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.
We’ve been waiting for some time for Hajime’s path to intersect with the rest of his high school class, and it finally arrives in this volume, which appropriately has Kaori on the cover. It also provides us with a nice comparison between the two lives the groups are currently leading. Hajime, at the start of the volume, is trying to date his rabbit girl (with Yue’s permission, of course), but cannot help but accidentally get caught up in a string of ludicrous situations that end up with him semi-adopting a small mermaid-ish girl and also casually destroying an underground slave ring and mob over the course of, oh, an hour or so. Meanwhile, his class has gotten down to the 90th floor, and suddenly run into a demon with a bunch of monster minions, many of whom are invisible, and get their clocks absolutely cleaned. It’s serious and dramatic and… you’re counting the pages waiting for Hajime to show up again.
There are a few interesting characters among the class herd, of course. Kaori is still just as obsessed as she ever was – in fact, we get a hilarious extra story showing off how obsessed with Hajime she was from the moment she first saw him – and it’s no surprise that the volume ends with her joining Hajime’s party, though not without difficulty – it’s hard to topple Yue from the top, and she doesn’t, but like all the other girls, Yue’s absolute strength of love for Hajime gives her the courage to confess her own. Shizuku rises from “snarky best friend” to top-tier in this volume, proving smart, capable, and wielding an amazingly sharp tongue. The way she gets Hajime to promise not to mistreat Kaori is the funniest part of the book, and I won’t spoil it. She also gives excellent advice to Kouki, the actual cliched “hero called to save the world”, though I’m not sure it will stick. Kouki sounds like the author will always want him to be teeth-grindingly wrong in a Dudley Do-Right way, so I suspect the next time he meets Hajime things won’t go well – particularly after that cliffhanger.
But yeah, I had a lot of trouble remembering who was who in the rest of the class, and those I did remember didn’t appeal to me (sorry, Suzu, you need more in your quiver than “comedy lesbian”). And to a degree that’s the point. Interesting as it was to see the class struggle and mostly fail against a string of monsters far beyond their abilities, and deal with the idea that they’ll actually have to kill enemies, that’s not what we’re reading Arifureta for. The reader wants Hajime impaling monsters with one blow, Yue burning everything in sight, and Shea swinging her hammer around (and also riding Hajime’s faux motorcycle, the other contender for “funniest moment” in the book). Like other ridiculous isekai series (hi, Smartphone), it works best when it’s ridiculous. That said, the contrast between ridiculous and desperately serious here made this an excellent volume.