So, a few people asked me what my opinion on Arifureta actually was after finishing the main story, especially considering I do so many pseudo-reviews in my list of another world novels. I wanted to give Arifureta a little more justice than the other web novels I’ve talked about, so I guess you can call this my official review on Arifureta. Although to be honest, with the LN being taken over by J Novel, technically Arifureta no longer meets my criteria as a “free to read” another world novels. Although people used to the nefarious copy/paste sites are probably aware they can still read the whole thing even though Japtem has dragged it down by all those horrible people that previously lifted it from their site.
Anyway, I tend to get pretty critical when I’m critiquing something critically, so before anyone jumps in outrage at my OPINION on Arifureta, let’s keep my ->Opinion<- in the appropriate context that I enjoyed this novel enough that when I reached a point that I couldn’t finish it, I spend the last year translating the damn thing. You have to assume, at some point, I probably genuinely like this web novel, so I just wanted to stress that first.
So, here we go. When I started reading Arifureta, I was actually fairly new to the whole web novel circuit. I had only been doing it for a few months before I picked up and eventually started translating Arifureta. Since then, it’s been a year, and a couple dozen some web novels later you could argue that my tastes have refined a bit from then.
Now, when it comes to Arifureta, there are many camps of people. You have the Revenge Lovers, people who love seeing assholes get their comeuppance. Every bad guy is an insufferable arseshat, and the sooner the MC brutalizes them, the better. You have the Skill Enthusiasts, those that like seeing a steady stream of skills being steadily accumulated on an increasingly OP’d protagonist. And then you have the Harem Kings, always wanting girl after girl after girl falling all over the protagonist.
This hits a lot of readers hard, because the story seems built with two phases. The beginning starts with a clear skill building and revenge phase, but that only lasts about 2 volumes… then what you’re left with is a considerably longer less revenge based harem fantasy played out in the remaining volumes. That said, I went into Arifureta looking for an experience similar to Rise of the Shield Hero. That is to say that I wanted harem. I wanted an OP protagonist. And I wanted skill building. And I think both stories have a similar thing… in that the revenge element seems to dissipate fairly early on to give way to an ever growing harem. So, simply put, Arifureta met my needs.
Although, I understand the frustration a lot of people have reading it. There seems to be this group of ultra-pessimists that want some super depressing everyone is scum world… and then there is the ultra-optimistic everyone is inherently good group… and this novel bounces back and force between the two (as opposed to the morally ambiguous Game of Thrones style guys popular in modern Fantasy) . With it’s dynamic between the Forever hero Kouki and the protagonist Hajime, it certainly pushes the argument that self-serving selfishness is good, setting Kouki as the ultimate fall boy (more on that in a sec), but it also fills itself up with moments of Harem and humor that completely obliterate the dark tones. Like, for example, Emperor Gahard… who is kind of treated like a fun punchline character near the end, with even heroic like qualities… completely ignoring the whole he oppressed an entire culture of people into slavery and his son tried to RAPE someone… Yeah… we forgot that only a few weeks/months prior he was running an oppressive regime… ah… look at that guy whose was basically a Fantasy version of Stalin squirm. Slavery is funny.
Here’s the thing… as a story… I’m actually more in line with Kouki’s beliefs. To me, Hajime is a bit of a douche. Kouki was flawed… but that was what made his character interesting. He wanted to do the right thing, he just didn’t know how. Of course, the story trashes “doing the right thing” by deliberately creating a world manipulated in just the right way that Hajime’s approach would be the right approach, while Kouki’s would fail… But, rather than writing it believably, the entire story feels like one giant strawman set up to just force this viewpoint on the audience.
I end up reading all these comments with people saying “screw KOUKI” or “I wish KOUKI would die!” and I’m just like, what? Kouki is the only interesting thing this novel has going for it at this point. But of course, everything was stacked against Kouki in a word literally designed to make Kouki wrong, so of course his end would only be disastrous… but to me, most of the time he was RIGHT. Hajime IS unreasonable. Hajime isn’t a good person. But a hero being heroic is “expected”… and that… to some people… makes it boring. Oh, it’s great to see a nontypical Japanese MC… they say… which is you know, fine… as long as you also accept that regardless of how the novel desperately portrays Hajime as great, his methods only work because this world is specifically designed for them to work. Hajime’s inability to trust is a weakness, and let’s face it… there is not a single reason for any of the girls like Hajime except maybe Kaori… I mean let us look at it.
Yue – Like, he rescues her and is the only human contact she experiences in 300 years. Total Knight In Shining Armor Effect.
Shia –There was never actually a reason other than “cuz”, but he emotionally abused her aggressively until she loved him, my thoughts is the author originally planned her to be the S&M character, I mean, she was originally introduced as a physical tough person who could bounce back from any blow while coming to love Hajime who continually abused her both physically and emotionally. Then, suddenly she stops being abused and a few chapters later they introduce Tio.
Tio – He was stronger than her and stuck his big, long, hard thing in her Hershey highway.
Shizuku – Knight In Shining Armor Effect like X3
Liliana – There is literally no reason.
Aiko – He’s… dependable… I guess? Also Knight in Shining Armor Effect.
Everyone Else – The Me too Effect…
I could also add that in the case of Shizuku and Kaori (and especially Shizuku)… that she’s only 16… and maybe the first guy she has any feelings for who already has monopolized 4 women and has no interest in her is probably not the guy she should pursue. Of course, Kouki mentions this, and is treated like an annoying child for stating what should be obvious. Heck Ryuutaro gets it, he was into Yue but at least he has the decency to back off… and the only guy with any brains is called the stupid “musclebrain” by the author… sigh…
All I’m saying is the story glorifies Hajime in strange ways. You might as well form the “Hajime is always right” club with how much everything always goes his way. He may be “different” than a typical Japanese MC… but that doesn’t make him any less a Mary Sue. He is the perfect never wrong protagonist. Seriously, does he make a single mistake after leaving Orcus? Heck even before? And I’m not talking about things going belly up or something unexpected happening… I’m talking about him showing a single damn flaw. Oh, when Yue was lost… he showed an “uncool” side… an “uncool” side that was apparently so “uncool” that they showed it to the Dragonkin to convince them of how cool he was. Within the world he is placed in, he is the perfect protagonist.
As far as the other characters… they weren’t terribly interesting. Each harem member kind of had that one trait… and that was it. They were memorable enough you could differentiate them… at least I wouldn’t go so far as to say they’re interchangeable… but each one was a cliché in and of themselves… always repeating the same words/actions over and over again without depth or development.
Yue wasn’t an interesting and dynamic Vampire princess with a tortured past… she was the Loli seductress who licks her lips and says Nn. Shia wasn’t a troubled bunny burdened with the guilt of how her gifts hurt her family, she was a walking punchline, and later on she was even less than that… she was the Ryuutaro of her group… the one who hits things with a hammer and says things when the plot needs it.
These characters were flat… and their relationship with Hajime is flat… and Hajime is flat. That one chapter where Shizuku beat that crap out of Kouki showed more emotion and care than ANY interaction between Hajime and anyone else. I mean, Kouki mattered so much to Shizuku and Ryuutaro that they fought him, risking their life, even as he screamed abusive things at them, until they beat some sense into him. Not only did they show more care for him than anyone between Hajime and company, but that was actually freaking character development… you know, the thing your MC is supposed to do… yet all Hajime’s character seems to develop is in the first three volumes. He mellows out a bit later on, but I think that has less to do with character development and more to do with the author altering his character to fit with the plot. When you have to alter the main character half way through the novel so that it fits your plot… well… Yeah…
However… from a purely “Harem” aspect… you get plenty of moments of Harem goodness. It’s full of tsukkumi’s and humor and I’m not saying I didn’t have a lot of fun. The first volume or two make you think it is a skill building web novel and a darkly themed novel, but the continuous humor and ridiculousness overshadow the later parts of the novel. Even when dark parts show themselves, they are quickly overridden with the humor of the moment, demolishing any tension that could possibly build.
The enemies were ridiculously weak and underdeveloped. The story didn’t have enough foreshadowing to tie itself together, making it feel a bit like the ending was kind of cobbled together. Freed was such a flat and disinteresting antagonist that it was a wonder he existed at all. Freed was literally an annoyance. You might want to shout that this means the author succeeded, because the reader feels the same way about Freed as the protagonist… as an annoyance that keeps popping up for no reason… but I have to think when I get to a chapter that the author is somehow failing if I’m annoyed and just want to see it over with.
While I think Ehito was built up enough… I think his subordinate was severely underutilized. The god is bad theme permeated the story… but Ehito was never really “down to earth” enough in the story that by the time he pops up I actually, felt… like… anything. I felt nothing for the antagonist… and if it wasn’t for the forced NTR I might not have cared about the final confrontation at all. That final labyrinth and then the battle just had too many characters fighting too many battles I didn’t care about. At that point in the story… I didn’t need to see everyone fight one more time. I think those last 15 chapters could have easily been turned into 4 and been better for it.
Although I know a lot of you love the action… I have to say that by chapter 160 I was pretty actioned out. Unless they were doing something new… I didn’t need to hear about the 10th time Tio uses dragon breath, Shia bangs her hammer, or Suzu pops up a barrier. By the end, I felt like this could double as a how-to guide on how many ways you can kill an apostle. You can slice them, dice them, fry them with a laser, beat them, decapitate them, burn them, explode their heads, shoot them, freeze them, hug them to death… Since the MC have been Op’d as fruck and we knew it… there is 0 tension in the final battle… and the manufactured tension felt manufactured. “Oh, you thought I was using my whole ability? Well NOW after you kicked the crap out of me for two chapters I’m going to use my whole ability!” *Sigh* There is no question they were going to win… so why story… why did you drag it out so long…
If they were fighting anyone we cared about… anyone who had previously oppressed them or had any discernible personality beyond “a monster” or “a lookalike angel… but like the general I guess this time? Well, we’ll give her name…” But alas… Don’t get me wrong, some of the action can be fun… but damn does the action drag, especially in the last two labyrinths and the finale when they start dragging Kouki and company everywhere and everyone keeps getting split up to fight separately.
I’ll give this story an 8/10. It’s a little generous, but it’s a solid web novel with a lot of good moments. If you want Op Protagonist and Harem girls, it does its job good enough. It’s bloated near the end, and the story never became compelling enough by the halfway point to justify the lengthy second half, but from a purely harem perspective it’s a good read. If you want to see a bullied protagonist become strong, get the women, and continually amaze everyone else, without getting too wrapped up on revenge, then this is for you. He gets the girls, he gets the power, he saves the day. It’s wish-fulfillment at its finest… just don’t expect complex and interesting characters or a rich engaging story.
So… what did you think of my review? I was thinking of doing more of these for other web novels… just as, I don’t know, a thing I can post when I feel like it? Are you guys who are still around this site interested? Or am I better off just keeping my criticisms to myself (lol)? Agree? Disagree? Let me know below.