A Wild Last Boss Appeared!

Spoiler Alert!

“Your reign ends here, Ruphas!”

The hero Alioth swings his huge sword at you.

“Fools, it is your end.”

With a blast of magic, you push your opponent away.

He recovers in an instant and swings again, striking you in the chest and momentarily stunning you.

“NOW!”

Nearby, the elf sage Megrez calls out, “Hyperspace Seal!”

A sphere of black energy engulfs you.

“Well done, heroes! You’ve surpassed me and I wish you the best against the Demon King!”

In Exgate Online, players create their own kingdoms and fight each other on the fantasy world of Midgard, with victors gaining control of the losers’ territory. The company running the game records these events and incorporates them into Exgate’s in-game story, publishing it online like a web novel.

Your character in this game was Ruphas Mafahl, a beautiful, black-winged flugel, a winged humanoid descended from angels. For years, you’ve trained her up to Level 1,000 in a wide variety of classes, earning top player rankings. You’ve also collected and tamed a dozen rare monsters and event bosses, gathering them into a group known as the Twelve Heavenly Stars. They’ve acted as your loyal companions and generals in the game.

As Ruphas, you were the first to conquer all of Midgard. As a result, Ruphas gained semi-canon status in Exgate’s story. With no more challenges left in the game, you gathered seven other players and organized an event in which their characters would fight Ruphas in a decisive battle.

And Ruphas was just defeated and sealed away.

The viewers must be going wild, judging from the comments in the sidebar.

The event was successful!

Well, time for bed…

The next morning, you turn on the computer and prepare to play Exgate Online again.

What’s this?

On the login screen, you see Alovenus, the creator goddess of Midgard and mascot of Exgate Online, along with a new message.

Is this a reward from the game administrators? Sounds fun!

Yes.

Unh…

W-where…? What just…

“Did the summoning work?”

“It can’t be…”

“She’s still alive?!”

“No, no…not the Black-Winged Overlord!”

As your vision returns, you find yourself standing in a throne room.

Why is everyone shivering and kneeling on the floor? Did they see a ghost or something?

Hmm? Your chest feels a bit heavy and there’s something moving on your back.

Something’s missing from your crotch…

You catch your reflection in a nearby window.

It’s…Ruphas??!!

A Wild Last Boss Appeared! (野生のラスボスが現れた!, Yasei no Rasu Bosu ga Arawareta!) is a web novel, light novel series and manga written by Firehead (炎頭 [ファイヤーヘッド], Faiyāheddo).

Without warning, a high school student suddenly finds himself in the living, breathing body of Ruphas Mafahl, a character that he played on an MMORPG, summoned to the real-life world of Midgard by those who were trying to summon a hero. Ruphas flies to her old home base and finds Dina, a mysterious young woman who claims to be her advisor.

Ruphas learns that events on Midgard played out more or less the same as Exgate Online, with her conquering the world and being sealed away by the Seven Heroes 200 years ago. The Heroes founded their own kingdoms and fought against the Demon King, who defeated them but spared them. The demons conquered much of Midgard after that, leaving humanity and the other races in constant peril. In addition, the Twelve Heavenly Stars are still alive and scattered throughout the land, with some of them now causing trouble. Ruphas decides to not only recover her former companions but also talk to the surviving Seven Heroes in order to learn more about her predicament.

Fighting Aries, the first of the Twelve Heavenly Stars

Two of the surviving Heroes are found to be wallowing in despair, deeply regretting their victory over Ruphas. Before that fateful battle, their minds were gradually filled with irrational hatred, fear and envy, only for those feelings to inexplicably disappear afterwards. The black-winged flugel eventually meets the Demon King, who tells her that the goddess Alovenus is playing a pernicious game of balance in the world of Midgard, preventing any one faction from establishing dominance. It’s possible that the goddess saw Ruphas as a threat and subtly influenced the Seven Heroes to fight her despite the fact that she was the only being the demons feared, thus allowing the conflict and suffering to continue. Even now, it’s likely that Alovenus holds an insidious sway over all.

Meanwhile, Ruphas’ summoners have succeeded in summoning a hero from modern day Japan, commanding him to defeat both the Black-Winged Overlord and the Demon King. It is also revealed that Dina has been less than forthcoming about her true identity and intentions. Since a human soul now inhabits Ruphas’ body, where is her real soul now?

Left to right: Ruphas, Aigokeros, Aries, Libra, Dina.

Main Characters

Ruphas Mafahl, a flugel, the one-time Overlord of Midgard and a former male Japanese high school student. Proud, charismatic, honorable and assertive, she has a hidden gentle side and encourages others to fight for what they believe in. Ruphas is seen as many things by the various peoples of Midgard: hero, villain, savior, tyrant, conqueror and much more. The human soul within Ruphas gradually uncovers more of her memories, gaining access to more of the Overlord’s former abilities and power. Such memories include those from Ruphas’ childhood, during which she was cruelly abused by her own father and the other children for her black wings, which are considered a grave sin among white-winged flugels.

The Demon King and Ruphas, a meeting between titans

At Level 1,000 and with god-like attributes, Ruphas is one of the most powerful people on Midgard, comparable to and feared by the Demon King himself. Like other flugels, she has a long lifespan (over 1,000 years) and the natural ability to intimidate others, including monsters, into submission with her voice alone. In Ruphas’ case, she could intimidate entire armies! Among other things, Ruphas is a monarch, a general, a warrior, an alchemist, a mage and a monster tamer. Eventually, she rediscovers her unique ability to create golden apples, items that give their eater an artificial boost in power (experience points in game terms).

Dina, Ruphas’ enigmatic half-elf advisor. Although seemingly humble, helpful and unassuming, she is much more cunning than she appears to be. In Exgate Online, “Dina” was a background decoration for Rupha’s home base. This identity is adopted by a mysterious woman who was once a beta test player for Exgate Online. She also sometimes takes the identity of Venus, one of an elite group of demons, the Seven Luminaries. Despite knowing all this, Ruphas keeps her around. Secretly a Level 1,000 character, Dina is particularly skilled in teleportation and mind manipulation magic. Curiously, Alovenus is the only other known being who can manipulate minds…

For almost 200 years, the golem Libra has tirelessly defended Ruphas’ treasure

The Twelve Heavenly Stars, powerful monsters tamed by Ruphas. Most of them are extremely loyal to and violently protective of their mistress. Members include Aigokeros (a goat-headed demon), Aries (a gigantic rainbow sheep), Karkinos (a giant monster crab), Libra (a mechanical golem maid) and Scorpius (a giant scorpion). All of them have unique abilities and can take on human form if needed.

A squad of golem maids confronting Scorpius

Sei Minamijuuji (南十字 瀬衣, Minamijūji Sei), a 17-year old former Japanese high school student and a summoned hero. Like many classic isekai heroes, he is brave, humble and virtuous. His biggest hero is his father, a police officer who taught him the importance of not only helping others but also doing the right thing even when everyone else disagrees. After he witnesses a conversation between Ruphas and the Demon King about how the goddess Alovenus is manipulating the entire world, Sei begins to have doubts that Ruphas is the evil monster she is reputed to be. Although currently a rather weak fighter, especially compared to Ruphas and her allies, Sei is thought to have the potential to become extremely powerful in the near future.

A nasty accident at a hunting festival

Personal Thoughts

There’s quite a few mysteries in this story that we’d love to have answers for, such as why the goddess is harming the world, why much of Ruphas’ memories are missing and what Dina really is.

The heroes’ mission in this story is to confront the true source of the world’s misery: the goddess who supposedly protects it. Aside from most people refusing to consider the idea that their savior is actually responsible for their suffering, Alovenus is also capable of influencing minds anytime and anywhere, with the implication that free will may not even really exist. In addition, she can enhance the power of anyone who submits to her, resulting in them becoming overwhelmingly powerful monsters that exist only to do the goddess’ bidding. Ruphas’ resolve to fight the goddess despite near-impossible odds, even for her own incredible power, is nothing short of true heroism.

Benetnash, vampire princess and one of the Seven Heroes, greets her old rival Ruphas

The idea of a deity manipulating an entire world to ensure the continuation of violent conflict reminds me of the Legacy of Kain video game series. The main villain of these games, the Elder God, manipulated mortals to spread conflict and suffering in order to perpetuate a vicious cycle of life and death to feed and empower itself. It is possible that Alovenus has similar motives or maybe she feels that life without conflict is meaningless. Like the games’ hero, the vampire Kain, Ruphas is a villain on the surface but she fights a greater evil who manipulates everything from the shadows.

In the end, the moral behind this story is about doing the right thing, especially when others try to convince you otherwise. If everyone was jumping off a cliff, would you go too?

Moral

Sometimes, doing the right thing isn’t easy, but it must still be done.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime

Spoiler Alert!

You look at your watch as you walk. Looks like you’re going to be a bit late.

“Over here, sempai!”

Ah, there he is! Hmm? Who’s that girl?

“Sorry I’m late, Tamura. What did you want to talk about?”

The girl bows.

“Hello, I’m Miho Sawatari.”, says the girl. “My fiancé talks about you every now and then.”

“Good to meet you. I’m Satoru Mikami.”

What’s this about? Does Tamura want marriage advice? In all your 37 years, you’ve never had a girlfriend before. Not that it bothers you.

“I’ve booked a great place for yakiniku. We can talk more there, sempai.”

You should congratulate them…

A sudden scream breaks your reverie.

Ahead, you see a wild-eyed man in a black hoodie.

The maniac’s got a knife and he’s making straight for Tamura!

You push him out of the way…and suddenly feel a sharp pain in your side.

Your legs feel so weak.

So hot…

Acknowledged. Heat Resistance acquired.

Getting stabbed and killed? What kind of end is this?!

Acknowledged. Physical Attack Resistance acquired.

Blood…oooww…

Acknowledged. Pain Resistance acquired. Creation of body not needing blood successful.

“Sempai! Sempai!”

Tamura?…so noisy…so cold…

Acknowledged. Cold Resistance acquired. Thermal Fluctuation Resistance now acquired.

Are you…going to…die?

“T-Tamura?”

His eyes and nose are running as he clutches your hand. It’s so warm…

“Take the hard drive…out of my computer at home…put in…bath…wipe it clean.”

Deletion via electric current not possible. Alternative: Electricity and Paralysis Resistance acquired.

“Sempai…I just wanted to show off Sawatari to you…”

“Just…make her… happy…”

So you die a virgin…

If there’s such a thing as rebirth, you’ll be a lot more assertive…screw every girl you see…

Acquisition of Unique Skill Predator successful.

At 40, you’d have been a sage…

Sage Skill now upgraded to Unique Skill Great Sage.”

So noisy…qui…et…

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime (転生したらスライムだった件, Tensei Shitara Suraimu Datta Ken) is a web novel, light novel series, manga and anime written by Fuse (伏瀬). There are several spin-off manga such as How to Stroll in the Land of Monsters (魔物の国の歩き方, Mamono no Kuni no Arukikata) and The Slime Diaries (転スラ日記, Tensura Nikki), which will be released as an anime in April 2021. A turn-based, city-building game, That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime: Lord of Tempest (転生したらスライムだった件 ~魔国連邦創世記~, Tensei Shitara Slime Datta Ken ~Makoku Renpou Souseiki~), was available on iOS and Android.

Satoru’s new body

Stabbed by a mugger in broad daylight, the salaryman Satoru Mikami somehow hears a voice in his mind speaking about gaining new abilities as he dies. When he awakens again, it is in the body of a slime, inside a massive cavern on an unfamiliar world. He quickly learns about two abilities (Unique Skills) that he now has: Predator, which allows him to analyze and replicate anything he consumes, and Great Sage, an intelligence that can answer his queries about almost anything. After several weeks of devouring herbs, magical ore and wandering monsters, Satoru encounters an imprisoned dragon named Veldora. After a long talk, he offers to use Predator to devour and analyze the dragon in order to eventually find a way to free him. Faced with more centuries of boredom and solitude, Veldora agrees and, in gratitude, gives the slime a new name: Rimuru Tempest.

Eventually, Rimuru finds his way outside to the Jura Forest. He soon encounters goblins who request his aid in defending their village from a pack of Direwolves. He easily kills the Direwolf leader, consumes it and frightens the other wolves into submission. Afterwards, the slime learns that the goblins have no names, so he decides to give one to each of them. He also gives the name Ranga to the leader of the surviving Direwolves. After doing so, Rimuru falls unconscious for three days and, when he wakes up, discovers that the goblins and the Direwolves have somehow become stronger monsters, Hobgoblins and Tempest Wolves respectively. Great Sage informs Rimuru that naming a monster imparts some of the namer’s magic into it, allowing it to “evolve” into a stronger version of itself.

Deciding to help the goblins develop their community, Rimuru goes to the Dwarven Kingdom to recruit skilled artisans. He soon returns to the village with four of them, including the famous blacksmith Kaijin. Later, he meets Shizue Izawa, a retired adventurer summoned from Japan decades ago. She eventually loses control over Ifrit, the fire spirit possessing her, and it threatens to go on a fiery rampage until it is devoured by Rimuru. After this, the now-dying Shizue requests Rimuru to consume her as well and he does so, gaining the ability to take on human form.

Over the next two years, the goblin village grows into a small, thriving city and Rimuru invites ogres, lizardmen, orcs and others to stay as well, giving names and assigning duties to them. Under Rimuru’s leadership, the various monster races of the Jura Forest unite and found a new nation, the Jura Tempest Federation. Other nations and demon lords soon take an interest in the Federation and its unusual leader…

Center: Rimuru Tempest (human and slime form); Clockwise from top: Veldora Tempest (dragon), Ranga (tempest star wolf [formerly direwolf]), Rigurd (hobgoblin [formerly goblin]), Benimaru (kijin [formerly ogre]), Kaijin (dwarf), Gabiru (lizardman), Shizue Izawa (human)

Main Characters

Rimuru Tempest, a.k.a. Satoru Mikami (三上 悟, Mikami Satoru), a slime, a former salaryman and Grand Chancellor (later King) of the Jura Tempest Federation. Friendly, laid-back and somewhat eccentric, he sometimes worries too much about how others will react to what he does. Although he’d rather avoid trouble if he could, Rimuru is diligent, helpful and protective to those he cares for. As a slime, Rimuru is functionally genderless, but he still identifies himself as male.

Fighting Orc Disaster, an orc on the verge of becoming a demon lord

At the time of his reincarnation, he gained several types of physical resistance, such as against fire, cold and pain, in addition to his Predator and Great Sage Unique Skills. Predator allows Rimuru to replicate a plethora of Skills (e.g. Magic Sense, Sticky Steel Thread, Thought Communication) and magic spells (e.g. Water Blade, Icicle Lance, Flare Circle). It can also be used on objects, allowing him to instantly create weapons, clothes, and healing potions from magic and his own mass. Rimuru can also take the shape of any creature he has absorbed, using magic to create extra mass when replicating creatures larger than his natural slime form. After consuming Shizue’s body, he gained the ability to take on an androgynous, genderless human form that resembles an adolescent version of Shizue herself. Rimuru often uses this form to experience sensations that cannot be felt in slime form, such as when tasting food.

He can create manga from his memories!

Veldora Tempest, the Storm Dragon and one of the four True Dragons. Proud and boisterous, he loves to show off his power. Imprisoned 300 years ago for attacking a human city, Veldora has become more patient over the long years and was considered the guardian deity of the Jura Forest by its inhabitants. After being devoured by Rimuru, the dragon remains alive within the slime’s body, where he spends his days analyzing the magical prison still holding him and watching memories of Rimuru’s past life as Satoru.

Shizue Izawa, the Conqueror of Flames

Shizue Izawa (井沢 静江, Izawa Shizue), a retired adventurer. Kind yet taciturn, her sad eyes betray an inner trauma. During the Bombing of Tokyo at the end of World War II, Shizue was summoned to the fantasy world at the age of four by the demon lord Leon Cromwell. Upon her arrival, she was possessed by the fire spirit Ifrit. Years later, she became a famous adventurer known as the “Conqueror of Flames” for her powerful fire magic. After she retired from adventuring, Shizue took a teaching post at the Freedom Academy where she taught children who were summoned from other worlds like her. By the time she met Rimuru, Shizue was well into her 70s, but the fire spirit within her preserved her youthful appearance. To suppress Ifrit’s influence, she wore a special anti-magic mask. Before being consumed by Rimuru, she made him promise to fulfill her final wishes: to take care of her students at the Freedom Academy and to find Leon Cromwell.

Personal Thoughts

In a sense, Rimuru is a fantastical example of how one can grow through adaptation and learning. By consuming other creatures and acquiring their abilities, he becomes far more powerful than a slime, traditionally a weak RPG creature. He can even act as his own factory, able to create objects he has consumed at least once. In theory, there’s almost no limit to how powerful he could become.

He has no need to worry about getting a girlfriend now…

By demonstrating that he is the most powerful in the Jura Forest, Rimuru wins the respect and loyalty of the forest’s monsters. Former enemies such as Direwolves and orcs swore allegiance to him after he defeats them, since they believe in rule by the strong. Ogres became loyal to him when he demonstrates strength in both body and character. At Freedom Academy, Rimuru demonstrates his superior skills and experience to Shizue’s students, winning their respect. Those who underestimate the slime’s abilities quickly regret making him an enemy.

The undercurrent of this story seems to be a contest in which the strongest and the most respected is the one who adapts, whether in body or mind. And, of course, no one could adapt better than Rimuru!

Moral

New problems will always arise, so one must adapt and learn in order to live.

Gate: Thus the Japanese Self-Defense Force Fought There

Spoiler Alert!

*yawn*

Getting up early can be a pain, but it’s worth it today.

“Shinbashi, this is Shinbashi!”

Ah, you’re finally here.

You’ve got the day off and the annual doujinshi convention is finally here! You’ve already read through this year’s catalog and decided on what titles to look for!

You get off the train and make your way to the exits.

As you walk, you somehow feel that something’s not right. The usual crowd chatter around you seems off. In fact, you can almost hear people screaming. But from where?

Pressing yourself against a large station window, you see people running on the streets.

What’s going on?

Suddenly, you see several blue dragons flying over and attacking the crowds. On each of their backs is a man wearing strange armor, carrying a lance.

Dragons?! It can’t be!

You run out onto the streets and see people either running around in blind panic or even simply cowering. If this keeps up, the doujinshi convention will be cancelled!

You run up to a lady kneeling and trembling on the ground, covering her head with her hands.

“Get up! It’s dangerous here!”, you say.

The lady looks up.

“Who are you?”

“I..”

You hear gunshots and turn to see one of the dragon riders fall onto the street below.

A moment later, the rider gets up and charges a nearby policeman with a sword!

You must help him!

Dashing over, you tackle the rider to the ground, pick up his sword and thrust it into his chest. A spray of blood gushes forth, splattering on you.

You turn to the policeman, asking if he’s alright.

He’s staring at you in shock, along with several onlookers.

You walk up to the policeman and tell him, “Officer, you must evacuate everyone to the Imperial Palace!”

Hopefully, they’ll let the people inside. If not, it’ll be a bloodbath…

Gate: Thus the Japanese Self-Defense Force Fought There (ゲート 自衛隊 彼の地にて、斯く戦えり, Gate: Jieitai Kano Chi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri) is a web novel, light novel series, manga and anime written by Takumi Yanai (柳内 たくみ, Yanai Takumi). There is also a sequel novel series, Gate Season 2: Weigh Anchor, as well as several spin-off manga.

In the summer of 20XX, a portal to another world, the “Gate”, suddenly appears in the Ginza district of Tokyo. An army of monsters and humans wearing strange, ancient armor emerges and kills many of the people near the Gate. Eventually, the Japanese Self-Defense Force (JSDF) routs the invaders, thanks to their more advanced weaponry and tactics. A few days later, the Japanese government sends a JSDF expeditionary force through the Gate to the other world, now officially designated as the Special Region (特地, Tokuchi), in order to establish accords with the Empire, the government behind the invasion.

Upon their arrival, the JSDF is attacked by a massive army which they annihilate over several days. Afterwards, they construct a forward operating base around the Gate, which is located on Alnus Hill in the Special Region. 1st Lt. Youji Itami is assigned as leader of the 3rd Recon Unit with the mission of investigating the Special Region, where magic, dragons, and elves do exist. In the course of his travels, he aids the locals, including the Imperial Princess Piña Co Lada, by defending a town from a marauding army and fighting the huge Fire Dragon, thus paving the way for negotiations. Along the way, Youji befriends several skilled, beautiful women who accompany him with his unit. The Alnus base soon grows into a small community where the JSDF and Special Region natives coexist. Meanwhile, other countries on Earth grow jealous of Japan’s exclusive access to the Special Region.

The JSDF Forward Base on Alnus Hill, with the Gate at its center

When Youji discovers that the Empire has slaves from Japan and “convinces” Crown Prince Zorzal El Caesar to release them, the humiliated prince seizes control of the Empire from his father, Emperor Molt Sol Augustus, and commences an all-out war with the JSDF. The JSDF quickly retaliates and evacuates those opposed Zorzal’s warmongering including Princess Pina and the Emperor. The Imperial anti-war faction establishes a new government with Pina as Crown Princess while the defeated Zorzal goes into hiding with his supporters and desperately uses outdated guerilla tactics in fruitless attempts to discredit the JSDF. Prince Diabo, Zorzal and Pina’s brother, eventually allies himself with China in his own desperate bid to become Emperor. The Gate itself is later discovered to be slowly destroying Earth and the Special Region as both worlds inevitably drift apart. Not only must the JSDF end the Imperial civil war, but also find a way to close the Gate.

Left to right: Lelei, Youji, Rory, Tuka

Main Characters

Youji Itami (伊丹 耀司, Itami Yōji), a 34-year old 1st Lieutenant of the JSDF, commander of the 3rd Recon Unit and an otaku. Honest, compassionate and easygoing, he is a slacker with no goals in life besides indulging in his hobbies. After losing his family at 13, Youji lived an unremarkable life before joining the JSDF, where he barely passed officer training and gained a reputation for being good at running away from trouble. His superiors assigned him to Ranger and Special Forces training to discipline him, but he somehow passed that as well. Promoted to first lieutenant for helping to evacuate civilians when the Gate first appeared, Youji is now a respected hero to the JSDF and Special Region natives alike.

At a hearing in Tokyo over the JSDF’s conduct in the Special Region

Tuka Luna Marceau, a 166-year old high elf. Cheerful yet reserved, she is an adolescent by elven standards. When her forest village was destroyed by the Fire Dragon, Tuka becomes the only survivor to be rescued by Youji. Traumatized by her father’s death, Tuka goes into denial and even once views Youji as her father! She eventually overcomes her denial after the Fire Dragon is killed in a final battle. Like many of her people, Tuka is a skilled archer and can use spirit magic, which she mostly uses to either make arrows fly faster or cause others to fall asleep.

Lelei La Lalena, a 16-year old human sorceress. Calm, brilliant and thoughtful, she is wise beyond her years and rarely displays emotions of any sort. A descendant of Rurudo nomads, Lelei was an apprentice to Cato El Altestan, the sage of the Coda village, and was among the refugees evacuated by Youji’s unit. Eager to learn about modern-day Earth, she quickly masters the Japanese language and soon acts as an interpreter for Youji’s unit. Lelei quickly surpasses her teacher after learning about modern science to enhance her magic skills. Some of the magic she can use includes magic missiles, flight and telekinesis. Lelei eventually learns how to create temporary Gates between Earth and Special Region, but it is extremely taxing for her.

Levitating dozens of swords at once to attack the Fire Dragon

Rory Mercury, a demigoddess and the Apostle of Emroy, the god of war, death, violence and madness. Playful, sensual and somewhat bloodthirsty, Rory can be pleasant to those who are not her enemies. While wandering the land, she helped Youji fight off the Fire Dragon from attacking refugees and became fascinated with the JSDF soldier. Although Rory appears to be a 13-year old human girl, she is actually 962-years old. When she turns 1,000, she will become a full goddess. She wears what appears to be gothic Lolita dress, but it’s actually her priestly attire. Despite being the Apostle of a death god, Rory is recognized as a beloved heroine throughout the Special Region. Supernaturally strong and fast, she can use her huge halberd to devastating effect and her body can quickly heal from any injury. Rory later makes a contract with Youji that allows any injuries he suffers to be passed onto her instead, in exchange for him becoming her servant when he dies.

She can practically decimate armies by herself!

Personal Thoughts

This story reminds me of when Commodore Matthew Perry first arrived in Japan with his “black ships”. Like the Empire, the Tokugawa Shogunate was suddenly confronted with a technologically superior enemy and forced to accept peaceful terms because war would be utterly disastrous on their end. There were also various factions in Japan who wanted to keep fighting despite being outmatched, since their centuries-long pride on being powerful warriors wouldn’t allow them to accept this humiliation. Even those who made peace with the strange foreigners felt threatened constantly, forcing them to learn everything they can about the foreigners’ methods and technology in order to be on equal terms with them.

The Empire here is inspired by the ancient Roman Empire, particularly with its Senate and its royal family. Without any real challenge to their power for centuries, the Empire and its people grew arrogant and saw other peoples and races as slaves at best and uncultured barbarians at worst. When confronted with a technologically powerful enemy, those who sought peace with them prospered while those who wanted war, such as Prince Zorzal, were eventually ruined. What the story misses is that being completely at the mercy of an enemy much stronger than you can be appalling, whether that enemy is benevolent or not.

A number of modern-day political issues shown here could apply to real life as well. With sudden access to a new world, many countries outside Japan are shown to be quite ruthless in their efforts to gain access to the Special Region, resorting to kidnapping, trickery, intimidation and force to gain land, natural resources and people with unique skills. It’s much like how the early settlers of the U.S.A. gradually took more and more land from the native peoples, driven by greed and using their superior weapons and technology.

Moral

There’s always someone better than you.

A Beauty’s Hardships in the Warring Kingdoms

Spoiler Alert!

Where are you?

Blinking quickly and looking around, you find yourself in an unfamiliar forest.

You walk around a bit, but are still unable to get your bearings.

Sitting on the ground, you try to recall what happened today…

It was the morning of April 15th, 20XX. You had spent a late-nighter reading up on the Age of Warring States. History has always been fascinating to you!

School ended after the fifth period that day, leaving you unable to do your agriculture presentation. You even bought purebred seeds from the garden shop for this! Ecchan and Ritsuko invited you to go with them to a karaoke lounge, but you turned them down. After all, you wanted to help your grandfather with his farm work!

You were walking home after buying a book about the history of weapons for your elder sister. After that…

After that…?

For some reason, you only draw a blank.

You hear a rustling sound from behind.

“That’s a strange-looking woman!”

Turning around, you see four dirty, unkempt men wearing only scraps of armor and clothing. They look like brigands from the past! Is someone shooting a movie nearby?

You don’t like the leers on their faces…

You’d better…RUN!

After a moment of running blindly, something pulls on your bag and you find yourself falling onto the ground.

One of the men gets on top of you!

No! No! No. No…

“Aaaghk!”

Something emerges from the brigand’s chest, causing him to rise up and gurgle in pain.

As he falls to one side, you see someone else behind him…a man in Japanese armor carrying a spear with blood on its head. And he’s not alone.

“Miscreant! We shall not allow such vile acts in our lord’s territory!”

The other three brigands run away.

Did he just…kill…someone?! Is this really happening?!?

“What’s all this commotion?”

A strong, authoritative voice from a short distance away catches your attention.

“My lord!”

You see a man on horseback approach you.

Huh?

That crest…that katana with a golden guard…that strong prescence…

You’ve seen his picture in history books, so it’s impossible. And yet, there’s no mistake…

Oda Kazusanosuke Saburou Taira no Ason Nobunaga (織田上総介三郎平朝臣信長).”, you blurt.

He gets off his horse and suddenly draws his katana, aiming it at your face!

“Do you have a death wish?”

A Beauty’s Hardships in the Warring Kingdoms (戦国小町苦労譚, Sengoku Komachi Kurō Tan, lit. “Warring State Beauty Hardships”) is a web novel, light novel series and manga written by Kyochikuto (夾竹桃, Kyōchikutō).

Shizuko Ayanokouji, a high school student and an agriculture enthusiast, suddenly finds herself in an unfamiliar forest. A moment later, she is rescued from brigands by a group of men in Japanese armor and is approached by their leader, a man she recognizes from history books as the legendary daimyo, Nobunaga Oda. With Nobunaga and his men suspicious of her strange appearance and belongings, Shizuko offers them her knowledge of modern-day agriculture techniques, passing it off as from the Nanban (南蛮, Nanban, “southern barbarians”). Intrigued, the open-minded Nobunaga accepts the offer and assigns her as chief of a struggling village in his domain. After some discreet questions, Shizuko learns that it is now the third month of Eiroku 8 (1565 A.D.), in the midst of Japan’s Age of Warring States (戦国時代, Sengoku Jidai).

Red or black rice is the staple food during the Age of Warring States

In addition to rice, Shizuko grows many crops not yet introduced to Japan at that point (e.g. sweet potatoes, pumpkins, sweet corn, tomatoes) using purebred seeds. She also grows sugarcane and builds mushroom farms, allowing the village to produce sugar and shiitake mushrooms, both of which are considered valuable during the Age of Warring States. Pleased with Shizuko’s progress, Nobunaga assigns more land, workers and guards to her. To manage her growing community, Shizuko uses bulletin boards, sundials and the Gregorian calendar to ensure timely communication. She also starts up a technology town with the goal of teaching craftsmen to make items based on modern-day necessities, such as bamboo flasks with screw-on lids and cotton futons.

In the past, a small amount of shiitake mushrooms could buy a castle!

Nobunaga gradually uses Shizuko’s knowledge for his military campaigns. She also creates gunpowder and muskets for the Oda army using a book about weapons she originally purchased for her elder sister. After becoming Nobunaga’s advisor, Shizuko uses her modern-day historical knowledge to provide several strategic advantages to the Oda clan and its allies. As her reputation grows, she gains the notice and respect of several famous people, such as Yoshinari Mori, Lady Nō, Shigeharu Takenaka (“Hanbei”) and Ieyasu Tokugawa.

After making several dozen copies of Shizuko’s crossbow, Nobunaga tests their use in battle

Meanwhile, two other people from the modern era survive as well – Mitsuo Tanaka, a middle-aged breeder, and Ashimitsu, a mysterious man and a long-time friend of the Ayanokouji family. Three years after the time slip, these two learn about and meet Shizuko. Discussing their experiences, the three learn that they all travelled back in time at the same moment and Mitsuo was riding a bus that had an accident…

Their last memory from the modern day…

Main Characters

Shizuko Ayanokouji (綾小路 静子, Ayanokōji Shizuko), advisor to the Oda clan, town leader and former high school student. Humble, passionate and somewhat innocent, she has a keen interest in agriculture and history. The granddaughter of an agricultural expert, Shizuko understands the need for proper technique, meticulous care and tools to ensure a good harvest. Although she has some skill in a crossbow after using it for hunting, Shizuko’s true talents lie in her modern-day knowledge, which has enabled the rapid advance of agriculture and technology in Nobunaga’s domain. Her historical knowledge also allows her to advise Nobunaga in military and political matters. Shizuko is also reasonably skilled in other areas such as mathematics, English, health and the production of various goods (e.g. porcelain, cotton, modern farming technology).

Shizuko with Saizo Kani and Keiji Maeda

Nobunaga Oda (織田 信長, Oda Nobunaga), a powerful daimyo (feudal lord) and head of the Oda clan based in Owari province (now part of Japan’s Aichi Prefecture). Ambitious, charismatic and strong-willed, he is unusually curious and open-minded compared to many people of his day. After taking Shizuko into his service, Nobunaga quickly learns the value of her skills and gradually gives her more political power and territory. Keen on conquest, he is particularly hungry for the girl’s knowledge on weapons and military strategy, which she restricts in order to prevent history from changing too much. Nobunaga has shrewdly used Shizuko’s advice to craft strategies in battle, such as using random skirmishes to exhaust a besieged army and igniting alcohol to create momentary conflagrations, causing enemy soldiers to panic.

Lady Noh (濃姫, Nōhime), Nobunaga’s wife. Graceful and shrewd, she is every bit as curious and open-minded as her husband. After taking an interest in Shizuko’s unusual cooking, Lady Noh sometimes visits her to sample her unique dishes such as tempura, yakitori (chicken) and fried rice. Unlike many women of her time, she values innovation and encourages others to do the same.

Lady Noh

Yoshinari Mori (森 可成, Mori Yoshinari), a samurai and Nobunaga’s trusted retainer. Observant, clever and firm, he has watched over Shizuko since she was taken in by the Oda clan. He soon learns to trust her despite her mysterious origins thanks to her contributions to the Oda clan. Later, he entrusts Shizuko with the care and education of his young son, Nagayoshi Mori.

Aya (彩, Aya), Shizuko’s handmaid. Quiet and reserved, she is also a spy assigned by Nobunaga and Yoshinari to observe Shizuko and, if possible, discover the source of her miraculous knowledge.

Wittman, a male grey wolf. He was found injured and starving by Shizuko when she went hunting one day. After he was nursed back to health, he became the girl’s loyal pet. Later, Wittman leaves and returns with a mate in tow, resulting in the birth of an entire pack of grey wolves loyal to Shizuko.

Shizuko with Wittman and his mate

Personal Thoughts

You’d need decent knowledge of Japanese culture and history to appreciate this story’s context, but it provides specific information as needed.

The most interesting part is how the story gives some details about everyday life during the Age of Warring States, one of most famous and violent times of Japanese history. Peasants had to sleep in hay or their own clothes and were only able to wash themselves with a wet cloth. Due to superstitions, meat and other sources of protein were not usually eaten despite the abundance of game in nearby forests. Since there were no clocks, it was hard for people to be on time. Modern farming techniques and technology were not yet developed, so farming was backbreaking work with not much crop yield, especially by modern day standards. Many things that we now take for granted simply didn’t exist, making us only wonder how people from the past survived.

Thanks to Shizuko’s tools, tilling the fields on a rainy day in June is no longer a backbreaking task!

Unlike Nobunaga, most daimyo were staunch traditionalists, so they would be unlikely to give a woman a role in military or political affairs. When daimyo conquer a city or town, they often allow their soldiers to pillage it as a reward. In contrast to the stories, manga and anime that romanticize the Age of Warring States, many daimyo were actually rather callous to those who were not samurai or nobles, since Japanese culture emphasizes the importance of a strict social hierarchy. Even now, it is common courtesy in Japan to be respectful to superiors of any sort, even if they are family members or workmates.

A demonstration of Nobunaga’s neverending curiosity.

The heroine Shizuko uses her modern-day knowledge (and some seeds) to bring about a time of new concepts, ideas and invention to the past, much like many other isekai heroes. Her imported knowledge not only improves the quality of life of everyday people, but also gives advantages to the Oda army. In particular, Shizuko’s modern-day agriculture enables the growth of a huge amount of crops, both old and new. With this, the Oda clan’s armies and villages became well-supplied, enabling them to gain the strength to prosper and fight. It’s easy to take food for granted, but we can’t do without it.

Moral

A public service announcement!

Be grateful for what we have now, because it’s always possible for life to be even harder.

The Rising of the Shield Hero

Spoiler Alert!

There’s no class today and you don’t have much money to spend, so now you’re at the library to read some light novels again.

You browse through the shelves and pull out a book…along with a few others by accident!

As you pick the books off the floor, one of them catches your eye.

“The History of the Four Legendary Weapons”

Maybe just a quick glance…

“When calamity befalls a certain world, four heroes will be called forth from other worlds to defend it. These heroes each wield one of the Four Legendary Weapons: The Sword, the Spear, the Bow and the Shield.”

Isn’t a shield more like armor than a weapon?

Inside the book, you find a picture of a beautiful woman with a condescending, haughty smile. Just looking at it makes you a bit nervous…

Hmm? The pages are turning blank.

Suddenly, you’re…falling?!

Moments later, you land on a cold, hard floor.

“It worked!”

Huh? What worked?

You get to your feet and look around.

You’re in a large hall that looks a throne room in a European Medieval castle. At the far end are two thrones. On one of them, there sits a regal-looking old man wearing a crown. He regards you with apprehension.

Next to you are three other young Japanese men, holding a sword, a spear and a bow. They’re wearing modern-day clothes too.

Why does your right arm feel heavy?

Looking down, you find…a shield?!

“Oh Heroes of Legend! Please save our world!”, says a man in black robes.

You cannot help but smile. A classic fantasy adventure! It’s every otaku’s dream!

As you look over the people in the hall, you glimpse a beautiful, red-haired young woman. Where have you seen her before? Perhaps you could form a team with her later…

The Rising of the Shield Hero (の勇者の成り上がり, Tate no Yūsha no Nariagari) is a web novel, light novel series, manga and anime written by Aneko Yusagi (アネコユサギ, Aneko Yusagi). There is also a spin-off manga.

Suddenly transported to another world, the 20-year old college student Naofumi Iwatani learned that he was summoned by King Aultcray Melromarc XXXII as one of the Four Heroes who must save the country of Melromarc from the Waves of Calamity, a series of invasions by non-native monsters of unknown origin. While the other three Heroes receive the Sword, the Spear and the Bow, Naofumi receives the Shield as his legendary weapon. Because the Shield is considered the weakest of the four weapons, no one is willing to join Naofumi except Myne Sophia, a beautiful human magician. Both of them spend a day together shopping and fighting a few battles against monsters. The next day, Naofumi wakes up and finds Myne, his armor and his money missing. A moment later, several guards forcefully escort him to the castle, where Myne accuses him of raping her last night in front of the King and the other three Heroes. Despite Naofumi’s protests, the King quickly declares him a criminal to the country at large.

Now a penniless outcast, the bitter Naofumi eventually meets a shady slave trader who tells him that slaves have magical seals that prevent them from lying to or betraying their master. Liking this idea, Naofumi purchases a young demi-human girl named Raphtalia and trains her to fight. During a Wave, they help fight off monsters attacking a village and evacuate its people, earning their gratitude.

At a feast held by King Aultclay, the Spear Hero, Motoyasu Kitamura, challenges Naofumi for Raphtalia’s freedom. Naofumi proves himself the stronger fighter, but is beaten when Myne uses her magic to help Motoyasu win. Despite the obvious cheating, the King declares Motoyasu the winner and reveals that Myne is actually his eldest daughter, Princess Malty Melromarc! Furious with Motoyasu’s presumption, Raphtalia chooses to remain as Naofumi’s slave. The Sword Hero and the Bow Hero then call out Malty and the King for their duplicity, allowing Naofumi to leave with his dignity intact. During a later visit to the slave trader, Naofumi purchases a monster egg that later hatches a baby female Filolial, a giant flightless bird used for riding or pulling carts. Named Filo by Naofumi, it grows quickly in size over three days and takes on the form of a young girl with blond hair!

In addition to taking on quests to help others, Naofumi takes up trading to earn a living. During this, he meets Princess Melty, Malty’s younger sister and heir to the Melromarc throne, who is ashamed of her sister’s and her father’s actions. After a failed coup by the local Three Heroes Church, Queen Mirellia, the true ruler of Melromarc, finally returns from abroad, exonerates Naofumi and punishes both Malty and the King for their callousness by stripping them of their status as royalty. Although things get better for the Shield Hero, the Waves remain a constant threat and Malty continues to cause untold misery for everyone. For the first time in a long while, Naofumi dares to hope again.

The Reprisal of the Spear Hero (槍の勇者のやり直し, Yari no Yūsha no Yarinaoshi) is a spin-off manga in which Motoyasu’s soul is sent back in time to the day of the Four Heroes’ summoning in Melromarc. Retaining partial memories from his original timeline, he quickly becomes Naofumi’s ally in this story. The Menu of the Shield Hero (盾の勇者のおしながき, Tate no Yūsha no Oshi Nagaki), a short manga written by Tendo Akano (赤野天道, Akano Tendō), features the food Naofumi and friends eat during their travels.

Clockwise from top: Naofumi, Raphtalia, Filo

Main Characters

Naofumi Iwatani (岩谷 尚文, Iwatani Naofumi), the Shield Hero, a former college student and an otaku. Disillusioned by Malty’s cruel betrayal, he became grumpy, cynical and mistrustful. While still selfless at heart, Naofumi is wary of trickery and takes a tough stance with strangers, such as asking for upfront payment for his services. Over time, he gradually learns to trust and love others again, particularly Raphtalia and Filo. As the Shield Hero, Naofumi can create and use dozens of different magical shields that grant him a wide variety of strong defenses (i.e. magic resistance, poison resistance) and power-ups (i.e. Defense up, Agility up). One of his most powerful shields is the Shield of Wrath, which draws upon his soul to create powerful counterattacks. In his endeavors as a part-time trader, Naofumi has become skilled at negotiation, cooking, crafting accessories and making healing potions.

The Shield of Wrath

Raphtalia, a tanuki (Japanese raccoon dog) demi-human fighter. Formerly a slave, she has become brave, confident and compassionate during her time with Naofumi. Since he was the first human to treat her with some kindness, Raphtalia is in love with him despite the fact that he considers her to be more like a daughter. Because she is a demi-human, her body quickly grew into that of a young adult as she grew in power (leveling up) along with the Shield Hero. She still retains some childish attitudes, such as getting jealous of girls who spend time with Naofumi for any reason. Because the Shield Hero has almost no offensive skills, Raphtalia has trained herself in swordsmanship and some illusion magic to back him up.

She’d rather be with him than be free

When she was 10 years old, Raphtalia was orphaned when her village was attacked during the first Wave and was taken as a slave by Melromarc knights immediately afterwards. She was then passed through several owners until she was sold to the slave trader. It is later revealed that Raphtalia’s late father was actually a prince from her home country.

Filo, a Filolial Queen. Caring, boisterous and somewhat silly, she has a short attention span and a ravenous appetite. Like most Filolials, she enjoys pulling carts, particularly Naofumi’s carriage, and has a strong dislike for dragons, her race’s natural enemy. Due to being in close proximity to a legendary weapon (the Shield), Filo grew into a Filolial Queen and gained the ability to take on a human form. She quickly learns how to fight and coordinate with her friends in battle and later becomes even stronger after she is chosen by Fitoria, the Queen of the Filolials, as her successor. Filo can also create tornados and enhance her speed with her natural skill in wind magic. In human form, she wears a magical dress that transforms with her so that it doesn’t get destroyed when she changes form.

Filo takes on a dragon zombie

Personal Thoughts

Finding himself at rock-bottom and driven by his desire for vengeance against Malty, Naofumi found it hard to trust people again, particularly if they happened to be beautiful women. At first, he trusted Raphtalia only because she was his slave, but he treated her decently and her loyalty to him grew to the point that she actually wanted to be his slave if it meant that she could have his trust. Through consistent selfless deeds, Naofumi becomes a hero in the eyes of those he helps and many people in Melromarc gradually find it hard to believe Malty and King Aultcray’s insistent claims that the Shield Hero is evil.

Naofumi sometimes has goods for trade in his carriage

The greatest source of misery in this story isn’t the Waves of Calamity, but one sociopathic, spoiled brat – Malty. Caring only about herself, she lies to, seduces and manipulates others into doing what she wants, only to casually betray them when they are of no further use to her. For people such as her father and Motoyasu, Malty constantly flatters them and convinces them to act on their most selfish, destructive desires, no matter how much suffering they bring to others. In hindsight, it was more or less fortunate that she betrayed Naofumi so quickly! If backed into a corner, Malty would shamelessly beg for mercy, even from those she already betrayed.

This story demonstrates the dangers of extreme selfishness, especially when one is deluded, malicious or self-righteous. Such people inevitably harm others and are hated by everyone no matter what they believe or say. By contrast, those who are consistently helpful and unselfish will gain love and respect from others, even if there are people who try to slander them.

Moral

Who you are is defined by your actions, not words or beliefs.