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.

Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest, Vol. 11

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’s been over a year since I reviewed the 10th volume of Arifureta. In between that time we’ve had two volumes of Arifureta Zero, as well as a volume of short stories, and we also had the anime come to an end and remind us that some stories really work best when you can’t SEE all the fanservice. That said, all good things must come to an end, and while this is not the final volume of the series, it certainly feels like Vol. 12 is going to be. We get all the setup for the final battle here. Yes, that does mean a “darkest before the dawn” start to the book, and Yue fans will likely not be happy that she ends up possessed by the evil God and therefore not in most of the book, but after that it’s basically a curtain call for anyone who’s ever been relevant in this series and also several people who haven’t – like most of the rest of the students.

So yes, Hajime and company are told by the bad guys to come meet the evil God and his evil assistant, and they’ve taken the students hostage (which doesn’t work) as well as Remia and Myu (which does). After a brief “it’s OK, I’m really a good guy” shtick that fools almost no one, we get reminded why Ehit is so powerful, and they basically mops the floor with everyone, including Hajime, and takes Yue’s body for their own. They also say that in three days, they’ll destroy the world and then move on to destroy Earth. Fortunately, that means they have three days, so the rest of the book consists of preparing to fight back, heartwarming scenes with Hajime and his loved ones (Kaori and Tio get “I love you” scenes, and Aiko and Liliana are clearly upgraded to “will be added to the group in the near future”), and wacky fanservice and comedy, because likely there won’t be much time for that in the final book.

Despite bringing back almost everyone from previous books, the writing glides right through it, assuming (correctly) we won’t remember three-quarters of everyone here. There are also some students, who haven’t gotten anything to do in nearly six books, who get to briefly shine in the spotlight, which is nice to see. Certainly nicer than seeing Kouki – again – side with the villains. Now, much of this is Eri mind-controlling him, but I’m sorry, I just cannot work up any sympathy for him by now. I can’t see him dying, particularly given there’s three different people still trying to snap him out of it, but wow, I absolutely do not care if they succeed or not. And Tio gets another good character building book, with a side story of her own, and it shows off the super-powerful lonely princess equally with the anal pleasure-obsessed pervert.

The novels are still quite popular, and I suspect once the main series is finished the “After Story”, which is still being written to this day on the web, will be put out officially in Japan. That said, for the moment, this is the big lead up to the finale next book, and contains most of the good things about the series, as well as a few of the bad. Fans should enjoy it.

Arifureta Zero, Vol. 4

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 do sometimes worry that the author of the Arifureta series has forgotten why we’re reading it in the first place. In regards to the original series, it’s to see Hajime’s ludicrous overpowered antics and the wacky banter between him and his companions, and with Zero it’s the exact same thing only it’s Miledi. The main series has more harem romance to it than Zero, which seems content to tease only Oscar and Miledi and not have it go further, but, well, romance isn’t why I read it, at least. And, in regards to this volume of Zero, while I can appreciate the author writing some really cool battle scenes because he enjoys it, with lots of the bad guys and good guys bringing out increasingly ludicrous powers, fight scenes are not why I read Arifureta either. Sadly, that makes this volume a big ol’ slog, as a good eighty percent of it is battles.

We head into the forest that we’ve seen in Arifureta’s 2nd volume, home of the Beastmen, and here (at least at the start) at the height of its powers. Well, half the group are here. Things have gotten dangerous enough that Miledi’s Angels split up at this point, with Oscar and Vandre helping to settle everyone from the last book, while Miledi and the others head to the forest, there to meet their next potential Liberator, and also try to stop the battle, as the Church has gotten there first. Speaking of the Church, Laus is continuing to have doubts over what they’re actually doing, and things are not helped by the Church’s religious fervor taking on more and more aspects of brainwashing. Can he continue to fight for something he doesn’t believe in any more? Or should be change sides and joining the Liberators.

I will admit, which I said that I wanted more wacky antics and less fights, when we DO get wacky antics, I’m not sure they’re the ones I wanted. Lyutillus is the Elven Queen of the forest… and also a masochist. The author admits she’s meant to be a mirror to Tio in the main series, and given Tio is my least favorite of the girls in that, I wasn’t really going to be enjoying this. Better was Miledi’s usual stuff – when she’s deliberately trying to be annoying to distract the mood, it’s fantastic, and her confrontation with Laus towards the start of the book was absolutely hilarious. Laus, in fact, is the best thing about this book, as his loss of faith is very well handled. I’ve long since come to terms with the fact that the gods are villains in this world, therefore the fact that everyone in the Church tends towards being a monster is hardly a surprise. I am quite interested in seeing how this switching sides works out going forward.

…I say that, but we know how this is going to end – the main cast all dead (bar Miledi’s soul) and branded as heretics. The bad guys win is the premise of this. But we’ve still no idea how long it’s going to be, and I’m happy to see it play out. As long as it’s not just fights. Or creepy sexual gags. Sigh. Not gonna have much luck there, am I?