It’s been almost a year since high school girl Haru Koyama (and her otaku classmate Chiba) was reincarnated in a fantasy world, and since then she’s definitely made an impression. Between her efforts in showing the women of this misogynistic world their true value and introducing modern sensibilities and tastes to society, the people around her have slowly started to feel the influence of her ‘crazy’ ideas.
JK Haru is a Sex Worker in Another World: Summer is a short story collection set as (mostly) a direct sequel to the previous book. The novel is written by Ko Hiratori, with J-Novel Club’s English translation done once again by Emily Balistrieri. The complete digital book was released August 2019.
Once again, JK Haru is a delight to read. This time we’re treated to a series of short stories all written from other characters’ perspectives. People we’ve grown to know via Haru’s internal dialogue last book now give their own insight and experiences, allowing for each to be fleshed out as their own person, rather than whatever relationship Haru has deigned them with—friend, coworker, customer. As always with collected works like this, some stories serve greater purpose than others, but each work effectively; whether just for comedy, or deepening the audience’s understanding. Curiously, this book has 100 percent less sex than the previous one. It was a good decision by Hiratori, as adding any here would feel superfluous in my opinion, with the possibility of cheapening the usage in the last book when it was a major part of the story. Interestingly, there is also a better coherency across the board for these stories—even though they are all different and from a multitude of perspectives, there is less of the “this was published chapter-by-chapter online” feeling that the original had. This is helped by overlaps with events and information across the stories, each part flowing well from the previous.
Most notable to this book is Chiba’s story I wanted to Save You Like a Hero and its continuation, which bookend these stories. (There is a ramen collab and a couple bookstore bonuses after Continued, but they feel more like extras than part of the book itself.) Here we get a look into the hours leading into the accident, and who these two teens were before being reincarnated together. As we learned from Haru, Chiba was a quiet loser before the new world—obsessed with anime and otaku culture, and not an ounce of popularity amongst his classmates. He’s the perfect archetype for an isekai protagonist, and it’s understandable as to why he so quickly accepted his new role as hero. Back in the real world, Chiba was a nobody with delusions of superiority and a warped persecution complex. Outside of Haru’s perception—which was never invested enough to actually have any interest in him—we see Chiba for the awkward, normal teen he is. He’s definitely not the hero, but nor is he an irredeemable villain. The reality is he’s awkward with social interactions, looking for acknowledgement and validation from his peers, but too self-conscious to initiate any sort of friendship. Instead he wore pride and self-importance as a protection from the rejection of his classmates, which is genuinely representative of many teens in the same situation. He’s immature, but slowly grows up—able to take some responsibility for his own life and choices, and it was refreshing to see it happen. Hiratori once again managed to endear me to a character I never expected, and I can only appreciate the depth of character in a genre so used to relying on tired tropes.
The next three stories all work to introduce information, items, characters or events to the larger setting, without feeling too out of place. There are some interesting little insights to Sumo, Kiyori and Widgecraft here, and it’s nice to see the influence Haru has had on each and their life paths. There is also plenty of potential here with the introduction of neighboring nations, the dark arts, mysterious drugs and hidden spots around the club that I’m sure will make a reappearance in possible future books. Whilst not the strongest individually compared to the more character-focused stories, they weave together to enrich both the story and setting.
Lastly with regards to character insight, Mom follows Lupe as she’s left with the responsibility of looking after the Blue Cat Nocturne in the Madam’s absence. Its interesting to see this character’s inner thoughts, as it appears that Haru’s perception of her friend is far from a true representation of the other girl. To Haru and the customers, Lupe has the heart of a saint and the beauty to match, but the reality is a carefully crafted facade. She uses this to manipulate those around her on their opinions of her (immensely successfully, if Haru’s narration is anything to go by), but also to increase her value as needed within the club. Her past and circumstances are unique to many of the other girls, and she’s accepted that prostitution is likely to be the rest of her life. We are also introduced to the top earner of the club, Kizuha, in this particular story—the only girl with a closer tie to the club than Lupe: born in the building itself, the biological daughter of the Madam. She’s an incredibly interesting character on her own, so I’d be interested to read more about her prickly relationship with the others.
JK Haru once again manages to prove that any interesting story can start from any premise. The book is a perfect follow up to the last, giving familiar characters new depth whilst also introducing new elements for the future. This is not a rehash of the previous book with superficial differences, Summer feels like a worthy addition to an already-great story. In a genre filled to the brim with cardboard cutouts of tropes masquerading as characters, Hiratori gives a human depth and vulnerability to each—making them relatable to the reader. For fans of the previous book, there is sure to be something to enjoy in this new collection of stories, and I can only hope we see more from Haru and her friends in the future
Gee’s Rating: Recommended
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