The World’s Strongest Rearguard: Labyrinth Country’s Novice Seeker, Vol. 7

By Tôwa and Huuka Kazabana. Released in Japan as “Sekai Saikyou no Kouei: Meikyuukoku no Shinjin Tansakusha” by Kadokawa Books. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Alexandra McCullough-Garcia.

Last time I suggested that things might get a lot more interesting now that bad things have happened to our heroes. Sadly, I was overoptimistic there, and I forgot how, no matter how bad things may get, the general tone of this series remains “cozy”. Yes, Theresia was cursed by the Shinimg Simian Lord, but she’s not immediately turned evil, it’s a slow-acting evil curse, so she spends most of this book merely being herself and occasionally shuddering as it corrupts her. And Elitia is of course devastated that she got everyone into this in the first place, but after a suitable period of angst and wallowing she’s allowed to be reborn as a far better person and swordswoman. And, of course, nothing can ever take away from the true purpose of this series: watching everyone ask Arihito what new skills they should buy. Even the author says that this is more a video game than a book at this point. That said… I’m still reading it, so something must be going right.

On the cover are two new characters, Ivril and Viola, who introduce themselves but not much else. But they look cool, right? As for Arihito’s party, after the disastrous battle in the Blazing Mansion they have a new problem; they not only have to rescue Elitia’s comrade but also cure Theresia from her curse. This requires research, as well as battling some undead horrors, in order to reach a curse-breaker who reminds everyone of Ceres (they’re not related, apparently, but have a past history). They also join another battle to help out two wayward seekers who got separated from their party during a retreat, and they take on yet another sentient weapon at the end of the book, which pops up when trying to open a black treasure chest. Do they go back and fight the simian lord? Not yet. See you in Book 8.

Again, these books meander. Chapter 2 goes from Page 54 to 122 in my copy, and it’s nothing but looking at Expedition Results, Level Ups, and choosing new skills. I also left out the delicious meals they eat (including a chef who wants to cook food with the rare fruits they got recently) and of course all the sexual innuendo, as this remains the filthiest G-rated book in light novels. (Kyouka has a dream she’s married to Arihito and is wearing a naked apron for him.) That said, as noted above, it was nice to see Elitia finally figure out how to master her blade, which essentially turns out to be “trust that I won’t use it to murder allies”. We get a bit more of her backstory here, and see that her brother has been manipulating it – after the Simian Lord his group may be the next fight.

No one is reading this for depth, and if you’re reading it to see when anyone will have sex, despite all the innuendo, you should also find some other series. But if you’ve enjoyed rearguard so far, you’ll enjoy this.

The World’s Strongest Rearguard: Labyrinth Country’s Novice Seeker, Vol. 6

By Tôwa and Huuka Kazabana. Released in Japan as “Sekai Saikyou no Kouei: Meikyuukoku no Shinjin Tansakusha” by Kadokawa Books. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Alexandra McCullough-Garcia.

One of the strengths of this mostly ridiculous series is that I get the sense the author does not take it seriously. Now, I’m not saying it’s meant to be a comedy – the battles are clearly meant to be dangerous and deadly action sequences, and this volume in particular ends on a big downer of a cliffhanger. What I mean is that it doesn’t take the tropes seriously. It’s a harem genre with a passel of women all in love with our oblivious hero, but there’s no infighting or even any real anger about it – hell, the closest they get to being upset is when Misaki almost spills the beans on what they have to do every night after Arihito goes to sleep. There’s also the reality-bending power of fiction, where our heroes end up being the ones who always fight the strongest monsters, even when they’re told not to. But even then, after they win, they’re told “sorry, you really are that powerful, please have a special title.” It’s just… funny.

We pick up where we left off last time, with our party in a trap laid for them by Shirone, who unfortunately also appears to be trying to do a “suicide by dungeon”. This trap includes monsters that raise your karma if you attack them, and a named monster (of course) that can not only inflict pain on our heroes but also guilt of their past actions and present fears. And while they do end up escaping this and defeating the monster, it’s clear that Elitia is still feeling the aftereffects of this. Things aren’t really helped when they are asked to go to the 5th Level to help to subjugate a swarm of scorpion monsters… the 5th Level being where they were aiming for to try to rescue Elitia’s friend. The scorpion monsters and their leader prove to be fairly easy to take down. But the Simian Lord whose dungeon holds Rury proves, for once, to be too much for Arihito, and he pays dearly.

Despite that cliffhanger, this is possibly the most Rearguard volume of Rearguard ever. We get our heroes taking on THREE named monsters and defeating two of them, something that is almost becoming old hat. Everyone theoretically gets cool things to do, though I will admit that a lot of it is the narrative spewing game stats at us and then trying to figure out what they actually do in terms of visuals. More to the point, Arihito is the star of this series, and it’s made very clear that the narrative of this world knows it. There are other parties who were jealous of how fast he’s risen… then they see how he deals with The Calamity and they fall over themselves to apologize and grant him an even cooler title. As I’ve said before about this series, if you are a fan of light novels who takes them Very Seriously Indeed this must make your skin catch fire. It does not give two hoots.

That said… erm, hope Theresia is OK? Fortunately, we don’t have a year to wait for the next volume in the series as we did last time. Unfortunately, from what I’ve heard, the arc may go on even longer than that next volume. Still, I’ll be reading and enjoying.

The World’s Strongest Rearguard: Labyrinth Country’s Novice Seeker, Vol. 5

By Tôwa and Huuka Kazabana. Released in Japan as “Sekai Saikyou no Kouei: Meikyuukoku no Shinjin Tansakusha” by Kadokawa Books. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Alexandra McCullough-Garcia.

This was, in all honestly, probably the strongest volume of Rearguard to date. It still features everything that you’ve come to expect from Rearguard: lots of people praising Arihito and his party (but mostly Arihito) endlessly, lots of “which level up should I take” talk that goes on for 10-15 pages, lots of everyone being 100% in love with Arihito and his not getting it at all, etc. There are some nice relaxing moments, as they do actually try to take a day off and stay at a beach resort. There are thrilling battles, as they manage to find the one hidden dungeon in the middle of said resort. There is, believe it or not, development of the ongoing plot. There is a battle towards the end where I actually wondered if they’d be able to pull it off without fatalities, as I briefly forgot what series I was reading. And there are giant electric penguins, twenty feet high, as Rearguard manages to cross over with Scott of the Sahara, of all things. It’s quite a book.

As always with this series (the book helpfully reminds us it’s only been EIGHT DAYS since the start of Book 1), we pick up right where we left off, with Arihito and Seraphina getting details on the aftermath of their big fight – oh yes, and saving the life of the guy who lost his soul, which was considered nearly impossible but, Arihito. He also finds out more about their two biggest goals, and needless to say, they’re both very, very difficult: Elitia’s former party is wracked with internal strife and possible evilness, and rescuing her friend seems unlikely. And we find that it requires a lot of sacrifice to try to restore a demi-human to their former selves, and they’ll always be marked by it – literally. Arihito, of course, cares not a fig about how hard it is. He has resolve. He has his strong companions. He has the protection of a God. And he has his OP powers, which are causing even those on the highest level to watch him.

Despite three deadly battles, lots of discussion of possible death of party members and friends, and an ending that implies trying to rescue the person who tries to destroy them, this book remains jovial, relaxed, and easy-going. Arihito’s badassery is balanced out quite nicely by the badassery of everyone else in his party, and he does not have to always get in the final hit a la Kirito. Even the harem aspect boggles the mind – this book, like many of the others, talks about the fact that when Arihito sleeps behind his party, they all get aroused, to the point where they all try to bid on an item that puts a cone of silence around a person so they that can quietly take care of themselves. And yet… it’s never explicit, and it’s not even really done to titillate. Even when they fight the 20-foot-high electric penguin, they befriend it and take it to their zoo, as it was lonely and can now play with other penguins. The whole series is just so… NICE.

The next volume is not scheduled yet as I write this, and we’re almost caught up with Japan. Still, I enjoyed this even more than usual. If you can stomach the premise, it’s definitely worth a read.