Power creep may be terrifying. Don’t get me wrong: I grew up watching programs with some of the most ridiculous power scaling imaginable, and there are moments when you just want to see someone win a fight by striking them really, really hard. However, sometimes less is more. Creating a story that focuses on strategy rather than brute force might serve two purposes. The first is satisfying that classic underdog story that I adore. The second requires the writer to come up with novel ways for the hero to save the day. However, we are dealing with a demon king rather than a hero.
Astaroth, our protagonist, is both the best and worst thing about this novel. To begin with the positives, the techniques he offers for the world’s rules are intriguing and will keep readers engaged from start to finish. The book does a good job of outlining these concepts while also extrapolating workable solutions to tough situations. If your army isn’t as large as your opponent’s, make sure it exploits your opponent’s weaknesses. If the scenario adheres to the traditional tropes of an RPG video game, exploit those rules to put your opponent into a compromising predicament they may not have anticipated for the sake of tradition. All of this is intriguing, and this will appeal to fans of more strategic battle stories.
As this novel serves as a fantastic prelude, there is also a great deal of intrigue around the greater tale. By the end, it was evident that there was a wider story envisioned and that everything here was mostly to establish the world as well as Astaroth’s moral alignment. While one may argue that the entire volume was staged, it didn’t feel that way until the very end. I don’t feel like I wasted my time, which is a credit to smart writing, where the setup can be just as interesting as the possibility for a broader plot.
What isn’t engaging the other half of the time is our major lead. The book primarily emphasizes the idea that our protagonist is unique because, unlike other people, he is a realist. He is direct, tells it like it is, and is open about the reality that he must make significant strategic bets or lose impending battles. Even though he looks to have a good heart, the book attempts to cast him in a lawful evil light. The trouble is that when he’s not planning, he’s a rather uninteresting character.
Astaroth has agency, but he’s not a particularly engaging character, and he doesn’t do anything to persuade the reader to root for him. Breadcrumbs scattered throughout the book suggest he has a past from a prior life, but he doesn’t appear to care. We get some reflection from the character, but it’s quite surface level, almost as if the book could delve into greater detail about who Astaroth is as a person but doesn’t want to detract from the stoic, realism persona at the heart of the story. This makes it difficult for the few emotional moments to strike a chord. The song itself is fantastic, yet it leaves me wanting more.
This is exacerbated by the fact that his design is uninspired. The majority of the designs in this book aren’t really original.
The Reformation of the World as Overseen by a Realist Demon King is heavily influenced by video games and role-playing games. When summoned, it even displays a stat block for some characters, similar to a gacha pull, putting it on par with dozens of other light novels. It serves as a prelude to a much larger plot, and its battle methods are varied and entertaining, but that is the extent of the book’s inventiveness. Your mileage may vary, but this is an example of a story in which the mystery is sadly offset by an aesthetic and main character who could be more engaging.