It was inspired by a joke in a podcast
I mentioned this in the end-notes too, because while I take full responsibility for everything in this book, I also feel weird taking credit for the concept. So: The ChattyAF podcast, produced by AnimeFeminist.com, occasionally releases a watch-along string of episodes where a panel of reviewers watches an older anime and discusses it. Some of the panelists have seen the show before, and some are new to it. In this case, the panel was watching Kare Kano a.k.a. His and Her Circumstances, the high school romantic comedy from the director of Evangelion. I wouldn’t put Kare Kano in my top ten, but I’d watched it and enjoyed most of it — it was one of the first series I watched with my now-spouse — so I looked forward to the commentary.
In the discussion about the middle section of the series, the panelists talked about the fact that holy crap ARIMA NEEDS THERAPY. And in this story, he never gets it. Basically no anime/manga characters ever do. Because few media depicts that at all, and there are plenty of factors related to culture and the era as well; one could get into the entire history of how mental health is viewed in Japan, but I am honestly not equipped to give even a brief summary. The point is, so many angsty characters out there could use some therapy. One of the hosts joked that someone ought to write a light novel called I Became a Therapist in Another World.
It sat in the corner of my brain. It grew. It snowballed. I started jotting down notes. I outlined the beginning up through the first demon encounter. And I started writing.
When the first draft was done, I asked if it was okay to do *waves vaguely* any of this, and a representative of the AF team said it was okay. So here we are.
In addition to the general background soup of isekai tropes, there were a few particular influences/homages:
– Kiki’s Delivery Service
Only with adults, and not remotely as masterful — it’s an influence, not a comparison! But “generalized Ghibli vibes” are where we got things like the plucky, upbeat heroine, the vaguely annoyed mentor figure in the forest, the little dragon in the marketplace and the true nature of sylvan dragons, the talking animals, and the town in general.
– Princess Tutu
The source of “magic power where you create a pocket universe to talk the threat out of being a threat.” Except in that series she’s also dancing them out of it. And she’s a magical girl who’s really a duck. It’s awesome, watch it if you haven’t yet. And honestly, also the moments where Lavender stares out her attic window. Those moments are very Fairy Tale Princess generally, but they’re also very Ahiru specifically.
– My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!
Francesca’s entire existence is an homage to this series and its influences and imitators. Though in retrospect, I’m not sure Francesca is a villainess exactly. She may just be an otome game heroine. We’d have to get into her story in more detail to know for sure.
Her save scumming powers are definitely an homage to otome games / dating sims. Though of course I made it weird and sad.
Her entourage aren’t direct clones of the entourage in that series, though. I just wanted a matched set of men and women from each of the humanoid fantasy races in the story (elves, orcs, humans), because that seemed like an otome-game thing to do. If they seem like a blur, that’s fine. I only really wanted to pull Greta out from the pack, to touch on the yandere trope.
– And one smaller moment: The climax of Lavender’s last showdown is an absolutely shameless A Wizard of Earthsea homage.
Half of the names came from it, because I was aiming for “tropey.” Big help. Some others (like Francesca and Greta) came from an old random-name-generators app on my phone whose internet trail seems to have evaporated, but hey, I still find it useful.
Cat’s Earth friends’ names were grabbed right out of my head, for once. Except Serana, which is an obvious homage to Skyrim. And I would like to formally apologize to all nonbinary people with nature names — you’re great, I’m sorry I slightly made fun of the Mosses. I took on the name as a pen name mostly as penance/solidarity and partly because it sounded cool. I’m Medium Moss, I guess. Plus, the other two nature names are my favorite side characters, Hazel and Morel.
Finally, Sir Solan is a joke to myself. The AnimeFeminist reviews often refer to dull isekai heroes as “Potato-kun” (which is slander against potatoes, but okay, moving on). Solanum tuberosum is the scientific name for the common potato.
Just by vibes, pretty much.
Headcanon OP – “I Need Help!” by Fitz and the Tantrums
“If I Had a Heart” by Fever Ray
(This was my tone-setting song for the first demon battle. I wanted to hit the “creepy elements incoming” button early.)
“Time Machine” by Robyn
“Wonderful Life” by Two Door Cinema Club
“Up All Night” by Beck
“Seize the Power” by YONAKA
(my tone-setting song for the last demon battle)
Headcanon ED – “All the Feels” by Fitz and the Tantrums
Most of the time, my actual writing music was the Slime Rancher soundtrack. It hit a good “chill, sometimes action-y” spot.