I browse about on the r/LightNovels subreddit a lot, and about a month prior, I saw quite a few posts of people displaying their recent purchases on reddit, Arifureta being in a lot of them. My interest being piqued, I purchased the first volume about a month ago, but being occupied with other light novels and manga, I only got to reading it yesterday. I must say, I absolutely loved it.
Be warned, there will be quite a few spoilers.
Arifureta was originally a web novel by Ryo Shirakome, but it has been printed as a light novel since 2015, with the illustrations being handled by Takayaki. I believe the main series is complete at eight volumes, with a prequel series, Arifureta Zero having begun publication since 2017. The light novel adaptation currently has nine volumes and I don’t have sufficient information to tell you whether it’s completed or not.
First of all, I would really like to address something I usually don’t mention a lot when talking about light novels, and that is the cover. I absolutely love the cover of Arifureta volume 1. It just seems so nice and it just…. it just… feels right. I can’t explain why I like this cover(and spine) so much, but it just appeals to me. Maybe it will to you to. The intricately detailed magic circle and gorgeous illustrations, along with the poster type motif may play some role in my appreciation of this cover.
The story is mainly told from the perspective of Hajime Nagumo, an exceptionally average otaku highschooler who gets bullied a lot because of his (unwilling)association with the school beauty, Kaori Shirasaki. One day, Hajime’s entire class is surreptitiously summoned to another world and everyone except Hajime gains great powers. Hajime remains average, gaining a very common job class and having exactly average stats. This leads to his bullies further harassing him with their newfound powers, to the point where they physically assault him multiple times.
The strongest of their group is the school idol, Kouki Amanogawa, who has the job class of hero, and who is fundamentally incapable of seeing the bad in people, often coming up with arbitrary explanations for people’s bad behavior, including victim-blaming!(obviously unintentional, but victim-blaming nonetheless). On a personal note, such type of characters really fucking piss me off! I consider such people, who always come up with explanations for people’s bad behavior because they would rather not face the dark side of the world as mentally incomplete.
Anyways, a lot of stuff happens and Hajime tries to make himself useful by reading and gaining knowledge and practicing his insignificant abilities to their limits. We also get to know why Kaori thinks so highly of Hajime, to the point of having feelings for him when she pays him a night visit before their first major step as heroes in this new world, the exploration of the Great Orcus Labyrinth. Though nothing actually happens between them(in a physical sense), this night visit is notices by one of Hajime’s bullies, who worships Kaori.
The next day, on the labyrinth exploration, certain events, triggered by the bully, Hiyama’s foolishness cause the entire class to fall into a fatal trap. They only manage to escape due to Hajime, the one considered useless, risking his life to save the entire class’, however, Hiyama, in a moment of opportunity, when everyone is distracted firing spells to attack the monster being held down by Hajime, gives into his darker feelings and fires a spell aimed at Hajime, leading to Hajime’s apparent doom, which affects the entire class heavily, especially Kaori, who faints for three days after witnessing Hajime’s fall to doom.
Hajime is saved by a stroke of luck, as when falling into the abyss of the lower depths of the Great Orcus Labyrinth, he lands along the streams of multiple waterfalls, however, his fate turns for the worse and certain circumstances(read the light novel, it’s really awesome!) lead to his faith in humanity being shattered and his mind and soul being broken. However, due to the effects of a certain artifact which don’t let him die. His will is reforged and he basically turns into a cold blooded monster only thinking of his own survival and killing. He also has some fortunate unfortunate experiences which lead to him becoming much stronger, even more so than the hero, Kouki. The price he pays for this power is that the kind and compassionate, violence hating young man has now become a murderous survivalist. A fair price if I must say so myself.
Hajime explores the depths of the labyrinth and comes across a girl sealed in a room, guarded by strong monsters. She was the princess/ruler of an ancient kingdom, but was betrayed by her own uncle, who, unable to kill her due to her super regenerative powers, had her sealed in the depths of the labyrinth. The vampire princess, shocked by the betrayal didn’t even resist as she was sealed down there, her mind being unable to comprehend the events happening to her.
Hajime, perhaps due to some of his previous kindness being rekindled after hearing the vampire’s story manages to set her free and names her Yue on her behest. Yue and Hajime instantly become close due to their similar circumstances and even become lovers. I really liked this part of Arifureta, because it perfectly displays the human side of Hajime and Yue, two beings who could be called monsters. Yue’s presence helps Hajme regain some of his discarded compassion and Hajime’s presence greatly comforts Yue, though this eventually leads her to having some dependency bias towards Hajime(which is kind of resolved?). They’re both outcasts who find support and love in each other, and I think that’s really good, as cheesy and sappy as it may sound in this article.
We also get certain parts told from the perspective/side of the summoned class, which reflects their fears and insecurities exacerbated by Hajime’s supposed death and also Kouki’s efforts to rekindle their fighting spirit and also exposition about the world of Arifureta.
Eventually, Hajime and Yue reach the end of the labyrinth, where they discover spoiler spoiler! read the goddamn light novel!
I think this much story is quite enough. I need to leave the juicy parts for you guys! I absolutely hate uncalled for entertainment reduction, so read the light novel, it’s actually awesome.
I know that this premise and plot has been used a lot in light novels, to the point where an entire class being summoned is an entire sub-genre of the isekai distinction and the protagonist being betrayed and stuff and then becoming overpowered is becoming it’s own trope day by day, however the story, the character interactions, the exquisitely detailed descriptions and the overall execution of this first volume really set it apart from it’s peers.
For one, the story is told from a traditional third person perspective, the form generally seen in chinese light novels and western novels and generally absent from their japanese brethren. Many times when it comes to light novels, we like them, not for their writing style, but for their stories and ideas. There are very few light novels who’s writing styles I really appreciate, the Biblia and Monogatari series being chief among them, but I really liked just reading the words written in the volume. No doubt much credit goes to the author Ryo Shirakome, but I believe as much credit also goes to the translation team over at Seven Seas, who did an absolutely banger job of conveying the will of the author.
I have not yet read the remaining volumes of Arifureta(It’ll take a few months based on my reading list), but I have heard conspiracy about them. A quick survey of the comments on reddit shows that certain individuals found the second volume of Arifureta to be lacking compared to the first. I generally don’t believe such comments until I read the volumes myself, for what may be intolerable for one person may be the norm for another, so I will withhold judgement until I read the second volume. I myself have a certain theory based on the end of the first volume, it goes as such: I believe the second volume is going to be more slice of life-ish and less action packed, with a higher emphasis placed on the character interactions(a new character is introduced right at the end, who seems to be a permanent addition to Hajime’s party) and is going to be less ‘dark’ overall and probably focus on world-building and exposition and primary detective work. it also has a harem tag on novel updates and I strongly believe that the harem aspects of light novels will make themselves known in the second volume, for the new character seems highly likely to be part of Hajime’s harem. This may put-off people who were enchanted by the darker and more action/dungeon based aspects of this volume. It may also be the case that the translation quality that I so highly praised earlier in this article may drop in the second volume. For now, these are just theories, I will pass judgement once I have read the second volume.
Overall, I really enjoyed the first volume of Arifureta. It did contain many tropes of the modern isekai genre, but I would dare not call them cliches, for the word cliche has negative connotations and there is nothing negative whatsoever about the aforementioned tropes. If you like isekai, action, overpowered protagonists or just gritty psychological drama, then Arifureta is for you.
Also, an Arifureta anime is going to air this July(2019). It was supposed to be released last year, but it was delayed. Also, another piece of good news is that Oregairu season 3 is confirmed!(I totally predicted it, even though people on the internet were like, “it’s impossible to get a third season!” Fuck those guys *booming laughter*!)
Farewell for now my dear readers, we shall meet again soon enough. Don’t be too excited for the Nekomogatari post tomorrow, I really don’t care much for Nekomonogatari(Kuro). I also completely forgot to mention the villain hidden among the summoned school group. Surprise! Guess that’ll be a surprise for those who don’t read these bottom messages as well.