By Tôwa and Huuka Kazabana. Released in Japan as “Sekai Saikyou no Kouei: Meikyuukoku no Shinjin Tansakusha” by Kadokawa Books. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Alexandra McCullough-Garcia.
This was, in all honestly, probably the strongest volume of Rearguard to date. It still features everything that you’ve come to expect from Rearguard: lots of people praising Arihito and his party (but mostly Arihito) endlessly, lots of “which level up should I take” talk that goes on for 10-15 pages, lots of everyone being 100% in love with Arihito and his not getting it at all, etc. There are some nice relaxing moments, as they do actually try to take a day off and stay at a beach resort. There are thrilling battles, as they manage to find the one hidden dungeon in the middle of said resort. There is, believe it or not, development of the ongoing plot. There is a battle towards the end where I actually wondered if they’d be able to pull it off without fatalities, as I briefly forgot what series I was reading. And there are giant electric penguins, twenty feet high, as Rearguard manages to cross over with Scott of the Sahara, of all things. It’s quite a book.
As always with this series (the book helpfully reminds us it’s only been EIGHT DAYS since the start of Book 1), we pick up right where we left off, with Arihito and Seraphina getting details on the aftermath of their big fight – oh yes, and saving the life of the guy who lost his soul, which was considered nearly impossible but, Arihito. He also finds out more about their two biggest goals, and needless to say, they’re both very, very difficult: Elitia’s former party is wracked with internal strife and possible evilness, and rescuing her friend seems unlikely. And we find that it requires a lot of sacrifice to try to restore a demi-human to their former selves, and they’ll always be marked by it – literally. Arihito, of course, cares not a fig about how hard it is. He has resolve. He has his strong companions. He has the protection of a God. And he has his OP powers, which are causing even those on the highest level to watch him.
Despite three deadly battles, lots of discussion of possible death of party members and friends, and an ending that implies trying to rescue the person who tries to destroy them, this book remains jovial, relaxed, and easy-going. Arihito’s badassery is balanced out quite nicely by the badassery of everyone else in his party, and he does not have to always get in the final hit a la Kirito. Even the harem aspect boggles the mind – this book, like many of the others, talks about the fact that when Arihito sleeps behind his party, they all get aroused, to the point where they all try to bid on an item that puts a cone of silence around a person so they that can quietly take care of themselves. And yet… it’s never explicit, and it’s not even really done to titillate. Even when they fight the 20-foot-high electric penguin, they befriend it and take it to their zoo, as it was lonely and can now play with other penguins. The whole series is just so… NICE.
The next volume is not scheduled yet as I write this, and we’re almost caught up with Japan. Still, I enjoyed this even more than usual. If you can stomach the premise, it’s definitely worth a read.