Amakawa Haruto dies in a bus accident and found himself then in the body of 6 years old boy from the slums, Rio. Their personality, memories, and knowledge merge together as a result, and soon after, Rio saves Flora, the princess of the kingdom, awaken to his magic power, and is accused of actually kidnapping Flora.
Warning, this post has girls in swimsuits and underwear.
I had a draft of this review since August. As I reached its conclusion, I was struck with one question: why am I reading this and still looking forward to the next volume? Considering what was in that draft, it was hard to call Seiren Gensouki good. Of course the easy answer is that it’s a guilty pleasure, but I was not satisfied, so I let it simmer in a corner of my mind until I had found my answer. The result is that Seiren Gensouki actually doesn’t need 1 review, but 3 of them: One as a light novel, another as a fangirl fanfic fairy tale, and finally, as a soap opera. I hope it won’t be 3 times longer than usual. But since it will be longer, I will add some illustrations.
Seiren Gensouki is a isekai story written by Yuri Kitayama, and the best seller from HJ Bunko with currently, 15 volumes. It started as a WN which I read around the equivalent of 5 volumes. The WN is infamous for some event and people prefer the LN which correct that thing. What is it? I have no idea. The LN branch from the WN around volume 4-5, and from the little differences I can distinguish, I think the LN is indeed better at dealing with the characters feeling, and Rio’s former life. Events also massively changed.
Seiren Gensouki has an standard start, with the protagonist Haruto dying, this time from a bus falling off a cliff. Now, one big thing is made clear is that as Haruto, he was in love with a girl, his childhood friend Miharu. Not many tensei has attachment to their previous world. Being reborn in another world without her, he kept his feeling for her, despite the impossible to cross boundary between him and her.
His new childhood isn’t easy either. Merging a university student mind of modern Japan with a child from the slums of medieval time, what kind of personality can you expect from this? For Haruto, it is a shock to find himself in such dire situation. For Rio, getting the knowledge of another modern world and its values is world changing. The result is probably that Haruto’s personality emerges more though, as he acts a lot like a mature person with the sensibility of our modern time. He is against violence, rather stoic and doesn’t express any childishness in the first volume, despite being 6 years old. Using his modern day sword training in a dojo, he also start strong, not counting the mysterious magic power that awakens at the same time. Yes, this is an overpowered protagonist.
The first 3 volumes are fast paced and covers a period of around 10 years. It is the introduction to all the characters and the world. By isekai standard, they are, standard. That is, it starts with academy years, then some travel adventures for 2 volumes. There is some pending menace each volume and more girls to introduce. Summary of dozens of light novels.
Speaking of girls. The first 4 volumes will introduce them all. Common point between all of them is, you guessed it, being romantically interested in Rio. If it stopped at that point, you could say that it’s a harem, but it’s hard to say that because the worst any of them may have done is actually being princess carried by Rio. Forget about holding hands, these girls are too virtuous for that unless you are spirit who needs to recharge your energy. There is no harem shenanigan like seducing Rio first or girls infighting.
Now that’s also where we enter in fanfic department. If they are all attracted by Rio, it’s because, he is quite the perfect and ideal prince/gentleman. Honestly, he is perfect to the point that it’s grating. He would fit as an otome game conquest target, and even them have more flaws than Rio. Yes, he has a vengeance, but it’s so forgettable as a fault since he act on it like twice in 7 volumes. Actually his biggest flaw might be that he is a complete idiot when it comes to relationship with girls.
Back to them, the girls are also made of sugar. And that’s a problem because I do have the feeling that they are all cut from the same clothe, as in being rather polite and cute. Their uniqueness is more drawn out from their backstory, interest and relationship, than their personality. There are some subtle differences like Flora being shy, but I would have a harder time to put on a specific description for the other girls. Perhaps it’s a reflection of social conformism, or I’m just too used to those LN with high in colours characters. Granted, real life is more of the former than the latter. Still they are the most interesting when they interact between each other, rather than Rio. The girl to girl talk is definitely what I can quality as girly, from my perspective of the opposite gender. Whether it’s fashion or feelings, it feels like it’s a normal conversation between them.
And conversation is a huge part of Seiren Gensouki. Nobility is heavily featured and Rio is extremely polite. Not a single line is skipped, resulting in the later volume in stiff dialogues with all small formalities part of noble etiquette. Formal language is great, but here it’s at the cost of pacing. As we get further and further into the LN, the dialogues slow down, few shortcuts are taken to lighten them. Thus, Rio may summarise vocally events or tell that it’s a long story, when narration could easily cover those flashback moment.
From volume 4 onward, it slow downs as the periods covered are weeks or a month, and it doesn’t feel like much is happening per volume. At volume 7, I still don’t clearly get a good image of the overral plot aside of Rio’s vengeance. At the very least, it doesn’t fit into common mould so the plot is leaning on the more unique and original side among isekai.
There are some other male characters which are introduced. A good bunch of them are antagonising Rio, as Rio is stronger than them, or just because all the girls are attracted to him. They do bring variety and the missing contrast from the girls, but it’s in such stereotyped fashion that it’s almost comical, especially since it does seem like the LN takes itself seriously. In the end, it feels like there is lot of idealised gender projection, both on men and women, making them slightly unreal. Unreal is fine as their reasoning is still sound so not unbelievable. I don’t like to make these sort of assumption, but perhaps it’s the result of power fantasy isekai written by a woman, which makes it a very interesting take on isekai, like a fanfic or a fairy tale, thanks to her different perspective.
Now, as a soap opera, you know, these TV shows with countless episode of talking heads with nothing happening? Seiren Gensouki is brillant. With the slow pace granted by the drawn out detailed and realistic dialogues, the LN makes the reader languish at some real development as we get more and more melodrama. Each of the characters are withholding their feelings and secrets. The biggest one being that Rio is a reincarnation, his former identity which he didn’t reveal in volume 4 and his lingering love for Miharu. When will he reveal those secrets? At volume 7, someone recognise him, but it didn’t trigger any major changes, despite the potential such reunion offered. Seiren Gensouki instead prolongs the status quo between characters, keeping the tension and increasing the expectation of the readers. I really hope it lives up to mine because the wait is suffering.
Now, narration wise, aside of the dialogues, it’s simple and effective. There are some point of view changes, either to retrace the backstory of a character or events in parallel.
Illustrations are handled by Riv. I liked a bit her art before the LN, so it’s a plus in my book. Covers always feature Rio, B&W is standard for introducing characters, key action moments, and best of all, cute girls. Lots of them.
So, finally, I managed to collect my thoughts about this LN. Despite it flaws, I do like it as it’s sweet and the first 3 volumes are great at baiting the readers with slightly darker than usual plot for overpowered protagonist in isekai, and very cute girls, with their conversations. The flaws do become more apparent later, especially the lack of characterisation and pacing, but since I have already endured so many volume, I want to see the resolution. Can someone punch Rio for me? Will it turn into a trainwreck? Whatever happens I will probably be there because Seiren Gensouki is a guilty pleasure, and a more relaxed reading.
Last words: Celia is the best girl, I’m just weak against her cuteness.
There is a manga which is very good at adapting the events and stay cute. Though character design is uneven among males. Rio get the bishounen treatment while the others may get the square face lifting.