Fushi no Kami: Rebuilding Civilization Starts with a Village, Vol. 6

By Mizuumi Amakawa and Mai Okuma. Released in Japan as “Fushi no Kami: Henkyou kara Hajimeru Bunmei Saiseiki” by Overlap. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Maurice Alesch.

The last volume of Fushi no Kami finally resolved the burgeoning romance that’s been in this series since the first volume, as Ash and Maika are now old enough, at least in Ash’s opinion, so that he can’t get away with “she’s too young for me to be attracted to”. As such, they are now engaged, though not yet married, and apparently haven’t really consummated anything, despite Maika’s murmurings about wanting a baby. That said, fear not, romance is still in the air, as beta couple Reina and Hermes are still working on it… mostly because they’re essentially carbon copies of Maika and Ash, which is amusing but also lazy writing to an extent. And of course there is “foreign spymaster” Seire, who is clearly still very interested in Ash, not to mention Princess Alicia, aka Arthur. That said, everyone had better get on Maika’s good side if they want to get anywhere, and even so, I’m pretty sure this is not a polycule sort of book.

Ask and Maika may be engaged, but that’s not the plot of the series, the Industrial Revolution is. As such, we see the attempts at making a gas-powered engine (which sadly blow up), a steam engine (more successful), and other instances. Unfortunately, their little city has gone up in the world a bit too much, and the nearby areas have leaders who are Very Unhappy. Thus they’re seeing more bandits than usual, more refugees than usual, and, when all else fails, a full-blown invasion, supported by a few very familiar traitors who have always been jerks in previous books so it’s no surprise to see them being the bad guys here. That said, our good guys have Ash and Maika, who between them are good enough to stop any human plotting. Unfortunately, towards the end of the book, we get what every city fears – a demon invasion. We’ve seen Ash beat a werewolf beast before, can he beat over 200?

This remains a good series provided you accept all of its faults. Ash’s narration is always trying its hardest to pretend that he is just this ordinary dull normal guy, and sometimes it succeeds more than the author intends. Maika’s attachment to Ash and desire to protect him is funny much of the time, but when she has to be reminded not to murder people it’s a bit less fun. And, as noted, Reina and Hermes’ not-relationship is less interesting to me precisely because we’ve seen this sort of thing before. An attempt is made to give them a rival to draw them closer together, but he’s such a horrible person in every way that the big surprise at the end of the book was that he was NOT in fact a spy working for the bad guys… and I’m still not 100% convinced. On the bright side, the worldbuilding and fight scenes are still fun, and the humor can be very good.

This will probably always fall under the definition of “solid” rather than “good”, but sometimes solid is all you need.

Fushi no Kami: Rebuilding Civilization Starts with a Village, Vol. 5

By Mizuumi Amakawa and Mai Okuma. Released in Japan as “Fushi no Kami: Henkyou kara Hajimeru Bunmei Saiseiki” by Overlap. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Maurice Alesch.

By and large fushi no Kami has been a worldbuilding novel. We’re here to see Ash and company drag the kingdom into the modern era, and we do get a bit of that here, particularly with the development of anesthetic. That said, there has also been an undercurrent of romance to the whole series. Ash has several girls in love with him, and up until this point has pretty much deliberately ignored it. Good news for fans who were hoping for resolution of this plotline, we definitely get it here, as Maika, with the help of almost everyone else in the cast, makes her move. Of course, Ash is unlikely to simply say “sure”, so stronger measures might be needed. And what of Arthur, who is the romantic runner-up in this scenario? Well, she remains a romantic runner-up, I’m afraid. Fushi no Kami does not seem all that interested in polyamory. Fortunately, Maika is awesome enough for five wives.

There is a certain amount of predictability in this volume, to be fair. Once we learn the story of how Maika’s parents got married, the rest of the book writes itself. That said, there is one big surprise, which is Ash casually admitting his feelings for Maika. Ash is a great protagonist, but he also has a tendency to default to ‘blank slate’, both when he talks to others and in his own narrative voice. As such, hearing him casually state that he loves Maika out loud is startling. That said, if you look at most of his actions in the past it makes sense, and his biggest reason to avoid it (they were both kids) is no longer an issue, as both are of marrying age in this fantasy world. That said, his response of “but I’ll never get married because I’d always put my dream over any spouse” is also very Ash. He wants his beloved to be happy.

As for Maika, we know enough about her to know she is not going to mope around after Ash rejects her. Especially not when she learns how her parents got married, and figures she can simply repeat history. Especially if it involves being a cool sword fighter! We’ve seen Maika’s training in the blade throughout the series, and no one has ever really been able to even come close to defeating her. Unfortunately, that applies here as well – despite a couple of attempts to insert drama into the story, with one opponent stating that he’ll be using lethal blows – there is a general lack of tension in her fights the entire way through. That said, it leads up to the best part of the book, where, after Ash says he can’t marry her because his dreams come first, she explains she’ll simply insert herself in between them, as long as it takes. Plus it’s not as if his dreams aren’t hers as well, she just doesn’t have the pat life to draw upon.

There is a decided lack of romantic fallout with Arthur, though that could simply be because she and Maika are best friends. Or it could carry over into Book 6. Which is not out in Japan, so for now we are left with a very nice love confession.

Fushi no Kami: Rebuilding Civilization Starts with a Village, Vol. 4

By Mizuumi Amakawa and Mai Okuma. Released in Japan as “Fushi no Kami: Henkyou kara Hajimeru Bunmei Saiseiki” by Overlap. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Maurice Alesch.

Last time I asked for Ash to have a few failures under his belt, and we do get a bit of that here, showing that he can’t do ANYTHING he puts his mind to. Food preservation is still a big problem, and the wonders of canned food will have to wait for more advanced techniques. There’s more good news: by now, everyone has gotten so used to Ash being the greatest thing since sliced bread that they’ve started to stop talking about it, which means less page count devoted to everyone praising him to the skies. That said, there’s a larger failure towards the back half of the book, as he chooses to try to save a village on its last legs, mostly due to sentimentality, and finds that while rebuilding civilization may start with a village, the village is not necessarily of one mind, and that humans tend to be lazy, cowardly and devious creatures. Fortunately, the next generation shows more promise.

On the cover are Renge, the maid who took a significant role in Book 3, and gets a much larger one here, and Suiren, her friend from a neighboring village. They had a falling out a couple years ago about the fate of Suiren’s village – the poor harvests have hit it particularly badly, but they’re too stubborn to give up or move. Now it’s a couple of years later, and things are even worse. Still, Renge is diligent, steadfast, and kindhearted, and wants to help them even though she’s been rebuffed. And Suiren is feeling regretful, and also the pangs of starvation, so is willing to accept the help. Everything is in place for Ash to test his new fertilizer experiments, and things seem to go swimmingly – until Suiren’s father, the actual village chief (who had been “ill” before) reappears to screw everything up.

For the most part, Ash is in “bad cop” mode throughout a lot of this book, and it’s not hard to see why. While he is resolved to help Suiren’s village because of Renge’s pleas, the village has not done a great job of even the minimal farming requirements. Even after he teaches them the right methods, some are better at them than others – and the ones who do poorly get less food. And when they’re proud of themselves for achieving results using the fertilizer… he points out everything they did wrong. It’s a brutal teaching method, and one that Maika and the others who’ve been around him just shrug off. Some, like Suiren, grow to be better, stronger people under these circumstances… and some, like her father, end up arrested and having their village taken away. Lesson learned: do what Ash says. Of course, this lesson does not apply to Ash himself, who tells the soldiers not to go to far trying to take down some treant monsters and then promptly goes too far. He is “do as I say, not as I do” in triplicate.

We’ve caught up with Japan, as the 5th volume of the book is not due out there till the end of July. So we leave Ash and Maika for a time. (He’s still not recognizing anyone is in love with him, and we can definitely add Renge to that list – though fortunately NOT Suiren.) Till then, let’s enjoy the fact that by now everyone has grown so used to Ash’s maniacal ideas that they take them in stride. Mostly.