Figuring out The Princess of Convenient Plot Devices can be an experience, given how much of this volume is about figuring things out. The isekai genre and its angles of reincarnation have come so far these days that increasingly granular takes on the subject are inevitable as more and more authors take it on in conceptual feedback loops. And so one point we arrive at is the Convenient Princess, an isekai story that aims specifically at fujoshi culture, boys-love fantasy writings, and falling into the hole of considering logistics in the broader world spun out of that.
The jumping-off point for Convenient Princess is the idea that “Being reincarnated into your favorite media might suck, actually.” But here, it’s not coming at that with an intent to deploy any particularly dark deconstructions or swerves (at least, not yet) and is more about the plain inconveniences that would arise trying to directly navigate a world as someone who was initially set up only to consume said media. Sure, a world full of hot dudes constantly making out is fun for a fujoshi like Octavia to take in a lot of the time. However, when she’s trying to live a life on her own terms apart from observant recreation or getting her own companionship needs met as an ostensibly straight woman, the setup is far less convenient. She’s reincarnated into the role of a character who was herself a convenient plot device for the married men within the story. She only now realizes that none of the writing ever considered what she wanted.
From the start, there’s a potential minefield to Convenient Princess’ story structure. Early on, I could feel it veering into a depiction of boys-love fetishizing women who otherwise internalize homophobia in real-life society (or as ‘real-life’ as the manifested fantasy world in which Octavia now exists would be, anyway). Thankfully, the book seems to turn away from that just as quickly. Octavia still wishes her brother and his boyfriend the best. She never seems like she’s going to try to “correct” potential suitors like her bodyguard Klifford, whom she assumes is gay like nearly everyone else. This isn’t on the level of something like My Secret Affection (the “gay meteorite” manga), where it’s concocting a situation to depict heterosexuality as some oppressed minority class. Instead, Octavia’s frustrations are borne out of sheer inconvenience. The world isn’t set up to contend with the wants and desires of someone like her beyond letting her act as a baby factory for the gay couple ‘main’ characters.
What that all means is that Convenient Princess is effectively a case of taking the kinds of escapist fluff you aren’t supposed to think more than five minutes about, then thinking about it for more than five minutes. In that respect, it can be rather fun without feeling too mean-spirited. Octavia’s aggravations play out in a way that feels believable for someone who would be conflicted about getting to internally enjoy their favorite media while also dealing with all the annoyances of having to live in it. And there’s some appreciably-implemented tension already palpable between her and bodyguard Klifford, even as said tension is lacking in actual acts driving it.
That lack of real action, or anything occurring, will probably be the most significant point of contention for Convenient Princess, even beyond the awkward genre genesis. The point of this plot is, for now, little more than an overwrought setting and setup-based thought experiments. Most of the advancement of story elements comes from characters sitting or standing in rooms with each other discussing plot points that either Octavia or the characters from the books already know of or reiterating how they currently feel about particular characters (mostly Klifford). It can get circularly tiresome, especially when you realize that Octavia’s whole fake-boyfriend scheme, technically a funny idea for a driving plot, still needs to have the potential candidate for such a plan make an on-page appearance. Similarly, dozens of pages are spent on Octavia’s brother reiterating his suspicions of her court-intrigue efforts without Octavia’s presence to liven things up.
That’s frustrating because while that stuff has little to do with Octavia’s internal issues, which are this book’s main draw, it still comes off as integral. But it mostly reads as a long-winded setup for the overall plot. We can see some indications of where this is all going, the idea that Octavia’s efforts at simply living her best life in a world that wasn’t constructed to contend with those desires is inadvertently pushing her into a role as its “villainess.” And from there, we can extrapolate to further layers of Convenient Princess‘s commentary and the indication that this BL universe might operate on the supposition that “Woman=Evil,” which would not be an outside read for such a story. It’s there, but as a story concept seemingly based on overthinking itself, it is asking the reader to do their own level of overthinking past the pages of talking-head exposition it’s throwing out to line up all these dominos.
Other plot elements are similarly extant for now. It’s not long before Convenient Princess throws out surreptitious magical systems, inter-royalty assassination intrigue, and polyamory-based political factions. All fair play for something that sold itself to us with “Convenient Plot Devices” right there in the title. But the fact remains that there’s little done with these at the beginning beyond having Octavia react to it all, and that’s only when she’s around to be aware of any of it. Octavia’s reactions can be plenty funny, mind. This manga’s getting great mileage out of the disparity between her “internal” and “external” reactions, primarily as she can still barely suppress her fujoshi impulses even when they’re making things difficult for her. The art is attractive and evocative in communicating the kinds of crazy facial expressions that accompany those antics. Plus, there are plentiful backgrounds and even some dynamic implementation of what little action occurs here. The translation also seems strong, with special attention paid to differentiating character voices, particularly between the two sides of Octavia, which is the most crucial part of getting the whole script of this thing to work.
For now, it all means that The Princess of Convenient Plot Devices is the sort of thing where what you get out of it comes from how much you’re willing to put into it. It’s pointedly about a story setting that’s logistically confusing and frustrating, so engaging with it on its terms will naturally be confusing and frustrating. However, the writing feels like it’s coming from a place that knows that contemplating that sort of thing can be fun. But I can see how, beyond the self-assigned thought-experiment angle, there’s not much going on in this first volume.
Pretentious weirdo that I am, it came off as interesting in terms of setup. But even if its possibilities pique your curiosity, know that it’s mostly going to be communicated by characters talking in circles about which other characters they do or don’t trust. It’s not going to scratch any isekai wish-fulfillment itch, but its subversions are also more of a slow-build intrigue nature. The best recommendation for this one is that if you’re the type that enjoys jokingly overthinking and extrapolating the technicalities of isekai plots, you’ll probably appreciate what it’s doing. Anybody else, maybe check back in a few volumes to see where (if anywhere) this wound up going.
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