Light Novel Review: Kou1 Volume 1

Who Would Like this Series/Volume?


It’s a fantasy rom-com with, assumingly, a protagonist who’s not really shying away and about to make a name for himself in this foreign world. There’s hardly any fighting and the story attempts to use more complex ways to resolve matters. The protagonist’s not overpowered, he’s witty and kind of cheeky, too. Altogether, there is drama with bad guys, but it doesn’t ever reach a dramatical point where it hurts. It’s just the bare minimum to keep up tension. On a 1, white and fluffy, to 10, dark and gore-y, scale I’d vote it a 4.

For: People who enjoy watching the protagonist conquer a fantasy world while not being overpowered with little fighting and lots of diplomatic stuff. There’s entertaining comedy, too.

Difficulty


Two factors heighten this series’ difficulty. First, it uses a bunch of medieval-typical terms. You should know castle, stronghold, steward, lord, well, and the like. In general, the vocabulary asked for is far more diverse than in Shurabara! but of course far from academic. Unless you’re familiar with the scenario, you might have to look up words a bunch of times. Second, the grammar is very basic, but has a lot of polite-/humble speech situations and occasionally outdated patterns, too. So you might also have to look stuff up here, but once learned it’s down. I’ll give it a 6 in comparison to Hundred which I rated 5 before. Don’t let that scare you, though. I’d give a 10 to stuff far before it reaches the Monogatari-series’ level. A 10 in my book would basically mean that you’ll have to be very fluent in Japanese from a foreigner’s point of view.

Difficulty 6/10

Translation Where?


No translation that I know of regarding the light novel. And I’m kind of glad that this one hasn’t been stained yet, tehe.

Translation: No for the light novel.

Premise


Hiroto (protagonist) and his sidekick Souichirou open up an old scroll in their club room at school and suddenly find themselves sitting on a green field. There a few horsemen appear and are about to kill them. However, a skeleton (!) shows up and tells them to stop, since they are the “Differents”. They’re brought into a run-down town and farther into its castle, where the lord tells them to stop a vampire if they want to get back into their own world. Well, good luck, normal high school boys!

Contents


NOTE: These summaries can never give you an accurate impression on how the book reads or what the book is really like. It simply gives you the gist of the novel, but don’t judge the book by this alone. It can’t be helped that things read rushed and colorless in a summary. You can get an idea by reading the conclusion and, finally, by reading it yourself!

The Whole Damn Thing

After a short prologue in which Hiroto is described riding around on some horse in an unknown world with a woman holding on to him and – quite detailed – how her breasts feel on his back, the narration switches to how things came to be.

Hiroto, seemingly a member of his school’s Middle Ages Research Association, is disputing with Souichirou, a guy into big breasts, blonde hair, and pointy ears – let’s just say elves. He’s also a high school freshman and classmate of Hiroto. He’s ridiculing Hiroto for wanting to become a manager, since Souichirou himself is number one in the school and Hiroto not even in the top 30. After more blabla about jobs and Souichirou trying to make Hiroto look dumb, he finally asks what kinda porn thingies could be in the bag on the desk, out of which the picture of a blonde “onee-san” peaks. However, it’s a parchment.

They open it up, mysterious light, BAM, Zero-no-Tsukaima’ed. Lying on the grass of some unknown pasture, they’ve no idea where they are. Soon enough, some people that look like knights show up. After Souichirou tries to use Hiroto as a shield against their malicious intents, one of the knights dismounts and tells the others to not kill them as they’re “Differents” (or so). Said knight is a skeleton, by the way.

So they’re headed for, and now I’m gonna take a deep breath, the town of Solum within the kingdom of Hybride on the most remote part of the county of Saraburia (errr, no real word comes to mind). Tied with ropes, the knights drag them through that run-down hinterland town in which our Hiroto simply ascertains that the town is run-down (genius!) and that they’re probably in another world (unbelievable!) where things like skeleton knights aren’t as off-putting or unusual to other people as Hiroto and traitor bitch seem to be. Here’s the tl;dr version of what’s described: town’s deserted, near-to-collapse buildings that look like they once were shops, dust (I guess sand?) everywhere, situated next to some fiendish land, the well’s broken, there are some people clad in “bandages”, asking someone important for help’s impossible cause seemingly countryside, they’re lead to the castle of Solum.

The castle itself is, surprise, somewhat run-down. The castle moat is big but empty. Our genius protagonist concludes that there must’ve been a drought. Fun fact, the narration first says it, and the protagonist then thinks it using almost the exact same words. That has to be intentional. Or incredibly weird. In the run-down castle, they meet the lord, Vulkan, who doesn’t look all too good health-wise. Besides him is a fat, conceited guy: the lord’s steward, Senterio. The lord is surprised that the ones they’d summoned are so young and wonders if they could even be of any help, while the fat guy simply says they might as well use them as cannon fodder. Apparently, they have a vampire problem, and an especially urgent one at the village of Moora. Hiroto is bold enough to demand a reward. First, he wants to return to their world if he really brings down said vampire. However, they’re only promised to be introduced to the archbishop. Second, he wants the lord to employ them at the castle, so that they’re not just left behind at some stronghold and hence can’t return to their world.

Off they go to where the flavor is. While the vampire does her job in, well, not really killing people – they actually die from the shock, Hiroto and company are on their way to action. On the trip, however, they run into heavy rainfall and take shelter under a tree. In the narration, there are also a few details about the Hybride kingdom. Apparently, it had been populated by nothing but humans and elves 50 years ago. But a plague had befallen the land and especially in Solum it had killed half the population which led to less laborer being available and things turning for the worse. They summoned a “Different” who put a system in use called, errr, “Hybrid” (it says “iburido”, so not the same way to write it as the Hybride kingdom above), which basically suggested to take in people from other races too, Skeletons etc. From there on, every time the kingdom was in a pinch, they tended to summon Differents. But lately all the Differents had been useless, so their reputation was in decline.

A girl approaches them; she’s wrapped up in bandages from tip to toe. The soldier guide tells her to get lost. But as she’s about to trot on in the heavy rain, Hiroto takes her hand, debates with the soldier, and tells her to stay with them until the rain stops. He tries to ask her a few things, but she’s reluctant in answering, seemingly afraid of the soldier.

Finally arriving in the village, they aren’t welcomed all too friendly. Everyone seems rather stiff and forced. Across the land there appear to be places with some kind of unnatural (?) light source, which the people call light of the “Spirit”. It’s more or less their God. Sometimes the light vanishes for good and you can guess what people think that means. Usually, there’s some kind of chapel or something built around the light source, in which they are right now. The people are two steps away from going to hunt the mummies as they think that they’re the reason why their “Spirit” is treating them so harshly (vampires ‘n stuff). Anyway, they want to throw a forced party for Hiroto and company, but he declines and rather heads for the village’s stronghold right away.

Meanwhile, the mummy girl tells her tribe in their cave – they’re not very welcomed in villages and can’t afford to live there either – about Hiroto and how friendly he was, as their kind is pretty much despised and blamed for errything around these parts, the elder and everyone else laugh at her in disbelief. By the way, there are no wounds beneath their bandages, nor do they carry any lethal disease or something. The reason for the bandages mainly seems to be the lack of funds for real clothes and they seem to be superb when it comes to avoiding wounds, etc.

Hiroto and Souichirou are on night watch, Luque, the leader of the guard, and the other guy(s) go to sleep in the meantime. The small hut’s a sorry excuse for a stronghold, but let’s skip that. Before long, something approaches them; it’s the mummy from before, Mimia. She gives them some of the “sake” from an earlier wedding celebration and wants to keep her promise from their first meeting of wrapping some bandages around Hiroto. Before long, the vampire attacks. She goes for Souichirou, since she thinks Hiroto with his bandage was a mummy, but Souichirou has had some “sake” too and vomits on her vigorously, grossing out the vampire in the process. She then goes for the hut where the others are sleeping. Hiroto’s in pursuit, but Luque and Guruna (who’s that even?!) are already dead. R.i.p., Luque and other-red-shirted-Star-Trek-guy. He still manages to seize her by using the bandage he received and combining them with a stone, throwing the whole thing, and hence tying the vampire down.

In the meantime, the lord and steward of Solum try to get some investors into town. They invited, for instance, the bishop of Secondaria, the second biggest town in the county (creative, am I right?), Evin. Some money exchange guy from there, Zenith. And other merchants from Primaria, which is the capital of the county. This isn’t a typo, by the way. I write county and I mean it. The story doesn’t state the big picture (yet). However, they ridicule Solum for having the “Hybrid” system more or less still intact with all those “eerie” creatures loitering around.

Back to the protagonist, the other village people (guhehehe) are allowed to see the vampire the next morning to verify him having succeeded. However, Hiroto demands them to see her in the chapel (so that no one can kill her) and that further tells them that he has to get her to the castle alive – orders of the lord. All lies so that she doesn’t get killed by them since she’s apparently the daughter of the vampire chief. Killing her would enrage the whole clan.

The steward (screw his name) talks Vulkan into signing some laws which basically allow elves to do errything for free and throws people out of the… town’s “rich” neighborhood. They also talk about banning mummies from living there, but I don’t think they sign anything like that. When Hiroto and the rest arrive back in town, they make the vampire, name’s apparently Valkyria, sign a treaty to not attack Moora anymore and let her free. As their reward, the steward sends them to Secondaria to try to get an audience with the archbishop. So much for working at the castle and promised introduction.

Hiroto can’t sleep, he decides to go to the church to check what the light looks like here. Let’s cut it short: he goes there with Souichirou, the light’s already flickering, gets darker and darker, and then goes out. Panic incoming.

News reaches the lord fast, and looking for the cause, the steward tries to first bring attention to the contract with the vamps, then to the Differents. Vulkan fears for his life (he looks pretty dead already, anyway) and reluctantly throws them into the dungeon for now.

A bunch of the steward’s mental rants against Hiroto, the vamps, the guys that ridicule him all day erry day, and pretty much every race but elves and humans are sprinkled here and there. I won’t go into detail, you can read or picture it yourself.

Cut, Vulkan’s ded. Seemingly struck by the Spirit’s curse on the same night, he passed away looking quite terrified. His chubby… errr, “caretaker” (woman) shouts the whole castle down so the news is discreetly spread. Now the discussion of who should be the next lord begins. No one wants to be since there’s still the Spirit’s curse that might as well strike the next lord as long as the source hasn’t been found and gotten rid of (couldn’t possibly be the law bill they recently decided upon, right, steward?).

In the meantime, the vampire princess decides to take another look at Hiroto. Originally, she wants to take her shy (or hikikomori) little sister (or baby sister if you want a more annoying term) with her, but imouto refuses silently. Her father, however, already awaits her as he knew she’d go. He’s interested in seeing the guy, too.

Same goes for Mimia. She wonders if she’d be able to see Hiroto again if she took on the long journey to Solum. A lot of lovey-dovey thinking going on in her monologue.

Back to Hiroto and Souichirou, they’re almost freezing to death in the dungeon. Soon enough, the guards come and greet him as the new lord. Congratulations! Keep picturing the steward ranting in his head while Hiroto sits on the, well, big chair (not really a throne) in the, well, big room (not really a throne room) in the castle. They’re still trying to find the source and while I’m groaning that no one brings that damn law bill to subject, they rule out reasons like the vampire contract or the Differents in general. Admittedly, they do talk a bit about the law bill, but don’t really discuss it in depth. The steward only expresses his usual rants on that matter, like how they need the elves to prosper, death to mummies and other monsters, all hail elves, the others will ridicule us, yadayada.

They decide to first sleep, since they won’t get anywhere that night anyway. Hiroto has already promised to visit some kind of event in a national school, where all lords attend to visit their own region’s students and then try to appeal to the little elves going to school there (that’s what the steward says, at least). In any case, now it’s Hiroto’s turn to get his “caretaker” (woman). She’s basically there to… serve… him… in… stuff. Anyway, steward says he’ll pick a worthy woman, and Hiroto refuses or rather dodges the bullet. He wants Mimia to become the caretaker and as chance would have it, she’s lead into the castle at that very moment to then watch Hiroto dumbfounded sitting on the… big chair. The steward does his ranting as always – she’s a mummy, after all – and Hiroto suggests he should give her some good cash and let her pick some real clothes to see how cute she actually is. If she isn’t cute by then, the steward may pick someone for him. The bet’s on.

Some more mental steward ranting later, a slut from downtown that he had ordered to come enters and he leads her to Hiroto. Hiroto first congratulates the steward on marrying her (oh, you so silly) and then Mimia enters and, surprise, everyone’s stunned and staring blankly. The steward simply gives his approval absent-mindedly and the matter’s settled. Of course, there’s a lot of blushing and stuff from Mimia and compliments, lovey-dovey, and so on, you’ll have to read it yourself for the details. The illustration’s pretty yummy, though.

kou1illu

Again, the crew heads for Moora. When they leave town, some of the townsfolk cheer for Hiroto and beg him to bring beg the Spirit’s light. Then, however, others start to complain how he’s just an outsider on the “throne” who’s all over the inferior races like skeletons, mummies, and the like. They start throwing stones at the skeleton guards and Mimia. Hiroto consequently steps in front of them to protect. The skeletons voice their thanks but urge him to leave, since they can’t really be wounded by these means anyway. Suddenly, they hear cries from the church – the Spirit’s light hath returned, albeit only dimly.

In the meantime, the point of view shifts to Valkyria for a bit. She’d wanted to steal the no-sucky-village-people (huehue) treaty from the castle during the night the late lord had died, but instead she had found a scroll with the elf laws. She decides to meet with Hiroto.

Finally on their way to Moora now, it’s starting to rain again. They seek shelter under a tree, where Mimia and Hiroto can’t help but remember the first time they’ve met. A bit dokidoki hugging-breast-rubbing action later, Valkyria lands in front of them. A few playful death threats later, she says she’d give him something interesting, if he lets her suck his blood. He agrees and the sucking starts (huehue). Luckily, the rubbing of her boobies makes him feel so good, that he doesn’t die from shock (or something like that). Mimia plays her part too, and so he can relax while being sucked and sandwiched between boobies (huehue).

The steward’s then summoned to the church. Hiroto wants to prove something. He takes out the scroll that the steward had tried to find frantically over the past couple of hours, tells him they don’t need to make laws that punish the townsfolk for some imaginary elves, rips it apart, and burns it. The steward’s about to lose his mind when, out of the blue, a brilliant light bursts and the whole church’s illuminated by the Spirit’s light as if it were daytime. So in the end the law was the main cause of the curse (surprise). It also had the signing date of the day the late lord died. A buncha blaming the steward and the segment’s done.

The next day, Hiroto and company are about to attend to that school visit thingy. To the ex-steward’s surprise, they didn’t throw him into the dungeon, but have him work at the stables. He gives Hiroto an expensive writing set and tells him to give it to the elves, Hiroto smiles and says he might give it to the vampires instead. When they leave, however, an elf named Alvi appears and wants to talk to the lord. They decide to have said talk at the castle.

Conclusion


Volume 1 Cover
Volume 1 Cover

When I saw the cover of this volume, I was pretty sure that the protagonist would simply ecchi himself through some fantasy world with big-boobed fantasy creatures while being an idiot. Even the color illustrations suggest the same. However, I was sorely mistaken.

The story has many strong points. First, it’s storytelling is very dynamic with a few switches in the narration’s point of view and it’s considerably picturesque. The world they’re in feels really alive, feasible, and colorful. On a meta level (if light novels have this kind of thing), the series wants to bring greed and racism to the reader’s mind, but never with a wagging finger, it wants you to make the judgement. Here lies also the weak point in the whole story matter: the bad guy is all too obvious and while his motives are clear to see, it’s kind of annoying to read him deepening his bad guy role all the time. The author is really intrusive when it comes to him being a racist pig. It makes you wanna scream “YEAH, I GOT IT ALREADY” at the book. The townsfolk is more believable in their latent racist ways. But don’t get the wrong idea, it never feels like Hiroto’s walking through nazi county, you never think that the people are at fault, you can clearly sense that something is just going wrong in this world. I like the gray-ish feeling to the world. The topic’s not presented in a heavy, stifling way either, there’s lots of comedy and they simply try to make things better. The author’s found a nice balance.

Another strong point is the protagonist. While he talks and dreams of boobs here and there – it’s basically the first thing he thinks about when seeing something female – he’s a witty and reliable kind of character. He’s not losing his footing and falling onto some boobs all the time only to shy away, but is rather direct and confident in his way to handle girls without ever appearing macho. He’s not dense either, if there’s a chance to get some, he gets it. Overall his character isn’t really deep, but the way he acts is refreshing and enjoyable to follow. If he could drop the boob act, that’d be nice, though.

A rather good point is the way the story revolves. The title strongly suggest him to manage a castle. However, the volumes remains short on this side for the longest time. Volume 1 feels like a pretty long prologue which isn’t a bad thing per se. Hiroto might only be an errand boy for quite a while, but everything he does feels like he’s moving something in that world. And after the volume’s done it also feels like he achieved something. Only in the county he’s running about in, but very satisfying nonetheless. Still, two rather poor points remain. First, the sheer absence of stuff the novel suggests. It does sound very interesting that he could actually turn the town into something big and flourishing again and how it’d go with uniting all the races of that world, but I can’t rate this potential as all it is up to this point is pure potential. Nothing of that sort happened yet. Only the groundwork has been done; this groundwork’s very enjoyable, though. Second, the cliffhanger’s a slap in the face. Bad for me since there’s no good deal on the second volume yet, but it also speaks for the story that I’m dying to read what’ll happen.

The other characters – bad guy aside, he’s overdrawn in my opinion – are very believable and it’s refreshing that not everything is all fluffy in this world. Everything that everyone – bad guy aside – does makes sense. Everyone’s still hell of shallow now, but it’s only the first volume and a lot of things happen without characters getting further depth already.

If the series can deliver what its title promises and keeps up the current pace and tension, then I’d say it’s an 8, since it executes what it wants to be very well with little flaw, in my opinion. Every author can simply settle dispute with battles, but doing it without is the hard thing. However, as of yet it still lacks a bunch of things it’s basically promising. That and the all too pushy picturing of the bad guy cost it one point. Hence we go with a very enjoyable 7.

Rating 7/10

 

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2 thoughts on “Light Novel Review: Kou1 Volume 1

  1. Good, the summary has me interested, I hope you’ll find the second volume soon to know how the story goes on (because let’s face it, I’ll never read it myself in jp). Hooray for monstergirls! The vampire is one of the most human-like types and the mummy in this novel is just a normal girl wearing bandages, but it’s still good that the genre is getting more popular and is being used in more works.

    • The novel so far suggests that mummies are basically poor human beings. Then again, they mention the bandages to be able to withhold severe damage and all. And I think they’re also said to be ridiculously strong. Can’t really make heads or tails of it yet.

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