The World Strongest Rearguard: Labyrinth Country’s Novice Seeker, volume 1

Arihito died, and the first thing he has to do is become a Seeker in another world. His job is rearguard, the support guy. As it was a whole bus, he is not alone on his trip to Labyrinth City.

Prior to the LN, I had seen the translation of the manga, but the first few pages really didn’t grab my attention. The cast was so huge I couldn’t understand who was who. Thanksfully, the LN is slower on adding characters. There is currently 6 volumes in Japan.

Now, let’s talk about Arihito, the rearguard. He is a 30 years old adult who for most of his working life, had slave away due to his junior boss who also died during the accident. As such, he does exhibit more maturity, but when it comes to relationship with women, we are back to the inexperienced standard high school level. Still, he is rather intelligent, and has his head on his shoulder when it matters.

His mission is to survive in the Labyrinth City, as a “Seeker”, a warrior who explore labyrinth. As a rearguard, his job only shines when he is in a party, at the back. That’s why he will meet 7 others Seekers. And by common isekai rules, they are all females.

The system of the world has some clear rules allowing the reader to think within them. When the characters level up, they can get new skills, and I do like each time to think which one I would pick. Arihito’s choice is like confirming whether or not I was right. This is a sharp contrast to another LN I have read “Magic User”, which system was entirely in the head of the protagonist, meaning, all the progression was due to playing with an unknown system which is unfair to the reader. Mechanics should be exposed to allow the readers to explore and play with them, otherwise, it’s deus ex machina.

The rest of their society is seemingly very systemic as well. Between guild, level, district, classes, it is like everything can fit into something bigger. It also makes the general world feel artificial and instrumented. Why are people “Seekers” and not “Adventurers”? Why does reincarnated arrive here? How does this system exist? Such questions can easily arose while reading and I believe it’s written as such on purpose. There are already explanations on why they are called “Seekers”.

Combats narrative are not really the best. I don’t really like it. It’s like watching a Twitch stream of a RPG, and as soon as there is a fight, the camera zoom on the battle log! X attacks Y. Y takes Z damage point. Or, just a stream of Pokémon. This is done on purpose to illustrate the effects of the skill which rely on numeric values, but the overall result is not very exciting. There is just not enough fighting narration.

Add to this the fact that his progression so far is smooth, too smooth. The solutions to the problem Arihito encounters is far too often, offered just before the problem appears. And the solution comes from the system as they level up. Actually, it feels like that this friend who is a lucksack and keeps winning against the RNG by getting the girls, good skills, and good loot… That’s Arihito. It doesn’t help that there is little to no time ellipsis, meaning all the actions of 2 volumes were condensed in 4 eventful days. Even with my high suspension of disbelief, it feels like everything is far too convenient and fast. The sense of struggle and tension is diluted, making this a flatter ride.

Now this seems like a lot of negative, but there is a constant sense of discovery that I remained curious through the volumes, so I could overlook these aspects. The author also seems to try and improve his style.

Character interactions, when it’s not about girls fawning over Arihito can be interesting. The first few conversation between Arihito and his previous superior Kyouka were really well done, as it dwelled on their past life, professional and personal, an aspect often forgotten in isekai. I wish all the other characters will be offered such opportunity for development, but they are very few opportunities.

Narratively, we have the common first person point of view from Arihito with very few switches to other character. The writing is interjected with flavourless message system, but is otherwise fine. Illustrations are the standard colors pages at the beginning and monochrome of the characters at key moments.

This LN is a heavy mixed bag. There are some good part, but they are muddled with points which break immersion. At the very least, Rearguard still managed to push me to get the second volume. The first volume just ended abruptly, not exactly on a cliffhanger, but an unexplained discovery. I’m mildly curious to see what is next because there is always something new to discover which is my current drive for this series, and a few stakes worth following. But I can also see myself drop it if the various weak points overcomes its quality.

Informations

Author: Tôwa
Illustration: Huuka Kazabana Twitter Website

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