Review: Sasami-san@Ganbaranai (Vol 1)

(art by Hidari)

(art by Hidari)

(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

It’s been a while since I last posted a review, and now I have a backlog of them to write up. I’ll start off with what is probably the quirkiest and most unusual of the lot: Sasami-san@Ganbaranai. This is a story about a shut-in (hikikomori) named Sasami Tsukuyomi, whose every whim is taken care of by her doting older brother Kamiomi, who is a teacher at her school. Rounding off the cast are the three Yagami sisters: Tsurugi (31, a teacher who looks like a child, has a rough personality), Kagami (16, a student in Sasami’s class, is generally sleepy and aloof), and Tama (9, a cutesy child who looks like an adult, has an innocent personality).

The storyline deals with a variety of supernatural events that are inadvertently caused by Kamiomi as he tries to please his little sister in any way possible. All the characters involved have ties to Japanese mythology, particularly in regard to the tales involving Amaterasu–and so the book is largely the author (who simply goes by Akira) having fun mixing tropes of ancient folklore with tropes of modern light novels. It’s certainly something different, and those looking for something off the beaten path will find a lot to like with Sasami-san. There’s a rather Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei feel to it all (though without the focus on dark humor).

The first volume is divided into three short stories. The first one takes place on Valentine’s Day, and is devoted primarily to introducing its colorful cast of characters as they deal with a chocolate-themed epidemic. I found it wonderfully whimsical, and the dialogue between the Yagami sisters in particular got a lot of laughs from me.

As for the second story… I didn’t care for that one. The characters end up playing an MMO computer game for the majority of the story, and for the most part I didn’t find it very engaging. Perhaps I am just tired of that sort of generic fantasy game setting in light novels (and other Japanese media), but the whole time I was wishing the book would go back to the playful and surreal whimsy established in the first story. Unfortunately this had to be the longest of the three stories.

Finally, the third story sets up a highly unusual situation, but then devotes most of its pages to explaining everything about all five of the main characters. On one hand it’s nice to get some back-story for everyone, but on the other hand it kind of felt like having a magic trick explained… It’s all in all an interesting explanation, but I rather preferred the tone and atmosphere of the opening story.

This is one of those kinds of books that seems would be especially difficult to translate, but I feel it was pulled off quite nicely here. So even if you have no knowledge of Japanese mythology, you should be able to follow Sasami-san just fine from context.

Cho’s Rating: Maybe Recommended

3 responses to “Review: Sasami-san@Ganbaranai (Vol 1)

  1. You didn’t like the MMO parody chapter? I think that was my favorite to translate and the funniest. It came off more as satire than as a serious “let’s make this generic fantasy shounen” attempt.

    • I didn’t completely dislike the MMO chapter, as it still had its moments. (The absurdity of Tama randomly “unequipping” Kagami’s clothes in the middle of class, for example–which was compounded by the absurdity of there being a high school class in the middle of a dragon-filled sword-and-sorcery world in the first place…) The general plot of it felt a lot slower-paced than the first story though, and even as satire the computer game setting still came off as tiring to me. I perhaps would have enjoyed it more if it were a volume 2 or 3 story, rather than something right near the start.

      • That’s fair. To be honest one thing that is rather hard to ignore about this novel is that it is either in comedy mode or drama mode – there’s almost never an in between. And if you don’t enjoy both then around half the material won’t really appeal to you.

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