Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
The Hero Is Overpowered but Overly Cautious
Ristarte is a relatively young goddess in the business of summoning heroes to save worlds. She's just been given her first S-ranked world to save, and she's been taking the task of finding an appropriate hero very seriously. That's why she settles on Seiya Ryuuguuin – he may only be a level 1, but his other stats are through the roof, so he seems like the safest bet. If only she'd paid more attention to that little note about his personality: over-cautious. Seiya may be stupid powerful, but he's also the kind of guy who refuses to set foot in the world of Gaeabrande until he's leveled up sufficiently, buys three sets of armor, and stops to recover MP when he's still got over half of his capacity. Sure he can take on powerful demons, but will he ever feel prepared enough to actually save the world?
Of all of the self-aware isekai novels that seem to be the latest trend within the genre, The Hero Is Overpowered but Overly Cautious might take the cake. Narrated by the novice goddess Ristarte (better known as Rista), the story follows her travails as she tries to find the perfect hero to save her first major assignment and ends up with a guy who makes Doomsday Preppers look lazy. This goddess-eye view allows us to see the inner workings of the basic game-based isekai story, purporting to give us the real story about why so many Japanese kids get summoned (because isekai is so popular, so there's less explaining to do, apparently), the whole RPG-mechanic (familiarity), and just what a god's role is in all of this. As it turns out, it's the kind of hassle that might make Aqua from Konosuba have become the Party Trick Queen out of self-defense, because these heroes don't always turn out the way their summoners expect.
That's the basis for this story. Ristarte, nervous about her first S-ranked world, has been driving herself crazy trying to pick the right potential hero from the stack of “resumés” that she has on hand – basically fact sheets with what the hero's starting stats would be upon being summoned. She's decided to stick with young Japanese people after having attempted a South African hero and a Martian hero in the past – due to the prevalence of isekai stories in Japan, she's found that they're just easier to work with. Everyone she looks at, however, seems too average for the world that needs saving, and she's afraid that they'll be powerless against the Demon Lord. Then she stumbles upon Seiya Ryuuguuin, a handsome young man with impressive starting stats and a cautious personality. Figuring that she's found her hero, Rista summons him…and almost immediately regrets it. “Cautious,” as it turns out, was in no way an adequate descriptor of Seiya's disposition. He's cold, a bit calculating, has the social skills of a brick, and such an abundance of caution that it takes them an extra week to even get to Gaeabrande. You could almost even say that he's paranoid as well – he develops a skill to keep Rista from seeing his stats because he doesn't fully trust her—and she's the only person whose food he'll eat, so if he doesn't trust her to see his strength, you know he basically trusts no one.
To say that Rista regrets her hero would be to simplify the situation. She is impressed with Seiya's strength in the field and, to a degree, his determination to be ready for anything. But she doubts his commitment to actually saving Gaeabrande and she can't really understand how he thinks. He's handsome, which she appreciates, but he treats people, their projected allies included, so poorly that she can't fully get behind him. As for Seiya himself, we know very little. Rista's narration and Seiya's general reluctance to speak to others means that he's basically a cipher to the readers, and we're forced to glean what we can from his actions and Rista's words. To a degree, this allows author Light Tuchihi to play with the romance trope of the bad boy all the ladies fall for – Rista's attracted to him on a strictly physical level, but Seiya's gruff bluntness and disregard for the feelings of others make at least two other goddesses fall for him, with his rejection only fanning the flames for one. In a sense it's like the terrible romantic interest of a late-90s shoujo manga by Osakabe Mashin has been summoned to be the hero.
All of this makes for a fun send-up of a genre that's become ubiquitous. To the story's credit, however, it's not written with the intent of making that genre look bad – this could just as easily be read by isekai's fans as well as its detractors. Rather than placing values on the tropes of the genre, The Hero Is Overpowered but Overly Cautious' first volume simply points them out and plays with them. Tochihi mentions in the afterword the theory that there are two kinds of RPG players – those who just want to get through the story and those who max out everything before even attempting quests – and that the intent here was to write the latter type as the hero. Seiya's not selfless or (outwardly) caring or concerned, but he does take his job very seriously…it's just not the kind of seriously that anyone was expecting.
The translation largely makes this clear, and it reads with a breezy ease facilitated by short chapters. While I didn't love the use of the word “aborigine” for the South African hero Rista briefly mentions, there are no other glaring issues with the vocabulary, although it is a little weird to see Ishtar depicted as grandmotherly figure. Saori Toyota's illustrations are very attractive, and it's worth noting how the color art is much more detailed but not substantially different than the black-and-whites inside the book; it's clear that Toyota simplified while still keeping it so that we can recognize the fussier designs, which is neat to see. On the whole, this is a very fun take on the isekai genre – it doesn't judge the genre, but instead enjoys playing with it in a way anyone can enjoy.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : A-
+ Fun without being judgmental in its self-awareness, good art
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