By Tsukikage and bob. Released in Japan as “Darenidemo Dekiru Kage kara Tasukeru Maou Toubatsu” by Famitsu Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Caleb DeMarais.
It’s becoming clear that these books live or die based on the “guest” characters. The last book had a poor orphan girl who was so fed up by the antics of Ares and Amelia that she willingly went along with the villain at the end. But she was somewhat grounded, and this made everything easier to take. This time around we have Stephenne, whose joke is that everyone assumes her to be faking her “dojikko” personality because no one could truly be that dumb and unaware, but nope, what you see seems to be what you get. If anything, Stephenne helps to highlight one of the points of the book. Everyone is appalled at her basic personality, especially because she’s a super high level and can crush most things. Why would you not have her in the party? Well, because she’s like that. Yes, I just describes Ares. Replace “dojikko” with “asshole” and they’re the same character. No wonder his boss gets headaches just talking to him. It’s like watching Maxwell Smart and the Chief.
The premise is much the same as last time – our hero party has entered a new place, but they need to level up and get stronger, so Ares and company tail them and try to facilitate things. Stephenne is supposed to help on both sides, but she’s such a walking disaster that no one wants anything to do with her. In the meantime, Golem Valley, where this book takes place, seems to be distressingly free of dangerous golems. Oh, there’s enough so that the hero can defeat them, but where are the super strong ones? As Ares investigates, he finds that the demon lord has also sent a party to Golem Valley. A confrontation is needed, and Ares has to do the only thing he knows how to do really well: piss everyone off.
Last time I found Ares slightly less obnoxious and awful, but that’s changed once more – he’s really terrible in this book, and you absolutely can see why most sensible people want nothing to do with him. Amelia, who is in love with him, isn’t much better, as for God’s sake, WHY? Seeing her jealousy at Stephenne hanging out with Ares and her increasingly unsubtle hints just makes me wince. They’re helped by a half-giant turned priest, who’s the nicest, most relatable character in the book and ends it by now speaking to Ares. Meanwhile, the hero party are suffering from now being good enough to defeat most low-level threats. All the major flaws from the first book have been explained or are about to be fixed. Unfortunately, that makes them all rather dull, with most of the interest, again, coming from Stephenne interacting with the party and being herself.
I’m not sure how much we’re supposed to sympathize with Stephenne here – the author doesn’t seem to like her much either, and the ending where her spirit familiar abandons her seems to be mean. But then the book runs on mean, because Ares is its star. It’s well-written and I like the plot beats, but man, you grit your teeth reading it. The fourth volume seems to be the last so far in Japan – perhaps Japanese readers feel the same? (EDIT: No, it’s apparently that the author is working on more than one series. It is still ongoing.)