Where do i even begin my dear readers(probably by conveniently ignoring the fact that I’ve been AFK for almost a month)? Isekai is one of the biggest setting you’ll see in light novels, especially outside of Japan, as they tend to be some of the most popular, but most isekai aren’t marginally different from each other, especially a lot of the newer ones, which seem to be dime a dozen replicas of original ideas, written only to make money while putting in the minimal effort required for the end product to be something readable. There are innovations and the occasional interesting story in isekai LNs, but those are the exceptions and not the general offerings.
Yet I still love the isekai setting, because it is the logical extension of the escapist fantasies us otaku tend to indulge in so much. In a world different laws and norms, where one can grow indiscriminately powerful, becoming a ruler, a harem master, etc, etc, any number of fantastical dreams can be made reality in another world, but that often leads to lack of payouts,
There is a concept in any sort of fiction, of a build up and a pay out, and tension in most stories is gained from the build up that is the actions of the protagonist and the pay off, which are the consequences of the actions. In isekai setting, this concept is applied disproportionately, due to the immense power scaling only possible in such a setting. Why use strategy or tactics when you can blast people away with magical fireballs and lightning bolts? Or cut through titanium with a glancing slash?
Because of this property of the isekai setting, the payouts, that is the consequences, are also disproportionate. The MC offended a king? No problem, just kill him and become the king yourself? Fighting in a magical war? The MC makes a miraculous breakthrough in the middle of battle and ends up single handedly destroying the enemy. Consequences are inconsequential in isekai(I know it’s an oxymoron).
Thus you have a large number, and I mean a humongously large number. of isekai seeting LNs and WNs which do not have proper build ups and payouts, making them hard to read in the long run, generally somewhere a little before the midway point. Writers try to make up for this with gimmicks, which sometimes work(like last years Twin Attack Mom Isekai) and most of the times don’t(like the weird Valkyrie show, Hyakuren no Haou or something like that), because these things really need a higher level of writing proficiency than pure plot.
Not to say that isekai aren’t enjoyable, just they tend not to remain enjoyable as the story progresses. That’s why it’s downright impossible to see isekai anime which fully go through the plot of the light novel or manga. There are a lot of good isekai LNs out there, really enjoyable ones, but unfortunately the gimmicky ones(remember Isekai Smartphone Wa Tomo Ni?) tend to take center stage when it comes to talking about isekai.
Enter Wortenia Senki, which in my opinion, is the one of the best isekai light novels I’ve read(and I have read a lot of isekai LNs).
The basic plot of Wortenia Senki revolves around Ryoma Mikoshiba, a teenager from Japan who is from a long line of warriors, and whose grandfather has trained in him various deadly martial arts and survival techniques, being transported to another world. This may seem a bit cliche, but this backstory actually has reasons to exist and fits in well considering some of the later exposition we get in the volumes after volume 4 of the light novel.
Ryoma’s journey is different from other isekai heroes’ journey because it begins by killing one of the highest ranking officials of the kingdom he was summoned to as they were trying to enslave him with magic. He then goes on to create more mayhem across the kingdom before escaping to a neighboring kingdom along with two warrior slaves he freed, Laura and Sara.
Wortenia Senki(or Record Of Wortenia War) is unique in that it focuses much more on world building and actual battle strategy and psychological warfare and tactics compared to your regular isekai. Ryoma isn’t your normal goodie two-shoes, dumber than a sack of bricks protagonist. He’s one of those protagonists that is best described as chaotic good bordering on chaotic neutral without being a massive edgy boi like Hajime from Arifureta or that guy from How Not To Use Healing Magic.
He’s a calm, composed, rational thinker who understands the consequences of his actions before taking them. He’s very intelligent and smart, which plays heavily into the large scale battle tactics and subtle political manipulations he often finds himself doing. Much of Wortenia Senki’s charm come’s from Ryoma Mikoshiba’s strong character.
The writing style of the author, Ryota Hori(Pen Name: Hou), also plays very well into the various descriptions of battle and scheming that goes into war. The man makes monarchist discourse seem interesting, and no line or detail is included without reason. The author is very good at subtle foreshadowing and using plot hooks effectively. So many times good light novels have become unreadable because of wasted plot hooks.
Hou is also very good at creating tension and properly setting up the atmosphere in a room. Nothing feels forced about the way characters interact, unless it is by design, like the later interactions of Princess Lazuli and Ryoma.
The world of Wortenia Senki itself is a place with lots of lore and history surrounding it, which is slowly revealed as we go through the chapters of the light novel. The empire that Ryoma was summoned in is one of the biggest empires which recently absorbed another territory. It’s called the l’Ortemea empire and the series’ initial and currently most direct threat to Ryoma, is Princess Shardina, the princess of this empire. She has been shown to have strategic wit not inferior to Ryoma’s and is really set up to either aid the final villain(which might arise from within the Organization) or take the place of final villain herself.
Another important piece of the puzzle that is Wortenia Senki’s world is the Organization, a shadowy company of otherworlders who control(or at least try to control) the empires and kingdoms from the shadows. Ryoma wasn’t the first otherworlder to be called the world, and there are more like him, since we find out later on that at least three other kingdoms/institutions possess the capability to summon otherworlders.
Some of the first otherworlders we meet are Sudou and Saitou, agents of the Organization whom try to manipulate Shardina(as her advisors) and also the leaders of the other kingdoms. They also serve to show that the Organization is not somewhere Ryoma might find refuge as they are cruel and pretty evil.
Now we come to that part where I tell you guys why the Wortenia Senki light novel is better than the web novel.
For one, light novels are professionally edited and printed out by actual companies and printing labels. Second is that Hou’s writing has improves substantially since he started writing the series as a web novel and elements which might have been problematic later on have been amended.
The third and final reason is that the story of the light novel is simply better than that of the web novel. The extra chapters, side stories and the chapters which tell the story from the point of Ryoma’s grandpa, who was the one who trained him since he was young, and his childhood friend and cousin, Asuka Kiryuu, enrich the story so much more. In fact, the grandpa and Asuka become much more important in the light novel than the web novel, and their inclusion in the story really makes it that much more cohesive and really made a significant difference to how much I enjoyed the light novel compared to the web novel.
Hou started writing the web novels in 2009 while the light novel adaptations came out in 2015. Even assuming that they were picked up for consideration in 2014, five years is a hell of a lot of time for a dedicated author to improve his craft. The light novels really gave Hou a chance to revamp the story, making it more detailed and comprehensive, and implementing ideas he may have come up with in those few years, and it really shows. That man is one of the few light novel authors I have respect for.
This quarantine season, if you have the time and energy, please do check out Wortenia Senki my dear readers, you shall not regret it(I hope). You can get this light novel on J-Novel Club, a service I really like(find it here), or find the webnovel online. Buying the light novel does help support the authors, though I can understand if you choose to get it via an(hmmmmm) ‘alternate’ route.
Farewell for now my dear readers, this really took me longer to write than it should have. I’ll be trying to work more often on writing for the blog, I had been preoccupied the past few months with playing Hollow Knight and DnD and working on coding projects. I’m thinking of starting a youtube channel, though I don’t think youtube is really my style, It’s an interesting thought, I’ll see how it pans out.