A fantasy kingdom in danger summons four legendary heroes to fight the monsters that threaten the realm. However, those heroes turn out to be ordinary young men from four different parallel universes, each hailing from a different version of modern-day Japan. How can these normal, even slightly nerdy, guys defend the kingdom? Well, it turns out that things in this fantasy world work an awful lot like video games do in their worlds (and ours)—right down to visible hit point bars and leveling up. All four of them have played video games. So maybe they do have a shot against the monsters. But what if the people who summoned them don’t really want them to succeed at all?

This manga volume—a spin-off of a light novel series and manga called The Rising of the Shield Hero—follows Motoyasu, the Spear Hero. It begins with Motoyasu being summoned by the fantasy kingdom… but having a strong sense of déjà vu. He has been here before: has fought to save the world, leveled up, and defeated the villains, but now, somehow, he’s starting over. Events are repeating around him, and he’s determined to stop the betrayals and tragedies he remembers from happening again. Unfortunately, most people think he’s crazy and don’t believe him. But Motoyasu has one big thing going for him: in addition to keeping his memories from the previous go-round, he kept his high level and power-ups. With everyone around him at level 1, he’s now practically a god. But will that be enough to save the day?

If this sounds like a fun mash-up of Sword Art Online and Groundhog Day, it kind of is. Or it would be, except for the unfortunate fact that Motoyasu is so wildly misogynist that he literally does not see women as humans. And when I say “literally,” I mean that, with a few exceptions, he looks at any woman and sees an actual pig wearing human clothes. When women speak, he can only hear pig squeals.

Yeah.

For what it’s worth, the other characters do not sympathize with Motoyasu’s worldview. They see him as crazy and off-putting. Unfortunately, the story seems to validate some of his sexist behavior: the evil plot he means to foil involves betrayals and false rape accusations by multiple women. Most of the female characters who appear are immediately subject to Motoyasu calling them “pig,” “bitch,” or “whore”… and then revealing that they are, in fact, liars and villains. There are a few positively-portrayed female characters, but this is not a woman-friendly story.

This is a real shame, because otherwise, it has a lot going for it. The art is lively and expressive, with cute chibi asides. There are fun video game tropes and fantasy creatures, including the birdlike filolials, with which Motoyasu is obsessed.

As the first entry in a spin-off series, this might be a little confusing to newcomers. There is a character introduction at the beginning; this, along with the asides and summaries of previous events scattered through the volume, might help new readers catch up.

The premise of a quirky comic-relief side character gaining godlike power and the knowledge of everything that is going to happen, then scrambling to create the best possible future, has great comedic potential. You can see this in the scenes when Motoyasu is not around women, as his other oddities make for some fun humor. But “thinks women are evil pigs” is a trait that’s very hard to get past in a protagonist, and “he’s usually right about the evil part” is not a good reaction from the story itself.

This series will certainly appeal to some readers. If you are squeamish about recommending a book with a dramatically misogynist protagonist, though, then I recommend handing fans of video games and fantasy Sword Art Online, the Kingdom Hearts manga, or the less-known but fun Log Horizon manga series.

The Reprise of the Spear Hero: the Manga Companion, vol. 1
By Neet Aneko Yusagi
Art by Minami Seira
ISBN: 9781642730340
One Peace Books, 2019
Publisher Age Rating:
Series Reading Order: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rising_of_the_Shield_Hero

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NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Adult (18+)
Character Traits: Japanese
Creator Highlights: BIPOC Creator

  • Nic

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Wake County Public Libraries

    Reviewer

    The child of two artists, Nic grew up loving art, reading, and those oh-so-special books that combine the two. Nic got her MLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her thesis was on the best shelving scheme for graphic novels in public libraries; the proposal won an Elfreda Chatman Research Award. She spends her free time reading, drawing, blogging, and writing fiction. She is a Youth Services Librarian at the Wake County Public Libraries in Raleigh, NC.

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