How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom, Vol. 3

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

I will give credit to the author, he managed to hold my attention despite the fact that the entire content of this third volume of Realist Hero is setting up the board for future books. This despite the fact that it’s also dealing with the fallout from Book 2, i.e. the war with Amadonia. This world’s equivalent of the United States is dropping by to arbitrate, and by arbitrate I mean tell Souma and company to give Amidonia back to its rulers, even though the arbitration is done with reluctance. Souma has plans, though. He’s starting the equivalent of a Japanese variety show in order to show Amadonia what true freedom is like. He’s discovering Aisha’s previously unknown talent for tsukkomi. He’s dealing with the nobles who didn’t rebel against him but are still being evil, and does it using (sigh) the power of Machiavelli’s The Prince, which I am never going to enjoy. And if all else fails, he still has his Mr. Rogers cardigan to break out.

As you may have gathered, Aisha, Souma’s elf bodyguard, does get a bit more to do in this book, which is good, given that she’s also set to become Souma’s second ‘primary queen’. The difference between royalty and commoners is highlighted in the narrative, but also pretty much accepted as ‘well, that’s the way it is’, which is uncomfortable. Aisha is royalty by dint of being an elf princess. In any case, there’s also Juna, who gets to be the country’s first big idol singer – something which backfires on her when Souma points out he can’t announce he’s marrying her as well or there would be riots. She is first on his bucket list, though, which also has a few likely suspects that get hinted at here. Though not, refreshingly, the younger sister of the Gran Chaos Empire, Jeanne, who gets ship tease with the prime minister instead. It’s nice to see romance in the series that doesn’t involve Souma.

We also get our first slave, since slavery is legal here as well, because fantasy world. This is a way to reconcile the plot with Castor and Carla, who were on the bad side but weren’t “against the king” per se. Castor is basically stripped of everything but allowed to live because of his years of military experience. Carla doesn’t have that, but she’s Liscia’s friend, so she’s made into a maid for the household. I suppose it’s a better way to deal with her in this narrative than killing her off, but again, I wish this series kicked back a bit more against its cliches, particularly when they involve ‘these people are better than those people’. I may get my wish in future books; there’s a suggestion that Souma’s inability to tell “demons” and “monsters” apart, and everyone’s else’s shock at this, may factor in future books.

And so we end with Souma having to come to terms with the fact that he had a dozen people executed for the crime of ‘might plot against me in the future’, and the fact that this is, to a certain degree, monstrous. Fortunately, he gets some healing therapy in the form of two hot fiancees in bathrobes snuggling up against him. (Note: this therapy likely only works in isekai harems.) I have many issues with Realist Hero, and they keep stacking up like cordwood, but I can’t deny its compulsive readability.

Also, Souma and Aisha’s banter during the ‘variety show’ was A+, the book is worth the price just for that one scene.

How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom, Vol. 2

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

This second volume of Realist Hero details a war fought on several fronts, and will no doubt delight those who enjoyed running campaigns in various roleplaying games. There are several ‘thinking outside the box’ moments that made me smile, most of which are lampshaded by excerpts from a future history book that show how the outside the box idea led to an idiom that is now in common use. And once again, I’m pleased w3ith how the cleverest ideas are not always left to Souma, the titular Realist Hero, and he’s occasionally allowed to be caught flat footed. That said, the thing that struck me the most about this second volume is that I was far more invested in the characterization than I was in the first volume, mostly due to one of the more subtle and unemotional nervous breakdowns I’ve seen.

(As a sidenote, if you’re going to have the cover of Vol. 2 feature the elf girl bodyguard, you might want to give her something to actually do in the book. Carla would have been more appropriate.)

Our king, Souma, may be a history expert who can map war scenarios onto old Japanese campaigns and spout Machiavelli with the best of them (though that thankfully happens less this time around), but he’s still a young man who grew up in modern Japan, and this whole King thing is wearing down at him. Interestingly, we never see this reflected in his own narration – it’s only when Liscia or one of the others is observing Souma that they note that something seems off about him. It’s also interesting to see how the polyamory is handled in this series – most of the other LNs I’ve seen with ‘multiple wives are legal’ scenarios mostly just have it as an excuse to not write jealousy, but Realist Hero looks into how its world handle this, and shows that the pecking order in such relationships is actually class-based more than anything else. It’s both amusing and disquieting to see Liscia pushing hard for Souma to take Carla as a secondary Queen, even showing off her hot body like a car dealer. Liscia and Carla are best friends who ended up on opposite sides in this war, and Liscia knows if Souma doesn’t marry Carla she’ll likely be executed.

The first book left several plotlines dangling for the second, and some of them are dealt with, though not all. Moreover, this second volume has quite a big open ending, as we don’t actually see what happens to Carla, her father, or any of the other nobles who rose up against Souma (bar the obvious cartoon villain nobles who get theirs at the end). Given the “realist” nature of this book, I’m not actually sure if Castor will be executed or not (Carla, being a young hot girl and friend to Liscia, I’m pretty sure is safe.) We get a few more details on the kingdoms and empires surrounding our Realist Hero’s kingdom, and are introduced to a few more potential future harem members. The series could go in any number of directions from here. The writing of Realist Hero is merely OK, and sometimes I suspect that what I’m seeing as subtle underplaying is actually just being dull, but I must admit that I want to know what happens next far more in this series than I do in other light novels.

(Also, more fantasy isekais need therapists.)

(Also also, did Liscia dramatically cut her hair just to stop me saying that she’s a duplicate of Red Saber?)

How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom, Vol. 1

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

There is a certain variety of story that has been seen more and more often lately. It usually is fanfiction, but as we’ll see, doesn’t always have to be. It usually involves the author (almost always a young male in their late teens or early 20s) reading a work and liking the general idea, but feeling the execution just wasn’t… badass enough. Or the main character was friends with the wrong people. Or the world was run in a nonsensical way, and things would be far better if everyone just had more common sense and thought things through. (These stories also usually involves a large number of heroines deciding they’re OK with sharing the love of the hero in happy polyamory, possibly as they were mostly written by late teen-early 20s boys.) The most famous example is probably Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, but if you’re looking for something along those lines but in an original work, Realist Hero may be right up your alley.

“But wait,” you say, “I thought you said this wasn’t fanfiction!” Indeed, it’s an original story in the isekai genre, of a young man summoned to another world to defeat a demon king, but who instead puts his college learning to good use teaching modern politics, economic theory, and the essentials of running a city to good use, becoming the king and ending up engaged to the crown princess seen in the cover. “But… that’s Saber, right? Saber Red, to be precise.” Don’t be silly, that is not Saber Red. It merely looks just like her. Not a surprise, as the illustrator’s pixiv page basically contains the cover for Realist Hero 1 and a ton of Fate/GO art. That is Princess Liscia, who warms to our hero over the course of the book, acts as a student for all the modern ways he’s teaching them, and in return teaches him about the little known facts of their fantasy kingdom, like the polyamory. Which is probably fortunate as he also gets a hot elf bodyguard and singer/temptress/big sister figure to fall for him (I’m ignoring the loli for the moment), and seems to be adding a feisty young dragonet noble, manipulative princess of the country next door, and tsundere thief to the mix in future books.

I’ve been fairly glib in this review, but I will happily admit the book is something of a hoot to read. It wears its heart on its sleeve, and while I wish it would tone down the Machiavelli (using The Prince as a guidebook on how to run a country is never, IMO, a good idea, especially as some scholars think The Prince was meant to be satire), the lead is actually likeable and not the massive jerk you sometimes see in these sorts of stories. His suggestions are sensible, but don’t always work out perfectly, and I like the fact that we move forward over several months as the book progresses. (There’s also a narrative device where sometimes we hear “little did they know that in thirty years time, this would become etcetcetc.”, which I also liked.) If you’re looking for an isekai that’s light, breezy fun (though the second volume implies there may be war on the horizon), this should fit the bill nicely.