By Patora Fuyuhara and Eiji Usatsuka. Released in Japan as “Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni” by Hobby Japan. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Andrew Hodgson.
As with so many prior volumes of Smartphone, the lighter and fluffier the series gets the better it is. As such, let’s start with the less light and fluffy stuff, which is mostly towards the end. Touya and company get themselves involved in a murder mystery in another country, one that is – as with many countries we’ve seen in this series – having a succession crisis. Unfortunately, they’re being manipulated on both sides by what’s left of Yulong, the country taken out mostly by the Phrase in a previous volume. They say Touya did it, which he denies. This is true, but perhaps acting like a smug asshole and killing off the royal family part might be some of the reason. But this is Smartphone World, meaning that the bad guys are all REALLY REALLY EVIL, so it’s OK. This was my least favorite part of the book, mostly as Touya, who is passive at the best of times, is really unlikable as a passive killer.
The best section of the book is, without a doubt, the Mario Kart race. Now, names have been changed to protect the guilt,y but that’s essentially what we have here. Touya is asked to hook up the nerdy engineer price we saw in a previous book with another princess, who also turns out to be a nerdy engineer. They love the sweet cars – erm, Ether Vehicles – but disagree as to exactly how they should be modded, and so get really angry at each other. Clearly a race is the answer, and with a course designed by the Mad Scientists of the book, it’s gonna be Mario Kart. The main reason this is so fun is that Touya spends most of the race grumbling and not doing well, and then is the first one eliminated. Given that Touya is the standard perfect hero who an do anything (and is a literal God by now), this pleased me. Also, the couple bond over their cars and fall in love. Aww.
In between we have the rest of the book. Another country is wiped out by the Phrase, but this time in the reverse world. What’s more, the Red Cats base is destroyed, so now they’re in Touya’s universe. Which is going to be irrelevant soon, as the next book promises to have the two universes merge for good. Oh yes, and Touya also helps save a mom ‘n daughter diner from the forces of eeeeeeeevil (another typically broad villain from a series that can only write broad villains) and gives his spy/sex worker friend a magical panther to be her bodyguard. The other notable part of the book is Ende, who was introduced as the enigmatic know-it-all who gave Touya important info, and has somehow become comic relief, abused by his love interest and his teacher. How the mighty have fallen.
Should you read this volume of Smartphone? Well, if you’ve read the others, sure. It’s not a good jumping off point if you want to stop, and certainly has a good cliffhanger. I’d read it for the go-kart race.