The World’s Strongest Rearguard: Labyrinth Country’s Novice Seeker, Vol. 2

By Tôwa and Huuka Kazabana. Released in Japan as “Sekai Saikyou no Kouei: Meikyuukoku no Shinjin Tansakusha” by Kadokawa Books. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jordan Taylor.

As you might imagine, this is not quite as hilariously bad as the first volume was. Many of the same elements are in play, and now that we’re familiar with them, they don’t provoke hilarity as they once did. That said, there is a certain amount of amusement taken in counting the number of times that Arihito meets a new woman and has them fall in love with him almost immediately. We add two more members to the party in this volume, though we met them in the first book: merchant Madoka (who has sisters named Manami and Kurumi, making me wonder if the author had been watching KOR while writing this) and monster dissector Melissa, whose mother turns out to have been a demi-human, which explains (I guess) her emotional reserve. Oh yes, and there’s a Guild Savior, Seraphina, whose job it is to save those who are in big trouble. Which is not Arihito: he’s always got this. That said… I dunno, this series remains hard to dislike.

Our party starts the book having risen to the top of the rankings, which is good, as there’s a monster breakout they have to deal with, as well as rescuing another top-level party from a dangerous monster forest, where they ran into a Named Monster that ended up possessing 4/5 of the party. And after that they have to deal with another giant loot box, which they are warned (by the goddess who now supports them) has a dangerous weapon inside of it. None of these pose TOO much of a problem for Arihito and company – indeed, they spend far more time figuring out what new skills to pick now that they’ve leveled up than they do actually fighting. They don’t even have to take the test to get to the 7th level – which they party they rescued were doing – because they’re that fantastic. But they all remain humble, generally shifting praise to other people in the party while downplaying their own strength and saying how much of it was pure luck. Arihito especially does this, as befits a light novel protagonist.

I just reread that paragraph, and God, it makes this sound wretched, doesn’t it? But as you’re actually reading it, it’s surprisingly relaxing and peaceful. This isn’t really a ‘slow life’ book – far too much happens (indeed, the events of this very long second book take place over only two days) for that to be the case – but at times it does sort of feel like a slice of overpowered isekai life. The girls are falling for Arihito more and more every day, mostly due to the usual Japanese protagonist reason of him being nice to them, but there’s precisely zero romantic rivalry. They’re suggesting who gets to bathe with him, but washing backs is all anybody does. For a book with an overpowered hero and the nine or ten different girls who are all devoted to him, it’s surprisingly wholesome, with a few “wow, those breasts are large” exceptions. And Theresia, the demi-human lizard, continues to be the best thing about the novels – her emotional range and interactions with the others show a deft touch in the writing which is completely absent from every other part of the book.

At the end of the book everyone (including Louisa, their handler, who is not about to lose the greatest party that’s ever happened to her) move up to the next level, where things are supposedly much tougher. That said, they arrive at the level being Rank 294 out of 10,000 parties, so they’re already able to afford the mansion they’re used to. What happens next? God knows – I’m guessing more leveling up, more choosing skills, and more women to add to the pile. This is hard to take seriously, but also hard to hate. I’ll be reading more.

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