Associate Professor Akira Takatsuki’s Conjecture Volume 1 Review

When it comes to light novels, Yen Press is certainly known for being home to some of the most popular isekai and fantasy series but it’s not often their outputs drift into other genres. However, today I’m here to check out Volume 1 of Associate Professor Akira Takatsuki’s Conjecture, which promises to stand out from the crowd and offer a supernatural story with adult characters. Does it prove worthwhile? Let’s find out! 

The story follows Naoya Fukamachi, a first-year university student who keeps to himself. As a child, Naoya snuck out of the house one evening and wandered into a mysterious festival that was held by spirits; once spotted, he was forced to pay a price to leave. After that night, Naoya found he could hear lies when people spoke, but more than that – when people lied, their speech became warped and incredibly painful to hear. Humans lie as often as they breathe and because of that, Naoya has closed himself off from others for fear of being shunned for his abilities or hurt as he listens to their falsehoods. 

At university, Naoya is a student of the literature department at Seiwa University, which aside from compulsory courses, allows the students to choose whatever courses they want to take for themselves. So wanting to try out a few different things, Naoya finds himself attending the first lecture of the Folklore Studies II hosted by Professor Akira Takatsuki. At first, Naoya regrets his decision as the class is packed, thanks to rumours that Akira is a handsome young man (which proves true) and all around him, people are telling small lies that grate on his ears. However, our protagonist soon finds that Akira’s style of teaching is very engaging and he can’t help but find the subject matter of folklore interesting after what happened to him as a child. 

Not only is Akira teaching, but he’s also on the hunt for stories involving anything to do with folklore or the supernatural. After his introductory class, Akira encourages his students to submit any stories they find on his website: provided they’re true, of course. Naoya submits the story from his childhood (omitting the fact he can hear lies now), which naturally catches Akira’s eye. It doesn’t take long for Naoya to be called to Akira’s office, where the teacher is hoping to not only learn more about the story but also ask for Naoya’s help with investigating another story that was submitted. Naoya is hesitant at first, but reluctantly comes along and soon finds himself working part-time with Akira solving all kinds of mysteries… 

For as professional as Akira is, he’s also somewhat eccentric and adores anything to do with folklore. So when investigating cases, he naturally ends up being overenthusiastic and overwhelming whoever he’s speaking with. To counterbalance his passion, Akira has been hoping to find an assistant and with Naoya’s keen ability to see through lies, he seems like the perfect man for the job! Together the two investigate all manner of strange things, including a supposedly haunted apartment, a curse, and a mysterious disappearance. 

Akira Takatsuki’s Conjecture is a solid mix of realism and supernatural. The cases our lead characters investigate always seem tied to some kind of urban legend or folklore, to begin with at least, before it becomes clear there’s something more mundane and human behind it all. However, because we know Naoya truly did have an otherworldly experience as a child, we as readers can never discount that one of these mysteries could be similar, which gets us invested. 

And even putting the detective side of the series aside, both Naoya and Akira are characters that are fun to spend time with. They’re both charming and well-written without falling into any particular tropes. It’s not hard to get invested in them and by the end of Chapter 1, I couldn’t wait to see how their relationship would develop as the book went on. Particularly when it comes to Naoya, who keeps people at arm’s length. His situation reminds me of the heroine of Usotoki Rhetoric, who also can hear lies. Both characters have been shunned by loved ones and struggled with the fact they know when someone isn’t being honest, but because of their past experiences have difficulty in seeing value in themselves or their abilities. Akira is giving Naoya a place to belong, where he’s safe, can put his strengths to good use and maybe find more people he can trust and spend time with. 

This appears to be author Mikage Sawamura’s first series and it has certainly proved popular with 10 volumes out so far, as well as a manga adaptation and a two-season live-action drama (currently unlicensed) under its belt. It’s an easy read, coming in at just over 200 pages, but you can tell it has been well-researched when it comes to the folklore side of things. And even if you’re unfamiliar with these stories yourself, Akira usually explains them in detail for Naoya, so there’s no real barrier for the audience, no matter your familiarity with the subject matter. 

As mentioned earlier, Associate Professor Akira Takatsuki’s Conjecture Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to Yen Press and has been translated by Katelyn Smith. The translation reads well and I think Smith has done a solid job of giving all the characters distinctive voices, despite how many we meet in this volume alone. I also like how the font changes for dialogue that includes the lies Naoya overhears; it’s a good way of distinguishing it for the reader without Naoya explicitly having to say which pieces were lies after the fact. Also worth noting is that there are no illustrations for this one, but the attractive cover art was drawn by Jiro Suzuki. 

The series is ongoing with 10 volumes in Japan (two of which being ‘extra’ editions), while here in English Volume 2 is already available with #3 currently scheduled for a release in February. Unfortunately, there’s nothing in the schedule after that, so we may be in for quite a wait for more. Yen Press is also releasing the manga in English which is up to Volume 2, with #3 following in April. Our reviewer Noemi previously covered this version if you’re interested! 

Overall, Associate Professor Akira Takatsuki’s Conjecture Volume 1 proves a fantastic read if you’re looking for something with a lot of mystery and rooted folklore. Fans of series like The Case Files of Jeweler Richard will certainly enjoy watching over Naoya and Akira as they get themselves embroiled in all kinds of otherworldly matters.

Our review copy from Yen Press was supplied by Diamond Book Distributors UK. 

9 / 10


When she's not watching anime, reading manga or reviewing, Demelza can generally be found exploring some kind of fantasy world and chasing her dreams of being a hero.

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