The Duchess’ 50 Tea Recipes

Spoiler Alert!

“Oh my. Look over there. It’s the duchess!”

“Who’s that? Isn’t it the elegant duchess? Hee hee!”

You ignore the maids’ snide attitude as they walk past you, but you can hear soft mocking laughter as you continue down the corridor.

It’s already been about a week since you literally woke up in this new world, from the luxurious bed of a duchess! The mansion maids’ derisive attitude and casual mockery of you was even more shocking, but you’ve gotten used to it.

Your mind drifts, thinking back to your old life in South Korea…

Ever since you took up a job at an accounting firm, you’ve worked hard to ensure that your colleagues are happy with your performance. Over the years, the occasional favor for your colleagues became taking on much of their duties on top of your own.

One day, a major project fell through and your boss furiously deemed you responsible. You already had so much work on your hands at the time, but couldn’t bring yourself to say it.

You accepted full responsibility and he demanded your resignation on the spot.

That night, after drinking yourself into a stupor at home, you promise to live for yourself and never again work for the approval of others…

One morning, the head maid and two other maids come to your room, late as usual. They offer to get you dressed for the day.

Unnerved by the head maid’s look of utter disdain, you remember the times when she deliberately dressed you in dirty dresses for her own amusement.

Standing up, you tell the head maid to come closer.

You slap her, shocking the other maids. With firm determination, you tell them that you punished the head maid for being late and that further tardiness won’t be tolerated. For a moment, the head maid’s face becomes a mask of shocked fury, but she quickly regains her composure and leaves with the others.

That night, while having dinner with your husband, you think back on the opportunity you lost on your old world. The one joy you had in life but couldn’t indulge. Gathering your courage, you look at the Duke in the eye from across the table.

“I need tea”, you say.

The Duchess’ 50 Tea Recipes (공작부인의 50가지티 레시피) is a webnovel and webcomic written by Ji-ha Lee.

Ha-Jung Park awoke in another world as the Imperial Duchess Chloe Vandenberg on the day she was fired from her job as corporate accountant. Having sworn an oath to never let anyone take advantage of her again, Chloe turns her life around as she stands up to the people who mistreated her, maids and nobles alike, and focused her passion on the one thing that gave her joy in her first life: tea.

All these tea sets…they’re so beautiful!

In the Empire, tea is mostly unknown and is usually derided by the aristocracy as a barbarian’s drink, with wine and coffee being more popular. Making her first ever request to her husband, Chloe asks for permission to purchase a variety of the world’s teas. Intrigued by his wife’s newfound passion, Duke Alphonse Vandenberg purchases several crates of tea and Chloe uses methods from modern-day Earth to prepare it into innovative beverages unheard of in the Empire.

With her passion for tea, Chloe is able to win the favor of the people around her, from giving the household knights cold, fruity tea after a hot day of training to accompanying her once-indifferent husband over a daily cup of hot black tea.

Main Characters

Duchess Chloe Vandenberg, née Gray, the young wife of Duke Alphonse Vandenberg and the eldest daughter of Count Gray. Weak-willed, quiet and painfully timid, Chloe was deeply afraid of being hated by others. Ironically, her poor self-esteem has resulted in her becoming the laughingstock of the Empire’s aristocracy. She also had no appreciable skills to speak of and deferred her household management duties to her mansion staff. Ignored by her husband, Chloe was often mistreated and slandered by her own maids.

At the story’s beginning, Chloe became the second life of Ha-Jung Park (박하정, Pak Ha-jung), a 28-year old Korean corporate accountant. Kind and diligent, Ha-Jung constantly sought approval and never complained when others pushed their work onto her. As a result, her colleagues took advantage of her while they received the credit. When a major project failed, Ha-Jung was fired after she was forced to shoulder the blame. Afterwards, she swore to live for herself and not seek others’ approval again…

What new teas will the Duchess show us next?

Armed with Ha-jung’s memories and her own, Chloe began to retake control of her life. Her new confidence frightens the maids and noble ladies who once bullied her and wins her new friends as well. Focusing on her first life’s passion for tea, Chloe introduces a type of drink new to the Empire, piquing the interest of her husband, the Vandenberg household staff and, eventually, other nobles. With the business management skills retained from her previous life, Chloe is able to regain control over the Vandenberg household finances and start up a shop to sell spreads, particularly the milk jam she used to make in Korea!

Duke Alphonse Vandenberg, the ruler of the Imperial Duchy of Vandenberg. Aloof, authoritative and narcissistic, Alphonse is a handsome, intelligent and powerful nobleman who broke the hearts of many women. His marriage to Chloe was out of political convenience and he was mostly uninterested in her. This started to change once he noticed a confident passion in her that he had not seen before in their 13 months together. Discovering a curious interest in his wife’s tea, Alphonse begins to feel an unfamiliar attraction to Chloe and even orders tea from overseas for her. His passions stirred, Alphonse gradually spends more time with his wife.

Ms. Collin, the head maid of the Vandenberg household and the former second daughter of Count Collin. As a child, she was bullied by the other noble children until she joined them in bullying the young Chloe. After this, Ms. Collin continued to bully Chloe well into adulthood, even after she was sent to the Vandenberg household as a maid when her father faced financial difficulties. Cruel and spiteful, Ms. Collin encouraged the other maids to disobey and mistreat the Duchess. After Chloe starts to gain the respect of the Vandenberg household, the furious head maid plots to discredit her, including an attempt to frame the Duchess for a delivery of rotten food and manipulating a maid to recommend a dangerous location for a picnic.

Cale, the butler of the Vandenberg household. Responsible and loyal, Cale firmly believes in giving respect to those who deserve it. For this reason, he did not stop the maids from harassing Chloe, who had proven herself both socially inept and lacking in skill. This changes when the Duchess begins to stand up for herself and demonstrate her ability to independently draw up viable financial plans. She even makes him chamomile tea as a remedy for his insomnia.

Left to right: Jacob, Balt, Cain

Jacob, Balt and Cain, three knights of the Vandenberg household. Chloe offers them some cold, fruity tea when they come through the mansion parlor one day. The knights become friendly with Chloe, who prefers to treat them casually without a care for status.

Ellie, the youngest maid of the Vandenberg household. As the only maid who never mistreated Chloe, she becomes the Duchess’ first friend despite the risk of becoming shunned by the other maids.

Personal Thoughts

How can others love us if we don’t even love ourselves?

It’s easy to say that being selfish is bad, but being too selfless can be harmful as well. This story demonstrates that being too obedient and too humble can lead others to take advantage of you and ruin your self-image. It’s mostly about Chloe’s personal fight to regain her confidence in herself through being more assertive in her beliefs, using her skills to contribute to others’ livelihoods and indulging in her personal hobby while sharing it with others.

The happiness that Chloe gains from her new assertions also improves her relationships with others, resulting in friendships that never would have happened if she stayed timid. It also allows her formerly indifferent husband to think better of her. Self-love requires confidence in oneself, so some pride and some selfishness is necessary if we want a better outlook on life. We’re only human after all!

Care for some more iced tea?

For example, Chloe introduces tea to others and uses modern-day recipes to prepare it in a variety of ways. By maintaining her confidence in her passion and showing others how tea can also be a delicious drink, Chloe develops confidence with herself while teaching others to share her interest as well. Do you have an interesting hobby? Why not show it to your family and friends? Maybe they would appreciate it and you’d feel better about yourself!

The different types of tea and the methods used in their preparation show how deep global tea culture is, from casual cold fruit tea (how is ice kept cold in a Renaissance-era kitchen anyway?) to aromatic tea from China or India. Even tea sets can vary widely in design, to appeal to a drinker’s aesthetic or for use in certain brewing techniques.

Moral

If you want others to love you, you must love and care for yourself first.

Everyday Life with Monster Girls

Spoiler Alert!

What’s…that sound…?… Ah, the alarm…

It’s 6:30 A.M. now. Huh? Is someone holding you?

You find yourself face-to-face with a familiar, beautiful teenage girl…

“Miia, it’s morning. Wake up.”, you say.

“Five more minutes…no, five more degrees.”

You look down and find that Miia has wrapped her snake’s tail all around you. You can hardly move!

“Why are you in my bed, anyway?”

“I was cold because the sun hadn’t risen yet, so I thought you’d warm me up, darling. Lamias are cold-blooded after all.”

You sit up saying, “I’ll go draw a bath, so wait a minute.”

“No way♥!”

Before you could react, something thick and muscular wraps around your neck and pulls you back onto the bed. You find yourself pressed onto something warm and…soft…

“I want you to warm me up, darling.”

You feel something slither all around your body and it starts to get tighter. OwwwWWW! Too tight! You find it hard to breathe as well! You must do something!

As you flail your one free hand about, you grab onto something…

“Ahh! (gasp) Darling, not the tip of my tail…!”

You feel the pressure around your body loosen up. Did you find a weak spot? As you fight the urge to faint, you keep rubbing Miia’s tail tip, causing her to twitch.

“I…can’t take…any…more…aaaahhh!”

You feel a sudden crushing force all over your body. What’s that popping sound?

Moments later, you barely hear Miia saying, “Fine, I’ll get up. You were so feisty this morning, darling. Darling?”

You ache all over and don’t quite feel like getting out of bed just now. Maybe five more minutes…

Everyday Life with Monster Girls (モンスター娘のいる日常, Monsutā Musume no Iru Nichijō) or Monster Musume is a manga and anime written by Okayado (オカヤド).

The story takes place in a modern-day Japan where non-human species go about their livelihoods alongside the usual human citizens. Three years ago, the Interspecies Cultural Exchange Bill was passed after much deliberation between the Japanese government and representatives of the various extra-species races. As a result, the existence of extra-species races was revealed to the world at large and the Japanese government is permitting the integration of extra-species into human society through a cultural exchange program. Under this program, selected individuals from various races are given a limited “diplomatic immunity” and the opportunity to experience life in human society. These individuals can apply for a homestay where they can share living accommodations with a volunteer human host family.

Welcome to a new life with monster girls!

To manage the exchange program and enforce its laws, government-selected coordinators provide counseling to exchange program members, inspect prospective volunteer host families, supervise homestays and address problems relating to such. One such coordinator, and a less-than-stellar example of one, is Kuroko Smith, who has pushed a total of seven houseguests onto the young Kimihito Kurusu despite him not volunteering for the exchange program in the first place.

Kimihito is soon involved in a series of improbable adventures as he learns more about his unusual houseguests, encounters many kinds of extra-species races or gets involved with the extra-species community in Japan. Such events include visiting a gym constructed for extra-species use, meeting his houseguests’ mothers, staying at a hot spring inn run by a yuki-onna (“snow-woman”) and going to an extra-species cultural exchange expo!

Despite the exchange program, there are certain individuals and groups who take advantage of or harm members of extra-species races. While legislation has been enacted to protect human and extra-species alike from crime and violence, Kimihito and his houseguests occasionally run afoul of such rogues.

Left to right: Miia, Papi, Centorea, Suu, Meroune, Rachnera

Main Characters

Kimihito Kurusu (来留主 公人, Kurusu Kimihito), a young Japanese man whose parents work abroad. He is kind, gentle and selfless, which results in his houseguests falling in love with him. Kimihito is very skilled at cooking and sewing and is devoted to making sure that the girls around him are happy, either by offering kind compliments or accommodating their particular needs, such as adjusting clothing to their size. He has also consistently demonstrated near-superhuman durability and tolerance to pain, which has helped him to survive the rough physical handling or accidents he often gets in his life with all sorts of monster girls.

Miia, a lamia (a humanoid with a snake’s tail as its lower body). Cheerful, ditzy and somewhat abrasive, she is the most openly possessive of Kimihito as her boyfriend-to-be. While she might seem naïve, Miia can be rather cunning at times. She is feared in the Kurusu household for her poor cooking skills, since she often improvises her ingredients wildly and the resulting food usually causes severe food poisoning. Miia originally went on the exchange program as a way to find a “tribal husband” to bring back to her home village since all lamias are female. Ms. Smith soon introduced her to Kimihito, with whom she fell in love with due to his kindness and lack of discrimination towards her.

Papi, a harpy. Playful, happy and absent-minded, she is a free spirit who doesn’t let much trouble her.  Papi has a very short attention span (leading others to call her a “birdbrain”) and is rather poor at learning. Despite this, she is protective and supportive of those she considers her friends, including children and other non-humans such as Suu. When she first arrived in Japan, Papi flew off when Ms. Smith wasn’t looking. Soon after, she found Kimihito at his balcony and flew off with him so that she could get some ice cream, since extra-species houseguests must be with their human hosts in public. Papi soon became another houseguest at Kimihito’s home.

Centorea Shianus (a.k.a. Cerea), a centaur. Serious, disciplined and chivalrous, she is the very image of the medieval knights she admires. Although she has a gentler side, Cerea can get flustered rather easily. She is an expert warrior skilled in archery, jousting and swordsmanship. Cerea has a fascination with fantasy-style RPG video games and, like all centaurs, she is a vegetarian. Refusing to marry a male centaur (of whom most are muscle-bound brutes), Cerea joined the exchange program to search for a worthy “master” as her host. After getting special permission from Ms. Smith, Cerea galloped through the city and accidentally ran into Kimihito. After an incident in which he protected her from a purse-snatcher (it’s complicated), an impressed Cerea decided that Kimihito was the master she was looking for.

Ready for trouble, Cerea?

Suu, a sentient slime. Generally innocent and simple-minded, she is able to change her shape at will and learn through mimicking others’ actions or speech. Her body can also absorb foreign substances, resulting in drastic changes to her appearance and personality. Examples of this are poisoned plants (caustic personality), experimental growth fertilizer (growing to the height of a skyscraper along with an increase in intelligence) and minerals from a hot spring (rigid personality). Because of this, Suu is the most unpredictable of the houseguests. She simply appeared in Kimihito’s home one day and gradually endeared herself to the others, particularly Papi. Ms. Smith has pointedly decided that Suu is not her problem, despite Suu not having arrived in Japan through legal channels.

Meroune Lorelei (a.k.a. Mero), a mermaid. Friendly, polite and graceful, she is the daughter of the Queen of the Mermaid Kingdom. Because her lower body is a fish’s tail, Mero has to use a wheelchair to move on land. She is deeply fascinated with romantic tragedy (i.e. a dying lover, unrequited love) and has a taste for gothic lolita fashion. Because of her royal upbringing, Mero has a formal, dignified conduct that can impress people at times. She met Kimihito after she lost control of her wheelchair while going down a hill. Afterwards, Kimihito learned that he was chosen as Mero’s host by Ms. Smith, who had remodeled his home with underwater accommodations.

Rachnera Arachnera, an arachne (a humanoid with a spider’s lower body). Mischievous, seductive and worldly-wise, she is the most mature and level-headed of the houseguests. She enjoys tying up people in her webs in different ways and provoking people, displaying a talent for knowing just the right thing to say. During her stay with her first host family (who were terrified of her arachnid appearance), Rachnera accidentally injured the family’s daughter. After this, the parents illegally sold her off to a shady criminal. Because of this, Rachnera developed a cynical view about humans until the day she heard about Kimihito’s blatant selflessness. She kidnapped Kimihito and talked to him at length, gradually realizing that his kindness and lack of discrimination was genuine. Because of this, Rachnera decided to stay with Kimihito as another houseguest.

Nothing can escape the shadow of death!

Lala, a dullahan (a humanoid with a detachable head). Gloomy, stoic and forthright, she uses dramatic, flowery language and likes to refer to herself as if she were death incarnate. Lala is seen as having “middle school syndrome (中二病, chuunibyou)”, where one (usually someone in mid-teens) likes to pretend to be far more powerful or attractive than they realistically are. In the past, Lala constantly ran away from various host families, which resulted in Ms. Smith often tracking her down. When she met Kimihito, Lala became fascinated with his ability to stay alive despite being constantly in life-threatening situations and decided to stay with him.

Kuroko Smith (墨須黒子, Sumisu Kuroko), a human cultural exchange coordinator. Lazy and irresponsible, she often neglects her duties as a coordinator, pushes her work onto others and never admits to any mistakes that she makes. Because of this, she has pushed several extra-species houseguests onto Kimihito without consulting him. Despite this, Ms. Smith can be very capable whenever she gets serious. She enjoys drinking coffee and particularly likes Kimihito’s instant coffee. Ms. Smith is also the leader of M.O.N. (Monster Ops: Neutralization), a unit of extra-species specialists similar to a SWAT team trained to handle crimes involving extra-species criminals.

Personal Thoughts

Most of the story’s appeal comes from the colorful appearances and personalities of the various extra-species girls, which consists of an eclectic selection of monsters from various legends. The author has put a lot of thought and effort into building many of these characters, who each have their special motives, preferences, habits and outlooks. From this as a starting point, an entire community of monsters has sprung up in the midst of modern-day human society, resulting in a fantastical cultural melting pot.

Since most of the extra-species characters in this story are attractive humanoids, situations in the story sometimes become risqué as images focus on their enticing, seductive bust sizes and curvatures. This usually results in hilarity as Kimihito fights to retain his chastity and uprightness when monster girls try to seduce him. The fact that many of these women possess superhuman strength means that Kimihito is likely to get horribly injured if he does accept their advances. Thankfully, his kindness to others and his own ability to tolerate high amounts of pain allows him to persevere in his friendship with monster girls.

(Sigh) What am I going to do with you all…?

Beneath the cultural differences and different monster abilities, the monster girls of this story behave just like humans. Whether as law-abiding citizens, hermits, criminals or otherwise, extra-species people are all still driven by the same motivations as us. As humans, we all have two eyes, a nose, a mouth, two arms and two legs. How different can we possibly be deep down?

Moral

Beneath the surface, different peoples and cultures may be more alike than we think.

I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level

Spoilers Alert!

You’ve dedicated your entire life to your corporate job since graduating from college. In fact, you can’t remember the last time you’ve taken a break or spent time trying to find a boyfriend! The last thing you remember was working at a breakneck pace for 50 days straight…

Now you’re here, in front of what looks like a little girl in a simple white dress with white wings on her back. Is that a circle over her head?

Ah…you’re dead, aren’t you? So this is the infamous “overwork death (過労死, karōshi)” that you’ve heard about on the news.

Shedding tears, the angel tells you, “I want you to live your next life as happily as possible. I can help you if you have any requests.”

“Then please give me immortality and a long, slow life. Living a leisurely life on a plateau would be perfect.”

“Sure! I’ll make you a 17-year old…girl…as…we…ll…”

Opening your eyes, you find yourself lying on the grass of a hilly valley and see a village in the distance. Looking behind you, you see a small house. On its front door is a notice you don’t recognize as Japanese, but somehow still understand: the house is free to anyone who wants it! Inside, you find a full-length mirror and take a look at yourself.

You are now a teenage girl with long, flowing blond hair and blue eyes, wearing a black coat and a black pointed hat, like that of a witch.  Checking your pockets, you find a small dagger and some gold coins! Time to go to the village and do some shopping!

A few minutes later, a small, translucent blue blob jumps in front of you. Hmm? Is this one of those “slimes” you’ve heard about from role-playing video games? You draw your dagger and thrust it the slime clumsily. Eventually, the slime evaporates and leaves behind a small crystal. You take it, hoping to sell it later.

At the village, Furata, you are directed to the local branch of the Adventurer’s Guild, the only place where monster spoils can be sold. There, the receptionist signs you in as a Level 1 Witch and you sell the crystal for 6 copper coins. Not bad!

Over the next 300 years, you’ve been passing time at your own pace: sleeping, farming, fighting slimes or even simply lazing about. You’ve also been using your herbal knowledge, one of your skills as a Witch, to make medicines to sell at the village. The people there even consider you to be their guardian spirit and have named you “The Witch of the Plateau”.

One day, after selling slime crystals at the Adventurer’s Guild, the receptionist asks to check your status. Evidently, she’s been curious about it for a long time! Now that you think about it, you haven’t checked it since the day you first signed in…

Placing your hand on a magic slate, your stats are shown.  Your Level is now…99?!

I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level (スライム倒して300年、知らないうちにレベルMAXになってました, Suraimu Taoshite Sanbyaku-nen, Shiranai Uchi ni Reberu Makkusu ni Nattemashita) is a light novel series, manga and upcoming anime series written by Kisetsu Morita (森田季節, Morita Kisetsu).

After dying from a stroke at work, the 27-year old office worker Azusa Aizawa finds herself reincarnated on another world as an immortal witch. Resolved to living the lazy life, she gradually grows in power by killing slimes every day for the next 300 years. As a result, she reaches Level 99 and becomes a powerful magician whose abilities soon become the talk of the land.

Azusa is gradually approached by several unusual characters and they all get together as family. Despite wanting to continue living her lazy life at first, Azusa learns to appreciate and enjoy the company of her new family and friends.

She has also found herself befriending an elder demon, attending the wedding of a dragon, negotiating a centuries-long dispute between draconic races, freeing a trapped ghost and riding a flying whale to visit the demon king himself. Despite her lack of desire for excitement, Azusa still seems to find it!

Left to right: Beelzebub, Falfa, Shalsha, Halkara, Laika, Azusa

Main Characters

Azusa Aizawa (相沢梓, Aisawa Azusa), an immortal human witch. Having once died from overwork, Azusa is rather easygoing and somewhat lazy, but she is fiercely protective of her friends and has a sentimental streak. Accidentally gathering experience and power over 300 years by killing slimes every day, she has gained super strength and powerful magic in the process. As a result, Azusa can singlehandedly defeat several dragons with her bare hands!

Laika, a 300-year old red dragon. Brave, kind and competitive, Laika believes strongly in self-improvement. Able to take on human form at will, she has many skills such as cooking, cleaning, carpentry and magic. After she hears about the legendary Witch of the Plateau, Laika challenges Azusa to a duel and is quickly overpowered. The dragon persuades Azusa to take her in as a disciple and rebuilds her house, almost doubling its size. A month later, Laika attends the wedding of her older sister along with Azusa and her friends.

A red dragon challenges the Witch of the Plateau to a duel, much to her annoyance

Falfa, a 50-year old slime spirit and the twin “sister” of Shalsha. Over the 300 years that Azusa spent killing countless slimes, the spirits of these slimes slowly merged and eventually formed two sentient creatures in the form of young human girls. Energetic, optimistic and curious, Falfa considers Azusa to be her mother because the slimes’ deaths enabled her own existence. At first, Falfa was at odds with her sister Shalsha, who wanted to avenge the slimes’ deaths, but they both later accept Azusa as their mother. In turn, Azusa has grown very fond of her newfound “daughters”.

Shalsha, a 50-year old slime spirit and the twin “sister” of Falfa. In contrast to her sister, Shalsha is a reserved and stoic intellectual who enjoys reading in her spare time. When she first appears, Shalsha is consumed with the need to avenge the slimes’ deaths at Azusa’s hands and has trained herself in Haja magic, an offensive type of magic that is strong against a specific race or person (Azusa in her case). After being defeated by Laika with a flick of a claw, Shalsha runs out of mana, forcing her to give up on vengeance.

Aaah, this is the life!

Halkara, a 225-year old elf apothecary and entrepreneur. Ditzy and childish, Halkara is also voluptuously beautiful. After inventing a “nutritional wine” similar to modern-day energy drinks, she set up a business to sell it until she was hunted down by the elder demon Beelzebub. Halkara took refuge with Azusa until she was found by Bub, who simply wanted to purchase more nutritional wine! After this, Halkara moves her business to Furata village and later builds a new medicine workshop at Nascoute City.

Beelzebub, a 3,000-year old elder demon. The demon kingdom’s Minister of Agriculture, she is calm, polite and professional, but is of surprisingly weak constitution. Because of this, she has grown dependent on Halkara’s nutritional wine to enable herself to maintain her busy work schedule. Bub is a very powerful magician, possibly even greater than Azusa herself, and is known as the Lord of the Flies for her ability to turn into a housefly at will.

Rosalie, a human ghost. Formerly a merchant’s daughter, she hung herself after her father sold her off at Nascoute City’s red-light district. Graceful and polite in life, Rosalie is now rude, curious and carefree. Trapped at the site of her death (now occupied by Halkara’s medicine workshop), Rosalie eventually managed to escape with help from Azusa and her friends and was accepted into their family.

Does this count as being haunted?

Personal Thoughts

Death by overwork, from stress or deprivation, is fairly commonplace in Japan, whose culture places value on social harmony and group priorities over the individual. Unfortunately, there are bosses who abuse this notion and take advantage of it to abuse workers since complaints are usually frowned upon in Japan, where the social hierarchy is deeply respected. It’s no wonder that Azusa, a typical office girl, enjoyed living a lazy life for centuries!

The story brings a humorous touch of fantasy to a modern woman’s life and several women’s issues such as a busy work life, getting married and having children. With Azusa as the reader’s stand-in, Laika acts as the best friend, Falfa and Shalsha act as the children, Halkara acts as the ditzy colleague in need of guidance and Beelzebub acts as an older, experienced colleague. It’s almost like a family drama!

The Minister of Agriculture working as a maid?! What’s next?

There isn’t much focus or challenge in the story since Azusa is already an overpowered magician by RPG player character standards. It’s more about Azusa coming to terms with having a new, adopted family after centuries of living alone in comfort. She seems to become more fulfilled as she learns about and helps her friends, gaining a new kind of happiness and satisfaction from loving others and being loved in return.

Moral

Caring for others can be difficult at times, but it is surprisingly rewarding in itself.

Dragon Ball: That Time I Got Reincarnated as Yamcha

Spoiler Alert!

You’ve just finished school for the day and are now walking with your best friend to the UMJ. You barely got any sleep yesterday because you finally got first place at a tournament for Dragon Ball Z: Dokkan Battle, but never mind that! A new Dragon Ball attraction has just been set up at UMJ and you just can’t wait to try it out! Your friend tells you that he’s inviting a few others to come as well. Would girls come as well? Maybe not. Still, it’d be perfect if there was a girl out there who loved Dragon Ball as much as you do!

At a bridge walkway, your friend points to a girl walking along the street below. Isn’t her skirt too short?! Anyway, you can’t pass this up and rush down the stairs. Suddenly, you lose your footing and find yourself tumbling down the stairs…

The last thing you hear is the fading shouts of alarm from your friend as he tries to shake you awake…

And awake you do, only to find that the scenery around you is not your neighborhood, but a grassy plain with trees shaped like…mushrooms?

Where…are you?

You find a hand mirror in your pocket and hold it up to your face. You instantly recognize it from the Dragon Ball manga and anime…YAMCHA! How did this happen?! Is this like one of those stories where a hero dies and is reborn elsewhere? Why weren’t you reborn as Goku or Vegeta?!

You look around quickly and see some familiar people sleeping next to a tree: a naked boy with spiky black hair and a monkey’s tail, a small, cat-like animal and a beautiful teenage girl with blue hair.

It’s…Goku…Puar…and Bulma! Oh man…she’s even prettier in person!!

Now you remember this scene…it’s everyone sleeping just after their escape from Pilaf’s castle, which was reduced to rubble when Goku transformed into a giant Great Ape! When everyone wakes up, you play along in Yamcha’s role.

Eventually everyone decides to go their separate ways and you decide to go with Bulma to West City while Goku decides to go train under Master Roshi. You were about to board Bulma’s plane when a wave of despair suddenly hits you…isn’t Yamcha fated to die in battle against the Saibamen?

Dragon Ball: That Time I Got Reincarnated as Yamcha (ドラゴンボール外伝 転生したらヤムチャだった件,, Doragon Bōru Gaiden: Tensei-shitara Yamucha Datta Ken) is a short spin-off manga written and drawn by Dragon Garow Lee (ドラゴン画廊・リー) based on the original story by Akira Toriyama (鳥山 明, Toriyama Akira).

An average Japanese high school boy suddenly finds himself reborn as Yamcha, one of the early supporting characters now largely regarded as something of a joke in both the Dragon Ball story and in the real world. Armed with full knowledge of the story’s ongoing events, the new Yamcha decides to dedicate himself to martial training in order to prevent his fated, undignified death.

A year before the Saiyans Vegeta and Nappa arrive on Earth (the day of Yamcha’s death), Yamcha travels to the planet Namek to meet the Grand Elder Guru, the oldest Namekian. After reading his mind and learning about his true origins, Guru unlocks Yamcha’s hidden potential power and allows Nail, his bodyguard, to train with Yamcha. Six months later, Bulma tells Yamcha that the Saiyans will arrive tomorrow! Thinking fast, he gathers the Namekian Dragon Balls and makes a wish to be teleported immediately to Earth.

At the fateful battle, Yamcha is able to kill a Saibaman with ease and remain unharmed when the others clutch onto him and explode. He is even able to kill Nappa in battle without much problem and help Goku force Vegeta into retreating. Thanks to this, no one dies in fight against the Saiyans (in the original story, Chiaotzu, Tien and Piccolo were killed by Nappa).

Several years later, during the Cell Games, Yamcha confronts Chiaotzu alone at a deserted rocky valley. Having noticed Chiaotzu’s unusual behavior over the years, Yamcha realizes that this Chiaotzu must be another reincarnated person, like himself. Confronted over this, Chiaotzu reveals himself to have once been known online as Oushou and his intention to conquer the Dragon Ball universe. A fierce duel soon follows, which Yamcha nearly ends with the Evil Containment Wave technique. Suddenly remembering that “Oushou” was the online name of the Dokkan Battle champion, Yamcha ends the technique halfway and the two soon settle down after a long talk.

Elsewhere, Beerus is annoyed that his chosen champion ended the duel on the verge of victory. Champa declares the game a draw, but Beerus destroys the game board in a fit of pique. As the two Gods of Destruction bicker, Whis and Vados sigh; yet another game to settle their petty differences has gotten nowhere! With this, Whis returns the two reincarnated souls to whence they came…

Back in Japan, the boy wakes up at the foot of the walkway stairs, much to his friend’s relief. Seeing the girl in the short skirt ahead of him, the boy waves of his hand and a strong, sudden gust of wind lifts the skirt! He waves his hand again, but nothing happens. No…it couldn’t be…

Could it?

Main Characters

Most of the characters of this story are originally from the various official Dragon Ball manga and anime. Below are the two people whose souls came from modern-day Japan.

Yamcha (ヤムチャ, Yamucha), a martial artist and a former desert bandit. In his former life, he is your typical Japanese high school student and Dragon Ball fan who is trying to find a girlfriend. He lacks interest in his studies, but is determined and excited to change his life around as Yamcha. The boy uses his knowledge about Dragon Ball to become far stronger than the actual Yamcha by training under Master Roshi earlier in life, drinking the Ultra Divine Water (超神水, Chōshinsui) and going to the planet Namek before its existence becomes known to the others in the original story.

It’ll take more than Saibamen to finish me now!

Chiaotzu (餃子, Chaozu), a martial artist and Tien Shinhan’s best friend. On our Earth, he was once known as Oushou, the tournament champion of the mobile game Dragon Ball Z: Dokkan Battle. He was a top-grade student and a particularly avid Dragon Ball fan who loved to collect its merchandise and games. After dying countless times as Chiaotzu, Oushou was broken with despair and decided to use his power and knowledge in a selfish bid to become the ruler of the Dragon Ball universe until he was stopped by the similarly reincarnated Yamcha, who managed to fight him to a standstill and calm him down enough to talk.

Personal Thoughts

Having read and watched the first Dragon Ball story from the 1980s, I find Yamcha’s relegation to being the butt of jokes over the course of time to be quite sad. Starting out as a capable ally and friend of Goku, Yamcha has never been the same since his death at the hands of a Saibaman, which has become a meme in the manga and anime culture on our world! He lost out on a potential relationship with Bulma, whom he dated for years before Vegeta came to Earth, due to a combination of his womanizing ways and the ever-growing power of the threats that came to Earth. He eventually gave up martial arts full-time and used his talents for sports, becoming a moderately successful baseball player. It’s as though Yamcha has lost the confidence of his younger years and never truly recovered unlike Krillin or Tien Shinhan.

To me, this spin-off story is a lesson of how a meme is just that – a meme. Getting affected by it is a choice. A reincarnated boy was able to single-handedly turn his life around as Yamcha by gaining power through hard work and determination, though knowing about his own death might have helped! Despite knowing he is still far short of the likes of Frieza, Cell and Majin Buu, the new Yamcha is able to retain his pride as a warrior by defeating the Saibamen who would have killed him.

It’s just heartening to see two discredited Dragon Ball characters get their due respect, since both are good people at heart who deserve no ridicule.

Moral

If you don’t like something in your life now, you can change it. Only you can determine your own life.

My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!

Spoiler Alert!

You were just chasing your crush, Prince Gerald, when you suddenly tripped and hit your head on the pavement. A sharp pain and a flood of memories fill your mind…

In these memories, you’re a fairly typical 17-year old high school girl in modern-day Japan with a sweet tooth and an unusual talent for climbing trees. Lately, you’ve spent several long nights playing the otome game (a story-based, romance video game) Fortune Lover. Your best friend Atsuko has already played through all four of the game’s possible romance targets and you both enjoy discussing the game’s cast and in-story events after class. You remember your mother waking you up after yet another long night of playing Fortune Lover, getting dressed for school, riding your bicycle, the sound of screeching, a…crash…pain…dark…ness…

Was this your life from…before? Who…are…you…?

Waking up, you find yourself in your room in bed and see a concerned Prince Gerald sitting next to you. He tells you that he’s sorry causing the scar on your forehead. As you tell him that it’s alright and that you’re sorry for causing everyone to worry, you realize that something’s wrong! As the only daughter of a duke, you’ve been spoiled and arrogant all your life! With the return of your previous life’s memories, you just can’t bring yourself to be so selfish now.

As you contemplate this, you see Gerald leaving. How long were you lost in your own thoughts? Your maid Anne joyfully tells you that Gerald has just promised to be engaged to you in apology for your accident and your scar. Isn’t 8 years old too early for an engagement?

You look at yourself in the mirror and notice that you’re more beautiful than you were in your previous life. Your upwards-slanting eyebrows make your face a little intimidating, just like that of a villainess in an otome game. Villainess, huh? In Fortune Lover, Prince Gerald had been engaged to a villainess since childhood. Sigh, that woman was so much trouble…huh? Engaged since childhood? Wasn’t her name Duchess Katarina Claes? Isn’t that…YOUR NAME?! You think back to Katarina’s profile in Fortune Lover and there’s no doubt it…YOU’RE the villainess!

My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! (乙女ゲームの破滅フラグしかない悪役令嬢に転生してしまった…, Otome Gēmu no Hametsu Furagu Shika Nai Akuyaku Reijō ni Tensei Shiteshimatta…, lit. I Reincarnated into an Otome Game as a Villainess With Only Destruction Flags…) is a light novel series, manga and anime written by Satoru Yamaguchi (山口悟, Yamaguchi Satoru).

In a certain country ruled by a European-style monarchy, there is a Magic School where all those with the talent for magic must go at age 15 and attend classes for two years. In the story of Fortune Lover, the player must choose a potential romance target (Gerald, Keith, Alan or Nicole) at the School and win that man’s heart within two years’ time, at which point the player confesses her feelings during the graduation party. For each romance target, the player will encounter a rival character and get to either a good ending (marriage) or a bad ending (unrealized love).

A plot twist before the story even begins!

Upon remembering this, Katarina also remembers that, as a jealous rival character, she is destined for either exile or death. She decides to take up gardening as a fallback in case of exile and spends more effort at improving her swordsmanship and magic skills. She also befriends other characters from the game to lessen the chance of a bad ending. Katarina’s efforts end up working a little too well and result in all four of the romance targets falling in love her. Even the other rival characters and Maria Campbell, the player character of the game, end up seeing her as their most beloved friend. Blissfully ignorant of all this, Katarina remains ever vigilant for her potentially bleak future…

In an alternate version of this story, My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!…On the Verge of Doom! (乙女ゲームの破滅フラグ スピンオフ…絶体絶命!破滅寸前編, Otome Game no Hametsu Flag shika nai Akuyaku Reijou ni Tensei shite shimatta… Zettai Zetsumei! Hametsu Sunzen Hen), the 15-year old Katarina Claes hits her head and regains her past-life memories after slipping on one of Maria’s cupcakes. The problem here is that she only has a year until her destined exile or death!

Mary Hunt at 8 years old

Main Characters

Katarina Claes, the only daughter of Duke Claes and Prince Gerald’s fiancée. In the Fortune Lover game, Katarina was a haughty, spoiled noblewoman obsessed with her fiancé Prince Gerald, which led her to bully the Fortune Lover protagonist, Maria Campbell. As a reincarnated modern-day girl from Japan, Katarina is now a friendly, easygoing and somewhat eccentric girl. She makes friends with the rest of the cast of Fortune Lover and, in turn, they all develop romantic feelings for her. Unaware of this, Katarina is determined to avoid the exile or death foretold for her character in the game. Whenever she thinks about how to avoid her bad endings, Katarina’s thoughts take the form of a council that discusses possible solutions.

Gerald Stuart, the third prince of the Kingdom. He is extremely talented at almost everything he does without even trying, from magic to gardening. Because of this, Gerald was often bored with life. He sees Katarina’s friendly eccentricity as a refreshing ray of light, allowing him to feel true happiness. Gerald is somewhat possessive of Katarina and uses their engagement to try to keep others away from her, to no avail. His one known weakness is his fear of snakes.

Keith Claes, Katarina’s younger stepbrother. The son of a cousin of the Claes family and a prostitute, Keith was taken in by Duke Claes after an incident in which he accidentally injured several of his siblings with a conjured earth golem. Possessing an exceptional talent for earth magic at a young age, he restrains himself to prevent his magic from hurting others, believing himself to be a monster. Katarina becomes close to him and he grows into a mature, considerate gentleman.

Alan Stuart, Gerald’s younger twin brother and the fourth prince of the Kingdom. As a toddler, he was sickly and got more attention than usual from his family, becoming somewhat spoiled afterwards. People often compared Alan to his talented brother Gerald, resulting in him becoming rather competitive. When Katarina tells him that he’s fine as he is and encourages him to find his own talents (in his case, music), Alan is eventually able to grow out of his inferiority complex.

Nicole Ascart, the son of the Prime Minister and a childhood friend of Gerald and Alan. Despite being happy with his family, Nicole was often pitied by others who saw his sister Sophia as cursed. As a result, he grew frustrated with people outside his family and developed something of a sister complex. When Katarina expressed her genuine liking of Sophia as a person and a friend, Nicole also learned to be at ease with her.

Seated: Katarina; From left to right: Alan, Keith, Gerald, Nicole.

Mary Hunt, the youngest of Duke Hunt’s four daughters and Prince Alan’s fiancée. As the only child of her father’s now-deceased second wife, Mary was sometimes bullied by her older half-sisters during her early years. She has a talent for caring for plants, leading Katarina and Alan to comment that she has “green fingers”. Growing close to Katarina over their shared interest in gardening, Mary has strong romantic feelings for Katarina and tends to get jealous when others get close to her.  

Sophia Ascart, Nicole’s younger sister. Born with white hair and eyes with crimson irises, Sophia was considered cursed by most people. Because of this, she trusted only her own family, especially her brother Nicole. Katarina becomes the first person she trusts apart from family because she was not put off by her unusual appearance. Although she doesn’t realize it, Sophia is the reincarnation of Atsuko, Katarina’s best friend in Japan. Unlike Katarina, Sophia’s memories as Atsuko only occur as vague dreams.

Maria Campbell, the original protagonist of the Fortune Lover otome game. Hardworking, humble and considerate, Maria is a top-notch student who enjoys baking sweets in her spare time. As a commoner born with the rare ability to use light magic, Maria is the first non-aristocrat to attend the Magic School in over 10 years. Because most magicians are nobles, Maria’s father suspected her mother of being unfaithful and left the family. Maria’s childhood friends distanced themselves from her and even her own mother avoided her. At the Magic School, she was bullied by several noble ladies for her commoner background. After Katarina and the others befriend her, Maria’s relationship with her mother improves.

Even the girls want her!

Personal Thoughts

In the isekai genre, a girl reincarnating as a story’s supposed villainess isn’t an unusual occurrence. Being familiar with the story’s outcome, they do whatever they can to prevent the unpleasant fate in store for their characters. In Katarina’s case, she basically became the new heroine of the Fortune Lover story by reaching out to the cast before the player character can do so. As a result, these people become better adjusted and more confident earlier in life, along with the bonus of them becoming Katarina’s intimate childhood friends. The player character Maria Campbell wasn’t without her own issues either and became close to Katarina after she protected her from bullies.

In the original Fortune Lover story, Katarina was a spoiled brat who bullied the player character mercilessly. As a result, she had no real friends and no one really missed her when she was either exiled or killed, not even her stepbrother Keith. While neither particularly smart nor talented at magic, the new Katarina was able to win over others through friendship and encouraging their particular strengths. To me, this is an example of how kindness can improve people’s outlook, when it is both given and received. It’s a case of reaping what you sow: cruelty for cruelty and kindness for kindness.

Moral

A little kindness can go a long way.