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.
Arifureta is taken from a web novel, which the author and publisher then rewrite, add to, and extend in order to make the published light novel version. As such, it seems a bit ridiculous to suggest that the author was told by the editor to move things along as they need to cut to the chase. But that’s what seems to be happening here, as several plot threads wrap up so fast that you expect some other hand behind it all. Aiko was rescued so quickly that I actually was worried that a chapter had been skipped, and the resolution of who is the traitor among Hajime’s fellow students also seemed to happen very fast (though if you looked at the cover and said “who the heck is that?”, you might have had an inkling). Other than that, this is a typical volume of Arifureta – over the top fighting, the occasional really good character introspection, and turning very bad when the author tries to be funny – something he shares with other light novel authors I could name.
The strengths of the book are quite obvious. The author likes to write overpowered fights, and is good at it. Seeing Yue and Shea team up to fight a horde of demons was fun, especially as absolutely nothing seemed to faze them. This contrasts with Hajime’s fight with an Angels sent to kill him, which goes very badly for him, mostly as he’s trying to fight while also holding Aiko. Once that problem is solved, things proceed to go Hajime’s way a lot more. Aiko is once again probably the best character in the book, as she’s forced to use her powers in order to completely wipe out the church bishops and priests (yes, her farming powers – it makes sense in context) and feels hideous amounts of guilt and shame for murdering people. The aftermath of this, and Hajime’s response to her, is beautiful, and makes the entire book worthwhile.
Some other parts don’t make the book worthwhile, sadly. As I said before, the pacing of this volume seems incredibly rushed, and a lot of it felt like the author wanted to clear the decks so he could start on the second half of the series (I think we’re about halfway through it right now). Our villain, once she gets revealed, gets to fall straight into the yandere stereotype, and is far duller than I’d hoped based on past manipulations. I’ve no doubt we’ll see her again, but I doubt she’ll have any more significant successes. And I hated absolutely everything about the scene with the okama muscle guys, which is grotesque negative stereotype central. Hajime’s harem stays the same size here, though he is aware Aiko loves him, and the narrative is aware that it’s only a matter of time for Shizuku. Oh yes, and Kaori’s now got an Angel body after being murdered by her insane classmate, meaning she gets to be as ludicrously overpowered as the others – which is what she’s always wanted, to be fair.
Arifureta is always going to have that air of “I am getting back at the bullies who tormented me in school” to it, and the villains this time round make that comparison more painfully apt than usual. Still, it’s fun mostly, provided the author isn’t being humorous, and should definitely please ongoing fans.