By Ryo Shirakome and Takayaki. Released in Japan as “Arifureta Shokugyou de Sekai Saikyou” by Overlap. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Ningen.
This is definitely a stronger volume than the first one – as with many authors, you get the sense that this is the story he wanted to tell all along, only he had to spend an entire volume giving us actual plot and backstory. But Hajime has hit world’s strongest already, and together with Yue he can pretty much carve up anything. So what’s left is the two of them snarking their way through various confrontations, beating nearly to death anyone who wrongs them, and attacking their second dungeon, which thankfully is very different from the first – in fact, the dungeon may be the highlight of the book. And of course they meet a new girl, the bunny girl on the cover. Admittedly, a lot of the plot points we had in the first book get short shrift (the rest of the class have approximately 20 pages of the book), but in a book this ridiculous that’s fine.
One of the reasons that the book works so well is the addition of Shea (whose name I think is meant to be pronounced Shee-ah, but sorry, I’m likely going to be saying Shay due to romanization habits), a loud, hyperactive, overly dramatic bunny girl who is the polar opposite of Hajime and Yue. I suspect Arifureta fandom may disagree with me on this – I haven’t verified it, but I’m pretty sure that Shea is the sort of character that readers came to Arifureta to get away from, and I bet that they winced with every whining complaint out of her mouth. These readers are wrong. Shea is quite funny and amusing, and while she starts off as the abused whiner of the group, the book is in many ways about adding her to the ‘harem’ naturally – I was relieved that Yue warmed up to her relatively quickly, as I don’t need genuine love triangle drama in my unrealistic harem fantasy – and by the end she is, if not an actual love interest, at least a valued party member.
As I mentioned in my review of the first volume, Arifureta tends to work better the more ridiculous it gets, though this is not an ironclad rule – Hajime’s training of the rabbit clan, and subsequent overdoing it, left just as sour a taste in my mouth as it did in his – and that’s likely why the best part of this book is Hajime, Yue and Shea conquering their second dungeon, which features zero monsters but eleven million kinds of traps. There’s hallways that turn into slides, there’s the ever popular washtub to the head, and there’s even a boulder rolling towards them down a slope, which is so cliched it’s remarked upon. This is added to by the constant taunting messages of the dungeon master, Miledi, who we never see (her spirit is inside a golem), but whose personality shines through with every teasing abusive message she writes for our heroes. This whole section was very fun, and the fight scenes were good.
As always, know what you’re getting into – this is still wish fulfillment fantasy of the highest order, with a ridiculously dark!grey!independent Hajime and his two companions, a gorgeous loli and a busty bunny girl. There’s no sex this time around, but that’s mostly due to lack of opportunity. It is still for fans of these sort of light novels only. But if you are one of those fans, and can get over Shea’s hyperdramatics, this is a very good addition to the series, and a definitely improvement over the first book.