By Ko Hiratori. Published by arrangement with Hayakawa Shoten. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Emily Balistrieri.
It is a rare series that creates such buzz that a publisher is ready to say “we also want to put out those unpublished short stories you have on your webnovel site”, but JK Haru is one such series, and so we have this book which I don’t believe was even collected in Japan. It’s a series of interlinked short stories taking place mostly after the events in the first book. Honestly, I was expecting something a lot more inconsequential than this, something along the lines of the “I want to eat ramen” or “let’s celebrate Christmas!” stories. And those are very cute. But the main short stories are the meat of the book, and their depth and characterization reminds the reader why the first book was so talked about. I wanted to read more about these characters, and now I can. And, while Haru is still a sex worker, there is 100% less of her working in this book, so don’t come into it expecting more sex. But if touching scenes of family and friends are what you want, good news.
The ‘wraparound’ stories in the book feature Chiba, the other guy hit by the truck and transported to another world with Haru. He wasn’t very likable in the original book, and honestly for a good portion of these stories he remains fairly unlikable, with his immaturity and need for a “mother” figure getting lampshaded in the text. He works best in a short story that pairs him up with another immature brat in Kizuha, who is the much mentioned but never seen top ranked sex worker where Haru is. Despite revolving around rampant drug use and innumerable uses of the word ‘dick’ (it’s apparently the name of the animal they both adopt, but is used knowingly as a play on words throughout the story) it actually made both characters, who elsewhere in the book are resolutely awful, appeal to me.
The best story in the book is ‘Mom’, which gives us backstory and character development for Lupe, Haru’s friend and fellow sex worker who is being groomed to take over for the current madam but spends most of the story being rather overwhelmed by events, as Haru and Kiyori are away killing the Demon Lord and without her support system she begins to accumulate stress, which she has no good way of getting rid of. It’s a terrific character examination, and you WILL cry over a scene where everyone is throwing cake at each other. Kiyori gets some wonderful depth in these stories as well, with her hero worship of Haru translating into a need to help to make this world less misogynist and awful. There’s also some ship tease with Sumo, Haru’s chef friend, but much like her feelings on Haru it’s hard to gauge where ‘love’ ends and ‘inspiration’ begins.
All this and Haru doing a Detective Conan impression. If you’ve read the original book, these stories are essential, and will put a big smile on your face.