Books: A Lily Blooms in Another World
July 8, 2022 · 0 comments
By Shelley Pallis.
In a refreshing change from all those light novels that begin with someone dying, Ameko Kaeruda’s A Lily Blooms in Another World has something different. On her nineteenth birthday, the sunny, auburn-haired lady Miyako Florence is summoned to a meeting with her betrothed, the wealthy nobleman Klaus Reinhardt, who curtly informs her that he has decided to break off their engagement.
She thanks him politely and leaves – their statuses being so incongruous that she should count herself lucky he considered marrying her in the first place. She doesn’t even ask him why, but we zoom in on her as her carriage pulls away, shaking unexpectedly with relief and victory. She has done it, she quietly exalts, she has got the idiot to call the wedding off!
This, it turns out, is a victory, because Miyako is… oh, here we go… Miyako is dead. Miyako is a woman from Japan who died recently and woke up to find herself magically reincarnated in the middle of her favourite otome game, Drop Fantasia. Miyako’s life as a Japanese wage-slave was so miserable that she veritably welcomes the change to be a teenage girl again, particularly in an environment that Miyako has already played out in multiple directions. Now she can live the perfect life, because she knows where all the strands of destiny are headed.
And she is determined to break the game, because she is not interested in any of the bland lordlings she is supposed to woo and snog. She always much preferred Fuuka Hamilton, the imperious villainess, and now she is going to win her heart.
Well, that escalated quickly. The clue was in the title all along – a lily (yuri) is Japanese slang for a lesbian attraction, so it should come as no surprise that Kaeruda (the author of the rather awesome D&D pastiche Sexiled) should have a go at an all-girl romance with a gamified isekai angle. Since she knows the ins and outs of the game, Miyako is fully aware that Fuuka was never a “villainess” at all, just Klaus’s jilted former sweetheart, driven to embittered revenge when he dropped her for Miyako. In other words, the conflict between the women was an entirely artificial enmity, which only existed in the first place because of the Heteronormative Patriarchy. She doesn’t quite say it in those terms, but that’s where we are heading.
Drop Fantasia sounds like fangirl catnip, a made-up game that crashes Downton Abbey into Pride & Prejudice, as covens of refined ladies compete to become the most likely package of accomplishments and character traits to marry well. But we soon leave all that behind, as our two newly lesbian lovers go on the run, to the countryside, where Fuuka starts to have second thoughts. Sleeping with a woman is one thing, but living in the country is another (ugh!), and Fuuka expresses her doubts that she will ever get used to the simpler life. Miyako pleads with her to give her two weeks to change her mind.
A Lily Blooms in Another World keeps the reader guessing all along, because the nature of the jeopardy keeps shifting. Sometimes it’s just about getting through a day in the countryside without pulling a muscle or stepping in a bear trap. Sometimes it’s about Miyako’s subtle efforts to persuade Fuuka to stop yearning for the newly-available Klaus, and to see Miyako for the really good deal that she is. And sometimes it’s about the Forces of Heteronormative Patriarchy, dashing out to the countryside in various efforts to convince these two silly young fillies that they should stop playing house in a forest and come back to the big city to be proper brides for a real man.
On the way, there’s mermaids, a plague, a transforming cat, and a tale of two souls finding love in each other’s hearts regardless of their gender or orientation, despite the assembly of multiple forces to prise them apart. If the world-building is a little bit blasé, with fantasy kingdom place-names that are blatantly nothing but everyday Japan anagrammatised, then we could always blame it on the lack of imagination of the game’s original designers. In an afterword, Kaeruda herself fumes about the lack of imagination in so many games she played as a young woman, noting that it seemed obvious to her that the heroine and the villainess would so often get along like a house on fire if only all the stupid men weren’t trying to distract them.
A Lily Blooms in Another World is published by J-Novel Club and available in the UK from Anime Limited.