Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom
Souma Kazuya is an ordinary college student studying sociology and economics (with a smattering of history) when he's suddenly summoned as a hero by the king of a parallel fantasy world. Since the king doesn't quite know what to do with the hero he's summoned, Kazuya asks about the situation that landed him there in the first place and begins to offer suggestions – and the next thing he knows, the king has abdicated, handed Kazuya the crown, and betrothed him to the princess! Thus begins a very different kind of battle for another world: one based in sound economic practices, public sanitation, and lots and lots of paperwork.
Have you ever wondered why more of those heroes and heroines summoned to other worlds don't put their knowledge of modern life to work? Sure, in some stories the characters don't have that luxury thanks to convenient amnesia, but surely at least one chosen one has thought to introduce something like toilet paper to a fantasy universe. Well, at last we have that hero in Souma Kazuya, a university student who is summoned to a pseudo-Medieval fantasy realm only to immediately begin implementing sound economic practices, public sanitation, and public broadcasts. (No word on the toilet paper, though.)
The story begins like most other isekai tales – an unassuming young man, after losing his last family member, his wise old grandfather, finds himself suddenly transported to the throne room of a medieval (European) fantasy kingdom. He's told he's the chosen hero who is supposed to help the nation out of its wartime difficulties, or in this case, avert war with its neighboring countries. There is a demon lord and monsters, but they're only on the fringes at this point, and the bigger issue is that the kingdoms that are being invaded want the kingdom of Elfreiden to help them out – even though it's in no position to do so. Hence Kazuya's entry onto the scene – he's a bargaining chip for the old king, either in the form of a trade to another nation or something more local. Needless to say, Kazuya's not thrilled with this; going to war in a Medieval land is not something he aspires to. Instead he asks the king to tell him more about the situation, and when he learns about the kingdom's food shortages, economic issues, and other similar problems, he begins relying on what he's been studying and his own interests to offer suggestions. The next thing he knows, the king is abdicating, and he's King Souma.
That's one of the nice little details that author Dojyomaru puts in – Kazuya introduces himself Japanese style, with his family name first, but Elfrieden is based on a Western model, so everyone assumes that Souma is his given name and Kazuya his family name. This sort of basis in reality makes up a large part of why the book is fun; Kazuya also does things like flood the royal escape tunnels to make up a sewer system, much to the horror of Liscia, the princess he finds himself betrothed to, because he figures that if the castle falls, there's no real point to just the king escaping and it's better to have people not getting cholera. He seems to take his inspiration both from his studies and Niccolò Macchiavelli's The Prince, which makes for an interesting set up for his reign. Kazuya is no hands-off ruler; he's right there doing reams of paperwork right along with everyone else…which allows his new prime minister to call him out on his corporate work attitude, which is wearing everyone, including Kazuya himself, to the bone, and resulting in forced vacation.
Despite this unorthodox take on the isekai novel, Dojyomaru still maintains some of the basics of the genre. Kazuya is well on his (unaware) way to building a harem, which, incidentally, is absolutely acceptable in this new world, as long as the one with multiple spouses can financially support them all. (Polyandry is as accepted as polygamy.) While this could be a wish-fulfillment issue later on in the series, at the moment, Kazuya isn't even planning on marrying Liscia right now, and there's a fourth contender for his heart is set to appear next book. More irritating to me at least is the fact that most of the female characters are more tropes than people, although some attempts are made to make dark elf Aisha more than just an Aisha Clanclan knock-off and segments narrated by Liscia also show some effort put forth. Largely, however, Liscia is the “nice one,” Aisha is the “not so bright and always hungry” one, Juna is “the sexy one,” and so forth. This issue is compounded when Kazuya is informed that all women are always looking to lose weight at all times, a statement which is not only annoyingly stereotypical, but also goes against the Medieval aesthetic Dojyomaru is trying to establish – weight would have equaled wealth.
The narrative structure of the novel is also a problem. We go through no fewer than four narrators: Kazuya, Liscia, an omniscient narrator, and Hal, a soldier who comes in half-way through the book. While having this many narrative voices isn't easy, it also isn't an issue…assuming that each character has their own voice. That's sadly not the case for this book, and it becomes confusing at times, especially as the narrator switches mid-chapter frequently. Kazuya's narration tends to be the easiest to read in terms of content, as he's learning about the world at the same time we are, although all four do read fairly well once you figure out who's talking.
The artwork for the book is done by Fuyuyuki, whose art bears a striking resemblance to that of TYPE-MOON. This does make it better than some of the other recent light novels' art, and really, the chief complaint is that we rarely see characters who aren't Kazuya and Liscia illustrated; the descriptions of some of the other people, such as the sea serpent woman, seem to be just begging for pictures.
Overall, How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom feels a little bit like a thoughtful isekai. With its references to Machiavelli and sound economic and public welfare principals blending with the more fantastic elements, it plays with its genre while still telling an interesting story. It's a bit too fond of info-dumps and has some narrative issues with voice, but generally speaking, if you've ever wanted to see the summoned hero do more than fight the bad guys and win the ladies, this is the book you've been waiting for.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B
+ Fun twist on the isekai plot, nice art. Interesting world is being built and the hero reacts believably, as do outlying political factions.
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