Book Review: Muscles are Better Than Magic! by DORANEKO (Volume One)

Title: Muscles are Better Than Magic! (Volume One)
Author: DORANEKO, Relucy (illustrations)
Released: January 05, 2021 (paperback)
Series: Muscles are Better Than Magic!
Rating: ★★★★☆

Description: A comedic fantasy romp where one man’s amazing muscles overcome every magical challenge — and don’t miss the manga, also from Seven Seas!

For ten years, Yuri has lived alone in the forest, training his muscles day and night to hone his body into the ultimate fighting machine. But when the beautiful elf Filia stumbles upon his home, she begs him to help her escape the forest. There’s just one problem: Yuri’s never left the woods, and besides, this odd couple can’t seem to agree on anything. It’s the beginning of a wacky journey through strange lands and stranger adventures!

Please keep in mind that this review contains spoilers for the entire book. Read with caution. If you click on the “Read More”, it is under the assumption you either don’t care about spoilers, you’ve already read the book, or you’ve read the manga.

On the surface, this book is pretty simple and relies very heavily on the singular joke that Yuri doesn’t “need” magic because he’s so strong, magic will literally bounce off of him the majority of the time. And he has a constant need of becoming stronger and to fight more. And that no one appreciates muscles as much as he is.

Though, still, there’s something charming about this book. This book takes the perspective of Yuri (and rarely of Filia, his eventual companion) so you can literally see the rationalizations he makes when it comes to “strength”.

But here’s the question: is it funny? Well, yeah. It’s funny in parts with his thoughts, the telepathy antics between him and Filia, and it’s funny in the spoken dialogue between the two. It didn’t make me laugh out loud but I think what charmed me the most was the interactions between Filia and Yuri. They’re really cute even when Yuri’s oblivious to the fact that he’s falling for her and Filia falling for him.

However, that’s only when it’s not being over the top. Maybe it’s because it’s the first volume, but the trope of the overconfident girl gets annoying fast for me because while it’s good to have it once in a while, or at least once a chapter, it seemed to happen multiple times per chapter. I get that it’s part of her character, but it did get really annoying and I can absolutely see people wouldn’t want to deal with that.

Either way, there are some oddities in the translated version that popped to me in both bad and good ways. There are some memes present in there (“Weird flex, but okay” is one example) and some of it, in context does make sense. And then there are times where it gives me a bit of whiplash. Since this clearly a medieval fantasy, the whiplash was even stronger. After a while, I even started to question what was from the original script (meaning, if there was actually slang/memes in the first place) because it really started to take me out. Did they make Yuri more than what he was or did they have to dim it down?

And yet, somehow, in spite of all that, it was still really enjoyable. It’s charming and it took out a lot of the ‘boring’ parts of the usual tropes and focused entirely on what happens with Yuri and Filia – and that’s all I really ask for when it comes to these things. Like, I’m not a fan of battle tournament arcs, but thankfully it lasted for a few chapters if that. They do introduce other side characters, but while some of them are essentially caricatures (especially Babandogas), it just worked for me. The characters are charming and if their tropes were toned down a bit. I can’t rate it lower than a four because I enjoyed it so much and yeah, there were things that stood out to me in a bad way but the good outweigh the bad for me.

Granted, this is the first volume so it’s likely the joke will be stretched and there seemed to be hints of a plot to come in the future. Hopefully, the writing would be improved and a lot of the kinks are worked out. Other than that, I would only recommend this if you’re willing to open your mind for a joke long enough to enjoy a growing relationship between a musclehead and an elf.

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About Lily

A fujoshi who won't shut up about anime, manga, video games, BJDs, nendoroids, and anime conventions. She apparently can't stop writing either.

Posted on May 18, 2021, in ★★★★☆ – 4 Stars, Book Reviews, Light Novels, Muscles are Better Than Magic! and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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