The Ephemeral Scenes of Setsuna’s Journey 1+2: In Review



Well, the time has come to finally accept reality. The website is all but complete, and something had to be first. So, what better than a book who’s most recent volume was release 3 months ago at this point? Rather than babbling on this review should be a review, and so I’ve decided to bundle the first and second volume together to make this review a little more complete within the scope of this website.

Moving forward towards the review, to get to the core of Setsuna’s Journey first, I think the best place to begin is with a definition of the work:

“Latent Potential”

It’s a very vague explanation, but allow me to explain. The world that Sestuna exists in is nothing special, truly. It is something that has been done to death in an innumerable amount of formats, and well and truly requires ability to succeed within. Now, while the idea of ability is largely the core topic of this review, the piece that forms the foundation of that argument- in both directions- is time.

The world that Setsuna comes to inhabit is old, so much so that it’s beyond belief within the context of typical isekai. Age is something that is very rarely touched upon because with it comes that terrible challenge of chronology. Though, deeply daring as it is for a first time author, Rokusyou chooses to tread fearlessly down that linear path and very much succeeds within these first two volumes of their story.

Kingdoms ebb and flow, the scale of time is surprisingly effortlessly illustrated by the variance in age between the cast of characters, and they pull off arguably the most comical instance of romance with characters that are thousands of years old. I’d love to divulge that information, but it’s (unfortunately, within the context of this review) very large spoilers for content in more than just a few ways.

Regardless, the point stands that Rokusyou is aware of what makes a world interesting and engaging, and awareness shapes this story to an impressive degree. Being centered around a journey of self-discovery means two things must be present within the story: characters that challenge the protagonist to develop and grow, and a world that encourages that growth. When one is without the other, they fall flat. The duo are entangled in a symbiotic relationship that is meant to create a feedback loop to either raise up or tear down a character, and without it the idea of value and agency is replaced with a feeling of convenience. Characters that exist without context in their world feel too easy, while a world without characters to drive it feels empty. This harmony is stricken incredibly well within Setsuna, and combines with the purpose of the young man’s journey.

To pivot wildly towards an anecdote- I was deeply disappointed in my experience with In The Land of Leadale. A terminally ill person whisked away to a world where they’re capable of anything is something I’ve always been drawn to, but ultimately was let down by with Leadale’s rendition. Conversely, Setsuna’s Journey very much exceeded my expectations in that regard. Both world and character combine to become a loving embrace for Setsuna as he explores a life that is truly his own. And Rokusyou works incredibly hard to drive that point home to the viewer through the characters and their unique perspectives. Each new face that Setsuna meets in this world of his forms a lasting relationship with him. An older brother to look up to, a father that struggles to make ends meet, a younger brother that comes attached with a father whom Setsuna looks up to, a surrogate mother, and many many more characters.

Setsuna’s Journey within the first volume should, for all intents and purposes, be considered a prologue because of that notion.

More than it is Setsuna’s journey as an individual, it is Setsuna’s journey in becoming a man, in seeing the world and understanding it with his own eyes. I could compose some sort of metaphor to explain my understanding, but I think the easiest comparison to make is that it is a journey of Setsuna’s rebirth, and is meant to set the stage for his journey in proper. Of course, that journey begins within the second volume, and the concepts that Rokusyou tackles within it are both entirely different and completely complementary to the efforts displayed in the first volume. Where Setsuna was handed emotions and experience, he’s forced to search them out and understand them on his own in the second volume. The idea of a hand to hold fades away as he makes out for a life truly of his own. And I really, really love it as a story in that regard.

Of course, that love is not unconditional, nor is the description of “latent potential”. With both come caveats, and while none could be considered deal breakers, they provide more context in relation to Rokusyou’s abilities, and the ceiling of potential that exists with this story.

So, let’s rewind the hands of the clock and return to the concept of time that I touched on earlier. Yes, it remains a foundational aspect of the story in more than a few areas, that part does not waver. What does, however, is Rokusyou’s confidence in pace. Of course, in a story that has thousands of years behind itself, you can’t quite afford to dilly-dally here and there, but that’s not quite my point. Rokusyou does great with the pacing of the story, but I think it’s hard to deny the idea that it moves too quickly- both within plot progression and the overall chronology of this world. A world and story such as this one is meant to be savored, and Rokusyou certainly doesn’t deny the reader that right in larger sequences. The challenge becomes the smaller spaces that wriggle into the gaps within the narrative. They’re deeply enjoyable, but also oddly underrepresented within the material.

Before I get to giving an example though, I’d like to provide further context by airing out a different gripe, this time focused at characters. Rokusyou opts for shifting perspectives, as I mentioned earlier. Quite often you will find sections written from the perspectives of the tertiary characters to Setsuna’s travels. Ultimately, I think the story is richer for their inclusion, but I think Rokusyou is a little too willing to use them. A fresh perspective is great for helping the reader understand an interaction, or to provide more unique information within the context of the world, but it needs to be used sparingly. Providing shifting perspectives with every twist and turn desensitizes the reader to thinking things out on their own. Hands end up being held, and the value of certain sequences can wane- both due to providing explicit answers, but also by reliving those moments.

Both of these issues appear in varying capacities throughout the first two volumes, but the most egregious instances are actually when both appear at the same time. Perspective, at times, can be used to re-experience events (from the reader’s perspective). It can prove confusing and disorienting, and has seldom added value to the work at large.

Being brutally honest, it is by far the worst aspect of the series up until this point, and is the perfect example for the inexperience that Rokusyou wields despite their impressive talent. Rokusyou’s work screams of insecurity, like many works within animanga do. They fear the inability to provide readers with a story that they can digest, and in the process artificially limit the potential of both author and work. Obviously, this sort of issue is a shame, and is the biggest Achilles Heel that I feel is worthwhile pointing out with the series. Of course, you have rough naming senses and the usual that will appear within these stories, but they’re hardly what you might consider detrimental.

Faults and all however, The Ephemeral Scenes of Setsuna’s Journey remains a deeply satisfying read.

A master painter does not become a master overnight. Evidently, they do not appear entirely talent-less or incapable, either. Rokusyou, like many light novel authors these days, finds themselves square in the crosshairs of an inexperienced author that has the makings of something far greater. I have high hopes that they will continue to find ways to grow and improve as a storyteller, but even within their infantile stages in relation to literature, they show that they have a fundamental aptitude for the work, and have exercised that ability to hook me on their story. I think Setsuna’s Journey through its first two volumes has stood head and shoulders above a mountain of licensed novels we have in English, so I really do hope that more will pick this series up and appreciate the effort that was put into its creation.

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