~A guest review by Frog-kun~
This is a review for the My Big Sister Lives in a Fantasy World light novel series, written by Tsuyoshi Fujitaka and illustrated by An2A. The series consists of seven volumes, which were first published by Hobby Japan Bunko in 2013. The English edition was first released by J-Novel Club in December 2016, and the series is currently complete in both English and Japanese. The seventh and final volume was released in December 2017.
My Big Sister Lives in a Fantasy World was one of J-Novel Club’s debut titles, although I didn’t pick it up until recently. On the surface, it doesn’t appear to be all that interesting or unusual. I’m glad that I did give this series a chance though, as the first few volumes offer a very amusing take on the “overpowered protagonist” conceit. Unfortunately, the fun starts to wear thin after a while as the overarching plot becomes steadily more convoluted, which it makes it difficult for me to recommend overall.
The biggest problem with My Big Sister Lives in a Fantasy World is that it goes overboard with the meta commentary on light novel tropes. This has become fairly common with modern light novels, but My Big Sister Lives in a Fantasy World takes it a step further than most. The characters know that they are living in a story and some of them can manipulate events as if they’re the authors. This leads to a lot of plot-contrived coincidences and unexplained narrative elements that are simply waved off with “that’s just what happens in stories.” The explanations might sound clever as a meta-commentary on narratives, but they’re never satisfying for the reader.
This problem is only exacerbated by all the exposition. There are entire chapters where characters will sit around a table and dump information on each other. I suspect that this is because there is almost no foreshadowing in the world of My Big Sister Lives in a Fantasy World. Big events sort of just happen and are only explained afterward. The “Divine Vessels War” plot, which begins in earnest in volume 4, is an absolute disaster in terms of pacing and execution; too much of it happens too fast, and far too many plot-important events are glossed over in favor of cracking meta jokes. There are also far too many characters, many of whom only play bit roles but whose existences in the story are justified with pages and pages of convoluted explanations.
Another thing I have to point out about the series is how blasé it is about death. None of the main characters ever die, but plenty of background characters suffer unceremonious deaths, and even the heroes never seem to be bothered about it. For example, the ending of one arc involves hundreds of civilian deaths, but it’s played off as a happy ending and the deaths are never referenced again. This ended up giving me the impression that life is cheap in this story, and made me stop caring whenever the characters were in danger.
All of these complaints will give the impression that My Big Sister Lives in a Fantasy World is a poorly told story, which it is. Let’s not mince words there. But here’s the thing—it can also be uproariously funny too. Many of the series’ best jokes involve subverting readers’ expectations with well-timed anticlimaxes. There are some tiresome gags (unsurprisingly, the incest jokes are lame), but on the whole, there’s a sense of wit in the style of narration and dialogue that keeps the story readable even when the plot descends into tedium. If you’re a fan of over-the-top fighting manga, you’ll probably get a kick out of the delivery here.
This leaves me with the difficult task of how to recommend this light novel. I’ll say that the first volume is worth reading, and if you’re a fan of the style of the first one, then the second one should be entertaining too. But after that point, the storytelling gets noticeably worse with each passing volume, before finally coming to a limp conclusion. It’s hard to imagine too many people defending the latter half of the story, especially when the best gags are repeated to the point of losing their effect. The charms of My Big Sister Lives in a Fantasy World are simple, and it’s such a pity that the series ended up biting off more than it could chew.
Frog-kun’s Rating: Maybe Recommended (but only the first two volumes)
You can purchase the ebook of volume 1 online via sites like Amazon. This is an affiliate link, so a small percentage of sales goes toward this site.