Review: The Zashiki Warashi of Intellectual Village (Vol 1)

(art by Mahaya)

(art by Mahaya)

(Note: This site’s central focus is on light novels officially translated and published in English, but at times I will post reviews for stories that have only been translated by fans. Please support the Japanese books that don’t get English releases.)

Volume 1

Volume 1

At times I pick out novels to read based on their titles, and this was an instance in which my eye was caught by multiple elements of a title. I was familiar with the yokai spirit known as the Zashiki Warashi (e.g. there is one in xxxHolic) and was curious to see how that would be handled here. I also wanted to find out what an Intellectual Village was, precisely. I didn’t realize it when I started reading the story, but this series is written by Kamachi Kazuma, who is best known for the Certain Magical Index (and Specific Railgun) franchise. If you are familiar with those, then you probably already know whether you would like this book or not,  because it’s extremely similar.

One thing the first volume of Intellectual Village does well is its near-future setting, which has a couple nice twists for the author to work with. One is the premise of yokai being an everyday part of modern society, and how their presence can be scientifically used by (generally corrupt) organizations to achieve magical results. The other interesting twist involves the intellectual villages themselves, which are essentially a very rural but just as technologically advanced counterpart to the Index/Railgun cities.

Another thing that works in the book’s favor is its use of multiple protagonists. If you do not care for the “everyday” lead boy (who certainly gives off  Touma vibes, but manages to solve problems with just his analytic skills), there’s also his begrudging police officer uncle and a woman vigilante who’s trained herself to deal with yokai-related predicaments. Similar to Index/Railgun, the characters are hit or miss. And though the character number is manageable for one book, it seems likely there will be many more to deal with in time (half of whom will join lead boy’s “harem,” as was the case with several yokai over the course of this novel).

The situations presented in the book are generally more complex than they probably needed to be, and the solutions can come off as far-fetched at times–but there’s a method to Kazuma’s madness, and it will either appeal to you or it won’t. I believe the author’s style overall works a bit better in Intellectual Village than I expected though, because instead of having all the jargon-filled theorizing and in-depth explanations thrown at you in the middle of what is supposed to be a wild magical duel, the characters are instead generally just trying to figure out how a curse (or “Package,” as it’s termed) operates, what yokai are involved (typically without their knowledge), and how to break the curse (or amend the curse to work in their favor) before it gets them killed.

The fan translation managed to relay the story well enough, so if you’re into Kazuma’s brand of storytelling or have a big interest in yokai, feel free to give Intellectual Village a read-through.

Cho’s Rating: Maybe Recommended

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