions:
What do you think of how Adele/Mile uses her powers? In particular, the extent to which she teaches some of her secrets to others, but also holds back the full extent of her abilities? Do you think she should be doing more, that she’s doing too much, or has she got a good balance?
TWWK: Each time Adele / Mile revealed the use of her powers, or considered how she might do so, I questioned her. She didn’t seem thoughtful enough about it, almost as if she was considering the question as some surface level instead of in a more “write it out and spend days or weeks thinking about it” sort of way. But a funny thing happened as I read the volume—I’ve come to trust both the FUNA and his lead character, both that the author has a grand plan that I’m not aware of (which is what I want in a multiple-volume series) and his character is just as intelligent and talented as described. I know people like that, where it feels like the results of their decisions or serendipitous, but they’re just highly intelligent people who do things well, as willy nilly as they sometimes initially seen. I’m very engaged by Adele’s thought process because I see her as that type of talent, and it’s great fun for me.
JeskaiAngel: I had a sense that she grew over the course of the book, gradually becoming more guarded. I wouldn’t necessarily say she has a “good” balance…but I think she shows a realistic balance. Part of her is a young kid, after all — not just any kid, but one from a comparatively sheltered background. Even the older part of her mind was still only a high school grad (with every passing year, 18 seems more and more like a kid to me) with no experience dealing with magic powers and such. There were times when I was inclined to say “That was obviously a bad idea,” but then I asked myself whether I would have done much better if I were a ten-year-old with immense magic power, super strength, etc., and concluded that her behavior wasn’t that unrealistic. As a kid, I consciously tried to be thoughtful and careful and wise, but in hindsight I can see a lot of foolishness, naivete, and ignorance in my life. The contrast between what she teaches the Wonder Trio vs. what she teaches her huntress buddies, or the flamboyant way she handles the “goddess” incident vs. how she shows more restraint in her climactic duel, shows me someone who learned from her experiences. I appreciate that more than a stupid / foolish character who endlessly makes the same mistakes.
stardf29: As Adele, there’s definitely a sense of how she just wants to help people but she’s not aware just how her powers and knowledge could shake up the world, or at least some people’s lives. As Mile, she thinks a bit more about the potential consequences of her actions while still trying to help people, so she at least is thinking a bit further ahead. It’s interesting to see her grasp that trying to help people too much could ultimately cause problems. At the same time, I think there will always be a part of Mile that wants to help people, without thinking too much about the consequences, and I like that about her. Having that tension between wanting to help people and having to consider the results of doing so is something that I think makes her such a great character.
Our next question comes courtesy of JeskaiAngel:
How do you feel about the novel’s treatment of deity? The “god” who reincarnates Adele/Mile, or her goddess impersonation and people’s responses to it?
TWWK: Yeah, not a fan of the world’s god for a couple of reasons. One, I always take a pause when the idea of a “god” is treated in such a way. I know that this is not MY God, but I also accept that in this world, my God doesn’t exist and because he’s the almighty deity of the universe, that feels like an affront—at least I feel insulted by it. Creatively, though, I’m also a little disappointed as we don’t get a lot of details here, and maybe that’s the point, but it still doesn’t sit well with me—the nanomachine technology, by comparison, is more alive and interesting and nuanced. Perhaps we’ll learn more in future volumes (there seems to be some foreshadowing of that), so I’m willing to set this aside for a while as the story develops!
JeskaiAngel: I’m always struck by the pitifully impoverished notion of deity I see in fiction. Gods are almost always weak, easily tricked or killed, ignorant, given to making mistakes, and/or etc. Sometimes this is handled by revealing that “god” isn’t really a god, or doesn’t even consider themselves a god, and that helps a little. But more often I’m just left thinking about the authors’ lack of imagination such that they couldn’t envision a more impressive concept for divinity. It’s totally possible to write good fantasy fiction with an Almighty deity — the works of Lewis and Tolkien bear that out. Also, when reading I Shall Survive Using Potions, also by FUNA, I was struck by the fact that not only does that story feature “gods” much like the one in this series, but the protagonist expresses active hostility to religion; perhaps that says something about the author.
stardf29: I think this is in part due to Japanese culture, particularly the prominent Shinto religion which features multiple gods, many of which are not particularly strong. Combined with the lack of Christianity’s presence, and I think it’s easy for Japanese authors to think of and thus write gods that ultimately are disappointing in their divinity. Of course, poor portrayals of religion and deities is an issue across fantasy in general, not just for the Japanese, and I think the prevalence of tropes like corrupt churches in general fantasy lead to many authors to just think those things are normal. For Japanese light novel authors, the lack of exposure to anything really different as far as faith goes does not help at all.
Any last words on this novel?
TWWK: It was a fun, engaging opening volume—I’m really interested in seeing how this story develops, and to see it animated!
JeskaiAngel: I enjoyed the first volume of Abilities Average enough to read the all the following entries. It’s a strong introduction to a great light novel series.
stardf29: In addition to getting more into this series, I’ve also gotten into the author FUNA’s other two series, I Shall Survive Using Potions! (mentioned earlier) and Saving 80,000 Gold in Another World For My Retirement. Both also feature women ending up into another world with interesting powers and making a mess of things, but each novel has its own flair to it, and I’m enjoying each one in its own way.
Thanks for joining us! If you read along with us, leave your own answer to the above questions in the comments! As for next time, we have a series that got a popular anime adaptation, and is a personal favorite of one of the staff, so look forward to our next chapter!
Volume one of Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! can be purchased on Amazon.