Sunday, September 6, 2020

REVIEW: Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?!, Vol. 1 (book) by FUNA, illustrated by Itsuki Akata, translated by Diana Taylor

Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! is yet another isekai fantasy series. This one is licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment. I bought my copy brand new.


In Japan, Kurihara Misato was a prodigy, good at everything she tried...except making friends. Although she was never bullied, she could never seem to get close to anyone. Then, when she was 18, she was killed saving a child from being hit by a car. After her death, she appeared before a young man who called himself "God," who wished to thank her for saving the child by having her reborn in a new world with whatever abilities she desired. Misato's wish surprises him: she wants her abilities to be average. 

And so she is reborn as Adele von Ascham, daughter of Viscount Ascham, her station in life exactly halfway between the lowest and highest possible. It seems that God misunderstood her request to be "average." His definition of "average" with respect to her magical and physical abilities turns out to be similarly skewed. This puts Adele in a bit of a bind. How is she supposed to come across as average if she's actually ridiculously powerful? This particular volume covers her new life from age 10 to 12, beginning at Eckland Academy, a school for lesser nobles and talented commoners, and continuing on to her work as a newbie hunter (basically, an adventurer).

The heroine goes by three names throughout this book: Misato (her life in Japan, which we see very little of), Adele (her life at Eckland), and Mile (when she becomes a hunter). I plan to mostly refer to her as Adele to keep this review from becoming too confusing. And yes, this is one of those very rare light novels that's actually written in the third person. Yay!

I've seen reviews that complain that Adele is a Mary Sue, and considering the premise, I'm not sure what else they expected. I mean, that's the entire point of this series. God misinterpreted Adele's request, and as a result she was reborn ridiculously overpowered. Similarly to Touya, the hero of In Another World With My Smartphone, there was almost nothing she couldn't do. However, unlike Touya, she actually had a goal in life, and her powers interfered with that goal.

Or so she thought. I really hope that, at some point, Adele realizes that what she actually wants is friends and that the ones she's managed to find so far won't necessarily turn away from her once they realize just how overpowered she is.

I was torn on the way FUNA handled the book's friendship aspects. On the one hand, I liked that there was so much deliberate focus on female friendship. Adele acquired groups of close friends at both Eckland and the Hunters' Prep School, and her method of bonding with them tended to involve teaching them useful magical skills based on her secret knowledge of how the world's "magic" really worked. It was nice. On the other hand, the various friendships felt oddly superficial (possibly because the characters weren't all that well-developed?), and I hated how often breast size and undergarments came up. Breast size literally played a part in the start of one of Adele's friendships (the girl made friends with her because Adele's flat chest made her chest look less flat by comparison).

My favorite things about this book were the humor (Adele was truly terrible at pretending to be average, and the results were usually entertaining) and the way Adele politely but unflinchingly put rude people in their place. The classmate who assumed she'd be his girlfriend just because he said he liked her, the guy who shouted questions at her like she owed him answers, the other classmate who repeatedly challenged her to fights because his pride was hurt by the fact that she was better than him. It was fun watching her deal with all of them.

Unfortunately, this had a lot of the same problems that many other light novel series have, and although I plan on reading the next volume, I suspect I'm going to burn out on this series fairly quickly. Most of the characters aren't that interesting, and although the premise resulted in some fun moments in this first volume, it won't be able to carry a whole series. Also, the writing was a bit dry and had a tendency to dwell on details that weren't important to the story and didn't add much to the setting. In fact, after the initial infodumping about how this world worked, there wasn't much real world-building at all - other than occasional interjections from the nanomachines, this world looked and acted like most other generic isekai fantasy worlds. FUNA could potentially do some interesting things with this world, which was created by God as sort of an experiment and then abandoned, but my overall experience with light novels tells me that I probably shouldn't hold my breath.  


Three full-color illustrations, two of which are double page spreads, black-and-white illustrations throughout, a couple extra sketches at the end, an afterword by the author, and three bonus stories. The first bonus story is all about Adele's underwear woes. In the second bonus story, Adele attempts to invent natto, which resulted in me realizing that this is one of the few light novels where the main character doesn't introduce some sort of food, game, item, etc. from their old world to people in their new world. In the third story, one of Adele's classmates declares that he's going to make her his woman. Adele is not nearly as happy about this as he'd expected her to be.

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