By Dojyomaru and Fuyuyuki. Released in Japan by Overlap, Inc. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Sean McCann.
Realist Hero continues to keep my interest even as my teeth grind more and more at the mindset of the author and his characters, which is to its credit. Certainly there are similar isekais that did not hold my attention and have since been dropped (hi, Death March). It’s even more impressive given that, for the second volume in a row, this feels like a setup book, putting various things in place, introducing new technology that will no doubt be needed down the road, and (at last) finally answering one of the lingering questions of the series: why on Earth did the former King abdicate to Souma after merely having one conversation with him? And for fans of the romances, you not only get a new queen added to the mix, but Souma finally comes to terms with the fact that he is in this world for good, and that he is worthy of being loved, and is able to take that next step.
The girl on the cover is Roroa, who we’ve seen crop up in cameos before this book, here to save the day (despite Souma completely ruining her planned overdramatic entrance). Roroa is, in many ways, an Osaka stereotype transferred to the fantasy world: she not only has the sort-of-Southern accent, but is also far more of a merchant than she ever is a Princess. Yes, she’s the Princess in Amadonia, which is now fully incorporated into Elfrieden (which means the new name of the country is Friedonia, which I refuse to believe is by accident) and has presented herself as a prospective bride, Like other prospective brides we’ve seen in these sorts of series, she runs rings around Souma till he gives in. That said, she does look like a good addition, and it will be nice to see Souma try not to juggle economics quite as much. Oh yes, we also get a mad scientist girl, though she won’t be part of the harem. She is very much in the “ditzy teen genius” mode.
There is an extended plot here regarding slavery in this world, which I was less happy with. I accept that slavery in this fantasy world does not carry with it the baggage that it does in our own world, and that it seems to be more indentured servitude. But both Souma and the author seem to treat slavery as an intellectual problem to be solved, rather than as a monstrous evil. This is not unique to the isekai realm, of course, and I should be grateful that the protagonist doesn’t simply say “oh, slavery exists here” and shrug his shoulders like some others. It does add to my biggest beef with this series: it can be as dispassionate as its hero is, and as I’ve said before, seems like it’s one of those “dark/grey/independent” fics you always saw in Harry Potter written by teenagers who wondered what the world would be like if everything were more badass. (Hint: it involves hating Weasleys.) I like books to be fiction. I am less happy when they are thought experiments.
That said, when the book concentrates on its harem cliches, such as the relationship between Souma and Liscia, it may be less original, but it makes it more human. I hope we get a bit more of this going forward. I also hope the demon realm invades soon, as I really need Book 5 to not involve puttering around making new roads and discussing the Helsinki Accords. Mildly recommended to isekai fans.