Sometimes, I don’t want a story with lots of action or drama; I just want a nice, laid-back story about a guy helping others with his pet slimes. And By the Grace of the Gods is the most laid-back light novel I have read yet. It is the simple story of a man reincarnated as a young boy, as he experiments with slime evolution, befriends a nice ducal family, and moves out from the forest he lived in to find his place in society. Oh, and as the title suggests, he gets blessed by some gods; this leads to him regularly praying to them and seeking out good churches in town. This surprisingly positive portrayal of faith really helps toward making this a great novel for when I want a nice, chill, feel-good read. (And it has an anime adaptation coming up, for what that’s worth.)
By the Grace of the Gods (Vol. 1) is available from J-Novel Club.
Speaking of “laid-back,” after covering volume five of Laid-back Camp, I’m onto volume six! Christmas and New Year’s are now over, and the girls are all eager to spend their money on what else but camping gear? It’s always been this way, but maybe more than with the rest I’m struck by how volume six engages me so thoroughly with really, truly slice-of-life storylines: shopping for daily items; looking for a part-time job; and Nadeshiko deciding that she wants to go solo camping, too. Because it’s about day to day life with five lovable leads (and a number of strong supporting ones, some of which come and go and may never be seen again), there’s a feeling that this series could go on for 40 volumes and remain captivating. After all, we live decades of our own lives, and the things to do and see and talk about never end. That’s part of the magic of Laid-back Camp, which has quickly become one of my favorite manga.
Laid-back Camp (Vol. 6) is available for purchase on Amazon.
It’s fun to see tropes played with and deconstructed or reconstructed, and The World’s Least Interesting Master Swordsman does this quite well. High schooler Sansui is “accidentally” killed by “God” and reincarnated into a fantasy world. Now ageless, he spends the next 500 years in isolation doing nothing but training with a wooden sword, until he and his master find a baby in the woods and Sansui is ordered to rejoin human civilization and raise the child as his own. Fitting for his age, Sansui displays a charming sense of maturity atypical of LN protagonists. His critiques of the cliché characters he encounters, such as a stereotypical arrogant noblewoman or a laughably generic stock isekai protagonist, are hilarious. But what’s really great is seeing how the story challenges those first impressions with indications that these characters are more complicated and human than they first appear. As a result, this lighthearted, low-stakes, humorous tale manages to be surprisingly thought-provoking at the same time. – Jeskai Angel
The World’s Least Interesting Master Swordsman (Vol. 1) is available from Amazon and is our next light novel club selection.
In the past month or so, I’ve read a lot of manga. Like a LOT of it, especially on-goings. One series that stood out for me was Seven Little Sons of the Dragon. This is a one volume collection of vignettes by Ryoko Kui, the creator of Delicious in Dungeon. Each story in the collection is set in a different world settings each with their own, unique fantasy elements. I had a hard time putting it down; it was so much fun to read. Check out my review at Yatta-Tachi.
Seven Little Sons of the Dragon is available for purchase on Amazon.
This is one of the more unique series that MangaPlus recently picked up. Instead of the traditional format manga is usually drawn in, The Vertical World is made like a web comic, and taken to its full advantage with setting up the start of the story: the main characters are falling down an infinitely tall tower. The art style, though simple and somewhat crudely-drawn, is balanced by a plotline that becomes increasingly fascinating and intricate as new revelations about the mysterious tower are discovered. Fans of sci-fi and mystery would be on the edge of their seats with each new chapter, and will be left wanting more, myself included.
The Vertical World is available for free on MangaPlus.
Featured illustration by 杉８７ (reprinted w/permission)