Dec 16, 2022
I am a big fan of Cautious Hero, the previous work by the writer. I wholeheartedly recommend that book. This one I feel conflicted.
The writer is exceptionally good at writing an interesting story with well set up plot twists. I really mean it. This is the reason I endured through the negative part of the story because it does pay off eventually. The story however does have negatives on par with the positive. It is a polarizing book to say the least. What the writer often fail at is the comedy part. What do I mean by that? The story makes you laugh yes, but
often time the writer tries too hard on the comedy in inappropriate times. There is a lot of unnecessary cringe on the level of early Re:Zero. Many people would be off put by it and miss out on the good part. Lastly on the execution side there is some pacing issue. It is a slow burner. A lot of earlier parts can be cut off. If you were to only read the first book all you get is cringe. It is not unless you read the second book do you see growth and see some complexity of the characters. In a similar vein the third book is also full of unnecessary cringe, only the fourth book has any pay off.
First the good part. The story in general is well laid out. People who play difficult video games like Dark Souls can appreciate the struggle of the Hiroshi overcoming challenges through tenacity. There is a lot of funny subversion of typical RPG tropes. The plot twist after plot twist keeps catching you off guard. Every event leads to another unforeseen event with major plot consequence. In the end, it does pay off. The cringe you endured leads to something emotional.
Now on the bad part. Most of the problem can be summarized in one sentence: Inappropriate use of comedy. One prime example of trying too hard on comedy is the female protagonist Reona. She is the character that constantly making fun of Hiroshi when he fails in the RPG. Most of the time it is funny, but she tend to go too far. She laughs at the protagonist while he is going through a mental break down. She makes fun of him when he is genuinely depressed. She appears as sociopathic and uncaring which start to make her jokes not funny anymore. Is it always bad to have a character being annoying and a sociopath? No. But she appears to do it without justification or any depth to her character. She keeps on getting away it without any consequence which is irritating to say the least.
A character similar to Reona would be Aqua from Konosuba. They both have similar behaviour and personality, yet Aqua is far less irritating than Reona. Aqua is self centered, constantly useless, also likes to mock Kazuma for his failures. However Aqua is a better written character. Aqua is mean to Kazuma because he dragged her from divine realm. She is self centered because she is used to be a high ranking goddess. There is a backstory and justification to how she acts, as opposed to Reona who is just an asshole in general. When things become serious, Aqua stops some of her nonsense and begin to cooperate. When Kazuma is genuinely depressed, Aqua becomes more caring. There is a dynamic to how a character behaves in different situation. Reona mocks Hiroshi consistently regardless of situation and almost never helps. The first few times it is funny how Reona interrupts emotional scenes (ex: Hiroshi's flashback under the tree), but when she does it every time consistently that becomes heartless. Lastly Reona suffers bit of "writer's pet" problem. Whenever Aqua behaves like an asshole she drags down the team, and she also suffers negative consequences. Reona just sit there being rude and gets away with everything. At some point the cringe comedy becomes just cringe as Reona laughs at Hiroshi, and there was no punch line.
The cringe is pretty off the chart here. I am getting the impression the writer has a humiliation kink that is forced on us. There was a similar issue in Cautious Hero, but the anime tuned those down a lot thankfully. Here the writer doubled down on it. I consider my cringe tolerance pretty high. I did read/watch the cringe part of Re:Zero. I still consider it as a good show. The cringe here makes me even more uncomfortable than Re:Zero. I think the key difference here is how the cringe is framed as. Here Hiroshi's suffering is framed as a comedy. We are supposed to laugh at his misery callously. Whereas in Subaru's case we are suffering with him. I just cannot bring myself to laugh at a person suffering from depression.
Can I recommend it? Hard to say. I enjoyed the overall story a lot despite the problems it had. I do not regret reading it. Can I expect every person to be the same? I genuinely cannot. Depending on your cringe tolerance read at your own risk.
What did you think of this review?