The World’s Strongest Rearguard: Labyrinth Country’s Novice Seeker, Vol. 8

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 and John Neal.

This series, of course, follows the efforts of our hero, who is the bestest guy who ever lived, and so it can sometimes be hard to remember that for everyone else in this world not in Arihito’s party, this world is a parade of failures, lethal battles, and fates worse than death. The Simian Lord can make you a mind-controlled puppet, the monsters can kill you and never look back, and if you fail and survive, well, your reputation is so bad you may as well go right back to the beginning. It’s a vicious little world that would be extremely unpleasant to read about if this book were not a male power fantasy, so good news! It is still a male power fantasy, and instead of tragedies piled on each other we can read about triumph over said tragedy. As well as, y’know, more ways to use Arihito’s mysterious orgasm power. Which the girls still won’t tell him about.

Our heroes are still trying to find a way to defeat the Simian Lord and free Theresia from his curse. This involves finding Holy Stones, something that would normally be next to impossible but fortunately their party has a girl whose job it is to be lucky. They then have to battle a sand creature, which is defeated thanks to Theresia, but it turns out that defeating monsters in combat advances the curse, so she attacks Arihito. Things are desperate. Fortunately, Arihito’s reputation and general kindness means that he has quite a few allies this time around (though Elitia’s brother is not among them, and it’s implied that he’ll be the main antagonist in the next volume). Do they have enough to finally do what no one else has done and defeat the Simian Lord?

Theresia is particularly lucky that everyone loves Arihito, as after her attack she’s arrested and taken to a holding cell, and it’s only the intervention of three other people that saves her from what sounds like a very nasty fate. It’s actually been a while since we’ve looked at how people in this world treat demi-humans, and the answer has ranged from “slave” to “tool”, but this also means that when you’re p;ut under a curse that is not your fault and you attack your friend, the solution is “imprison you forever and oh yes, you’ll also probably get sexually assaulted”. I am therefore relieved that this long arc is finally over, and that, needless to say, our heroes win. Though I will admit I’d have liked a bit more of an epilogue, as we get very little after battle tears and instead get introduced to an amoral girl who seems to be in charge of things. Another teaser for next time.

If there is a next time. The last volume was a year and a half ago in Japan. The webnovel has been updated once in the last two years, and is also caught up with the light novels. And the author has a new series being published that seems to be taking up his time now. Given that, I’m even more happy this arc ended, and if fans want to write fanfic showing what happens next, hey, knock yourself out. recommended to fans of books that are both pure and deeply horny at the same time.

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.