Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest Light Novel Review – I Dare You To Call the Protagonist Overpowered

Arifureta Volume 1 Cover

This one a novel I picked up off a recommendation from the Book Depository when there happened to be a sale and I had 10% off. I hadn’t heard of the title or read anything about it. As a result, it ended up fairly low in my read pile and I passed over it a number of times before I finally decided one day to start it over a long weekend. Well, a day and some eye strain later I’d devoured it, but was it actually any good?

Review:

Look, if you have an issue with isekai stories, stories where the weak guy suddenly becomes an unstoppable killing machine, or stories that insist on making the vampire girl look like a pre-teen and finding any excuse for her not to be wearing clothes, right now you already know that this book isn’t going to work for you. This book definitely ticks off pretty much any trope you want to throw at the isekai genre and it does it with a smug sense of ‘look what I did’. Yet that is what probably works in the book’s best interest. It doesn’t try to hide its genre or shy away from it. It isn’t ashamed to be exactly what it was trying to be and as a result this is a story full of excitement, danger, slightly uncomfortable moments when turning a page and finding a fairly unclothed vampire girl staring at me, and generally a lot of fun.

So what is Arifureta about?

Essentially Hajime is your standard protagonist for these kinds of stories. He’s an otaku who likes to sleep during class and doesn’t have many friends. Then his entire class get summoned into a fantasy world where they are tasked with saving it. And they all have powers, only Hajime’s is considered pretty lame and useless and he ends up being beaten up by some of his own classmates.

So far, so standard, and only some fairly decent writing managed to get me into this story. It isn’t exceptional, but considering some of quality of writing in some of the light novels I’ve read in the last year, it is perfectly readable and occasionally there’s some very nice description thrown in amongst what seems to be a fairly hefty exposition dump setting up the scenario.

Despite that, the story manages to draw you in as the students deal with some fairly real challenges with suddenly gaining power but having no training or actual skills and dealing with a world most of them thought only existed in stories or games. There’s a lot going on with the political situation of the world and plenty of what is happening in these pages is set up that could potentially be very interesting further down the line though remains fairly underused in this volume.

Page 106 is where it all just decides its had enough of the play nice with the class where the biggest issues involve avoiding being bullied. Hajime is literally tossed under a bus by one of his own classmates in a misguided fit of jealousy while the teens are training in a dungeon and the next thing he knows he’s sent plummeting to the very bottom level far below where anyone even realised the dungeon reached. It’s a pretty tragic event and one that isn’t over.

See the next 250 or so pages deal very much with Hajime climbing his way back out of the dungeon. There are impossibly tough monsters around every corner and our protagonist is not getting off unscathed. I may have warned you earlier about the nudity, but here’s a warning about the violence. In a very early monster encounter Hajime has his arm torn off and eaten. No joke and no get out of jail free card for the kiddo. He’s just traumatised and it takes him a fair while to do anything after that event. However, it is a magic based world so at least he doesn’t die and he does find the mean to begin rebuilding himself into the nastiest thing to ever crawl out of a dungeon.

Arifureta Volume 1b

And that’s where this book does distinguish itself quite well. Other than the occasional flashes to what the rest of the class are up to, we spend the rest of this adventure watching Hajime fight for his life and develop the tools he’s going to need to become a seriously overpowered hero. In the process he’s going to lose most of what made him human. Some things are ripped from him (like his arm) but others are things he willingly discards in a quest to become something that can survive in this world.

In that, his meeting with Yue becomes pivotal because it was possible Hajime would become something totally unrecognisable and relatable but the vampire girl manages to reawaken some of the humanity inside of him. The dynamic between the pair might be awkward at times but it was most definitely an essential development in this journey.

Overall, there’s a lot of fun to be had in this adventure and it clearly isn’t done with volume 1. There’s ridiculous amounts of world and lore still to explore and the characters have clear goals to continue to work towards. While this is hardly the best thing ever written it was incredibly bingeable and I most definitely added the next book to my wish list as soon as I finished this one.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Re: Hamatora Series Review

Overview:

The sequel to Hamatora, the story picks up immediately after the events in season 1 so be prepared for a few major spoilers for season 1 if you read on.

Review:

Hamatora is an enjoyable enough story with a bit of mystery, a bit of super powered violence, some friendship stuff and a lot of bright colours. Re: Hamatora is a passable follow up but taken by itself is not a good piece of story telling nor character piece.

Actually, Re: Hamatora falls into traps that many sequels have issues with. Firstly, we ended season one on an enormous cliff hanger.

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Art shot Nice. Nice had finally beaten the crazy serial killer and saved the city and Art shot him point blank (or at least seemed to but of course it happens ‘off screen’). Art was his friend, and a detective, and completely committed to protecting others and the formerly believed to have been killed Art turns up and shoots Nice.

That’s a pretty big finish to a series and is more or less a guarantee that people will come back for a season 2.

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And yet, by the end of episode 1 we might as well say, well, that was pointless and move on with out lives. Nice isn’t dead (given he’s the main character and displayed prominently on the DVD case and pretty much every image of Re: Hamatora) and the motive for playing dead is at best incredibly lame. While we’ll need longer to figure out what is going on with Art and why he took that course of action this would only be a good enough hook if Art’s character had been developed as anything other than the nice guy, powerless do-gooder prior to these events. We don’t care about Art because season 1 gave us no reason to. Art’s death was a shocking moment. It came suddenly and with only a few minutes between the foreshadowing and execution so it definitely shocked, but it wasn’t because we liked Art. It was more the impact his death would ultimately have on Nice and that up until that point we had no reason to believe the killer would target non-minimum holders.

So before season 2 even gets rolling we have a shaky foundation with some questionable choices but the issues don’t stop there for the story.

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The show has always had a vague focus on the discrimination minimum holders and/or normal people face in the world (those with power vs those who don’t) and yet this isn’t actually part of the overall motive for the serial killer, Art, or Nice as all three of these characters are more or less indifferent to the issue. Even Nice who protects others at times doesn’t really see the point of discrimination in either direction and he’s ‘off beat’ enough to just sail through life without really dealing with it. Art on the other hand has more issues with his own inferiority complex rather than an issue with external discrimination. So a major theme that attempts to build some sort of social commentary in this story, and scenes and sub-plots around this dominate whole episodes, but don’t actually link in to the main plot in a cohesive or meaningful manner. It’s more just a backdrop that takes up a lot of time and space.

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Season 2 also sees an increased focus on Hajime (Nice’s friend who he regularly feeds at Cafe Nowhere who seems tough but we haven’t really seen her do anything prior to season 2). While she ultimately gets a really intriguing back story and a great side-story the link back to the overarching plot is again tenuous. Her story does lead to some complications with the powers of the characters and is probably the most interesting of all the stories we see in season 2, but it isn’t enough to carry the whole series.

Re: Hamatora ultimately has a bunch of ideas all competing for attention to the point where you all but forget that dramatic conclusion to season 1 or even what it is the characters were ultimately trying to achieve (if anything).

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Despite the story issues, of which there are many, it is the fact that the characters seem so disconnected from these events and do not seem to undergo much development or growth that really causes it all to come tumbling down. A fragmented story could still come together if the characters drove through the plot and learned from each of their encounters and took something with them. But Nice is apparently perfect from the get go and others just need to see he’s fine. The other characters personalities barely blink over the course of the events and so as an audience member you are not asked to care about any of the goings on but are merely expected to embrace the zany colour pattern (which is intensely bright, even more so than season 1) and the sickening scene transitions.

This is a watchable follow up and it does ultimately answer questions about the school and Minimum Holders and it does end, but honestly there is little point in watching unless you just like anything involving super powers. Because it is not bad. It may not be good but there is fun to be found in watching this just don’t expect anything amazing.


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Karandi James.

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