By Ghost Mikawa and necomi. Released in Japan as “Kao Sae Yokereba Ii Kyōshitsu” by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Evie Lund.
There’s a lot here that reminds me of other light novels, even though the premise itself is somewhat unique. If anyone remembers the old movie/TV Series Fame they will find this a bit familiar. But the two series it reminded me of most are No Game No Life and Spy Classroom. The former is obvious: it’s about a brother and sister, both eccentric, who have skills but have dealt poorly with social interaction in the past, being forced to socially interact. The good news is that, thankfully, there is precisely zero incest subtext in Looks Are All You Need, and Gakuto and Shiika feel like actual siblings rather than a weird fetish. As for Spy Classroom, this is another book that relies heavily on it being on the page. What this series does with music is something that can’t be conveyed aurally without losing the magic. Which makes me worry that, if it ever gets an anime, it’ll be Erna under the table all over again.
Seeker is a fairly popular virtual idol, who does mostly cover versions but has quite a following. In reality, Shiika is a shut-in who cares little for her appearance or social cues, who lives in an apartment with her brother, who is much the same but doesn’t have Shiika’s singing ability. One day they’re approached by a talent company, who were able to find out her real identity. They have a suggestion: go to Ryouran Academy and learn how to become a famous star. It’s tempting – Gokuto’s goal in life is to earn a ton of money without actually doing any work. Unfortunately, Shiika is a virtual idol for a reason. That said, they agree to have Shiika enter the academy and give it a try, provided that Gokuto can enter with her, as a sort of “supernumerary”. It ends up being the best thing that happened to the school.
I enjoyed this much more than I expected. I know the author from the series My Friend’s Little Sister Has It In For Me!, which is also very good. But this hit a lot of buttons that I resonated with personally. Shiika is not only a talented singer, she’s also synesthetic, seeing sounds as colors, and that’s a huge part of how she handles people – when she sees a rival girl who has a 6-octave range, she’s not impressed but horrified, as her falsetto range is “ick” – it has bad colors. Speaking of which, I was in a high school chorus where an alto was forced to sing soprano doe to lack of good voices in the higher registers, and it did destroy her voice, so I feel for Erio, who’s all technique but no soul. I hope she and Shiika become friends. And then there’s Gokuto, who gives off that air of “I am just a clever shlub” the entire book, until the unseen climax, where we get to see his inner warrior peek out.
Basically, Shiika and Gokuto give off “I am a cliche” vibes, but are deep enough that I want to read more of them, especially Shiika. Definitely a strong start.