Japanese Title: たとえばラストダンジョン前の村の少年が序盤の街で暮らすような物語 — “Tatoeba Last Dungeon Mar no Mura no Shounen ga Joban no Machi Kurasu Youna Monogatari”
Author: Toshio Satou — サトウとシオ
Illustrator: Nao Watanuki — 和狸ナオ
Translator: Andrew Cunningham
English Publisher: Yen On (Yen Press)
Suppose a Kid From the Last Dungeon Boonies Moved to a Starter Town is one of those rare light novels where virtually all the components are typical tropes, yet magically blend together into something that, while not ground-breaking, prove to be enjoyable.
The title pretty much sums up the main plot (light novel trope #1). Lloyd is a boy who considers himself average (trope #2). If anything, he has a very poor opinion of himself and his abilities because his village is ridiculous. It’s a place located in one of the most remote areas of the world, where fish are sea monsters, the trees roam the land in a murderous rage, and the villagers themselves are descended from mythic heroes, each of them equal to god-tier characters. Since Lloyd feels he can’t compare with the other villagers, he decides to move to the main city and join the military so he can learn to be stronger. Naturally, his logic is flawed, because even as the weakest in his village, he is light-years ahead of any person living in the city (trope #3).
As the story progresses, numerous girls become enamored with Lloyd (trope #4) and he inadvertently becomes involved in a plot to destroy the kingdom (trope #5). This doesn’t even begin to address how each of the secondary characters and members of Lloyd’s harem are all pretty archetypal.
Yet the book manages to rise above this and be entertaining.
First off, I credit the author’s voice as being a large factor in the enjoyment of the book. The voice is a third-person omnipotent narrator who regularly interjects how ridiculous, silly, naive, or just plain dumb situations are. This self-aware commentary on the book’s events was a source of numerous laughs and it’s hard to pick on tropes when the author themselves are already doing it for you.
Speaking of laughs, there were plenty of them in this book. And what I appreciated was not all of them were a repetitive mess of “Lloyd is so OP and doesn’t get it.” There are plenty of other running gags (such as a secondary character who keeps threatening to destroy the world–and can!) that keep the book from being one-note.
Also, there’s the character of Lloyd himself. Unlike other clueless OP main characters, Lloyd’s backstory provides an explanation for his lack of common sense. Lloyd is a character you root for. He’s kind, selfless, and a good house-husband. But even his ability to cook and clean is born out of the belief he isn’t strong enough to do anything but chores around the house. As a reader, instead of being exasperated by Lloyd’s low self-awareness, I pitied him because his continued lack of awareness wasn’t out of stupidity, but rather low self-esteem. This flips the usual paradigm in a positive way. With these clueless OP main characters, their character journey is typically limited to becoming aware of their power. But for Lloyd, this is more about self-acceptance and confidence. It’s a far more compelling and satisfying character growth trajectory.
The secondary characters, as I said above, fall into some common archetypes. We have a mercenary, Riho Flavin, with a mithril arm who’s an obvious tsundere, yet she’s nicely balanced out by having more common sense than other characters. Selen Hemein has a curse that has made her an outcast. When Lloyd breaks it, she falls deeply in love with him (as girls often do in similar situations in light novels). But her devotion is comedically tempered by her yandere leanings! Marie the Witch is the older-sister archetype. Her backstory combined with her moral compass make her very likeable. But she is also easily flustered and in a constant tizzy about the chief from Lloyd’s village (the aforementioned world-destroyer). Speaking of the chief, she’s referred to regularly as loli-grandma. That and her regular world-threatening tantrums tells you most of what you need to know. I often found her funny, but her designs on Lloyd make her cringey! Definitely not a character for everyone.
I could go on and on about these various characters. There’s quite a sizable cast for a first book, but they all have individual quirks that add to the story and makes them memorable.
I know I’m pointing out lots of positive things about this book. But there’s no point in discussing the obvious negatives. Yes, the plot itself is predictable (except for one little twist I was surprised by), ticking most paint-by-number boxes for an over-powered main character, fantasy, light novel. No, you won’t walk away from this marveling at how it did something new. You won’t walk away from this with a new worldview.
But combining the familiar with enjoyable characters and decent humor helps this book be a winner. Suppose a Kid From the Last Dungeon Boonies Moved to a Starter Town is highly recommended for those times you need some warm, escapist entertainment.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Justus R. Stone has been running a light novel dedicated YouTube channel since 2014. He’s also the founder of the Light Novel Podcast, one of the first English language podcasts dedicated to Light Novels. In addition to his love of Japanese light novels, he is also the author of his own light novel-inspired series, The Bleeding Worlds.