Welcome to our discussion on The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent, Volume 1! This month, we take a look at an office lady who ends up summoned to another world as a potential “Saint”… only to be ignored and left to fend for herself. Well, this is a shoujo/josei light novel, so of course she’ll get plenty of help from some good-looking guys. Jeskai Angel and I will be taking a look at this novel, so let’s jump right in!
1. What are your overall thoughts on the novel?
Jeskai Angel: Having read through it three times now…I love it. It’s sweet, funny, and profound by turns, with a likeable protagonist and a lot of realistic details that really help sell the rest of typical isekai/RPG elements. I adored how Japan and the fantasy world are in different timezones, leaving Sei jet-lagged (summon-lagged?). I’ve never seen that issue come up in isekai before, but it’s totally reasonable. And then when Sei collapses, the people around her, who know nothing about the phenomenon of jet lag or what time it was where Sei came from, ignorantly but reasonably assume she must be seriously ill. I love the realistic reaction of…everyone…to Prince Kyle snubbing Sei. Like, it’s totally believable to imagine a leader insulting what amounts to a visiting dignitary based solely on her looks, and then everyone else in the government spending months trying to figure out how to clean up the mess while tiptoeing around trying to avoid offending the visitor any further. The same is true of how Johan responds to the unreasonable request for the institute to take in Sei: I can easily see a savvy organization head, upon being asked to fix the blunder of an entirely unrelated department, using it to extort budget concessions from the higher-ups. Or consider Jude’s reaction when Sei tries to brush off the issue of why her potions are more potent than normal. He basically says “No way! Our entire job is figuring out anomalies like this!” and it’s a spot-on reaction for a researcher faced with a puzzle. Oh, and also the kings and mages of the past, who scrubbed all references to the Saint’s enchantment prowess because they realized if people found out, someone would no doubt try to exploit future saints as a cash cows. That was impressively farsighted and responsible of them. All these outstandingly realistic aspects of people’s feelings and behavior makes it a lot easier to accept the more fantastical parts of the story.
stardf29: This was a very pleasant read. Overall I really like how Sei took a rather terrible situation–getting summoned against her will and then being ignored because she didn’t seem to be the “saint” they were looking for–and made the most of it to start helping the people around her. Thankfully, the idiot prince aside, most of the people around her are nice folks who support her as much as they can. Beyond that, right now it’s mainly a nice slice-of-life where Sei starts to figure out more about her own powers as well as developing relationships with the people around her. I’m also amused at how this one actually has numerical stat displays and everything, as if to tie it in closer to all those male-oriented isekai LNs with similar systems. Overall it’s definitely something I’d like to read more of.
2. What do you think of the characters?
Jeskai Angel: First, Sei has to be one of the oldest isekai protagonists I’ve yet encountered. She says she’s in her twenties, and that she’s visibly older looking than the high-school-aged Aira, so I’m guessing she’s got to be mid to late twenties. Her age helps her stand out from other isekai protagonists. She comes across as an adult with adult concerns. She has more emotional maturity (at least in terms of understanding herself) than many characters. Instead of just acting awkward toward Albert, she realizes she’s actually afraid. She spends much of this volume in denial regarding some important points, but as her narrative unfolds, it becomes more and more apparent that she totally knows the truth. Even as she’s in denial about her situation, her narration is honest enough to mention important details from her Stats screen that she doesn’t want to acknowledge. Sei also has one of the more realistic reactions to being isekai’d that I’ve seen. She’s shocked and angry, yet still able to see positive sides to her situation. She can act pragmatically even while remaining disgruntled. And despite without just dismissing her own frustrations, she also displays a sense of joyous wonder toward fantasy staples like magic and potions (something often lacking from isekai stories, I think).
Sei’s main challenge, at least in this volume, is also surprisingly relatable to Christians. She has, in a literal, fantastical sense, received a calling (summoning?) to be a “saint.” Of course, the Bible teaches that we’re ALL “called to be saints” (cf. Romans 1.7, 1 Corinthians 1.2). And just like Saul of Tarsus “kicking against the goads” (Acts 26.14) or Sei ignoring her Stats screen, we all wrestle with how to respond to God’s calling. So Sei’s difficulty accepting her calling reads to me as a wonderful metaphor for how each of us faces Jesus’ call.
Regarding Sei, I thought this volume had perhaps the most effective use of illustrations I’ve ever seen in a light novel. We see her initial professional yet haggard appearance, and then in subsequent illustrations we see her literally let down her hair, dress more comfortably, and (thanks to her magical vision-improving eye ointment) ditch the glasses. It really helps sell the idea that she kind of looked like a mess when she arrived and months later people can comment on how much prettier she looks.
stardf29: Her hesitation over potentially being the actual Saint is definitely interesting. One could definitely see it as wanting to avoid responsibility so she can continue living her easy life, but at the same time, she definitely is still justifiably angry over how she was initially treated upon summoning and I can definitely understand the feeling of not wanting to just follow along with her supposed “calling” when she was basically kidnapped and then tossed aside.
I think that’s the biggest difference with her “saint” calling and the Christian’s “saint” calling: our calling to be “saints” is accompanied with Christ’s love, the forgiveness of our sins, and ideally, the love of other Christians. This might have been a very different story if after being summoned, the prince had actually paid attention to Sei as well and tried to care for her as well as Aira. I can’t help but think this is a lot like when people who’ve grown up in the church ultimately do not follow the faith because of how said church mistreated them.
Jeskai Angel: This volume as a whole focuses on how’s Sei’s deepening connection to the people of the fantasy world (in other words, her love for them) lead her to face her fears and take risks. The folks at the institute, the knights, Liz, the student with bad acne… A lot of Sei’s growth stems from choosing to use her power for others’ benefit. I say all this because I see Albert as the narrative exemplar of this tendency. Their entire relationship literally only happens because she saves his life with a Full Restore she made. (Consumable that completely heals HP and cures status ailments (e.g., burn)? Yeah, she literally gave Albert a Full Restore from Pokemon.) On the other hand, Albert is also one of the greatest challenges to Sei’s sense of insecurity. She admits more than once that she’s afraid of getting closer to him, that she feels like she’s running out of places to flee. Albert’s displays of affection / intimacy toward Sei serve as a physical embodiment of her concerns about getting involved with the people of her new world. He doesn’t confront Sei in quite the same way as Johan or Liz, but he is a positive influence that helps her grow.
stardf29: How much can we learn about a character without actually seeing him in-story? In this case, we only see him in that one moment when he takes Aira and leaves Sei behind, and in the rest of the story we only hear a bit here and there what he’s doing, but nevertheless Sei’s and others’ impressions of him are very important to the story. And, well, at the moment he at best comes off as a big fool. It’s bad enough that he completely ignored Sei in favor of Aira just because Aira was younger and prettier, but throughout this volume he never even tries to meet with or apologize to Sei. Instead, he seems to be focusing all his attention on Aira, as if he’s trying to “prove” that his choice of “saint” was correct. It’s even worse because we know that his reputation has taken a hit because of the whole situation, and as such he’s still technically responsible for Sei as an opportunity to make up for things–and that was before Albert got healed by Sei’s potion–and yet he still seems to be ignoring Sei as if that will somehow make the problem go away. Supposedly he is a “compassionate” prince overall, but actions speak louder than words and right now, his lack of action does not make him look good.
Though I do also have to wonder: what would Kyle have to do in order for Sei to consider that he’s “made up” for his blunders? Even if he does come to the realization that he’s wronged her, he’s got a major uphill battle to make amends. Well, one thing’s for sure: when these two meet again, it’s definitely going to be interesting.
Jeskai Angel: Nobody receives nearly as much development as Sei. She’s the lead and there are no close seconds. That said…
This volume managed to pique my curiosity about Aira. From what we hear, it’s sounds like she’s actually a bit of a magical prodigy by the fantasy world’s standards (although not remotely close Sei) and there’s a lot of emphasis on how her experience may differ from Sei’s (including Sei mentioning how sad Aira might feel upon learning that she isn’t even the Saint and thus was ripped away from home for no reason). I hope we’ll learn more about her as the series continues.
I wanted to give a shoutout to Erhart Hawke, not so much for the character himself as for how the author handled him. I thought it was really smart and realistic how Erhart seized opportunity to use the enchanting lesson as an improvised, covert attempt to measure Sei’s level. I also appreciated how the story never stopped and explicitly said “FYI this guy is Albert’s brother.” The author was competent enough that readers can easily connect the dots (Erhart’s eyes seemed familiar to Sei, he has the same last name, and we know that since Albert is the third son of his family there’s gotta be at least two more).
Johan was excellent as a fatherly sort of figure (despite being not that much older than the other major characters). His teasing of Sei and Albert was a lot of fun, but he also had an important role as the responsible authority looking out for Sei. Strong supporting character.
Liz is similar to Aira in that I really hope we get more regarding her. We know she’s a noble lady, but never get any specifics, and she seems so perceptive and well-connected that I can’t help but suspect she’s more significant that we’ve been told so far. Liz is also similar to Johan, in terms of her role in the plot. Both characters help prod Sei to confront things she’s fearfully avoiding (especially the fact that Albert is serious about her).
stardf29: I too am interested in what Aira is like. Has she become a more “typical” isekai protagonist devoted to her saint “duty”? Has she become like Maria of SOAP, making all sorts of demands from the people around her as a sort of “amends” for kidnapping her? What does she think of how the prince completely ignored the other Japanese woman summoned with her? It’ll definitely be interesting to see what happens when she and Sei meet up as well.
I’m also interested in seeing more of Liz. Sei’s got plenty of hot guys around her, but it’s good that she also has a girl she can be friends with. And yeah, there’s probably more to her than just another noble lady.
3. The inevitable question: With whom do you ship Sei?
Jeskai Angel: Obviously Albert. There’s some teasing with Jude, and very small amounts with Johan and the king, but this volume overwhelmingly sets us up to ship Seilbert, and I am totally on board with that. I found their relationship quite sweet. Albert does a great job of patiently helping Sei open up while not becoming overbearing or making her seriously uncomfortable.
stardf29: Yeah, Albert definitely seems to be the main love interest, given how he’s the one Sei has first be made aware of that he likely has feelings for her. That said, I’m kind of hoping Jude gets a chance to establish himself as a potential suitor as well; he is basically the first friend Sei has in this new world and the two of them definitely seem to get along well. Albert is good, though; he’s nice and not super-overbearing like a lot of male love interests can be, while still doing what he can to make his feelings clear.
4. Where do you want this story to go in later volumes?
Jeskai Angel: As we’ve already mentioned, I hope we learn more about Aira and Kyle; they are quite significant for characters who have almost no personal presence in the story so far. Similarly, I expect Liz will get more development. Eventually, I hope Sei voluntarily admits she’s the Saint (rather than, say, the grand magus using Appraisal to prove it); I feel like it would be a sign of her character growth if she finally steps up and acknowledges that she’s the Saint. I still ship Seilbert, of course, so more of that. I hope the story continues to let Sei express joy and wonder at the magical aspects of her new world, while also dealing thoughtfully with the consequences of getting isekai’d.
Some minor points of curiosity: why did no Saint appear like normal, such that they had to resort to the summoning ritual instead? And why did the summoning ritual snag two people instead of just one?
I hope that Sei continues to be…hmm…a not-stereotypically-masculine isekai protagonist? Like, her big magic display so far was mass healing, so it would be cool if she can keep being a hero without having to be a conventional warrior. You referenced The Extraordinary, the Ordinary, and SOAP above, and I really like how that story played with isekai tropes. I’d love it if Saint turns out similarly.
Finally, I’d like to learn more about the wider world in which Sei finds herself. Thus far she’s spent almost all her time on palace grounds of one kingdom (excepting the forest expedition and the day trip into the capital). There are probably tons of interesting people/places/things has Sei neither seen nor heard of so far.
stardf29: Pretty much agree with everything here. Except maybe the Seilbert part. 😛 Actually, I’m good with Seilbert but I do want Jude to at least get more time and at least “put up a fight”, so to speak. And well, I just want to see more of him as a character.
5. At this point we’ve read a number of light novels aimed at female audiences, including this one. What differences have you noticed between these novels and isekai novels aimed more towards male audiences?
Jeskai Angel: For the purposes of this question, I’ll try to compare isekai stories with male protagonists to isekai stories with female protagonists. I’m talking about comparisons, not making sweeping affirmations about all novels of one category or the other.
That said…isekai stories with male protagonist (presumably aimed more at male audiences) are way more fanservicey than isekai stories with female protagonists. Caveat: I’m not a girl, so I don’t have the best grasp on what might constitute “fanservice” for a female audience. When I use “fanservice” here, I mean the sort intended to appeal to males, including sexist commentary on the appearance of female characters, ecchi situations, harems of various types, etc. I think this sort of content is one of the most definitive hallmarks distinguishing isekai with male leads from isekai with female leads.
To a lesser degree, I think another difference between these two categories is how violent these stories tend to be. You can have fighting in both categories, but the stories with male leads tend to more focused on it, with more battles described in more detail. Closely related to violence is how dark the tone of stories can be. Isekai with male leads are more prone to going all grimdark edgelord on you. Isekai with female leads may have specific dark situations, but they aren’t as likely to have the darkness pervade the entire story.
Also, male isekai protagonists are more likely to do everything themselves, whereas female isekai protagonists are more likely to rely on others. “Now let me be clear,” I’m not saying female isekai protagonists are weak, passive damsels-in-distress. They aren’t. But in isekai-for-male-audiences, the male leads are more likely to personally solve all problems and defeat all enemies. The world revolves more around them, and any important changes in the setting probably stem from the hero’s activities. It’s like in video games where nothing happens until the player character shows up somewhere. In contrast, isekai with female leads are more prone to letting the supporting cast have a significant effect on the story. Female isekai protagonists seem more likely to encounter problems they can’t just fix on their own. Bakarina and Myne spring to mind as examples of female isekai leads who rely heavily on family, friends, and other allies, but are far from helpless.
stardf29: I’m sure there are “female” forms of fanservice, but as I’m also not a girl I’m not really sure what that is. (I think shirtless guys count?) It’s definitely true that there are a number of tropes that could be grouped under “male-oriented fanservice” (which I think most of us are familiar with at this point), and those aren’t used much if at all in female-oriented stuff.
The point about shoujo protagonists being more likely to rely on others is interesting; I have heard various criticisms of certain such novels along the lines of “the girl doesn’t do anything; everyone else does stuff and she just watches them!” Granted, those criticisms are usually exaggerating things, but I think it does highlight when these protagonists aren’t in full control of everything. And they accept that and do what they can, while allowing the people around them to do their part. And while male-oriented novels might allow the protagonist to delegate and let others take care of some things, overall I think they are still written largely to focus on the protagonist’s actions.
One thought that’s come to mind based on that: I think male-oriented light novels tend to focus more on “doing greater things”, while in female-oriented stories the focus is more on “being a better person”. In the former, the protagonist is usually a “good person”, of course, but he is often expected to demonstrate that through major actions: saving girls, defeating enemies, and whatnot. The actions are the focus that highlight the hero’s character. On the flip side, female-oriented stories focus more on how the protagonist’s thoughts, feelings, and character lead to her more “heroic” actions. The heroine’s character is the focus, from which her actions naturally follow.
Maybe that’s why I tend to like these shoujo light novels: they make me feel closer to the protagonist because of the greater focus on her character. I mean, it’s pretty rare for me to care much about the male lead of most light novels; if I had to name favorite characters from a given typical light novel, the male lead almost never makes it high on that list (unless they’re in an unusual form like a slime or a sword… come to think of it, I haven’t really seen that sort of “turned into a non-humanlike entity” story among female-oriented novels…). And even if a male lead does become memorable, it’s usually because of him being “badass” rather than because of a particular focus on his character. For shoujo novels though, it’s easy for me to love protagonists like Sei, Mia, Myne (Bookworm isn’t exactly shoujo but it kind of defies categorization overall), Bakarina, and others because the story is written to make me feel close to them as characters.
Of course, these are largely generalizations and I do like male-oriented light novels as well for a variety of reasons, and any given light novel regardless of who it’s aimed at may go against these trends. But that does at least feel like the general trend of things for me.
Thank you for joining our discussion! As a reminder, there’s an anime adaptation in the works, so that is also something to keep an eye on. As for the Light Novel Club, we will be taking a break in December, but we will still be reading light novels and we might even have some bonus content during the month. Our regular discussions resume on January 22nd with Infinite Dendrogram, Vol. 5, so we’ll see you then!
You can buy The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent Vol. 1 from Seven Seas here.