Hell Mode ~ The Hardcore Gamer Dominates in Another World with Garbage Balancing, Vol. 4

By Hamuo and Mo. Released in Japan as “Hell Mode – Yarikomi Suki no Gamer wa Hai Settei no Isekai de Musō Suru” by Earth Star Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Taishi.

Most of the time, when you’re reading a Japanese light novel and all of the magic powers, combat stuff, etc. comes out in the same way as a Japanese RPG, it tends to be… not laziness, per se, but it’s a way to allow the writer to easily explain things without having to create an entire fantasy world system and let them get on with more important things, like having the protagonist be super awesome and attract all the girls. Sometimes, though, you read a book and you realize that the RPG stats are the point. This is one of those series. The Hell Mode author is not really interested in plot or characterization all that much. Heck, they’re still not bothering with romance – there’s none of it in this book. They are here to roleplay their elf vs. demons campaign, and it’s going to take 367 pages to get through it, so you’d better settle in. Hope you like stats.

We left off with Allen and friends being sent to the front lines and almost certain death just because the royal family don’t really like him. This is fine with Allen, though, who of course sees this as a great opportunity to level up. They can’t take Meruru (whose country is asking her to go to her own war front), but everyone else goes. When there, they find the elves are really on their last legs, about to suffer an ignominious defeat. Fortunately, Allen has 80 billion magical total heal things, as well as any number of summons that can destroy, maim, eat, or spy on the enemy. Honestly, through most of this book his biggest concern is Krena and Dogoro, who are still having trouble accessing the “I was cool but now I’m SUPER COOL” part of their powers. That said, the main boss we get here is enough to make even our protagonists struggle. They will need another ringer. They will need… the hero.

The majority of this book is pure fight scenes, and thus unreviewable. Aside from that, I did appreciate that Allen, who is now relatively comfortable and trusting of everyone around him, finally fesses up and admits that he’s a reincarnation from a different world. I especially liked Cecil’s immediate reaction, which was “ah yes, so much makes sense now”. Allen is a freak in a very different way to the others… is what I’d like to say, but I’m not sure it’s true anymore. All the others are equally obsessed with getting new levels, new titles, and new powers. It’s the way this world works. Either you keep getting strong and stronger and more overpowered, or you die. (Hence the title.) Also, while Cecil and Krena don’t seen romantically interested in Allen all that much yet, the same can’t be said for his summons. Ellie, aka “Spirit B”, seems to be deifying “Lord Allen” a bit, and it’s slightly worrying… well, it would be if the narrative wasn’t doing the same thing.

This will always remain a “I might read the next book if I get a gap in my schedule” sort of series to me. But if you enjoy watching Allen wave a hand and watch OP bullshit happen, this is still giving you what you need.

Hell Mode ~ The Hardcore Gamer Dominates in Another World with Garbage Balancing, Vol. 3

By Hamuo and Mo. Released in Japan as “Hell Mode – Yarikomi Suki no Gamer wa Hai Settei no Isekai de Musō Suru” by Earth Star Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Taishi.

This book is a very different beast from the first two, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. it’s good in that we get a lot less of Allen, on his own, spending pages and pages experimenting with different combinations of summons while fighting off monsters, which was in my opinion the weakest part of the books to date. He’s gotten so strong that the narrative can either quickly elide his tests, or else it shows him just instinctively knowing what to do. On the down side, this volume is a combination of two of the isekai fan’s least favorite genres: dungeon crawl AND magical academy. On the up side, this means the rest of the cast, especially Krena, has more to do. On the down side, Allen really is the standard OP protagonist now, so scary he can take out the most powerful hero in the land and terrify royalty. Basically, yeah, this is a light novel, all right.

Allen and Cecil are now ready to head off to the Magic School that they need to attend before being sent off to fight in the war against the Demon Lord. Joining them are Krena and Dogura, newly arrived from Allen’s hometown. On arrival, after yet another “your stats are all E, you fail, get out!” fakeout, which is a bit tedious by now, they settle in and buy a 20-room mansion that’s close to their real goal: dungeons. School itself is an afterthought here, what they want is to go through each dungeon, level up, gain skills, and get stronger and stronger. By the end of the book the cast, Allen and Krena especially, are so powerful that only the best in the world can really take them on. Which is good, because, having terrified the aforementioned royalty, they’re being sent off in Book 4 to the front lines.

It’s rather astounding (and honestly welcome) how this series does not care about romance at ALL. You could argue the kids are 12/13 years old, but that hasn’t stopped other books in this genre. Krena and Cecil meet up, and just become friends and allies, no issues. Later in the book they add an elf who I thought might have a crush on Allen, but no, she’s just worshiping him as the one chosen by the prophecy. Romcom is just not what this author is here for. Gamer nerdery *is* what they’re here for, and I assure you that despite what I said above, there’s lots of “let’s look at everyone’s stats here” for those who adore it. The party expands rapidly here from “Allen and a token girl” in the first two books to “Allen and his party of the most powerful students in the country”, including an elf princess, the son of the antagonist of the second volume, and a dwarf girl who gets nothing to do, but we’re explicitly told that she will eventually. And Allen, who COULD do all this by himself, but thankfully does not.

So yes, better than the first two books, and recommended for those who enjoy all the things that the louder light novel fans say they don’t enjoy. Next time: Allen Goes To War.

Hell Mode ~ The Hardcore Gamer Dominates in Another World with Garbage Balancing, Vol. 2

By Hamuo and Mo. Released in Japan as “Hell Mode – Yarikomi Suki no Gamer wa Hai Settei no Isekai de Musō Suru” by Earth Star Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Taishi.

Having now circled back to read the 2nd book in this series, which came out about a year ago, I find that I will be struggling to write a review of it, because so many of the strengths and weaknesses in the book are the same as the previous volume. In general, whenever Allen is NOT using his summons to fight things, I am reasonably entertained. It’s an interesting reincarnation fantasy where we’re learning about the world at the same time as the main character is, and the climax of the book is action that is actually exciting and cool. Unfortunately, the weakness of this book is that it’s still written for game heads, and I do not give a rat’s ass about how many summons it takes to screw in an orc’s lightbulb this time around. Plus, this is a one-man series still. Cecil plays slightly more of a role here than Krena did in the first, but sadly most of that role is to run away or get kidnapped.

After the events of the first book, Allen is now at a Baron’s house, serving as the servant to the young lady of the house, Cecil. Of course, we don’t really see much of his servant duties. Instead, we see him leaving the city to go out and hunt monsters, experimenting with different types of birds, beasts, stone creatures, and even fish that can buff you. He also starts taking out goblins, then moves up to orcs, which gains him the attention of the local soldiers, who see that he is clearly not Talentless but turn a blind eye. Things change when (it’s implied because pf Allen’s activities) the local dragon moves to the other side of his mountain, meaning that the poor city will soon be able to be rich again. Unfortunately, there are evil nobles who want to change that reality.

The last quarter of the book really is the best part. Allen and Cecil’s escape from what amounts to a dirigible is exciting and also ludicrous (break both legs? Use a leaf and heal myself instantly!). You’d think someone who was a 2-level magic user might try to contribute a bit, but I’ll put it down to Cecil being sheltered. We also get a much better look at the world itself, as after saving his daughter the baron tells Allen the real secrets about this world… and how it ties into his Japanese self selecting “hell Mode” in the first place. Of course, what this ends up meaning is that we’re going to be going to a different locale for the third book in a row, though at least Cecil will be coming along (and I suspect we’ll see Krena again too). I really enjoy the plot, and wish that I didn’t have to wade through 150 pages of experimentation to get to it.

The series is out up to Book 5, but I’m taking a break here so I can read in increments another book people have been demanding I try. In any case, recommended for those who enjoy books with lots of gaming talk in them, as well as books where the hero is not immediately OP but has to work to be OP.