How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom, Vol. 14

By Dojyomaru and Fuyuyuki. Released in Japan as “Genjitsu Shugi Yuusha no Oukoku Saikenki” by Overlap Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Sean McCann.

Given that he’s clearly being set up to be the main antagonist, it’s not particularly surprising that we now get an entire book devoted to what Fuuga Haan is up to. Souma and company are certainly in the book, but they feel more like supporting players. Instead, we watch as Fuuga continues to be a cross between Genghis Khan and Romance of the Three Kingdoms, removing his enemies and then, as an encore, removing anyone who’s staying neutral as well. This does allow us to see how the inevitable battle between Fuuga and Souma is going to go, though, and Souma is not enjoying it at all, as it turns out Fuuga does in fact listen to advice, even when the advice given is, dare I say it, Machiavellian. This is due to the Chima family, who turn out to mostly be varying degrees of clever and too clever by half. Souma really lucked out getting the youngest son as an ally, though he may be getting more before this is all done.

On the cover we see Mutsumi, who unfortunately is not nearly as much of an action heroine as it implies. That said, she is very much devoted to her husband, and she to him, and I hope that we do not see her killed off in order to give him grief and vengeance down the road. The plot kicks off when her younger brother, who knows his father is plotting against Fuuga and is confident in his sniping skills, takes it on himself to try to assassinate Fuuga. This goes badly, and forces Mathew, the patriarch, to kickstart his plan into action. What follows are a series of tactical battles, lots of fighting and bloodshed, and Fuuga winning the day, mostly because the eldest Chiba decides to betray his father and advise Fuuga instead. Meanwhile, things look bad for Julius and Tia, as their tiny kingdom is very strategically placed, and Fuuga has it in his sights…

I’ve talked before about my dislike of how much Machiavelli is hammered on in this series, but I’m clearly not going to get anywhere with that, so I will admit that it is interesting comparing and contrasting Souma with Hashim. Souma talks about Machiavelli a lot, but for the most part the only time we’ve really seen him behaving like the modern-day adjectival use of the word is when he slaughtered all those nobles – something he recalls in this book. Hashim does the same thing here, planting a bomb at a meeting of neutral nations, but is far more clearly villainous, and you get the sense that, unlike Souma, he would absolutely do it again and again if it suited him. He’s also happy to tear his family apart, which is a shame, but it does mean that we get a few more Chimas in the allied countries. It will be interesting to see what happens going forward, especially as the Empire and Maria have been very noticeably absent recently.

All this plus MORE BABIES! Yes, who knew when everyone got married in Book 1o0 it would lead to pregnancies? In any case, provided you don’t mind that Fuuga Haan is the focus, this is a decent volume of Realist Hero.

How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom, Vol. 13

By Dojyomaru and Fuyuyuki. Released in Japan by Overlap Bunko. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Sean McCann.

Anyone who has consumed any amount of Japanese anime/manga/light novel material will be familiar with the concept of the “bland hero”. He is there to be the reader, essentially. He is nice. He is usually smart, at least in these sorts of books. He is sensible. He tends to get flustered easily, usually. Sometimes this can even be done well. Realist Hero’s Souma is a fairly good example of the type without having most of the negative points that people complain about. Unfortunately, this can become a problem when the situation requires the character to have a reaction that is NOT “bland hero”. Near the start of this book, Souma takes offense to the rather wet (no pun intended) island princess comparing her situation to his wife Roroa’s, and gets mad. Which is fine, except I do not for one minute buy his anger at all. I had thought it was a calculated move, like virtually everything else he does. But no, it was meant to be rage. And wow, nope. Fortunately, the book improves greatly after that.

We pick up where we left off last time, with Princess Shabon and her bodyguard Kishun begging Souma to stop the upcoming war with the Nine-Headed Dragon Archipelago Union. This proves to be quite a wrench in the works, not only because Shabon’s desperation and poor self-image leads her to piss Souma off, but also as, well, he’s already got a plan in place, no worries. That said, there’s a bigger issue here, as the reason that all this seems to be happening is a giant monster that is prowling the seas and taking away all the fish – and sometimes the fishermen. Souma has to find a way to not go to war, avoid having the Empire called in, and deal with what is, let’s face it, Gamera. Fortunately, he has a lot of tricks up his sleeve, including a Navy that is powerful and does things other navies can’t, a monster expert who’s still a kid (I mean, when I say it’s Gamera I’m not making things up) and also find time to deal with the fact that another of his wives is pregnant.

The action parts of this book are quite well done, as is the “clever plan”, especially when we realize who Souma’s contact inside the Archipelago Union is. As noted above, this is very deliberately an homage to old kaiju movies (Souma uses the word to refer to the creature), and like most of those movies, you feel sad when it is finally brought down. There’s also some good politicking for those who read the series for that. I’m especially interested in what’s going on 3with Empress Marie, who pretty blatantly says here that she’s fine with simply letting Souma rule over everything. (I’m still betting she’ll be a final wife.) In terms of the ongoing plot, however, it’s still simmering, with Souma and Fuuga knowing they’re going to have to fight to the death and not really wanting to do it.

The next volume isn’t out in Japan yet (late April, I think), so we’ll be waiting a while to see what’s next. Till then, Gamera is really neat, he is filled with turtle meat, and please try not to let Souma show actual emotions.

How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom, Vol. 12

By Dojyomaru and Fuyuyuki. Released in Japan by Overlap Bunko. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Sean McCann.

Sadly, my begging to the author did not help, as Machiavelli is cited again in this volume. It was originally written in the webnovel version interspersed with Vol. 11, but they decided to split it up for book publication. Which is fine, but it does mean this book is very short. And what’s worse, it still needs side stories to make up the length… and has to start Book 13, to the point where the chapter numbering actually resets. Basically, in terms of bang for your buck, this is pretty slight. Fortunately, it does a little better when it comes to actual plot, introducing us at last to the Zem mercenaries and finding that they are not QUITE as villainous as the book has painted them to date. More importantly, though, we meet the late Duke Carmine’s daughter Mio, who is determined to get to the bottom of why her father did what he did. Souma had been planning to try to clear Georg’s name anyway, so this works out, but there are some other things to consider.

War is tough, after all, and though Georg did his best to try to keep casualties to a minimum, there are still soldiers who were killed in a battle that turns out to have been part of a massive con game, and their families won’t be happy with that. More importantly, of course, is the presence of Kagetora, the tiger-masked bodyguard who is absolutely not secretly Georg Carmine, no way, uh uh. Mio’s seriousness and general anger is something that Souma tries to curtail by the shortest route, and he does so by having Kagetora and Mio face each other in battle, something that manages to clue her in – and only her – as to what’s going on. (Less successful is Mio after this cathartic moment, when she becomes more comedic and starts throwing herself at Finance Minister Colbert… the author really does want to pair up absolutely EVERYONE, huh?)

The other big event in this book, aside from the cliffhanger that leads into Book 13 (which I’ll just discuss when that comes out) is the first in-person meeting of King Souma and Empress Maria. He needs the Empire’s help with their upcoming war, and knows that such a conversation can’t happen over video conference call. I liked that this showed off Maria being exceedingly clever, seeing what Souma is actually planning immediately, and also showcasing Jeanne’s frustration at being unable to catch up to her genius sister. That said, Maria’s (unheard by the reader) request of Souma is worrying, as it certainly sounds along the lines of “when I die, do this”. And here I was thinking they were going to work out a way to add her to Souma’s wives… oh yes, and the mad scientist group discusses the need to add drills to everything, which I still maintain is just a big Maria-sama Ga Miteru joke.

So, despite its slightness, this book succeeds at what it wants to do, although (like many, many light novel authors) the attempts at humor are not all that funny here. In any case, next time we get mermaids and dragons, and see another clever plan of Souma’s upended by a heroine inserting herself into the narrative.