The Invincible Shovel, Vol. 4

By Yasohachi Tsuchise and Hagure Yuuki. Released in Japan as “Scoop Musou: “Scoop Hadouhou!” (`・ω・´)♂〓〓〓〓★(゜Д゜ ;;) .:∴DOGOoo” by MF Bunko J. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Elliot Ryoga.

This was, to be a shovel, a much shovelier shovel than the previous shov… urgh. Sorry. But frankly, after reading the latest volume of this series you just start to do it naturally. This 4th volume has over 1000 uses of the word shovel in some way, shape or form. It begins with a half-failed attempt to make an anti-shovel device, and towards the end ends in a world that is literally made up of millions of shovels, representing Lithisia’s somewhat misguided desires. That said… and despite the continued threat of tentacle shovels molesting the female cast… this was a much better volume than the previous one. For one thing, it actually now seems to be headed for its endgame, and admitting that it has to have Alan and Lithisia talk to each other in a way that does not involve talking past each other. Secondly, the book admits that Catria is the best heroine we’ve got, and that we have the most laughs when watching her suffer.

We begin with our heroes having derailed most of the villain’s plans. They’ve already collected all the necessary orbs. The four deadly mini-bosses have all been either killed or made into Lithisia’s toy shovels. That said, there are still a few problems. The first is Catria’s continued attempts to remain vaguely normal, despite her ability to use Alan’s shovel powers getting better and better. With the help of a hellish artifact (literally), she now has to keep her shovel and anti-shovel thoughts balanced, or else had things will happen. That said, things may be worse for Lithisia, who has already noticed that Alan and Catria are bonding, and is basically a bundle of jealous insecurities. This ends up becoming a disaster of monumental proportions when the orbs grant Lithisia’s wish of a shovel world… one where even the sun itself is forced to have a shovel in it. Is this truly the end?

Lithisia has been the broadest of broad characters since about halfway through Vol. 1, and recently had been verging into actual mental disorders. At heart, though, she remains a maiden in love, and the core conflict of this series, beyond even the need to rescue her kingdom from evil, is her and Alan misunderstanding each other’s wishes. He wants an apprentice in regards to his mining. She wants love… and, perhaps even more importantly, a child. She ends up getting the first, amazingly, as Alan is able to come down from obliviousland in order to admit that he would be perfectly happy to spend the rest of his life with her. That said… this does lead to a very funny situation, as after 4 volumes of Lithisia using the word ‘shovel’ to mean sex, the idea of making a baby the normal way never even occurs to Alan. And that’s not even getting into the last-minute swerve that makes your jaw drop and also your forehead get smacked by your hand.

Despite my thinking that it was leading to an ending, this is not apparently the final book in the series. That said, it is the most recent to date, with Vol. 5 not out in Japan yet. If, like me, you were hoping to temper the shovel humor with actual character development, this is a good one to pick up. And it’s still pretty shovelly fun too.

The Invincible Shovel, Vol. 3

By Yasohachi Tsuchise and Hagure Yuuki. Released in Japan as “Scoop Musou: “Scoop Hadouhou!” (`・ω・´)♂〓〓〓〓★(゜Д゜ ;;) .:∴DOGOoo” by MF Bunko J. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Elliot Ryoga.

Gotta admit, starting to get a bit annoyed with this title at times. Not all the time, mind you. When it’s at its best it’s doing what it’s done the last two volumes: have Alan solve problems immediately by using his shovel in ways that make no sense, have Catria get upset about this, and have Lithisia be silly and also somewhat scary. There is plenty of that in this book. It also uses the word ‘shovel’ 900 times, more than the previous two, and that’s not even counting the fact that the translator gave in and started using ‘scoop’ as well, which is there 120 times. But there is another element of the book, which is the ‘using shovel in a sexual way’ part, and it is, frankly, getting rather irritating, as it’s less subtle and more creepy throughout, especially in any scene involving Lithisia abusing Alice. It’s one of those times when the brain just refuses to make something funny. The phrase “Alice-juices” really does not help.

Our heroes continue to try to track down orbs from the four corners of the world. They rescue the mermaid population from an evil Hydra, go up to the sky world and meet two angels, one of whom briefly joins Catria as the sole voice of reason in the party, and try to stop demons corrupting more angels; they go to the Kingdom of Darkness and help free its people from demonic enslavement (and forced rape, something else I was not happy with), and finally they descend to hell and take on various minions, some familiar to Alice and some familiar to Alan. Throughout this Alan uses shovels to do damn near anything, but more surprisingly, so does Catria, though she’s not quite ready to admit that just yet.

Catria is probably the best part of the book, as it’s actually funny seeing her being the “voice of common sense” while, at the same time, firing off wave motion shovel blasts with her sword, which over the course of the book is slowly starting to turn into a shovel. She’s still the person with the most ethical sense here, though. That said, Lithisia may not be quite as far gone as the previous book… and, if I’m being honest, most of this one… has portrayed her. Seeing the hydra, who essentially turned evil when their love was spurned, makes her worry that if Alan leaves her she’ll to the exact same thing. There’s also the ending, where she gets in over her head when battling a God trying to possess Alice, and is forced to admit that perhaps she is NOT ready to solve every problem with a shovel like Alan can.

Honestly, I don’t see the sexual humor going away anytime soon, but I wish it would stick to ‘misunderstanding uses of the word ‘shovel’ in salacious ways’ rather than ‘Lithisia molests Alice with a shovel repeatedly’. The book is showing signs of depth – about 5% of the book, perhaps – which is enough given it’s meant to be a broad comedy. I will keep reading, though I expect I will remain a bit irritated. (Also, given the use of the shovel is frequently only implied by the text, how on Earth will they ever animate this?)

The Invincible Shovel, Vol. 2

By Yasohachi Tsuchise and Hagure Yuuki. Released in Japan as “Scoop Musou: “Scoop Hadouhou!” (`・ω・´)♂〓〓〓〓★(゜Д゜ ;;) .:∴DOGOoo” by MF Bunko J. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Elliot Ryoga.

It should not come as too much of a surprise to find that this second volume is not quite as funny as the first. The Invincible Shovel has a few choice gags that it hammers on with the subtlety of a truck hitting an isekai protagonist, And so the element of surprise is gone here. That said, this ended up being funnier than I expected, particularly as it went along. We meet a couple more heroines who add themselves to the uninterested Alan’s not-quite-harem, including a ditzy sage and a sheltered princess, everyone misunderstands things in a sexual way due to the use of ‘shovel’ to mean absolutely everything, and we get somewhat incrementally closer to finishing the quest, as there’s a mid-range boss to defeat and we get a glimpse of the big bad. And then there’s Lithisia, who definitely levels up in this book… in both good and bad ways. Alan may be the OP hero, but in the end Lithisia is the most terrifying.

I’d mentioned in my review of the first volume that the word ‘shovel’ was used 703 times, and in this second book it’s 880. Note that we don’t really get variations – at one point an illustration shows Lithisia is clearly holding a trowel, but it’s referred to as a shovel, and we don’t see spade or other types either. This is deliberate, both for the comedy – the overuse of the word, especially from Lithisia inventing new words including it, is ridiculous – but it’s also meant to be exhausting, to leave the reader so drowning in shovels that they just learn to let it roll over them. We feel much like Catria, the sole voice of reason in this title, who wants things to make sense but is constantly cursed by Alan using his shovel to make instant tunnels through gigantic mountains, remove a memory block to help someone recall their past, and force the villain to confess his evil deeds by literally digging his own grave.

As for Lithisia, I will admit that I did get very tired of her constant horniness, which ends up carrying over to the other characters. The idea of ‘shovel’ meaning sex… or, frequently in this book, masturbation, as Alan says that they can learn to shovel better by themselves, is the sort of thing that’s mostly interesting to 15-year-old boys. Fortunately, there’s more to her than that… in a somewhat scary way. Lithisia devoting herself to the Way of the Shovel is funny, but Lithisia being able to brainwash others to the same vision is alarming. The shovel is gaining more and more followers, though as a worried Alan notes, they don’t actually have the shovel superpowers that she assumes come with the job. This actually has a serious core at its deluded center: she’s afraid that when the quest is over, Alan will leave her, and so vows to TAKE OVER THE WORLD! to ensure she remains by his side. It’s… sweet? In a way?

As I said earlier, your enjoyment of this title may end up being how tolerant you are of the word ‘shovel’ and the female cast being horny on main most of the time. But it’s still gloriously silly enough that I’ll be shoveling the next book. Um, reading. I meant reading. Shovel.