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.
After a few volumes of pretending to be your standard “reader surrogate gains immense powers and a wide variety of women” isekai story, Arifureta has settled down as it finally realizes the type of story it wants to tell, which is a messianic narrative. I’m not actually being facetious here, we have seen seeds of this before, but they come to full flower here. Hajime is here to save the world by being badass at it. Those who believe will be rewarded, those who do not believe will get their asses kicked. We see one of his believers doubt herself in this volume, and Hajime makes it very clear that this is no easy task – believe in him and stop stewing in self-hatred, or get out. Needless to say, we know which choice she makes. We also see Hajime go up against the powerful Church, which regards him as a heretic, and a demon who may as well be filling in for Lucifer. Subtle this ain’t.
Shizuka’s on the cover, but doesn’t appear much, though we do see her bonding with the princess of the royal family, who I had honestly forgotten. Most of the book is taken up with Hajime getting Myu back home, which also involves conquering not one but TWO of the remaining dungeons. Kaori is left behind for one of them as support, which seems quite sensible given that this is the MAGMA DUNGEON, but she comes along on the water dungeon crawl, which leads to her crisis of faith I mentioned above. Said crisis of faith is resolved by Hajime showing that he cares about her by threatening an entity that’s possessed her – indeed, most of the harem’s self-esteem issues are resolved by simply having the undemonstrative Hajime pat their head or vow to protect them or somesuch. In all honestly, as Hajime notes, he’ll basically do whatever they say, but I suspect the typical “I hate OP harem guys” fan won’t mind as Hajime is stoic rather than friendly.
We get a lot more background on the past of the world Hajime and company have been brought to here, and find that if we’re headed for a massive Holy War, it won’t be the first. I suspect the next volume will have Hajime’s group divert their plans to save Aiko, who is being imprisoned and tortured for believing in Hajime. No, really. As I said, if you don’t accept this as a messianic narrative, it may be hard to get past its inherent ridiculousness. Oh yes, we also meet Myu’s mother, who the author admits is straight up a ripoff of Alicia from Aria, and who clearly would be quite happy to be an addition to Hajime’s harem, though I’m not sure it will actually happen. It would be nice to have an “ara, ara” sort in the harem. In any case, the next volume will be as action-packed as this one, I imagine, thoguh knowing Hajime, he is unlikely to be crucified and die for anyone’s sins. Recommended for fans of ridiculously overpowered guys and the women who adore them.
Also, “Fish-san was a fishmancer.” I’ll just leave that there.