Arifureta: From Commonplace To World’s Strongest Volume 4 Light Novel Review

Arifureta Volume 4 Cover

Complete a quest, rescue a child, save the hero, and win the girls!

Okay, volume 3 and I of this particular series parted on a fairly rough note. They’d introduced a character I pretty much despised and she was eating a lot of page time with comments I found neither interesting nor funny. I felt perhaps that this would be the end of my acquaintance with these characters and that we would go our separate ways after this volume.

Let me assure you, I’m not parting ways with this series.

The annoying character is most definitely still there, though with so much else happening in this volume Tio’s presence feels muted or diluted at least. But, everything is happening in this volume.

Arifureta Volume 4 Shea gets a new collar

There are two fairly major stories that happen in this volume and then they are book-ended by information that is pretty crucial to the ongoing narrative. It makes for a very satisfying read in a series where drama introduced within a volume resolves but the greater story it is apart of continues fairly seamlessly. This is my favourite kind of series to read where I feel like I was given a wonderful conclusion yet am desperate to read more to find out what the next thing for the characters is.

The first part of the story feels less consequential though it does introduce us to another character (yet another girl) that is going to have a fair impact on Hajime. After volume 3 reunited Hajime with his teacher, he’s definitely started thawing though that isn’t a huge improvement given he still treats most everyone outside of his harem as his enemy. No, they give Hajime a child to protect and while that could have gotten very inappropriate and a little uncomfortable given Hajime’s relationships with the other girls in his life, they actually make this one a fairly wholesome guardian and daughter relationship and the impact of having someone vulnerable and impressionable to protect pushes Hajime’s personality yet further toward the Hajime we met back in volume 1.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want that Hajime back. However the extreme personality make-over took Hajime to a place where he’s almost impossible to connect with so these small steps back to humanity are actually really appreciated and keep each step of the journey feeling fresh. Hajime isn’t wavering in his plans to defeat the gods and get himself back home and he’s still willing to trample whoever he needs to get there. But he is now carrying quite a few others with him.

While this was the shorter section of the book, it was nicely done. There were some battles and some city-wide destruction, and then Hajime moved on.

Which brings us to the second stage of the book. Finally Hajime is going to come face to face with the hero’s party and the other students. When first requested to go and rescue them, I really figured he’d walk away. Despite meeting Aiko in the last book and thawing a bit, and despite the influence of the child he was looking after, I honestly didn’t see Hajime as having captured enough of who he was to care about his former classmates.

Turns out I was right and wrong.

Arifureta Volume 4 Hajime and Kaori

It wasn’t the class he went to save but rather Kaori, the one person in the class who had been nice to him.

This is perhaps the first volume since the first that has devoted any time to fleshing out the students and their personalities and interactions. It is also the first time we find out why Kaori was so distraught when Hajime ‘died’ back in volume 1, you know, other than seeing a classmate fall into an abyss.

Arifureta Volume 4 - Kaori and Shizuku watch Hajime

It is a lovely bit of character development and they managed to simultaneously work in some world building because the students encountered a demon who ended up being way stronger than anticipated and surrounded by incredibly powerful monsters. We finally get a bit of a look at the threat the students were summoned to defeat.

All and all there’s little to complain about in this volume as it seems to keep powering from one event to the next and each part feels meaningful. There’s some excellent character moments from a huge number of the cast, and the ending will leave you wanting the next volume ASAP.

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Karandi James
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Arifureta: From Commonplace To World’s Strongest Volume 3 Light Novel Review

Arifureta Volume 3 Cover

Another volume and another girl and if I thought Shea the Bunny Girl was annoying, wait until we meet this one.

You know, I’m going to take back every mean thing I said about Shea in volume 2. Yes, she felt like an unnecessary additional character who existed just to create a harem, but at least she had a clear goal of her own and while she might sulk a bit she mostly worked hard. All of those traits are clearly on display in volume 3 and despite the clear harem established with Yue, Shea and Hajime, they’ve actually managed to make the dynamic between the trio work. And yet, in the process of making me actually accept the previous additional member to the harem, volume 3 throws yet another girl into the mix. This time its a dragon.

Arifureta Volume 3 - Hajime and Yue

But backing off that point a bit, because criticising a harem fantasy for having a harem in it is kind of on the pointless side, volume 3 is a really exciting read. Hajime racing to rescue someone from a mountain that has rumours of monsters and in the process running across his teacher and a handful of his classmates. This is the first reunion since Hajime fell and his incredibly different appearance and mannerism become a key plot point for really the first time since volume 1.

In volume 2, despite encountering many characters, none of them knew Hajime or had any frame of reference. So his hostile, Yue and me against the world, attitude was just seen as his default. But running into the teacher who knew the Hajime before his life was pushed to the breaking point brings a new and fairly exciting character development that I really hope gets followed up on.

Arifureta Volume 3 - Hajime meets Aiko.

We’ve got some great action sequences in this book with Hajime’s ability to make weapons and vehicles based off his memory of one’s on earth adding a bit of a different flavour to battles in what would otherwise be fairly traditional fantasy settings. Pulling a Gatling gun on a dragon is certainly a novelty. Throw in some solid magical efforts and the team work between Hajime, Shea and Yue and all and all it makes for a very satisfying read that continues the story, injects some excitement, and sets up future plot developments.

I’d continue to sing the book’s praises except for Tio. And I’d love to detail just why Tio is so horrible but unfortunately that would step majorly into spoilers so I’ll keep in general.

You know, I get that sometimes characters are annoying on purpose and when even the other characters in the story can’t stand them I assume it is supposed to be on purpose. However, there are almost no words to explain how annoying she is. Fortunately you only have to really put up with her in the latter stages of the book, but literally everything she says made me want to stop reading. She’s like the most intrusive fan-service character ever invented.

Arifureta Volume 3 - Tio

I walked away from this volume thinking how one character managed to sour the entire experience. Because outside of her, I really had fun with this story, but I had to think really hard about that because her presence becomes such an issue. If I hadn’t had the next volume already I may have thought twice about continuing on.

I will admit though, that your tolerance of her antics may vary and if a girl asking to have her butt violated doesn’t completely turn your stomach then you might have a great deal more fun here in general.

So on that note, while I still really see a lot of potential in this overall narrative and I really like the majority of the characters, there’s definitely a sticking point at volume 3 so I can’t completely recommend it.

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Karandi James
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Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest Volume 2 Light Novel Review: They Introduced a Bunny Girl

Arifureta Volume 2 Cover

When you have a main party this overpowered the only thing to do is throw everything at them, including terrible puns. Hajime and Yue having escaped the dungeon now encounter a blue bunny girl before setting off to defeat the remaining labyrinths. If you missed my review of Volume 1 you can find it here.

Review:

I’m really torn on this second volume of Arifureta. On the one hand, I like the overall quest Hajime and Yue are on to conquer all the dungeons and get back to  earth. On the other hand, we’re definitely starting to build a harem with the introduction of Shea, the single most annoying punching bag character ever introduced. So reading this volume was a mix of moments that I really enjoyed followed by a lot of inane interactions between the new core group of three that just didn’t sit well with me.

Arifureta Volume 2

There are two real parts to this volume. The first is Hajime and Yue leaving the labyrinth and being recruited by Shea to save her family of bunny men which Hajime ends up doing despite his endless protests because despite being a complete ass ninety percent of the time they still want us to somewhat like him and believe that he’s kind of a good person who was just warped by circumstance. What follows, after a lot of waffling and some not so funny attempts at comedy, is a sequence that kind of reminded me of that episode in Full Metal Panic Fumoffu where Sousuke turns the soft-hearted football team into killers.

I will admit, while I found the sequence fairly entertaining it kind of left a bad taste in my mouth because we now had these ruthless rabbit people pretty much happy to engage in the kill or be killed mentality that Hajime had to develop to survive. Then again, part of this process is probably trying to emphasise what Hajime lost in the process and maybe the point is to help him slowly figure out that he needs to reign it in. At least he kind of acknowledged he may have gone to far before they moved on, though even that moment is kind of ruined by Shea being Shea (and can Hajime stop using rubber bullets on her and just kill her).

“You know, I really did feel bad about what I did to you guys. Even if it was to train you as quickly as possible in the short time we had, I should have put a stop to it after a while.” – Hajime

The second half of the story focuses more on Hajime, Yue and Shea venturing into the human towns and joining the adventurers guild before taking on their second labyrinth. The issue with this part is that the first book was fun because we started with Hajime literally at the mercy of everything and having to coldly build himself up, discarding everything human in the process in order to survive. This labyrinth doesn’t have that.

Instead we artificially limit Yue and Hajime by using a mineral that makes it hard to use Mana or magic, making Shea the tank of the team as they traverse this labyrinth. There still is never a real sense of danger and Hajime and Yue don’t ever really get serious, although they do get annoyed more often than not at the taunting of the labyrinth’s owner.

We get a few cuts to the other students and what they are up to, but they are definitely side characters at the moment and their scenes feel very much like after thoughts. They might be leading to something later on but right now they aren’t very interesting.

Basically it isn’t as compelling a read as volume 1. It is still quite fun in its own way but a lot of the tone and the general idea of Hajime’s character is kind of lost and this volume settles into far more generic isekai tropes. And while that doesn’t result in a bad book by any means, it also isn’t grabbing me as much as volume 1 did.

I’ll give this series another volume and see if it can pick itself back up or whether I’ll part ways with it there.

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Karandi James
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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.

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If you’re interested in reading Arifureta Volume 1 it is available on the Book Depository.

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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.

rehamatora5

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.

rehamatora2

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.

rehamatora4

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.

rehamatora3

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).

rehamatora6

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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