By Hyougetsu and Nishi(E)da. Released in Japan by Earth Star Entertainment. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Ningen.
As we’ve been seeing more and more isekai light novels lately, some of them are becoming very casual about the actual reincarnation/teleportation/what have you that gets our Japanese protagonist over to the fantasy world the author really wants to write about. Der Werwolf is an extreme example of this – we never find out much of ANYTHING about Veight, our hero, from before he was reborn in this world. There’s not even a flashback to his death or anything like that. We do see the occasional mention of soy sauce and tea, and this actually turns out to be a pretty interesting plot point later on, but it’s striking how little the author cares about showing Veight adapting to a new world. No, the main reason for the isekai is to show us why Veight is not like other werewolves, and why he’s very suited to be a leader of a military brigade, de facto ruler of a human city, and apprentice to a brilliant (yet stuck as a little girl… sigh) mage. He’s not like other werewolves.
With all that said, the conceit works here, mostly because Der Werwolf is not content to sit back and rest on its isekai laurels: it’s a good story, well-told. It’s not all that original, but that’s not all that important. Veight died and was reincarnated as a werwolf. As an adult, he’s joined his fellow wolves in the Demon Lord’s army, fighting back against humanity, who has hunted most of the demon races to damn near extinction. Veight’s job is to conquer a mid-sized trading village in the South, which he does quickly and relatively painlessly. Indeed, the Viceroy of the city, who is the young woman who’s on the cover because, well, a light novel needs a pretty young woman on it, is impressed and grateful to Veight that he didn’t conquer the city through mass slaughter. The other werewolves are a bit surprised as well – what’s wrong with mass slaughter? But Veight is made of sterner stuff, and wants to spare the conquered humans, not destroy them. This is easier said than done, though.
This is a book that has plot and characterization as its main positives, which is always a good sign. The scenes flow smoothly from one to the next (indeed, the entire book is one long chapter, with a short story at the end of Veight’s youth), and we also occasionally get someone else’s POV of Veight so that we can get the contrast of how he views himself versus what others think of him. Word of warning: this is a light novel, so of course Veight is a clueless harem protagonist. The Viceroy seems to have fallen for him almost immediately, and he also has a “big sister-type” werwolf and a centaur girl added to the mix. He has absolutely no idea, of course. In the end, Der Werwolf actually reminded me a bit of The Faraway Paladin, in that it’s straightforward, not concerned with the Japan the protagonist came from all that much, and the reader comes back because the story is well-told. I’ll definitely be reading more.