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Against the Gods
March 18, 2016
Status: --
For a series that is consistently ranked at the top at this site, it has sparked a lot of derision and contempt. “Against the Gods” is the prime example of a series that is steeped in emotion, playing to the common denominators to keep the reader interested. Cycles of greed, treachery, pride, revenge repeat in a myriad of ways that are predictable and yet compelling to read for those who are looking for a straightforward, well written series.

Much of the criticism lies in the philandering ways of the MC as... more>> well as the conveyor belt of antagonists that are generic, doomed to meet their inevitable demise, humiliation and clan annihilation at his hands. Yun Che is someone who is prideful, brash, lecherous, reckless, vengeful. Yet as a MC, we are supposed to root for him when he retaliates against those who do the things that he would do. Most readers do, because the antagonists are mostly one dimensional characters that have no redeeming features whatsoever.

Yun Che himself can be a compelling MC. A long, storied background meant a new reader can get behind his behavior; his early turmoil and suffering gives him the underdog tag. When he powers up later on and unleashes a torrential firestorm of vengeance, readers cheer for him despite the huge swath of destruction that he has carved. And then the readers get to read it all over again in a different setting. Different power levels, different women involved, but ultimately the same outcome for the enemies in the arc. Predictable? Yes. Enjoyable? Also yes.

Some readers take offense at his behavior later on, especially his multiple love interests as well as generally randy behavior. Yet, as the author wrote:


Yun Che looked to the far distance; then his gaze became deep and profound: “There are only two ultimate goals that a man pursues; one is to conquer the world, the other is to conquer women. To conquer the world is to reach a new height in life, but to conquer women, is to embellish the scenery of life. If one isn’t able to conquer the women that he wants, even if he conquered the entire world, he would still be at a lonely summit, and experience loneliness everywhere. Yuanba, don’t you think that what I, your brother-in-law just said is right?”

That's right, that's the MC bragging to his brother-in-law the reasoning for courting more women than just one wife.

Those who continued to read on after that particular chapter can’t really say they didn’t see his lechery coming.

“Against The Gods” does have its strong points. The story-telling and translation are superbly done. To a seasoned reader, the material might not be an award winning, critically acclaimed story. One can say it’s the Michael Bay of Chinese fantasy novels. But the fact remains that it is popular. People read on because they want to see him kick the ass of the arrogant on an ever increasing scale. <<less
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The King’s Avatar
February 20, 2016
Status: --
Review as of Ch. 261.

Finally, a refreshing change from the likes of Shi Luo Ye’s stories (Zhan Long, Legendary Thief) or Korean gaming novels (Ark, Legendary Moonlight Sculptor) or Japanese ones (Sword Art Online) which are more about one MC’s goal to get rich/be the best by grinding mindlessly/tripping over good luck and collecting the affection of poorly developed women along the way.

QZGS has none of that. For a start, it isn’t a VR game, but your current or near-future World of Warcraft type of game setting. In short, a... more>> novel about MMORPG games you and I can play now with keyboard and mouse. The MC and his background is far more believable than any of the above mentioned titles. Just imagine your local internet cafe’s near 30-ish manager/supervisor is actually one of the best player of World of Warcraft in the world. He knows he is good, and he has no need to show off. If anything, his self-depreciating sense of worth is a change from stories which have MCs who are supremely confident in themselves. He knows that after all it is still a game, and while being good at it (perhaps even the best) it is still nothing to shout about in the 'real world'.

A gaming novel can’t escape all of the usual tropes. Yes, the MC is god-like (he is a pro-player after all), and he has a cheat weapon nobody has. He is also seemingly the only one who is willing to try and push limitations towards a direction that nobody has ever considered. Most gaming novels focus about their MC powering through the game and surviving with incredible luck, able to PK anyone because of their OPness. Such stories don’t feel “fair”. You don’t get that feeling with this story.

What makes this story stand out is the characters and dialogue. Characters like Steamed Bun Invasion provide the direct laughs, while the MC himself has pithy one-liners that can give you a smirk. Other stories try to dazzle you with the MC and his gang of friends having the best skills and equipment, throwing stat windows and numbers in your face, drowning you in trivial nonsense that you probably don’t care about or remember after you clicked “Next Chapter”.

You’re not going to read about statistics here, you’re getting actual prose. <<less
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Overlord (LN)
March 23, 2016
Status: --
The memorable thing about this novel for me after the passage of time is the MC’s callous behavior. There haven’t been many LNs and their anime adaptations that describe brutality and disregard for life at the forefront like this, which evokes the images of Light Yagami from Death Note. As it also started off as a VRMMORPG, one can consider Overlord to be one of the first to showcase darker aspects instead of the noble-hearted characters like in Sword Art Online or Accel World (. hack doesn't count because nobody... more>> remembers it).

The main character himself is a dichotomy, two personalities that seemingly opposing to each other. On the surface, he plays a coldly calculating and dispassionate immortal being that sees everything else as inferior. Yet on the inside, he still remembers his original human personality and his lack of confidence, especially when dealing with his followers who obey him zealously. His experiences with his subordinates who are overpowered creatures in their own right reminds me of the humorous scene in “Monty Python’s Life of Brian”, where the protagonist yells at the crowd in exasperation at their blind faith in him, only for them to repeat his words as gospel.

When we read about his fortress-like sanctuary and his numerous and unique minions, it’s like a chuuni dream come true. Remember, the times when you scribble and sketch about yourself being the president of the universe, having your secret base where friends/subordinates with superpowers hang out and an arsenal of ultimate weapons...

The difference is in the writing, which is written in a solemn style that depicts action, violence and black humor. Minor characters die horribly, casually killed by beings that deemed them as annoying little bugs. The MC’s subordinates can barely conceal their disgust and disdain for ordinary humans, putting their master in an awkward spot. But then again, the MC himself treats the inhabitants of his new world with as much interest as a kid with an ant-farm.

The main draw of the series is seeing how an overpowered, deity-like being and his cohort of followers crush all those in their way. Renowned warriors, mages, assassins, the theocracy and the royalty, all their scheming and struggles are petty and pointless because they couldn’t comprehend the sheer magnitude in the difference of power.

It is very well written, though the author can veer off the path considerably for padding material. For those who want to read more after watching the anime, you can continue from volume 4. However, I strongly suggest reading from the start as the novel version had a lot of internal monologue and descriptions that adds to the characterization which were glossed over in the anime. <<less
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Death March kara Hajimaru Isekai Kyusoukyoku (WN)
February 28, 2016
Status: --
Review as of V12-20.

Death March is what I consider the epitome of light-hearted adventure. It has comedy, it has fluff, its dramatic moments few and far in between and you never get a sense that the characters were in any sort of certain doom. It’s a near day-to-day first person’s diary of an overpowered MC who is hesitant to take advantage of his ridiculous powers to take over the world and his circle of women who follows him loyally.

The main selling point of the series is the characters. Not the... more>> main character, because he is a generic OP guy with superpowers; but the side characters. They are generic tropes (the lecherous one, the shy one, the stoic one who lapses when it comes to meat, the two cutesy ones with speech peculiarities, the emotionally-detached one etc), but because their dialogue and actions are written well and easily digested, any reader who has watched a few animes can basically animate them in their heads. A simple “awawawa” exclamation easily conjures up the image of a distressed loli elf waving her arms in panic, because the author has built up the character and let us read into her personality from previous interactions.

Yes, it’s a harem, the sort you see in animes. Yes, the MC is pretty much a herbivore. The running gag is that he is surrounded by lolis when what he want are busty ones. Usually in novels like this, the harem is a vehicle to show the ‘awesomeness’ of the MC. In this series, the author has built the side characters well that often they are the color to what is otherwise a drab MC who tries to be friendly with everybody. The MC of Death March is basically an excuse to gather these side characters together and showcase their eccentricities. It really reads like a web novel, you feel that the author is writing to please his web readers who click on his page day to day. There isn’t a sense of an overarching plot or end-goal, like a slice-of-life anime that doesn’t have an main antagonist and no end in sight. The LN version is a little more polished and there are some differences to the pacing and sequence of events, but the translation of that hasn't gone far enough to change my opinion above.

With all that said, new readers should read this as a time filler, not as their main novel of choice. For readers who had followed the series for a long time, reading the latest antics of Pochi and Tama are like tuning in to your favorite Saturday morning cartoon. <<less
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Hail the King
April 2, 2016
Status: --

Like how I felt with “My Father In Law Is Lu Bu!”, I cannot get past the premise of the story. Oh, the basic background is fine: a university student wakes up to find himself right in the middle of a battle. He soon found out that he had transmigrated into the body of a mentally challenged, puppet king of a small kingdom that was being besieged in a fantasy setting where magic exists. Not only that, there were those who were manipulating the throne and using him as a... more>> figurehead. That is all well and good, a MC taking charge of a kingdom can be a nice read, but...

I did not get very far into the story, because this novel is almost a fanfiction as the power-up process is the game Diablo II. Not “something like Diablo”, but Diablo itself. For reasons only the author knows, the MC can jump into a game of Diablo II as a Barbarian player. So in addition to transmigration, we now also have a pseudo-VR game type story for Diablo II which is separate from the MC’s new world.

Diablo II. Yes, that famous game produced by Blizzard. Actual game characters like Warriv and Akara, actual questing and mechanics like Town Portal and inventory limitations; lifted wholesale from the game and placed into the story as a way for the MC to grind, level up and gain skills to be taken back to his fantasy kingdom setting.

Other reviewers enjoyed the story, but not me. Due to its heavy reliance on an existing, world famous intellectual property, I actually question it’s legitimacy to be listed here on this site. <<less
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Mei Gongqing
February 25, 2016
Status: --
Review as of Ch.74.

Very slow paced, and I don’t see how the series will end when it’s listed as complete at 5 volumes (who know how many chapters per volume). But I am intrigued by the journey of the MC, a woman who was given a chance to return back to her past to change her foolish ways and doomed future.

Written in a languid way and set in a backdrop during the uncertainties of a decaying empire beset by barbarians, it reminds me of the novel “To Be A Virtuous... more>> Wife” which is considerably more forceful due to the difference of status of the two MCs. The MC of “To Be A Virtuous Wife” had the benefit of being the legal wife and thus was able to quell the infighting between the concubines and monopolized the attentions of the master of house on herself. Mei Gongqing did not have such benefits, she is like a willow reed forced to bend with the winds. She can only use her foreknowledge to avoid the mistakes of her previous timeline, and yet cannot completely extricate herself from the pitfalls of being a single woman in a clan-dominated society of ancient China.

It’s not a fantastical story like “Descent of the Phoenix” or “A Mistaken Marriage Match – A Generation of Military Counselor” where the MCs are powerful equals to their respective love interests. Mei Gongqing doesn’t even have a set love interest as yet, having to concentrate on her own survival first; given the chance to float between the attentions of two attractive men with wildly different qualities, while beset by the unwanted attentions of the corrupt and lecherous, compounded by clan elders who are more than willing to pawn her off like a chess piece to secure the favors of the powerful.

Mei Gongqing is a more realistic and historical setting where daughters of the family are still subject to the whims and orders of the clan elders. It is a story about a woman’s struggle to re-do her life, limited by societal norms and by her gender. You want to root for her, for her to overcome the various challenges that are flung in her path; and yet you still get the sense that she can never fully escape those limitations. A detached reader might feel it’s like watching a drama where concubines fight each other to get the position of the mistress of the house, but in the end the winner is still just confined to the house and remains dependent on the husband.

There is romance in here, but not yet solidified within the translations and I can’t tell you how it goes. Unlike the burning passion found in “To Be A Virtuous Wife”, everything here is layered with caution and propriety. The dialogue, the plots and the characters all have different qualities, meanings hidden in the spoken word, subtext in movement and action.

It is an interesting read, and the translator should be praised for the meticulous care in translating it. <<less
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Empress with no Virtue
March 25, 2016
Status: --
This is a story about a mismatched royal couple who are both unhappy with the arranged political marriage. The story opens with the young emperor Ji Wu Jiu aggrieved at the marriage forced on him, the empress Ye Zhen Zhen irritated at being used as a pawn in her grandfather’s scheme. It culminated in a disastrous first night for them, resulting in the emperor being furious and the empress being indifferent to her exalted position. In short, a loveless marriage.

The emperor being restricted by political reasons, resorted to petty moves... more>> of his own to trouble his new empress; putting her in charge in resolving the crisis and drama that arose one after the other in the palace so that she would trip up and embarrass herself. The empress who grew up willful and independent, took on the ploys head on as her successful resolution of them would demonstrate her own defiance. In short, both sides find small delight in annoying the other.

Surrounding this dynamic and strange relationship is the usual array of palace drama standards: the unhappy empress dowager, concubines competing with each other for the favor of the emperor, ministers and officials with vested interests to make sure their own daughter gets ahead, eunuchs and servant maids eager to see their respective mistresses win.

The initial draw of the story is reading about how the empress Ye Zhen Zhen uses her wits and decisiveness to overcome the challenges of the palace, as well as slowly gaining the trust and respect of the emperor as he realizes his consort is someone clever. Perhaps too clever. Still, she is still his consort, and all the back-and-forth made him feel more and more amicable towards her.

That and the anecdotes that arise from a couple that does not want to lose to the other makes for a humorous read at times (eg: “walnuts”).

Warning: the novel contains adult situations. Many. Explicit. In fact, the ‘problematic adult situation’ is one of the key relationship drivers. The other, as another reviewer mentioned; is misunderstandings. Colossal misunderstandings between two people who have no idea what it means to love.

Personally I was a little annoyed with the characterization of the empress in the second half of the novel. Her brazen recklessness comes as surprise to me after the bouts of intelligence in the palace and is one of the main source of misunderstandings between them; as if she didn’t know her actions could have life-threatening repercussions. I felt the author wrote those chapters in to blow up the drama. While it did switch away from the typical palace drama for a while, I felt it was forced in.

The translation is unpolished and the translator admitted that the more difficult parts were edited and summarized within the chapters (eg: poetry, lyrics). This doesn’t ruin the story, in fact to some readers it may help to quicken the pace. But it does mean some of the subtlety is lost. The prose itself isn’t as descriptive and the dialogue isn’t as dramatic as other palace novels eg “To Be A Virtuous Wife”, “Mei Gongqing” or “Chu Wang Fei”. It reads more like a narration. The earlier chapters are quite understandable, but there are some parts where the the sentences don’t exactly roll off the tongue correctly.

Overall, a nice novel to read. <<less
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Douluo Dalu
March 22, 2016
Status: --
A premier example of a xuanhuan novel: a fantasy story infused with Chinese elements. Much of the setting are typical of a Chinese novel, but there are elements of ‘foreign’ influences like angel wings and Romanized names. Written by the veteran TJSS, you can see many of the elements that appear in his other works: great fights, humorous dialogue, emotional writing, very long winded narrative; all around an interesting premise of a world of spirit summons and martial arts.

Douluo Dalu’s key strength is in its characters. In too many stories... more>> the supporting cast are often relegated into the background, demoted as cheerleaders or forgotten entirely. In Douluo Dalu, the supporting characters are important. Each friend has role and they all work together as a team which is constantly emphasized by the author, all given their notable characteristics and dialogue to make them stand out from each other. The love interest of the main character is perhaps one of the better ones in this genre, as she is not just a pretty face. Indeed, she grows to be the focal point of the MC’s life and her destiny becomes the story’s plot later on.

The translation is top notch and the translator can be an example for the community.

Once the reader gets past the verbose style of writing, he or she can discover a story that has action, camaraderie, romance, struggle and tragedy. A very good first choice for someone who wants to start reading Chinese novels. For seasoned readers, it remains a well written story that has the usual elements of the genre. <<less
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Romance of Dragons and Snakes
March 11, 2016
Status: --
Review as of ch 56.

Well, well. I was deceived by the whimsical name and thought it was some sort of story that had mystical connotations of sorts, and I expected a usual story of hidden relationships between martial artists like in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

No, this is a martial arts story with real Chinese kungfu set in modern-day China. A previous reviewer mentioned the similarities with the Japanese kungfu manga “Kenji” and I agree. The novel follows the martial path of an average teen student named Wang Chao who had... more>> a fortuitous encounter with a mysterious older woman whose kungfu practice entranced him. She saw his earnest interest and took him in to mentor him in the ways of Guoshu, a deadly martial art derived from the combined essences of kungfu from all over China. After a period of teaching, she decided to part ways. Left to his own devices, Wang Chao begins to walk down the path of kungfu in modern China, trying to reach a higher level of enlightenment, facing the modern realities of financial needs, encountering other masters of the martial arts, lowlife gangsters and the very real danger of firearms.

This is mostly about real kungfu: punches and kicks, grapples and throws, dodging and blocking, sparring and massed brawls. Each action scene is explained in detail and I find myself wondering if the author is either a martial arts choreographer or is constantly referring to picture guides of kungfu to construct them.

Later on there are some elements of the fantastic like qi; but it’s mostly grounded in reality and the customary beliefs of kungfu. Of course there’s some fiction in it, the highest levels of kungfu described within are said to be pushing the limits of what a human can do, a level above an Olympian athlete. Stuff like the MC’s speed of learning, sensing killing intent, sweat pores of martial artists, increased vitality and health and such. But these are introduced very gradually so that the reader would find it acceptable.

Of note is the care and accuracy of many things described in the novel. The Central Guoshu Institute mentioned in the novel was a real historical institution. In fact, many terms, names of individual kungfu moves and their specific actions, famous persons and histories are all taken from real history and literature. One can spend quite some time looking them up in Google and Wiki like I did. Actually you might want to, as the author assumed the reader would be somewhat familiar with the names of those past masters and did not really elaborate on them, nor did the translator put in any historical notes.

Otherwise, the translator did a very good job as some of the terms are the official English names found in various websites (eg, for Tai chi). There aren’t any glaring problems with the translated text, it seems very polished and edited.

The novel itself is very well written. It reads like a novel that is trying to be solemn and serious about the subject matter, even though there are some weird but short detours here and there about the MC’s financials in the computer networking industry (yes). Like a kungfu movie/serial, it focuses more on the action. The distinct characters are few, they are mostly enablers to give the MC opportunities to go deeper into the realm of kungfu. Some aspects are not realistic (eg, the bodyguard job) but the author needed to put in some color and drama into what is otherwise a straightforward kungfu novel. Things get more interesting when the criminal underworld and the political realm are introduced much later. The dialogue works well enough, though the early chapters are almost lecture-like and a reader might find it boring. The action ramps up quite nicely later on.

Highly recommended for those who want a break from the fantasy novels here. <<less
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Mushoku Tensei (WN)
February 25, 2016
Status: --
One of the series you could read if you ever want a decently written reincarnation-with-memories-intact story.

It reads like an obvious web-novel: rough spots here and there, unpolished prose, unwieldy explanations, superfluous padding of the plots which are easily skippable. But what you have is a decidedly well told first person view's story, able to balance between humor and drama. The MC does know his limits and aware of some powers trying to turn him into a chess piece, and willing to play along until he gets more powerful. There is... more>> a stated objective for the MC, not the mindlessly powering up that you find in Re:Monster or the light-hearted adventuring without a goal in Death March.

Much of the criticism arises from the overly complicated plot towards the end, as well as a large cast of minor characters that aren't fleshed out. Like many of its contemporaries, the author drifts about writing obtaining this or that, which ultimately to the reader doesn't seem memorable or particularly interesting.

There are wildly different opinions about Mushoku Tensei, and I believe the author even considered quitting at one point after negative criticisms. But he persisted and in the end I think he should be happy that he has a story which can be interesting to read. Sure, it can’t satisfy all readers; but who can?

Give it a try. <<less
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Monster no Goshujin-sama
March 3, 2016
Status: --
Review as of V2c8.

A school of students and its staff were transported into a fantasy world and immediately enters a classic Lord of the Flies scenario. A caste was quickly established, those with fantasy cheat powers and those who don’t. Of course, things quickly went south, because humans.

The author is trying to build a dark story, a world where strength is needed to survive constant dangers from monsters and from the base nature of humans. Very quickly the grim scenario is given to us: powered students turning against the unpowered,... more>> resulting in destruction of the fragile community that was still trying to learn about its predicament. Did the two paragraphs above sound interesting? If so, you will be disappointed to know that all of the above are told after the fact, we don't get to read about the actual event itself. Our MC is someone who is purportedly unpowered and thus was a victim of the infighting. When the story opens, he was alone and injured. Traumatized, he bore a grudge against his fellow students and discovered that he actually had the power to tame the monsters of the new world.

As he starts to trek across this new world, he slowly finds a scattered schoolmate or two and discovering a few more monsters to bond with. His view of humans forever tainted by the traumatic incident, he would rather believe the monsters who follow him loyally.

One only needs to look at the harem tag to immediately guess that the monsters he recruited are either female or possess female attributes. It immediately brings comparisons to Arifureta, the difference in that the MC of Monster no Goshujin-sama is still weak. So weak that the entirety of the translations thus far is about how he gets into life-threatening situations and the resulting crisis that forces his monsters to rescue him.

The author tries to inject emotions and the general thought process of a person who is still troubled by his new, grim outlook, and wants us to care about the monsters that he had bonded with. Time and again we are told that the monsters share his distrust of humans due to their shared links, that the monsters wish they could do more to help him, that he should rely on them more. Their loyalty borders on blind love, that they would gladly sacrifice themselves to save him. Most of all they want to be with him and receive his attention, to the extent that newcomers into their circle are viewed with intense suspicion and distrust.

It is actually nicely written and structured simply but effectively. The translations are well done, but slow. Most of the character buildup and dialogue is about the monsters themselves.

A dark series about a monster-tamer can be interesting, however one might get turned off by the harem. Don’t worry it’s not like Re:Monster. Yet. <<less
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The Princess Wei Yang
March 17, 2016
Status: --
Impressions as of Ch9.

The very first chapter tells you the heinous crimes committed against the MC, and it can really make one’s blood run cold. One of the more memorable opening chapters that I’ve read in Novel Updates. It reminds me of the infamous Empress Lu of the Han Dynasty who ordered an even worse atrocity than what Tuo Ba Zhen had done in the novel.

The MC Li Wei Yang was an unwanted daughter of the prime minister, sent far away because of the ill omens surrounding her birth.... more>> She was recalled to be given away as a sacrificial wife to a prince who did not have good prospect; to avoid the same fate being dealt to the prime minister’s other favored daughter. Fortunately, the MC and the prince persevered and eventually rose to become the emperor and empress of the land. Unfortunately for Li Wei Yang, the emperor in his newfound power and wealth, forgot the hardship they had shared and replaced her. Of all people, it was her stepsister, the one who was "saved" from marrying the prince all those years ago; that would be her replacement.

Destroying root and grass, even the son of Wei Yang was not spared. Wei Yang herself was tortured and then executed. In her dying breath, she cursed her fate... and then she woke up, to find herself back to all those years ago before she was recalled back by her distant family, before ever meeting Tuo Ba Zhen.

This should be an epic story of revenge. But thinking deeper about the subject matter, how justified is the MC in scheming and plotting a revenge for events that might not even happen in her new timeline? Could her new actions provoke new animosities instead? We will have to wait for further translations to see whether the antagonists of her previous life remains just as vicious and terrible in this new one. It goes to show you how deep the hatred and despair the MC had at the end of her first timeline.

The translation is well done and I look forward to read more of it.

I have very high expectations of this story. Even if the antagonists technically haven’t done anything yet in this new timeline, it is due to the heart-rending opening that promises to the reader that we should be ready for a calculative and cold-hearted MC who would tear apart those who had wronged her in her previous life. <<less
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Okoborehime to Entaku no Kishi
March 26, 2016
Status: --
Review as of volume 1.

Despite the initial shoujo-like feeling one would get from the cover and the synopsis, the story is a little more developed than one might think. Don't be fooled by the small number of chapters for the first volume, each chapter is quite lengthy. Much of the first volume is about Leticia's efforts to convince her first knight recruit, and until the dramatic parts near the end readers might be thinking this is just a story where the princess collects handsome, eligible men around her. Well, that... more>> is the basic premise but the story goes deeper.

Princess Leticia has a problem. Her two very capable elder brothers are fighting for the throne. In exasperation, their father chose the princess to be the heir instead. The country and court became tense as this unexpected development created an uneasy truce between the three siblings. To cement her qualifications as the heir, she must form a knightly order of her own and gather loyal knights to serve her cause as per the legends of the 12 Swords of Promise. The swords themselves are considered lost, but the tradition remains as an initiation of sorts.

Unknown to all, the Princess always knew this was going to happen. Unlike the typical princess, Leticia is no wallflower. She had prepared herself for this succession conflict from a young age, for she is the reincarnation of the legendary Knight King and heir to his 12 Swords of Promise. She possesses the ability to go into the Knight King's Space, an ability shared by previous and future reincarnations of the Knight King. A magical room of time and space where various kings from different points of their lives appear and hold council, giving advice to each other. It also serves a place for the kings to rant and de-stress as they seemingly share nuggets of each others destinies, histories and futures with each other without too much concern; as if fates are set in stone and unchangeable except for minor details that is so often lost with the passage of time.

This isn't a fluffy shoujo story, but a dramatic one aimed at young adult readers like "Kyo Kara Maou!" but with a female lead instead of a male. There are light hearted moments, some comedy, but the underlying story is still about a political mess that broke up the relationship between royal siblings. Assassinations and treachery abound, not to mention mystical antagonists that date from the Knight King's era are still lurking. The translation is well done and the same team is also doing the scanlation for the manga adaptation as well.

Decently well written retread of the genre with a heroine that has personality and unique advantages. <<less
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Altina the Sword Princess
March 1, 2016
Status: --
Review as of V5.

This is a military story involving swords, spears, knights, politicking between princes and rival countries. There will be plenty of descriptions of tactical warfare, from cavalry charges to sieges written in a way that tries to emulate the epic Romance of the Three Kingdoms, but for a younger audience. If you have read/watched Legend of Galactic Heroes, then you will find that the author of Altina tries to evoke images of that hard science fiction. The male lead Regis is a JRPG version of Yang Wen-li, a... more>> bookish person who is only in the military purely to alleviate financial distress, displaying none of the martial prowess or aggressiveness of their respective peers and yet unrivaled when it comes to strategy and tactical acumen. Just like Yang Wen-li, Regis puts forth his suggestions reluctantly to save the lives of his fellow soldiers, only to be rebuffed and ridiculed by his inflexible superiors whose idea of strategy is simple weight of numbers.

The female lead Altina in the story is a warrior princess, wielding a huge sword, determined to prove herself. The typical anime trope of a tomboy-ish but kind, strong but clumsy female character. One look at illustrations of her shows you the fantasy feel of the series: a young girl who is thin and yet able to swing a sword of ridiculous weight. Despite her love of personal combat, she dislikes actual war itself, seeing it as a waste of lives unlike other commanders who think war is glorious.

In between serving in the military this duo would cross paths with factions who intend to move them around like chess pieces for their own selfish reasons, only for such plots to be derailed (or accelerated) when an actual crisis invaded their country. You have the typical hard-headed types who think wars should be fought “honorably”, decadent nobles who think it’s all a big game, a distant and unconcerned Emperor who watches everything impassively and growing foreign powers eager to tear them apart. The author tries to inject some creativeness in the battles, having the MC resorting to ruse and strategies to overcome numerical inferiority. Sprinkled in between these dramatic moments and set piece battles are moments that show the growing attraction between the two, as well as humorous slice-of-life events involving their close circle that includes maids and a disguised knight-in-training.

Altina reads like a typical JP novel, in that the characters are well developed despite being stereotypical. Characters have their individuality and you can easily see this novel being adapted to anime once it has enough content. <<less
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Wortenia Senki (WN)
February 5, 2017
Status: c7
As of c7.

Early days yet, but I want to give a heads up to those who want to read this story. This isn't the typical wishy-washy herbivore Japanese MC, or the bullied-turned-bitter MC. The hero is a straight up ruthless and decisive, reminding me of Hagure Yuusha (Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero), though there hasn't been anything to suggest lewd content yet (all seven translated chapters are still about his arrival). Personally, the hero doesn't seem plausible: a school student who is taller and stronger than other kids who didn't... more>> blink an eye to launch the first strike, resulting in death and torture. It would be more believable if the hero was an older soldier or mercenary in his twenties. Instead, we're suppose to believe that this confident schooling kid learned deadly martial arts from his grandfather and somehow able to put all his training into practice despite growing up in modern day Japan. We're also supposed to believe that the MC was able to calm himself in this new environment and do Sherlock-like deductions and observation in such a sudden event.

As far as the setting goes, it seems like the usual "summoned to a different world" where knights and magic exist.

Translation is good, though some readers might be turned off by the translator's notes/opinions being inserted in the middle of the text itself. <<less
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Tensei Oujo wa Kyou mo Hata o Tatakioru
March 24, 2016
Status: --
Review as of Ch.41.

Ok, I went in expecting the usual tropes of an “I’m in an otome game and I’m the villain!” story. Sure, the description had a nice hook: all the ‘capturable’ male targets have ridiculous traits, leading me to believe the comedy will derive from the MC in handling their idiosyncrasies. Yes, some of it remains, but the story goes much further than that.

In fact, the story development has veered considerably from the initial premise. The earlier chapters were fluffy, light and comedic as the MC starts encountering... more>> the game characters in this world. Characters were introduced, their background in the game made known and the MC immediately sets out to ‘correct’ their flaws, nip potential troubles in the bud and avoid triggering the death flags that would befall on her as the game’s rival to the yet to be revealed heroine character.

The characters started off retaining their identities as per the game, but with the MC's nudging and influencing events from before the game's starting point, the characters have changed considerably. "What made this guy twisted? Ok, let's prevent that from happening. Look, now he's a totally different person... wait, is this a good thing or a bad thing?"

We can see the author’s writing improve in the later chapters. Indeed, the chapters get longer and longer as plots, character development and events far beyond the scope of an otome game are narrated in detail. The characters slowly outgrow the initial stereotypes the MC had played with, giving her much to think about as she tries to come to terms with her status as a princess of a medieval kingdom, surrounded by threats of war and destruction. And a demon lord reincarnation.

It is humorous to read about the MC’s rants about the game’s failings, and her crush on an older person who was just a support character in the original game is cute. The MC’s own characterization grew deeply as the story took on a darker turn as she realizes her position, her ability to influence future events and yet powerless to take action directly.

A very good read, hope it maintains its pace and standard. <<less
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Long Live Summons!
February 24, 2016
Status: --
Review as of Ch.189.

It can swing to extremes between bloody revenge and lewd humor. The MC is ruthless, and yet a pervert. The title seems to focus on summons, and yet the MC himself has nearly unrivaled strength in combat. All in all, you have a contradictory setting.

I’ll admit, the very first paragraph which had a quote from Stephen Chow’s movie “Pandora’s Box” (a parody of Journey to the West) immediately hooked me.

But how does it read? The bloody scenes are well written, and you can understand the MC’s decision... more>> making even if you don’t agree the extent he is taking matters. The lewd scenes are handled with humor, never going too far but doing the things many men wish they could do with impunity: touching and feeling and not caring about the consequences, only to laugh and joke in a roguish manner to infuriate and attract the victim.

It is the humor that sustains the series, much more than Heavenly Jewel Change which is similar in style and substance. This is not something you recommend to those who dislike lewd humor.

At the point of this review the story seems to have lost its way somewhat, a jumbled mess of plots: an academy setting, tests, battles, kidnapping of his family, flying from one fight to another with barely a rest. Some characters and mysteries have not been referred to in a long while (long time readers: hands up if you remember the Heavenly Sword Goddess).

But at all times the MC remain true to his perverted self.

There are many mysteries being thrown about, too much in fact, and there isn’t a main end-goal in sight for the MC. But I will continue to read to find out. <<less
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Martial God Space
February 16, 2016
Status: --
Review as of Ch.146.

Very average, very run of the mill. Standard tropes of having a cheat/plot armor, defeating higher level opponents, able to use skills and refine strength far beyond his own rank, surprising and offending people along the way. Some find such things entertaining, as for myself, I don’t mind seeing the typical being repeated as long as it’s well written. But MGS doesn’t stand out in any way. I’m only 140+ chapters in and already the major themes are repeated thrice: powering up, entering and winning a tournament,... more>> kill beasts/demons in another area, repeat. The antagonists are forgettable, most die within the same arc or so. Even the powering up scenes are repeated: using the same methods of pills/stones and breaking through under pressure every time.

There isn’t an overall plot yet which is understandable in series with a huge number of chapters.

The protagonist is one-dimensional, he treats friendly rivals nicely and won’t hesitate to be ruthless against those who wish him ill. There is very little dialogue beyond the "How dare you!" “You die now!” “You think you can kill me!” “Impossible!” etc... The writing is very dry, like the framework from a martial arts movie script. It doesn't have the humor of "Long Live Summons!" or the stoic beauty of "Ze Tian Ji", not the emotions of "Against The Gods" or gravitas of "I Shall Seal The Heavens". It reads very simply, nothing fancy, nothing memorable.

The family members are merely plot devices, the parents has little or no role in influencing the MC’s growth, the siblings exist to be cheerleaders. Friends are few and far in between, and the MC’s friend from the early chapters all but disappeared entirely. There is one female character, speculated to be his romantic interest but hasn’t developed beyond the “she is like a fairy and so far away, one day I’ll reach her” stage yet.

Perhaps there is potential in the series once the romance aspects are developed, but thus far the xianxia aspects are extremely ordinary and nothing special. Read as a time filler for other series. <<less
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Game Market 1983
July 15, 2016
Status: c24
Interesting premise about a game developer who traveled back in time to enjoy and influence the Console Wars of the 1980s. The text is decent and the story can be catchy for those who are interested in the history of the video games industry. The translation is good though more notes on the changed names (due to copyright) and some basic info or wiki links would help the uninformed reader. A non-gamer might have a difficult time to connect "Marigee Brothers" to the real "Mario Brothers", for example.

The main weakness... more>> of this story when compared to other time-traveling ones is the inclusion of real world figures and notable gaming titles of the industry. As other reviewers have noted, the MC is content to stay in the background to pull the strings and influence events. However, it also means that his existence is superfluous: the gaming innovations and video games that he had proposed would have been released without his input. He was only there to put an impetus so that the games and systems have an earlier release. Of course, this problem isn't unique to GM1983, other time-travel stories where the MC "discovers" a talented person or technology due to his foreknowledge have this dilemma as well. Perhaps it's because of the real world personages and my familiarity with the history of video games that made this aspect all the more glaring.

Usually, it wouldn't be a bad thing. Historical fiction stories that involve MCs interacting with real figures or their caricatures can be quite enjoyable. The difference is that meeting those historical figures were not the focal point of those stories, whereas it is the main point of this one (at least, so far). It's like watching a movie with the disclaimer "based on actual events", with the film producers deciding to add a fictional character and change the dates a little to tie separate events together and give an excuse for the viewer to see the different scenes.

Suppose there is a fictional story about the creation of the United States Declaration of Independence. One man runs all over the colonies to meet the Founding Fathers and influenced them to write it. It can be interesting, but unless the characters of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson are radically different from history, film-goers will be left wondering about the need for a fictional main character at all.

This is still a decent story. It can serve as a fictional introduction to the history of the video gaming industry. <<less
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I Shall Seal the Heavens
February 22, 2016
Status: --
Review as of Ch.481.

I waited this long, because I'm still in the process of trying how to formulate my opinions. In the end, I settled on the word: "Ponderous". It's a huge undertaking to read, an epic story about a man's journey to become strong. Along the way there are the usual xianxia tropes: offending powerful people/factions, getting the interest of beautiful women, gaining insight into mysteries that nobody else could comprehend, following in the footsteps of those no one else dared/capable to follow, obtaining magic and items that are... more>> the envy of others.

The difference is how the story is written. "I Shall Seal the Heavens" is a story written with gravitas, designed to give a sense of impact and yet tranquility. It's like listening to a zen monk's biography, a quiet voice that teaches the profound in simple terms. The MC has straightforward goals, yet can't help but be distracted by those who tread a more crooked path. The romance tag is a little misleading, it's very much subdued and hardly talked about, it's just an excuse to remind us that the MC is still human despite his deity-like abilities. Try telling someone the "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" movie is a hot-blooded romance story and you'll get incredulous looks.

The main strength of the novel is in its story-telling, in how the sentences are constructed, in convincing the reader that "this is important". As the MC walks the cultivation path, he slowly joins the likes of immortals and the inhuman. You have combat and battles involving spirits, magic that involve and affect thousands, power that is so off the scale that it's almost incomprehensible, like reading a novelization of Dragon Ball Z-like power levels with characters wearing robes and Taoist/Buddhist elements.

If "Against the Gods" is the example of a "vengeful xianxia", then ISSTH is the prime example of a "cultivation xianxia". <<less
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