By Yu Okano and TAPIOCA. Released in Japan as “Tsuihō Kizoku wa Saikyō Skill “Seiō” de Henkyō kara Nariagaru: Haikyōsha ni Nintei Sareta Ore da kedo Cheat Skill de Mofumofu mo Seijo mo Nakama ni Shichaimashita” by Earth Star Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Alex Honton.
Every once in a while I dip my toe back into the giant pool that is “light novels that don’t really sound interesting to me”, just in case I end up passing on a real winner. Sometimes I find myself completely, 100% wrong and it’s garbage. But far more often, it’s just frustrating, as the writer clearly has some ideas that might be good, or at least lead to interesting character development, but either they or the editor and publisher can never let go of “this has to be the same as every other title just like it”. I simply do not get why all these fantasy books star the same guy. He looks the same, he acts the same, he’s a “nice guy”, etc. It’s not like there aren’t great examples of light novels that succeed with far more interesting protagonists. Look at Kazuma. Or Subaru. You don’t need to have everyone be Player One.
The very first words of the book are our main character’s name, Noah Oliphage. The next words are him being exiled, just as the title says. Sounds pretty villainess-ey, yes. Noah has been found to have the Root Skill “Holy King”, and the Church – and the supposed actual Holy King – are frowning heavily on this. Noah, not wanting the church to wipe out his family, accepts exile with only a minor fuss… but ends up in the middle of the Purgatory Forest, filled with dangerous monsters. Fortunately, Noah… does NOT have awesome sword skills or powerful magic. Not good. He can form contracts with those who want his protection and who he wants to protect, though, and does so, first with a small kitten monster (that it is hinted will grow tiger sized), and then a small group of kobolds. Unfortunately, the Church wants to make sure Noah is dead, so send their biggest zealot to find and kill him.
Again, every good idea here is undercut by the need to make this book like so many other books of its kind. I was intrigued by the idea of someone getting a skill that’s basically “Jesus” but the start of the book drowns us, as usual, in stats, stats, stats. Japanese RPGs have so much to answer for. Noah is about as interesting as a sheet of white paper – actually, grey paper. The most interesting character is Aht, the aforementioned zealot. There’s a fantastic scene where we see everything about her previous few years be overwritten just by SEEING Noah and knowing he really is the messiah – it’s actually understated too, which I appreciated – but an interesting discussion about how mind-controlled she is by Noah’s contract (and, for that matter, how mind controlled she was by the Church before this) gets quietly brushed aside by her with a “I promise you it’s OK”, and she leaves at the end of the book – I suspect Book 2 will feature a different woman in the lead, this feels like that kind of series.
I may look at the 2nd volume, to see if it does anything with the concepts it’s got at the back of everything. But man, this is frontloaded with “potato-kun” fantasy stuff. He may not be isekai’d, but he might as well be. Recommended if you enjoy religious conversion or cute dogs and cats fighting monsters.