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Literature / Tsun-Tsun TzimTzum

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The series in a nutshell: cleavage and Cool Swords.

Noah Kilmartin is no hero. He's so unheroic that he's been pining for his childhood friend Emma all his life, and when he finally works up the nerve to tell her about it it's just as she's about to get on the bus to leave town forever, and she pityingly rejects him.

And then things get weird. Some sort of vessel crashes into the bus stop, Emma is knocked unconscious, and a wolf-monster appears and attacks them. Noah picks up a sword from inside the craft and, more by luck than skill, manages to kill the creature. And then there's a flash of light and he's suddenly standing in a hall full of people wearing weird clothing and telling him that he's the universe's last hope against the evil goddess Lilith.

Now he has to pass five grueling tests to prove his worth, as well as choose five women to serve as his lovers and companions on a quest down through the Tree of Life to defeat Lilith and save the cosmos. Noah is certain that he can't do it - and it doesn't help that everyone around him, including Emma, seem to agree.


Tsun-Tsun TzimTzum is a series of novels by Mike Truk. Of the two parts of the title, "tsun-tsun" is a character type common in Harem Anime, while tzimtzum is a concept from Kabbalah, making the two main inspirations for the story very clear (once you google one or both of the terms, that is). The first book, The Five Trials, was published in 2018.

This work contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Amazonian Beauty: Valeria is tall, burly and absolutely stunning.
  • An Axe to Grind: Valeria's weapon of choice.
  • Arc Number: Five. Five companions for a Chosen One, five Trials for them to go through, five personal qualities that can be objectively measured by magic.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: Brielle is an excellent warrior and spell-caster, and entirely too aware of it. Subverted in that her arrogance is actually her real power, as it allows her to browbeat and intimidate her way past challenges that she couldn't have fought her way past.
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  • Battle Harem: Every Chosen must assemble one of these, selecting five powerful companions to accompany them on their quest. They must also have sex with each companion to form a life-affirming magical bond that lets them share each other's power. Though it turns out that it's not so much that they "must" as that it's better in almost every way if they do - Neveah refuses to sleep with Noah, but he still takes her as a companion since even without the bond he thinks her skills and strength will be invaluable.
  • BFS: Neveah wields a five-foot-long monstrosity of a sword, which is infused with dark magic to boot.
  • Black Magic: Hexen magic is drawn from Lilith and inevitably brings The Corruption for anyone who uses it. It turns out that that's not quite true: you can use it without being corrupted, but it requires a dangerous balancing act and careful self-control.
  • Breast Plate: A mild example, but Valeria and Brielle are both described as wearing "form-fitting" flexible armour that allows Noah to tell what their figures look like beneath it.
  • Broken Ace:
    • Implied with Valeria. She seems confident and stoical most of the time, and she's a supremely capable fighter, but there are hints that she suffers from a crippling lack of self-worth and that there is something in her past that she doesn't want to talk about - and since the parts she is willing to talk about involve fighting a Hopeless War against Lilith's forces where she lost her companions one by one until she was the only one left, it's likely to be a doozy.
    • Neveah is even more of an ace and also even more broken. She was the greatest warrior and the greatest mage among the Aspirants before leaving as the companion of a previous Chosen One, but something happened to her out among the spheres that left her with memory loss and the mark of corruption on her - and after returning to Bastion (which required her to cut her way through the massive army of demons besieging the place), she was put through six months of imprisonment and torture. At the time of the story, it's implied that she's holding herself together through sheer Heroic Willpower.
  • Brutal Honesty: Valeria is prone to it, which serves to make Noah's first hours as Chosen even more disspiriting.
    Noah: You don't really want to do this, do you. You're just doing this because you want to help save the universe.
    Valeria: Of course. Why else would I want to fuck you?
  • Charm Person: Imogen is skilled in a discipline called psyche-imperium, which allows a certain amount of control over other people's minds.
  • The Chosen Many: Noah is only the last in a long line of Chosen. All the previous ones failed at stopping Lilith, so now it's up to him.
  • Christmas Cake: Noah notes that Queen Shalarra is quite the Amazonian Beauty despite being in her forties.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Noah and his companions is subject to a harrowing session of it at the hands of the corrupt Bastion leadership. Though that's nothing compared to Neveah, who's endured months of the same treatment.
  • Cool Sword: As the Chosen, Noah gets to wield Shard, a sword so cool that it almost makes up for the fact that he's got absolutely no idea how to use it. Neveah's five-foot-long blade that can be summoned to her hand with a shout and which cuts through Hexen magic is pretty sweet too, and so's Brielle's Flaming Sword.
  • The Corruptible:
    • The fourth trial makes Noah realise that he's got a dark side he wasn't aware of and that this is something Lilith could use against him. It's a large part of the reason why he takes Emma as his fifth companion. Bastion is full of women who are better fighters, but no one who's more qualified to help him keep his moral compass.
    • The prophesies Shalarra makes at the end of the first book shows that Valeria and Emma are also both fated to make a choice between serving and opposing Lilith, with no guarantees for what either of them will choose.
  • The Corruption: Lilith spreads a spiritual corruption that gradually turns good into bad. It's dangerous enough to make integrity one of the necessities for anyone who wants to fight her.
  • Dark Action Girl: Neveah has been touched by Lilith's corruption in some way no one is sure of, and uses a dark artifact in battle, but she's still on the side of good.
  • Dark Magical Girl: Imogen practises Lilith's brand of magic, despite knowing the dangers involved.
  • Everything Is Better With Princesses: Brielle is a princess from a long line of royalty, though her family's kingdom has fallen to Lilith by now.
  • Fiery Redhead: Brielle has red hair and always seems to be yelling at someone.
  • Flaming Sword: Brielle carries a sword that catches fire in battle. Also, Shard tends to burn white when used against demons.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Noah at one point recalls that after Michael died, he was so busy first helping Emma deal with her grief and then guiltily hoping that maybe she'd develop feelings for him now that Michael was gone, that he never actually took the time to mourn his best friend.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Valeria and Emma have blonde hair and are the most straightforwardly good and upstanding of the characters. Conversely, Neveah and Imogen have dark hair and have both been subjected to Lilith's corruption in different ways. Subverted when it turns out that Valeria and Emma are both at risk of falling to Lilith at some point in the future, whereas Neveah and Imogen both receive more hopeful prophesies.
  • Heroic Bystander: Emma ended up in Bastion just because she happened to be close to Noah when he was summoned. While he gets outfitted with a Cool Sword, has the support of a growing number of formidable companions and at least had some fighting training beforehand, Emma is just a regular person trying to adjust to an insane situation. She nonetheless manages to play a key role in freeing the others from imprisonment, and generally does a better job at staying calm and helping others see reason than either Noah or any of the battle-weary Bastion inhabitants.
  • Heroic Willpower: Neveah's specialty. Noah is in horrified awe at just how far she can push herself when needed. Noah himself also turns out to have a bit of it.
  • Hidden Purpose Test: Several of the Trials are this.
    • The Third Trial is designed to seem entirely impossible to pass, because the real test is whether the group can keep struggling even against impossible odds.
    • The Fifth Trial appears to end with Emma's death, whereupon a creature of Lilith offers to bring her back if Noah abandons his quest.
    • Noah at one point hopes that the Fourth Trial is just about refusing to kill an innocent even when told that it's the only way to win, but it turns out that you do have to commit some sort of act of depravity to pass. The solution is for the Chosen to brutalise and humiliate one of his companions (with her consent), thus fulfilling the requirement without doing anything that's actually immoral.
  • The High Queen: Queen Shalarra rules Bastion with honour and wisdom. Subverted. She tries to be this, but she's fallen prey to arrogance and rigid thinking. Part of that is due to the influence of her advisors, though, two of whom have been corrupted by Lilith, while Shalarra is at least redeemable.
  • Hypocrite: Taniel is one of the people upholding Bastion's zero-tolerance policy against the practice of dark magic, but he has secretly taken to studying it himself, for the same reasons as Imogen did but with far less success in keeping his mind uncorrupted.
  • I Know Karate: Downplayed. Noah has taken a variety of martial arts classes and even won a few minor tournaments. While this does end up helping him somewhat, because at least he has some kind of idea of how fighting works, it's frequently made clear that it doesn't put him within miles of being an actual warrior.
  • Kabbalah: The world consists of eleven spheres, each of which is at once a physical place, a philosophical concept and a phase of the universe's creation. Each one also has a Qlipothic Evil Counterpart, which Lilith is trying to make dominant. For example, Bastion is located in Kether, the highest sphere which represents undivided unity. If Lilith conquers it, it will become Thaumiel, the state of absolute division.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Neveah has no coherent memories of anything between leaving Bastion along with her Chosen One, and fighting her way back into Bastion a month later. According to Imogen, she is under the effects of some kind of Hexen magic that is blocking her memories. All she can recall is that something happened to her party in the sphere of Belial.
  • Last Bastion: Bastion is this, a single fortified tower in the sphere of Kether that still holds out against Lilith, who otherwise rules all the worlds in the universe. The end of the first book implies that it falls right after Noah and his companions leave.
  • Love Triangle: Noah was in one before the story began, as he was pining for Emma while she was in a happy relationship with Michael.
  • Magic Knight: Neveah and Brielle both employ a combination of sword and sorcery to great effect.
  • Nice Guy: Deconstructed with Noah. He's been super-nice all his life, but there's a strong hint that part of that was due to being too afraid to stand up for himself and maybe offend someone. Over the course of the first book, he gets more assertive... but that also means that some not-so-nice parts of his personality that were previously hidden by his meekness start shining through.
  • Ninja Maid: By a fantastic coincidence, Imogen's war-mage uniform looks exactly like a French maid outfit.
  • No Social Skills: Social skill is one of five personal qualities that can be objectively measured by magic. Noah is somewhat deflated at finding out that his score is... seven. Out of a hundred. And that's after he's presumably absorbed some from his companions.
  • "Reason You Suck" Speech: Whenever Brielle opens her mouth, there's better than even odds that one of these is about to come out. There seems to be barely anyone whose suckiness she isn't able to make a very articulate case for.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: Valeria tries to get a crowd of people in Bastion to show Noah some respect by asking who among them can claim to have killed a Gray Mongrel (like Noah did at the start of the book). Most of the crowd is suitably daunted, but someone at the back pipes up to say that actually, he's killed one too.
    Valeria: (annoyed) Fine. Aside from Kaiden.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Brielle's family, the Isladis, have in fact been very active and done an awful lot to resist Lilith for generations, something Brielle isn't shy about reminding people of. Even in the present day, she's an Aspirant to companionhood, and her brother Hawke is an officer in Bastion's armies.
  • RPG Elements: There are five personal qualities that can be objectively measured by magic, in a way that is pretty clearly inspired by roleplaying games. The "stats" of the series' world are: physical fitness, magical potential, social skills, willpower and integrity. At the time he is tested, Noah has (on a scale of 1 to 100) physical 18, magical potential 5, will 37, integrity 32 and social... 7.
  • Shock and Awe: The magical discipline of levenbolt, used to good effect by Imogen.
  • Shown Their Work: For a series that seems to be mostly about the Fanservice, there are a lot of well-researched descriptions of Kabbalistic theory.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Imogen switches pretty freely between teasing and snarking and being genuinely helpful and compassionate.
  • Teeth Clenched Team Work: Valeria is not at all happy to be working with morally dubious characters like Imogen and Neveah, at least at first. Also, no one is happy to be working with Brielle - a sentiment that Brielle frequently makes it clear is mutual.
  • Title Drop: A stealth one in the first book. Imogen, who is a pretty severe and sarcastic character, tells Noah that the black parts of her uniform represents the tzimtzum (a kabbalistic term meaning the contraction of energy prior to creation) of divine presence - which would make it a tsun-tsun's tzimtzum.
  • Torture Technician: Guillarm is a jailor in Bastion who took the job because he hoped to find fellow sadists among the other jailors. He didn't, but he was pleased to discover that no one really cared what he did to the prisoners. Taniel is even worse, he just hides it better.
  • Unlikely Hero: Noah is amazingly nondescript and absolutely no one's (including his own) idea of a chosen saviour of the universe. Given that he's the tenth Chosen so far (the previous nine fit the heroic image better, but all failed) it's implied that Kether is really scraping the barrel at this point.
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Noah has carried a torch for Emma their entire lives, but she only had eyes for Michael. The events of the first book causes some changes in their relationship, but it's unclear whether they go far enough to make her return his feelings or if he's still unlucky.
  • Vagina Dentata: Imogen informs Guillarm that since the Power Nullifier that has been placed on her only prevents her from directing magic outside of her body, anything he puts inside of said body will be electrocuted.
  • World of Badass: Everyone in Bastion is a supreme badass, using either weapons or magic or both. None of them are particularly happy that their last, best hope is Noah, whose only claim to not being a complete Non-Action Guy is that he used to take some martial arts classes.

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