Hell Mode ~ The Hardcore Gamer Dominates in Another World with Garbage Balancing, Vol. 3

By Hamuo and Mo. Released in Japan as “Hell Mode – Yarikomi Suki no Gamer wa Hai Settei no Isekai de Musō Suru” by Earth Star Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Taishi.

This book is a very different beast from the first two, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. it’s good in that we get a lot less of Allen, on his own, spending pages and pages experimenting with different combinations of summons while fighting off monsters, which was in my opinion the weakest part of the books to date. He’s gotten so strong that the narrative can either quickly elide his tests, or else it shows him just instinctively knowing what to do. On the down side, this volume is a combination of two of the isekai fan’s least favorite genres: dungeon crawl AND magical academy. On the up side, this means the rest of the cast, especially Krena, has more to do. On the down side, Allen really is the standard OP protagonist now, so scary he can take out the most powerful hero in the land and terrify royalty. Basically, yeah, this is a light novel, all right.

Allen and Cecil are now ready to head off to the Magic School that they need to attend before being sent off to fight in the war against the Demon Lord. Joining them are Krena and Dogura, newly arrived from Allen’s hometown. On arrival, after yet another “your stats are all E, you fail, get out!” fakeout, which is a bit tedious by now, they settle in and buy a 20-room mansion that’s close to their real goal: dungeons. School itself is an afterthought here, what they want is to go through each dungeon, level up, gain skills, and get stronger and stronger. By the end of the book the cast, Allen and Krena especially, are so powerful that only the best in the world can really take them on. Which is good, because, having terrified the aforementioned royalty, they’re being sent off in Book 4 to the front lines.

It’s rather astounding (and honestly welcome) how this series does not care about romance at ALL. You could argue the kids are 12/13 years old, but that hasn’t stopped other books in this genre. Krena and Cecil meet up, and just become friends and allies, no issues. Later in the book they add an elf who I thought might have a crush on Allen, but no, she’s just worshiping him as the one chosen by the prophecy. Romcom is just not what this author is here for. Gamer nerdery *is* what they’re here for, and I assure you that despite what I said above, there’s lots of “let’s look at everyone’s stats here” for those who adore it. The party expands rapidly here from “Allen and a token girl” in the first two books to “Allen and his party of the most powerful students in the country”, including an elf princess, the son of the antagonist of the second volume, and a dwarf girl who gets nothing to do, but we’re explicitly told that she will eventually. And Allen, who COULD do all this by himself, but thankfully does not.

So yes, better than the first two books, and recommended for those who enjoy all the things that the louder light novel fans say they don’t enjoy. Next time: Allen Goes To War.

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