Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest, Vol. 6

By Ryo Shirakome and Takayaki. Released in Japan as “Arifureta Shokugyou de Sekai Saikyou” by Overlap. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Ningen.

Arifureta is taken from a web novel, which the author and publisher then rewrite, add to, and extend in order to make the published light novel version. As such, it seems a bit ridiculous to suggest that the author was told by the editor to move things along as they need to cut to the chase. But that’s what seems to be happening here, as several plot threads wrap up so fast that you expect some other hand behind it all. Aiko was rescued so quickly that I actually was worried that a chapter had been skipped, and the resolution of who is the traitor among Hajime’s fellow students also seemed to happen very fast (though if you looked at the cover and said “who the heck is that?”, you might have had an inkling). Other than that, this is a typical volume of Arifureta – over the top fighting, the occasional really good character introspection, and turning very bad when the author tries to be funny – something he shares with other light novel authors I could name.

The strengths of the book are quite obvious. The author likes to write overpowered fights, and is good at it. Seeing Yue and Shea team up to fight a horde of demons was fun, especially as absolutely nothing seemed to faze them. This contrasts with Hajime’s fight with an Angels sent to kill him, which goes very badly for him, mostly as he’s trying to fight while also holding Aiko. Once that problem is solved, things proceed to go Hajime’s way a lot more. Aiko is once again probably the best character in the book, as she’s forced to use her powers in order to completely wipe out the church bishops and priests (yes, her farming powers – it makes sense in context) and feels hideous amounts of guilt and shame for murdering people. The aftermath of this, and Hajime’s response to her, is beautiful, and makes the entire book worthwhile.

Some other parts don’t make the book worthwhile, sadly. As I said before, the pacing of this volume seems incredibly rushed, and a lot of it felt like the author wanted to clear the decks so he could start on the second half of the series (I think we’re about halfway through it right now). Our villain, once she gets revealed, gets to fall straight into the yandere stereotype, and is far duller than I’d hoped based on past manipulations. I’ve no doubt we’ll see her again, but I doubt she’ll have any more significant successes. And I hated absolutely everything about the scene with the okama muscle guys, which is grotesque negative stereotype central. Hajime’s harem stays the same size here, though he is aware Aiko loves him, and the narrative is aware that it’s only a matter of time for Shizuku. Oh yes, and Kaori’s now got an Angel body after being murdered by her insane classmate, meaning she gets to be as ludicrously overpowered as the others – which is what she’s always wanted, to be fair.

Arifureta is always going to have that air of “I am getting back at the bullies who tormented me in school” to it, and the villains this time round make that comparison more painfully apt than usual. Still, it’s fun mostly, provided the author isn’t being humorous, and should definitely please ongoing fans.

Arifureta Zero, Vol. 1

By Ryo Shirakome and Takaya-ki. Released in Japan as “Arifureta Shokugyou de Sekai Saikyou Rei” by Overlap. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Ningen.

If a spinoff of Arifureta was going to be done, the Liberators were the only obvious choice. And, despite the novel starting out trying to make us think that Oscar was going to be the main character (which he is to an extent), this is all Miledi’s plan and all Miledi’s book. As such, enjoyment of this book will depend on how much you enjoyed Miledi in the second novel. She’s deliberately written to be annoying, and even though we get a tragic backstory here to explain why she does that it can still make you want to grit your teeth at times. That said, her drive to try to change the world and go up against the gods is laudatory, and her recruitment of Oscar (and later on Naiz) also allows plenty of scenes of her getting physically and emotionally abused for comedy purposes. (She reminded me of Shea a bit, to be honest, without the trolling that Miledi does all the time.)

(The author wonders if we were surprised at Miledi’s appearance, but honestly, this is pretty much exactly how I imagined her.)

As I said, Oscar is the focus at the start of the book, a synergist (much like our hero in the main series) trying to keep a low profile to avoid the Church. Said low profile falls to bits once Miledi arrives and starts harassing him, but honestly the church is so evil anyway that it was somewhat inevitable that it wouldn’t last. We also get a pile of adorable plucky orphan children, and once Oscar and Mikedi team up to find Naiz we get two more plucky adorable children, all of whom are put in deadly danger by events of the plot. And do you want tragic backstories? You’ll love Miledi’s, whose childhood was pretty crappy and then got much, much worse. There are also several very cool fights, as you’d come to expect from Arifureta, involving clever manipulation of gravity, creating impossibly hard shields via a cool umbrella (apparently a reference to Kingsman, though I kept thinking of Ryouga Hibiki), and teleportation badassery. And, as I said before, Miledi being really, really annoying.

This actually came out a mere 4 months after the Japanese release, so I would not hold your breath for the second volume right away. That said, I can’t imagine fans of Arifureta not enjoying this, even though the regular cast are nowhere to be seen. You get a good sense of the three leads and why they made the dungeons that they did. It also reminded me that Miledi’s spirit is technically still around in the main series, and I wonder if she’ll do anything else. (I also wonder if she and Oscar will ever hook up. Probably not, I suspect.) Basically, this is exactly the sort of thing you’d like a spinoff to be, and I will definitely enjoy more of it whenever it comes out.

Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest, Vol. 5

By Ryo Shirakome and Takayaki. Released in Japan as “Arifureta Shokugyou de Sekai Saikyou” by Overlap. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Ningen.

After a few volumes of pretending to be your standard “reader surrogate gains immense powers and a wide variety of women” isekai story, Arifureta has settled down as it finally realizes the type of story it wants to tell, which is a messianic narrative. I’m not actually being facetious here, we have seen seeds of this before, but they come to full flower here. Hajime is here to save the world by being badass at it. Those who believe will be rewarded, those who do not believe will get their asses kicked. We see one of his believers doubt herself in this volume, and Hajime makes it very clear that this is no easy task – believe in him and stop stewing in self-hatred, or get out. Needless to say, we know which choice she makes. We also see Hajime go up against the powerful Church, which regards him as a heretic, and a demon who may as well be filling in for Lucifer. Subtle this ain’t.

Shizuka’s on the cover, but doesn’t appear much, though we do see her bonding with the princess of the royal family, who I had honestly forgotten. Most of the book is taken up with Hajime getting Myu back home, which also involves conquering not one but TWO of the remaining dungeons. Kaori is left behind for one of them as support, which seems quite sensible given that this is the MAGMA DUNGEON, but she comes along on the water dungeon crawl, which leads to her crisis of faith I mentioned above. Said crisis of faith is resolved by Hajime showing that he cares about her by threatening an entity that’s possessed her – indeed, most of the harem’s self-esteem issues are resolved by simply having the undemonstrative Hajime pat their head or vow to protect them or somesuch. In all honestly, as Hajime notes, he’ll basically do whatever they say, but I suspect the typical “I hate OP harem guys” fan won’t mind as Hajime is stoic rather than friendly.

We get a lot more background on the past of the world Hajime and company have been brought to here, and find that if we’re headed for a massive Holy War, it won’t be the first. I suspect the next volume will have Hajime’s group divert their plans to save Aiko, who is being imprisoned and tortured for believing in Hajime. No, really. As I said, if you don’t accept this as a messianic narrative, it may be hard to get past its inherent ridiculousness. Oh yes, we also meet Myu’s mother, who the author admits is straight up a ripoff of Alicia from Aria, and who clearly would be quite happy to be an addition to Hajime’s harem, though I’m not sure it will actually happen. It would be nice to have an “ara, ara” sort in the harem. In any case, the next volume will be as action-packed as this one, I imagine, thoguh knowing Hajime, he is unlikely to be crucified and die for anyone’s sins. Recommended for fans of ridiculously overpowered guys and the women who adore them.

Also, “Fish-san was a fishmancer.” I’ll just leave that there.