The Mythical Hero’s Otherworld Chronicles, Vol. 5

By Tatematsuri and Ruria Miyuki. Released in Japan as “Shinwa Densetsu no Eiyū Isekai Tan” by Overlap Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by James Whittaker.

As I’ve mentioned before, I keep vacillating back and forth on whether I like this series or not. The books themselves don’t help, being variously filled with things that I really want to see more of and things that make my teeth grind. The author himself notes that this book is a bit of a throwback to the first in the series, which is good as it allows the books to pick up various threads that they’d put aside in order to have a throne war (the Fallen and why and how they get that way), but is also bad because it means we still have to cling to some “who is this written for?” light novel conventions (our hero plans things out so that the women can save the day, but they fail and he has to step in himself). That said, I’m still going to be reading the next one, as I want to see if a) Hiro will go full villain, and b) if Aura will worship or execute him.

Everyone’s heading back to the Emperor, and it’s probably bad news. Liz and Aura had some very public defeats, and they’re going to have to accept some punishment for them. That said, Liz is also determined to make sure that Scáthach and her family are compensated… well, as much as they can be given it’s Scáthach and a collection of heads. Unfortunately, everyone (including Hiro) is thrown off their game by the first prince, Stovell, renouncing his claim to the throne… which, of course, is actually a prelude to an attempt to overthrow the Emperor. He’s got 30,000 men. Hiro, Liz, Aura and Scáthach have about 3000. Those are not good odds, even with Liz being who she is, and with the helpful addition of Scáthach’s Gae Bolg. Hiro might actually need to try this time around…

Hiro remains the most interesting part of the book. As I said earlier, I’m not quite sure where we’re going with him. Certainly Hiro is absolutely not doing any of your shipping nonsense, as he plans on simply fading away once Liz is on the throne and has trustworthy allies. There’s also the fact that he’s not quite human, and also his battle bloodthirst is inevitably going to take him over at some point. This is wonderfully hypocritical given he yells at an enemy general for doing much the same thing here, but Hiro is our… well, hero, yes, thanks, I got that pun. He’s going to need the entire female cast giving him a cooldown hug at this rate. And then there’s Aura’s obsession with her Bible of past glories, which is amusing given that she’s the one who notices most when Hiro is doing his suicidal battle lord stuff. She’s still probably my favorite.

If you like edgelord military throne war stuff, this is a must. If you don’t, like me, you’ll probably consider dropping it but get the next one anyway.

The Mythical Hero’s Otherworld Chronicles, Vol. 4

By Tatematsuri and Ruria Miyuki. Released in Japan as “Shinwa Densetsu no Eiyū Isekai Tan” by Overlap Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by James Whittaker.

“Well, well, well, look who’s come crawling back.” Yeah, I know. My last review of this title said I was dropping it for being too dark, but here I am. This is what happens when you forget to cancel the preorder. But I mean, I felt like a military book, so I thought fine, why not? And I mean, it is still dark. The young woman on the cover has a collection of the heads of all of her family in her tent, just so that she remembers who killed them as she goes after her quest for vengeance. The “heroine” (always a dangerous word to use in this series which enjoys making its heroines badass but also damsels them a lot) pends the entire book being abused despite her status as a prisoner of war. And, of course, our hero proves that he is one dead friend away from losing it entirely, to the point where even the cool semi-sentient weapons of this world are sending prophetic dreams saying “could you all talk this goombah down PLEASE?”.

Hiro gets back to the capital to find bad news and worse news. Liz has somehow been taken prisoner by the enemy, and the guy in charge of her is delighting to see how far her blessing goes before he can destroy it and assault her. Aura is holed up in a fortress, surrounded by enemies, and with no real way to rescue her. He has to choose who to save and who to sacrifice. Hiro being Hiro, he chooses to save both of them. This he does by being as arrogant and powerful as possible – he’s got the power to back up his words, to the horror of everyone who tries to take him on. He manipulates, he lies, and he coerces, and his army are also super powerful, so it works even though they’re severely outnumbered. Unfortunately, there’s a new enemy yet to be accounted for, and she bears a weapon called Gae Bolg and is named Scáthach. Yes, that’s right, we’re finally crossing over with the Fate universe.

OK, not really. Scáthach is merely a former royal who had to watch as her entire enemy was butchered by the Empire – the Empire, that is, that Hiro and Liz are part of. She recognizes that Liz, at least, is not a monster like those who killed her family, but this does not stop her from using Liz as a giant popsicle to try to discourage those on the Empire’s side. It will not surprise you to find she’s pledged herself to Hiro by the end of the book. As for Hiro, thank God he’s not a real isekai hero. I mean, yes, he is, this book began with him in Japan and he got transported to another world, but you know what I mean. Hiro’s thoughts and attitude are informed by his past life here, and Japan basically never comes up, meaning he lacks the bland potato-ness of many of those heroes. One might argue this makes him something of a monster, but that’s why Liz is being told by her sword to calm him down.

That said, the Emperor and some of his family are definitely not the good guys here, so I feel we’re going to get pretty throne war-ish soon. Will I keep reading? I dunno, if I’m in the mood for more military battles, which take up the bulk of this book.

The Mythical Hero’s Otherworld Chronicles, Vol. 3

By Tatematsuri and Ruria Miyuki. Released in Japan as “Shinwa Densetsu no Eiyū Isekai Tan” by Overlap Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by James Whittaker.

This is likely my final review of this series, but I want to assure everyone that it’s not for the usual reasons of “oh hey, this just became intolerably bad”. It’s more that this has simply not become a story I personally wish to read. I can see why others would want to read it, though. It’s very teenage boy. There’s a kickass guy with an eyepatch, taking out swathes of enemies by himself, with multiple girls as love interests, a couple of whom actively try to seduce him whenever they get the chance. It is, in other words, a light novel. The one drawback, and the reason I’m moving on, is that it’s so goddamn serious 90% of the time, I had picked this up as it had a lot of similarities to Altina the Sword Princess, which is on indefinite hiatus forever, but even Altina, which had some dark moments, was fairly lighthearted. This is just too straightforward. There’s no subversion, no meta, no in jokes. It’s a cool guy being cool.

After the events of the last book, Hiro and Liz are asked to come back to the palace to get even more accolades. For Liz this means command of an army, which goes out to quell someone or other. For Hiro is means a new job… a somewhat suspicious job. He’s asked to head north to Lebering, the kingdom to the north of the Empire. Hiro almost immediately finds himself caught up in a throne war while there, and needs to try to escape, save the crown princess who appears to be the one member of the royal family who is not dead or bloodthirsty, and try to quell a rebellion WITHOUT asking for help from the Empire – who would likely simply annex the kingdom and make it part of its own. Can Hiro pull all this off and still find time to pose dramatically?

There’s not a total lack of humor. Liz is by her very nature a fun character, even if she’s written as a bit too naive, and Rosa toes the line of being “the annoying sexy one” without ever actually going over it. The battle scenes are well-written, even if sometimes they go a bit too far into “we’ll write a lot of rape scenes offscreen to show that these are the EVIL soldiers”. The main issue is Hiro, who remains steadfastly uncompelling, despite being isekai’d from Japan *and* the old warrior Mars now come back to life. There are hints that he might get more interesting in future books, but the hints are that he might go down a darker, more amoral path, which are not hints I like. Even the big reveal at the end, which should have been more surprising, suffered because it was filtered through Hiro’s “of course, I knew all along” boringness.

If you’re the sort of person who enjoys those fanfics that rewrite Naruto or My Hero Academia with the hero being “darker and more badass”, this is a great book for you. But I just want something a bit *less* straightforward these days.