By Mato Sato and nilitsu. Released in Japan as “Shokei Shoujo no Virgin Road” by GA Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jenny McKeon.
As we see more and more deconstructions of the basic isekai light novel and its tropes, it’s inevitable that some of those deconstructions are going to involve “isekai is bad, really”. Yeah, taking a young, immature Japanese man and dropping him into a fantasy world with monsters and magic, where he inevitably starts plotting how to “invent” mayonnaise and miso soup, is not necessarily the best decision one can make. Indeed, this is not even the first book we’ve seen in English with this plot, as Isekai Rebuilding Project already wandered down this road. That said, this world is pretty hardcore about stopping it. Isekai’d Japanese people, in the past, have created horrors of apocalyptic form. There’s no stopping them, all you can do is put them out of their misery. And, well, if you have to kill them before they even gain access to their powers, well, this is a sacrifice that will have to be made. This book is about one of those killers, and the girl she can’t kill.
We are introduced to Menou, the titular executioner, when she meets a young man who was brought to this world from Japan… and then promptly kicked out. Not spoiling much, but… he is not our hero. Menou fills that role. The heroine is actually Akari, the girl who was brought to this world at the same time, and who Menou also kills… but Akari can control the element of Time, and this the clock rewinds her body back to being unhurt. She also doesn’t seem to remember Menou doing this, so Menou continues to pretend to be helping her while, in actuality, leading her to the Church, which apparently can do a better job of wiping her out. She’s helped by her assistant Momo, who is basically Shirai Kuroko from Index in pink, and, albeit inadvertently, by Ashuna, the princess of the royal family who stared this whole mess. That said, Menou will rapidly find that there’s far more going on here than meets the eye.
Getting the bad out of the way, this book’s afterword sells itself as “grimdark”, and it’s not kidding. There’s lots of dead and eviscerated people in this, Menou’s backstory verges on terrifying, and the ending implies that the entire series may end in a tragedy. And, because this is a Japanese light novel, we’ve got to have lots of talk about Akari’s big breasts and art of them being big. This ends my negative comments. Everything about the book that is not those two things was fantastic. The magic system is well thought out, and integrates nicely with the world’s religion. The characterization of the four leads manages to make them all obvious “types” that anime fans will be VERY familiar with, but then also turn around and give most of those people (Ashuna does not get much to do here, to be fair) a depth that also works the way a good mystery does – after reading the ending, you want to go back and read the start again. When we first meet Akari, there’s a bit of her own narration that is 100% at odds with everything we get for the next 150 pages… until the climax, when it all comes together and you go “OOOOOOH!”. Love it. Even Momo, who I was sure would be the one character that irritated me throughout, gets a touching backstory, an actual reason for her behavior, and a terrific romantic afterword, though I have bad news for her if she hopes to be best girl.
So yes, definitely recommended. Even the title and subtitle have a sense of “grand epic” to it. Oh yes, and there’s also a tinge of yuri to it, so folks who enjoy that will also want to read it. Plus, anime coming soon! Basically, get in on the ground floor of this one.