By Dojyomaru and Fuyuyuki. Released in Japan by Overlap, Inc. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Sean McCann.
This second volume of Realist Hero details a war fought on several fronts, and will no doubt delight those who enjoyed running campaigns in various roleplaying games. There are several ‘thinking outside the box’ moments that made me smile, most of which are lampshaded by excerpts from a future history book that show how the outside the box idea led to an idiom that is now in common use. And once again, I’m pleased w3ith how the cleverest ideas are not always left to Souma, the titular Realist Hero, and he’s occasionally allowed to be caught flat footed. That said, the thing that struck me the most about this second volume is that I was far more invested in the characterization than I was in the first volume, mostly due to one of the more subtle and unemotional nervous breakdowns I’ve seen.
(As a sidenote, if you’re going to have the cover of Vol. 2 feature the elf girl bodyguard, you might want to give her something to actually do in the book. Carla would have been more appropriate.)
Our king, Souma, may be a history expert who can map war scenarios onto old Japanese campaigns and spout Machiavelli with the best of them (though that thankfully happens less this time around), but he’s still a young man who grew up in modern Japan, and this whole King thing is wearing down at him. Interestingly, we never see this reflected in his own narration – it’s only when Liscia or one of the others is observing Souma that they note that something seems off about him. It’s also interesting to see how the polyamory is handled in this series – most of the other LNs I’ve seen with ‘multiple wives are legal’ scenarios mostly just have it as an excuse to not write jealousy, but Realist Hero looks into how its world handle this, and shows that the pecking order in such relationships is actually class-based more than anything else. It’s both amusing and disquieting to see Liscia pushing hard for Souma to take Carla as a secondary Queen, even showing off her hot body like a car dealer. Liscia and Carla are best friends who ended up on opposite sides in this war, and Liscia knows if Souma doesn’t marry Carla she’ll likely be executed.
The first book left several plotlines dangling for the second, and some of them are dealt with, though not all. Moreover, this second volume has quite a big open ending, as we don’t actually see what happens to Carla, her father, or any of the other nobles who rose up against Souma (bar the obvious cartoon villain nobles who get theirs at the end). Given the “realist” nature of this book, I’m not actually sure if Castor will be executed or not (Carla, being a young hot girl and friend to Liscia, I’m pretty sure is safe.) We get a few more details on the kingdoms and empires surrounding our Realist Hero’s kingdom, and are introduced to a few more potential future harem members. The series could go in any number of directions from here. The writing of Realist Hero is merely OK, and sometimes I suspect that what I’m seeing as subtle underplaying is actually just being dull, but I must admit that I want to know what happens next far more in this series than I do in other light novels.
(Also, more fantasy isekais need therapists.)
(Also also, did Liscia dramatically cut her hair just to stop me saying that she’s a duplicate of Red Saber?)