Saturday, July 4, 2020

REVIEW: How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom, Vol. 1 (book) by Dojyomaru, art by Fuyuyuki, translated by Sean McCann

How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom
is yet another isekai (transported to another world) light novel. In terms of its print history, it's a bit weird: it's licensed by J-Novel Club, which released the electronic versions, but printed by Seven Seas Entertainment. It's larger than volumes printed by J-Novel Club. I'm not sure why Seven Seas Entertainment handled the print release of the series, since J-Novel Club put out print editions of several of their other titles. Maybe this was one of their first series to be released in paper format and they didn't have that side of things worked out yet?


Souma Kazuya (referred to as Souma from here on out because the other characters misunderstood and thought that was his given name) has only ever wanted to be the best civil servant he could be and live a quiet and stable life. His grandfather told him to build a family and then protect them no matter what, so that had become part of his goal as well.

Then he somehow ends up transported into another world, where he is told he's a hero who has been summoned "to lead the change of an era." The country is facing food shortages and is in a precarious political position, and there's a Demon King causing problems. Rather than be a more traditional hero and train to fight the Demon King, Souma decides to stick to his strengths and work on various plans and improvements designed to deal with the food shortage. The king is so impressed by his practicality and level-headedness that he abdicates the throne to him and promises him his daughter Liscia's hand in marriage. And so begins Souma's work to save the kingdom.

I liked the idea behind this series a lot better than the execution. Souma initially reminded me a little of Log Horizon's Shiroe, another main character content to play more of a support role. And a series more focused on the practical side of helping a fantasy kingdom survive than on epic battles seemed like a good fit for me, considering my enjoyment of series like Spice & Wolf and Ascendance of a Bookworm.

However, Souma's initial efforts to improve the kingdom weren't exactly thrilling and left me feeling like the kingdom had previously just been incredibly badly managed. His first step was to sell off any royal treasure that had purely monetary value. How had it not occurred to anyone else to do this? Then he put out a call for anyone with special talents of any kind and ended up with a small group of people with an odd assortment of abilities. Readers were told that the absolute most important person Souma had managed to find was Poncho Panacotta, a man who'd bankrupted himself in an effort to seek out and eat any and all kinds of food. I correctly guessed why Poncho was so important, but it would have made much more sense for Poncho to have been a knowledgeable cook rather than a self-proclaimed glutton.

Souma spent a brief period of time demonstrating how to cook and eat several new foods via what was essentially the country's first entertainment broadcast, and again, I wondered why people undergoing a food shortage hadn't begun trying to find new sources of food themselves. Anyway, this was one of the few times in the book where Souma tried to enact any changes or reforms on-page. For the most part, readers were just told what he'd done after he'd done it - transportation route improvements, setting up a functional aqueduct and sewer system, introducing Roman concrete, etc. How did a guy who was just studying to be the best civil servant he could be even know how to do all of that?

Rather than focusing directly on Souma's efforts to improve the kingdom, readers were instead treated to lots of scenes in which Souma interacted with the various ladies now swarming around him. (If you're wondering how he had the time, when Souma transported to this world he gained the ability to transport copies of his mind into ordinary objects, allowing him to do four or five times more paperwork than a single person. Handy.)

The author tried to be practical there as well, by explaining that this world allows both polygamy and, to a lesser extent, polyandry, but Souma and his various ladies were still essentially the stereotypical ordinary anime guy and his harem. Liscia was the tomboy who'd previously never thought much about romance, Aisha was the hottie who liked to eat, and Juna was beautiful, mature (this word was used to describe her possibly every single time she appeared on-page), and hiding secret loneliness. There were several "lay your head in my lap" scenes, and despite what readers were told about polygamy being accepted, there were still occasional light undercurrents of jealousy between the female characters.

Things got a little more serious at the end of the volume, as the political situation began to heat up. I imagine the next volume will be devoted to Souma somehow dealing with the unrest among some of the nobles, who were unhappy that he expected them to not be corrupt. I don't know that I'll be continuing on, however. I wanted more of a focus on Souma working with others on specific improvements to the country, and what I got instead was a lot of boring infodumps and several girls occasionally attempting to catch Souma's interest while he stubbornly told himself that they couldn't possibly be interested in him. Roroa, the princess of a neighboring kingdom, was intriguing, but considering how Dojyomaru squandered the potential of the book's other female characters, I doubt she'll be handled any better. In fact, odds are good that she'll end up as another member of Souma's harem somehow.

Additional Comments:

I suppose the translation was technically okay, but I did notice that one character's name was misspelled at least once (Kwongmin instead of Kwonmin).


Black and white illustrations throughout; three full-color color illustrations at the beginning (the cover art and a couple parts of the "finding talented people" scene - instead of opting for folded pages for the larger images, they were printed as two-page spreads, which unfortunately made Juna impossible to properly see); and seven bonus short stories (Souma going adventuring as "Little Musashibo," an unnecessary story devoted to Roroa, a prequel showing Aisha leaving the God-Protected Forest, Tomoe literally just describing how she views the other characters, Juna learning some songs from Souma, a one-page dialogue between Souma and Liscia about what they wanted to be when they were kids, and Liscia getting ready for her date with Souma).

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