When it comes to the isekai genre, we’ve seen a protagonist transported into just about everything from books to games and so forth, but in light novel Magical Explorer our main character finds himself in the world of an eroge game (an erotic game for those not familiar). Does this make for an interesting story? Let’s find out!
Our story follows a young man who loves the eroge game Magical Explorer and one day finds himself reincarnated into the world as the protagonist’s best friend, Kousuke Takioto. As a character, Kousuke was known for being the comic relief, destined to never get the girls but always there when the hero needed him. Our protagonist sees no reason for this to change if he’s truly in the world of the video game, so he just vows to train his skills and become useful support to those around him.
While the story of the game takes place in the Tsukuyomi Magic Academy, when our protagonist awakens as Kousuke, he still has a couple of months before he enrols in the school. Before he attends the school, Kousuke moves in with the headmaster Marino Hanamura, who has taken over guardianship of Kousuke after the death of his parents. Marino also has a teenage daughter who will be attending the magic academy with Kousuke and although she’s not best pleased to be sharing her home with a boy she doesn’t know, the two quickly become friends, thanks to Kousuke’s persistence.
Kousuke chooses to use his time before joining the academy to train his magical abilities since it’s unlikely he’ll get involved in any notable developments until then. Little does he know that he’s about to save multiple heroines and find himself in all kinds of trouble long before he reaches the main setting of the game!
While Kousuke thinks he’s doomed to forever be the side character, it’s clear to us readers that he’s taken over the role of the protagonist in this world. Kousuke ends up at the centre of too many incidents not to be a protagonist, as he saves several girls from danger and ends up being romantic interests for them as the book goes on.
This all sounds great as a plot summary, but unfortunately, Magical Explorer is let down by how dull Kousuke is. Most of the book is spent with him monologuing about how the story should go based on his knowledge of the game, which would be fine if it didn’t feel like info dump after info dump. In the end, it was so tiring that I kept putting the book down because Kousuke’s dialogue was so boring.
The other problem is that the girls fall all over Kousuke for no particular reason. This makes some sense because the setting is an eroge game, but it still feels forced somehow. Naturally, this isn’t helped by the number of times Kousuke happens upon one of the girls getting into the bath, or otherwise finds himself touching their breasts. If we’re going to have this level of fan service then I’d prefer it if the relationships between the characters were better written.
On top of all this, Volume 1 of Magical Explorer feels like a prologue for the story to come. Kousuke doesn’t get to attend the magic academy until the final pages of the book and we don’t meet the original protagonist of the game until then either. It leaves this book feeling fairly unsatisfying for what it is since it never gets the opportunity to touch on the story it’s setting up. But there isn’t enough of interest to keep the majority of readers on the hook for following books either, especially not when there is so much else on the market that fills this same genre and offers a more entertaining read.
Magical Explorer Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to Yen Press and has been translated by David Musto. The translation reads well with no issues to note. Illustrations for the series have been handled by Noboru Kannatsuki (Goblin Slayer) and they’re what you’d expect from a premise like this: lots of barely clothed girls in compromising positions. The series is ongoing in Japan at five volumes and Yen Press have Volume 2 scheduled for an English release in April.
Overall, Magical Explorer Volume 1 is a serviceable entry in the isekai market but the quality of writing lets it down in several places. It’s difficult to recommend this one, given how underwhelming this first book ends up being and I’m not convinced that will get better with further instalments.