By Fujino Omori and Suzuhito Yasuda. Released in Japan as “Dungeon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatte Iru Darou ka?” by Softbank Creative. Released in North America by Yen On.
The thing that struck me most about the third volume of this light novel series was how tightly paced the whole thing is. The second book followed directly from the first, and this one follows on right from the second, with Bell and Lily discussing the fallout of her leaving the Soma family, and introducing her to Hestia. The narrow focus allows us to really get a handle on Bell, his desire to be the best, and his frustration at being unable to progress as fast as he’d like – this despite the fact that he is making the fastest progress in the history of this world. Many overpowered light novel protagonists try to balance their perfect heroes with a massively low self-image, and Bell is no exception. He’s getting there, though – his goal isn’t to get a harem anymore, it’s to be a hero.
Of course he’s getting the harem anyway, though he’s totally unaware of this. Hestia and Lily jealously jockeying for position is highly amusing, though once again Hestia is very much a minor character in the book. This is surprising given how much her popularity has exploded in Japan – you’d think she were the only character. Instead, this time around we get a closer look at the mind of Aiz Wallenstein. While she’s not exactly knocked off the pedestal that Bell has put her on yet, he is at least starting to realize that Aiz is quite eccentric in her emotionally stunted way. Another comedy highlight is seeing Aiz beat the tar out of Bell over and over, and his waking up with his head in her lap then freaking out. It’s also a good plot moment, as Aiz really wants to find out how Bell is getting so good so fast – he learns from her teachings (which are mostly “I beat you up a lot”) astonishingly well.
Then there’s the minotaur. The series began with Bell about to die from having a run-in with one of these, and Freya’s underling Ottar is convinced that it’s his fear of that incident that is stopping him from progressing even faster. So, the decision is simple. Have him face off against another one. If he dies, oh well, he wasn’t worthy of Freya. Of course bell does not die. The sequence is utterly badass, even more so that it happens in front of the high-level adventurers of Loki’s family, who offer a running commentary. I will admit that the book pretty much stops right after the fight, as if the author is working to a set page count. But it’s a great fight to go out on. Oh, and I have a suspicion about Bell’s grandfather. Let’s just say I think I know his name, and I bet he’s gotten a harem by appearing as a bull or swan.
Again, I remain very surprised at how good this series has gotten, particularly with that cliched light novel title. Which was apparently by editorial fiat, I’ve found out. If you love fantasy series, absolutely give this a try.