Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest Short Stories

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

This was not the Short Story collection I expected, to be honest, at least not till the final third of the book. What it is is a rounding up of most of the very short stories that the author wrote for giveaways, store-exclusives, etc. A lot of series have these, few bring it out as a real volume. (J-Novel Club has quite a few of them as Premium Extras for subscribers, and indeed I think a lot of these originally appeared as exclusive extras in earlier books.) The book breaks down in four sections: the first are short-short stories taking place within the timeline of approximately Books 1-5 of the main series; the second is an alternate universe where the characters are at a “magical academy” type school; the third has three short takeoffs on popular fairy tales; and the fourth is the short story written exclusively for this book, which has the main cast (along with Myu and Remia) ending up in the crossover event we all wanted to see.

The cover features Hajime, reminding us why he’s rarely on the cover as he looks far more chuuni than grimdark; and Myu, whose character trait in this volume is to show off how she’s taking after her “daddy” despite only having been around him a short time. As for the content… I’m gonna be honest, while these were cute, about 2/3 of the book does not lend itself to a review. There’s lots of harem fights, there’s characters being dorks, there’s indiscriminate destruction of anyone who would dare go after Myu, etc. The Academy/Fairy Tale chapters are even less important, so I’ll skip them entirely. I did enjoy the chapters showing Hajime’s parents, first in a flashback showing off their otaku occupations (honestly, they remind me far too much of the parents from Outbreak Company) and then showing how upset they are at their son’s disappearance.

The main reason to get this is the last story, which has the cast, taking a final voyage with Myu (and Remia) before leaving her behind, and ending up spirited to a cursed city by a phantom whale that seems to only communicate with Myu. Unfortunately, the monsters here are too powerful for this group to handle. Yes, even Hajime. Fortunately, this whale can also reach back… in TIME! Yes, you guessed it, the cast of Arifureta meets the cast of Arifureta Zero, with Miledi being somewhat baffled as to why everyone hates her, Meiru becoming a total siscon about little Myu, etc. Eventually they do team up to take down the Big Bads, and we see Miledi and Yue comparing themselves to each other, as do Oscar and Hajime. Sadly, due to plot contrivance, they don’t remember the meeting afterwards, but hey. (This story also serves to show that Remia’s “ara ara” personality is for show, as if we hadn’t guessed, and also that she may be falling for Hajime for real.)

So in the end, this is pretty light and fluffy, and not an essential purchase. But it’s reasonably fun, and the last quarter was quite entertaining. Arifureta fans should like it.

Arifureta Zero, Vol. 3

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

I’ve been comparing Miledi to Hajime in these reviews of Zero. And just as Hajime was written to be the ultimate in “I am cool and badass and will happyily abandon anyone other than Yue to a fiery death” and then walked back to where he is now reasonable a decent person, likewise Miledi was introduced in the main series as the most annoying person in the world and then we gradually see in Zero how much of it is a front. It’s a front she feels more comfortable with, in fact – despite her complaining, she’d much rather be yelled at for being irritating than praised for being a force for good, mostly as it embarrasses her too much. It’s also a good way to avoid simply having her be too perfect – Miledi is going to save everybody, loves everybody, and has magical powers that can take out a demon lord possessed by a God. Of course she has to be annoying. You need SOMETHING.

As you might guess by the cover, the new Liberator who join’s Miledi’s forces in this book is male, and men don’t get Arifureta covers, meaning Meiru and Miledi pull double-duty. They’re headed back to meet up with Oscar and Naiz’s group, to see if they can revive the comatose kids (spoiler: not quite yet), when they suddenly find out that there was an attack on the base and most of the group was kidnapped. As it turns out, they were kidnapped to avoid ANOTHER kidnapping. Vandre is half-demon, half-dragon, and all tsundere, as he kidnapped Miledi’s group to try to get them to help him own group of people being tortured for experiments by the Demon King. Of course, Miledi will totally save them anyway, especially when it looks like there’s more to the Demon King than meets the eye. But can she do it while fighting off a powerful local disease?

First off, the book begins and ends with broad characterizations of cross-dressing gay men who are, of course, sexual predators for the lulz. Ugh. This is not the first time the author has gone to this well, either. Aside from that, it’s a decent enough book. As with the other Zero books, it leans heavily on fight scenes, particularly in the second half, but there is also a decent amount of characterization, particularly of Vandre, the new guy, and Miledi. Vandre and Oscar also look to be adding a new annoying trait to the Liberators, as they don’t get along and snipe at each other constantly in a “vitriolic best buds” sort of way. I do wonder if they can actually weaponize this trait, the way that Miledi has weaponized being annoying to the point where it throws villains off.

We do also get a look at the Church here, briefly, and see that, thanks to evil people and also brainwashing, it may only have one sensible person in it. They’re also trying to get a jump on Miledi in snatching up Ancient Magic Users, so next time we head off to the forest. Till then, this remains a decent spinoff, particularly if you like fight scenes.

Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest, Vol. 10

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

In general, if you’re going to have an unbalanced book, it’s best to have the strongest material be towards the end than towards the beginning. This is a problem for Arifureta Book 10, which has as its first third or so some of the best scenes in the entire series, then tries its hardest to keep it up. Unfortunately, keeping it up would require the reader to feel a lot more sympathy – or a lot less – towards Kouki than they do. This means that we spend a good deal of the last half of the book waiting for Kouki to finish typing his Reddit post on how girls he deserves won’t sleep with him. To be fair, the book very clearly takes a negative stand on this sort of behavior, and I appreciate that. I’d appreciate it more if this wasn’t also a male power fantasy where a bullied loner literally gets revenge on his high school class and also has sex with all the hottest babes. Which it still is.

Before that, though, there is the battle with Yue and Shea. I haven’t talked about Yue much in these reviews, mostly as there hasn’t been that much TO talk about. Here, though, she gets some backstory showing off who she used to be and the family that she loved – including a set of double reversal betrayals, which left her so devastated that she’s tried hard not to think about her past at all, including why she was sealed rather than just killed off. After meeting up with Shea (who sails through her own test), A pensive Yue makes the mistake of saying that if anything happens to her, she wants Shea to take care of Hajime. Actually, the bigger mistake may be that she doesn’t get why that’s upsetting to Shea. What follows is one of the best fights in the series, as Shea and Yue go toe to toe with each other as Shea tries to beat the resignation out of Yue. The funniest part is that it takes in Kaori’s fight as well – normally the idea of Kaori as the “Steph” of this series annoys me, but it’s handled SO well here I can’t be churlish.

Elsewhere, Tio also sails through her test, showing off that she’d be a fantastic character if she weren’t such a depraved masochist. Suzu is forced to admit that she lives her life by deflecting, and Ryutarou that he really would rather not be a sidekick character (even though he totally is). And then there’s Kouki, who is forced to admit that he’s jealous of Hajime and not as good as he thinks he is… and fails miserably. At this point I’m fairly sure Kouki is not going to be killed off, as if he was this would be the perfect place to do it. Instead we simply see him fail – again. He comes to his senses later to a degree, but there’s still seething resentment underneath everything he does. It’s well-written, but also means that I have to read far more about him than I really want to. Also, I suspect he’ll be useless in the upcoming battle that the cliffhanger suggests.

There’s only a couple more books left in the “main” storyline judging by when the webnovel is, so the cliffhanger ending may be moving us to the climax. Everyone (bar Kouki) has evolved and powered up. They know they can now get home. All that’s left is beating the bad guys. I expect the next book will have a lot of that. Till then, at least we can enjoy Shea beating the snot out of Yue and Kouki railing against the friendzone.