The Unwanted Undead Adventurer, Vol. 2

By Yu Okano and Jaian. Released in Japan as “Nozomanu Fushi no Boukensha” by Overlap, Inc. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Shirley Yeung.

Last time I mentioned that I found Rentt fairly dull, but the story being told around him fascinating. Unfortunately, this second book sticks with Rentt the entire time, and suffers from it. It’s divided fairly evenly into fourths, each of which sees Rentt telling us about what’s going on very matter of factly. And speaking in that “I… am a zombie… sort of tone…” to boot. The stronger part of the book is at the start, as I really enjoyed the Bronze Adventurer test he took with the young adventurer couple. And the chat he had with Sheila was also good, though signposted something that I was hoping this book would avoid. (It’s a light novel series, guess what? It’s not avoided.) Unfortunately, the last two stories aren’t as interesting, and by the end of the book I found myself skimming, never a good sign when the ending features a fight to the death against a giant dragon creature.

The start, though, is very good. The test that Rentt and the adventurers he’s paired with take is quite vicious, which is fair given what adventurers of this level have to go through. More monsters than expected, ambushes from guild members, and also ambushes by other adventurers trying to take them out, given that only the one team who gets there first passes. This allows Rentt to show off his knowledge and experience. The adventurer couple are cliched (they reminded me a bit of the brother/sister team from Log Horizon) but cute. After this, we see that, as expected, Rentt’s attempt to hide himself by taking on a different last name and putting on a cloak and mask are not QUITE as effective as he’d imagined. Unfortunately, this then leads to the thing I thought we’d avoided. Sheila is clearly in love with Rentt, and when brought back to the house to meet Lorraine, Lorraine immediately knows it. I don’t really need undead harem adventures.

The third story has Rentt going to a village whose ritual sacrifice festival has gotten a bit too literal about its ritual sacrifices, and she steps in to save the day and figure out what’s going on is not as supernatural as people would think. The final story is the one ending in a cliffhanger, as Rentt takes on the task of finding a rare plant to help heal the head of an orphanage (the orphans are the ones hiring him). The most interesting part of this is when Rentt tries to kill a giant rat creature and instead finds himself getting a familiar, and a rather snarky one at that. Unfortunately, this is almost entirely Rentt by himself and Rentt without other people to bounce off of is far, far too dull. Things aren’t helped by the fact that, due to a rumor of adventurers disappearing, he has to stay out of the dungeons to avoid being suspicious. As a result, he’s stagnated a bit.

So now that we’ve had that dreaded second album syndrome, can things pick up? I believe they can, but I suspect it relies on how large the cast is for the third book. Too much Rentt can be deadly.

The Unwanted Undead Adventurer, Vol. 1

By Yu Okano and Jaian. Released in Japan as “Nozomanu Fushi no Boukensha” by Overlap, Inc. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Shirley Yeung.

My readers by now should be well aware that it doesn’t take much for me to be happy with what I’m reading. Usually, particularly in the case of light novels, I either really like a unique take on the standard premise, or I like a book that is the standard premise but with a twist that surprises and pleases me. This new series definitely falls into the latter category. Despite the fact that I can’t really remember a book over here that begins with the hero dying and becoming undead, the execution of most of the book is pretty much what you’d expect. He tries to come to terms with his new unlife, he fights monsters in the dungeon and levels up, he meets the occasional newbie adventurer and helps them, and he tries to see if there is any way that he can somehow evolve enough to regain his humanity. Where I feel the book really succeeds, though, is in showing the reader the disconnect between our hero’s perspective of himself and the rest of the cast.

Our hero is Rentt Faina, who is a bronze-level adventurer hunting monsters in the lesser of the two dungeons his village has. He’s one step above newbie, but still a bronze level adventurer – after ten years of trying. The problem is that he has a little talent in everything but not a lot in anything. What’s more, he accidentally finds an uncharted part fo the dungeon… and immediately runs into a dragon, who essentially kills him. When he wakes up, he’s a skeleton, but still retains his memories – and powers, which is surprising given one of them is basically godly blessings against undead. Everything that Rentt narrates about himself paints him as a useless, somewhat stubborn schmuck who should have realized he’s just not any damn good at adventuring and retired ages ago to find something better to do.

Except we then slowly learn about the village Rentt lives in, its adventurers, guild, and other associated parties. And to them, Rentt is not only one of the most important people in the village but the reason the village is so successful at all. He’s only a bronze level adventurer because he has low abilities, but his KNOWLEDGE is that of a 10-year-old veteran. What’s more, he’s a decent, moral person. The Guild essentially relies on Rentt to train all the newbies so that they learn and grow the proper way. The higher-up adventurers who travel through the larger, more famous dungeon in town all got their start with Rentt. The idea that he hasn’t returned from the dungeon worries and upsets them. I cannot say enough how much I loved this. There’s a scene where Rentt visits the blacksmith and his wife, who knew him before, and tries to pass himself off as this cowled, mysterious OTHER guy who happens to have Rentt’s exact power skill. From Rentt’s POV, he feels bad he can’t say anything but is happy he can at least get a new sword. From the POV of the blacksmith and his wife, it’s “why isn’t he saying anything? Doesn’t he trust us?”.

This is, honestly, one of the two reasons to read the book. The other is Lorraine, one of the three women on the cover (don’t worry, it’s not really a harem), a young mad scientist and Rentt’s best friend. Her mad science is amusing, as is her devotion to the (of course) clueless Rentt, to the point where she’s willing to let him bite and drink her blood in order to save him, and is rather sad when he heals her completely later. I like female mad scientists in general, b ut the other thing about Lorraine is that when she’s giving exposition about the world and its mechanics, it actually sounds interesting. When Rentt is doing it in his monologue – which is sadly a great deal of the book – it reads like, well, the other 85 light novels you’ve recently read where the lead takes one hundred pages to explain the mechanics of dungeon crawls to the reader.

So yeah, there’s a lot of Rentt, and Rentt’s own monologue makes him seem like someone you would not want to read about. However, the alternate story being told around Rentt is fantastic, and I want to see more of it. As such, I’d definitely recommend carrying on with this series.