Arifureta Zero, Vol. 6

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.

My biggest fear with this 422-page final volume was that it would be one long fight scene, and thankfully that is not the case, though the first third of the book is one long fight scene. My second fear was that it would be unrelentingly grim, and while it is grim, with lots and lots of deaths of people we care about, it’s not unrelenting, and there are moments of silliness and humor in the middle of the book. Heck, even some of the main characters survive, because I’d forgotten the main series talks about their descendants. But for the most part this book is “Miledi tries her hardest but fails”, as we knew it would be – it’s a prequel, after all. It also helps to set up the final volume of the main series, coming soon I hope, which will likely feature her showing up to save the day. At least I hope she does, because the day is certainly not saved here.

The first chunk of the book, as I said, is one big fight, and goes fairly well for our heroes right up until the very end, when they’re forced to retreat. They then take the time to try and gather a few more allies – the dragons are now ready to help them, and even the vampires are willing to pitch in… that is, after we discover their long-lost royal daughter (who is closer than you’d think) and resolve the issue of the missing heir to the throne. We also discover that you can access the most powerful magic ever if you get really, really drunk. Unfortunately, Ehit has finally had enough, and decides to force the hand of Miledi by brainwashing everyone who is not a Liberator to kill all their allies. This takes up most of the rest of the book.

As always with Arifureta, this book had a lot of things I enjoyed and some things I could really do without. The main issue with the last third of the book is that this cast is simply too damn large, especially with the books coming out every year or so, and it’s hard to get sad when a character who you can’t really remember well dies. I needed a guide at the start. Also, Naiz marrying one of his emotional support 8-year-olds once she came of age is not something I wanted at all. On the bright side, Miledi and Oscar are handled perfectly, and her execution and subsequent golemification are also done well. There’s even some good horror here, as one of the few bad guys who’s likeable has her soul destroyed so that the big bad can take over her body.

So yeah, not everyone dies, but the majority of the cast die, and Ehit still rules. It’s gonna be up to Hajime and company to fix things. In the meantime, this was a fun yet annoying prequel, just like its heroine.

Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest, Vol. 12

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

It was about 18 months in Japan between Vol. 11 and 12, and it’s been about the same here in the West as well. I was briefly worried that I’d forget literally everything that had been happening before, but that was before I remembered what series I was reading. Arifureta is not particularly interested in its own plot, or even that much in its characters. Arifureta is interested in people powering up and getting new special moves. The author has clearly drowned himself in Jump series as a kid, and as a result this book, especially the back half, can be summed up by using the “It’s over 9000!” meme over and over again. That said, there is a little bit of character stuff in the front half, but I was less happy with that, as it leans too heavily into an evil cliche stereotype I dislike. This is also NOT the final volume of the series – we’ve got one more to go after this. Fortunately, it’s scheduled for the fall in Japan.

Kaori gets a nice cover art picture, which makes it a shame that she’s the only one not in the main book, getting left behind to guard everyone else and make sure they’re not killed. (She gets a nice short story at the end to make up for it.) The rest of the book is divided almost exactly in half. In the first part, Shizuku, Ryoutarou and Suzu head over to try and beat Kouki and Emi up and return them to their senses. Only one of them actually gets beaten up enough to have that happen, and you can probably guess who. But hey, Suzu gets to say goodbye. In the back half, Hajime is sent ahead to go rescue Yue (which will clearly be most of Book 13), so we get Shea and Tio taking on a whole bunch of apostles and monsters, as well as Freid. Unfortunately, the bad guys seem to have forgotten how our heroines are basically nightmares themselves by now.

So yeah, we get Eri’s backstory here to explain why she’s incredibly evil, and it’s because her father died saving her from getting run over, her mother blamed her and abused her, and she was almost raped by her mother’s new boyfriend. Getting abused as a child leading to a bad person later in life is something we need to see less of. Kouki, meanwhile, remains a shallow parody of the standard shoujo boyfriend, so it’s no surprise that once the mind control is removed and he’s punched a lot he manages to recover what wits he has… though we’ll see what happens when he sees Hajime again. But really the majority of this book is exactly what I said earlier: yelling out attacks, just barely avoiding lethal moves, pulling off near lethal moves in return, and lots of shouting.

The return of everyone’s favorite Zero protagonist at the end of the volume is interesting, and I wonder if she’ll help Hajime in the next volume. Till then: boy, this sure was a volume of Arifureta.

Arifureta Zero, Vol. 5

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.

It’s been a good sixteen months since I last read Arifureta Zero… and come to think of it, eleven months since the last Arifureta in the main series. This is the danger of catching up with the Japanese release, and I knew this meant that a lot of my time was going to be spent trying to remember who everyone apart from the main characters were. Little did I realize that that was going to be ALL of my time. This is the 2nd to last book in the series, and as such it has to gather everyone in the cast together for the big battle in the finale. And I do mean everyone – every single ally we’ve seen in the books to date pops up again, along with new characters we haven’t seen before, and they’re all written as if we remember who they are and are nostalgic to see them again. It’s exhausting. Fortunately, there’s BIT more going on than just setup.

A month after the end of the previous book, Miledi is still in a coma, which has everyone stressed out, especially Oscar, whose fighting abilities are actually being affected by his worry. Fortunately, she wakes up soon after the book begins. Unfortunately, she’s… a bit different. Yes, it’s We Want Our Jerk Back, the light novel. The largest chunk of the book is spent getting Laus, their newest ally, to the rest of them, as he’s being hunted by the entire church… including two of his own sons. (This is framed as a big reveal, but it’s telegraphed so badly I feel no remorse revealing it here.) Once he’s arrived, and Miledi puts everyone through RIGOROUS TRAINING, it’s discovered that three of their allies are going to be put to death publicly by the Church. So Miledi decides now is the time. the Big Battle. (In Book 6.)

The author apologizes for this book being so long, and he should. It’s too long, and a lot of this wasn’t needed. The “checking in with everyone who the Liberators ever met in prior books” section is a lifeless slog. Better were the scenes with Miledi waking from her coma, but she’s missing her annoying. Without it, she’s a cute adorable teenage girl in love with Oscar and not ashamed to say it. This is mined for much comedy, and for once it actually works quite well, especially her reaction once she returns to normal. Speaking of love, Miledi and Oscar don’t confess here, but that’s because they want to wait till after the battle – their feelings are known to each other. Oh yes, and there’s an incredibly annoying bunny girl in this as well, who seems to combine all the worst parts of Shea and none of the good points. The author loves to write “incredibly annoying but secretly goodhearted and awesome” people – indeed, the lesson of this book is that all of the Liberators are eccentrics – but sometimes I feel they overdue it.

So next up is the finale, and it’s not a spoiler to say that Everybody Dies – this is a prequel, after all. But it’s not the journey, it’s the destination, and so we’ll see how it all happens and how many times our heart can be broken. If you like Arifureta, you should read this, but be aware – it’s long and has boring bits.