The World’s Strongest Rearguard: Labyrinth Country’s Novice Seeker, Vol. 3

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.

Tempting as it might be to simply cut and paste my review of the second volume here, I will try to find new words to say about this series. For one thing, I think I’m going to have to come to terms with the fact that I enjoy it quite a bit, and not just because I’m hate-reading it. It’s still not a good series objectively, but subjectively it’s fine. It reminds me quite a bit of In Another World with My Smartphone, but so far has avoided all the traps that that work fell into, such as making its hero something of a relaxed sociopath. Arihito continues to attract women, and continues to be relatively oblivious to their overtures towards him. It’s a relatively huge light novel which takes place over a mere day and a half, and there’s still stats galore, including picking out new bonuses, etc. It should be dull as dirt and mildly offensive. Instead… it’s peaceful.

Arihito’s party (still unnamed, which is brought up but not dealt with here) arrive on Level 7, which has a lot more people on it but also a lot more people who have essentially stopped trying – it’s hard to go from 7 to 6. Well, hard unless you’re our heroes, who over the course of this book defeat two of the three named monsters you need to move up. They soon team up with a four-woman group called the Four Seasons (a name pun) who they saw being harassed/blackmailed by a group that are being set up to be antagonists but in this book are mostly just foreshadowing. The two parties team up and fight off giant moles and insects, then go to the next dungeon level and battle killer sheep. Once again, everyone does amazing things, and once again, everyone feels as if they need to “be the one protecting” everyone else. All this, plus a nice Chinese dinner and a bath/massage.

Reading this series is sort of like reading a game of Jenga, because it would take only one wrong move for the whole thing to come tumbling down. Arihito has to remain self-deprecating and mild-mannered because the alternative is a leering guy banging his (by the end of this book) eleven women who have fallen for him. Likewise, they’re all perfectly content to simply make the occasional overture (that he doesn’t get) and have a few bouts of self-hatred themselves. The battles are very well-written, to the point where I don’t even mind the inserted stats, which says a lot. I will admit that, in a book trying to remain so emotionally placid, sometimes it aims for a tearjerker and doesn’t quite get it – the scene with the demihuman and his late fiancee was not quite as sad as the author meant it to be. But for the most part, there aren’t really any sharp edges in this. It’s an isekai that a salaryman can happily read on the train home.

As noted, this volume does introduce a few plot points that are then left dangling – I expect the next book will take care of that. At least they didn’t move to Level 6 already. Still, this remains a book that’s easy to read.

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