By Nyun and Sakana. Released in Japan as “Isekai ni Tensei Shitandakedo Ore, Tensai tte Kanchigai Saretenai?” by Overlap, Inc. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Shaun Cook.
When I first saw that this title was licensed, I noted the lengthy title, the fact that it was an isekai that WASN’T a dungeon crawl or similar, and that it was a comedy and got a certain idea in my head of what it would be like. I though it would be ordinary boy in ordinary family, but reincarnated, coming up with common sense ideas from his old world that no one in this new one had heard of, and thus being mistaken for brilliant. Laffs follow. Now… to a certain extent, I’m not wrong? Well, except for the ordinary. The ordinary in that last sentence is so wrong I’m surprised I wasn’t arrested when I wrote it. But, as the author says, he enjoys writing stories based on everyone misunderstanding everyone else. And that includes the reader. I misunderstood Me, a Genius, which is one of the loopiest light novels I have ever read in my life.
Kouki is a former researcher who dies and is reincarnated in another world, certainly. He actually has his full memories from even before he’s born, which is unusual in this genre, mostly because even the most isekai of authors would try to work that one our realistically and go “ummmmm”. He’s born in a world with its share of problems – World War II started early, a plague devastated Europe, etc. It’s now 2091, and Kouki is an ordinary boy in a… OK, look, his mom is a former quantum mathematician turned housewife, and his dad is in a secret UN special ops unit. In Kouki’s mind, he’s doodling as a child, trying to research the history of this world, and occasionally do normal things like weed the lawn in his mobile suit. To his mom, he’s a terrifying prodigy who solved quantum equations, created devastating pesticides in his spare time, and is HER LITTLE BOY WHO MUST BE PROTECTED. Luckily, there is a school for the incredibly brilliant that he can be sent to when he hits 16.
A word of warning: this book requires you to throw out the window any consistency of character, particularly Kouki’s character. Sometimes he’s a normal schlub you’d see in a harem romcom. Sometimes he does feel like a guy who did research a lot of complex things in his former life. And sometimes he feels like what everyone thinks he is, the product of a marriage between two clearly brilliant people who is even more insanely brilliant. For all that the series is supposed to be about “misunderstandings”, sometimes Kouki’s “common sense” makes you want to beat your head against the wall. The book’s tone is also occasionally inconsistent – when it’s being gonzo it’s fine, but sometimes it takes a breather and does things like investigating the school’s seven mysteries and turns deadly boring. Fortunately, mostly it’s gonzo.
Everyone in this book leaps to the silliest possible conclusion not only about what Kouki is thinking, but about what everyone else in the world is thinking as well. I’ve seen light novels where the protagonist is normal and everyone else is eccentric. I’ve seen books where the leads are eccentric but there’s one normal person. But here everyone is, in their own way, amazingly bonkers. The mom is threatening the United States president with war should her son be in danger, and he can only cower. Kouki’s friend (and later girlfriend) Alice has a gobstopping plot revelation dropped about 3/4 of the way in… and then nothing ever really comes of it, nor does Kouki discover it. There are cockroaches who do work nanomachine style. Heck, at one point Kouki really does end up in a fantasy world and defeats the demons, picking up a pet dragon as a reward.
This book series is only three volumes long, and thank God. This is not the type of series that could sustain itself over the long run. It also has hideous plot and character flaws – anyone who takes light novels seriously might get an allergic reaction to it. But I was laughing throughout, and kept thinking “Damn, this is fun. Ridiculous, but fun.” Please enjoy this story of a boy and the world he’s reincarnated into, where every human alive just talks past one another.