It isn’t that uncommon for a film (anime or otherwise) adaptation of a book to not do the best job, but the Seirei Gensouki – Spirit Chronicles‘ anime definitely missed a mark or two. Mostly this is simply because the story only really starts to get going in volumes like the two in this omnibus, seven and eight, which is well after the anime’s first season ended. But it’s also in the missing details about Rio/Haruto himself and how he struggles with his dual lives, especially once people he knew as Haruto appeared in his new life as Rio. While it isnt an unheard of situation in isekai tales, Yuri Kitayama‘s take on it is a bit heavier on the internal conflict than some others.
Part of that comes from the unresolved emotions that Haruto had when he died in Japan. Never able to get over his feelings for childhood friend Miharu and incorrectly thinking that she was dating someone else, he carried those emotions with him when he was reborn as Rio. Even when there was seemingly no chance of reuniting with her he couldn’t quite bring himself to forget about her, so now that she’s not only here in his new life but also exactly as she was when he lost hope back on Earth, his conflict is anything but settled. While he doesn’t think or talk about it much, there’s a sense that’s less because it doesn’t matter anymore or some misguided need to be stoic; It’s much more a question of his emotions being something that he simply can’t bring himself to consider. Something’s going to have to give (probably in omnibus five), but right now he’s practicing the good old “push it down and don’t think about it” method.
Fortunately for him, the events of these two volumes have enough other things to worry about that he can keep shoving his emotions aside. The arrival of the heroes coincides with Reiss kicking his plans into high gear, thus kicking off the actual main plot of the series. The world is in crisis, and with the hero Rio’s interacted with, Hiroaki, still very much trying to figure out his role and powers (and to maybe get over his “holy crap, I’m in an isekai” state of mind), that means that the already seasoned fighters need to pick up the slack. Rio has no real issue with fighting, but being thrown back into the company of people he knew in Beltrum is much less of a good thing, and while Roanna and Stewart might be easy enough to fob off, Princess Flora is not so easily fooled.
While the physical action isn’t bad, the books do a bit better when Rio is engaged in more emotional action. He does come off as a bit of a stoic blank slate, but after six previous volumes, we can see that’s at least in part a coping mechanism for him. He’s had to come to terms with the differences his new life necessitates and the fact that not only does he have to kill to survive, in at least one case he wants to. Haruto may have been a modern Japanese college student, but Rio lives in a much harsher sword-and-sorcery world, and there aren’t any cops to arrest Lucius. (Or at least not as they functioned in his previous world.) The only way to take him out is to kill him, and while we can see in volume eight, subtitled Beyond Memories, that he’s willing to do that, the nagging voice of Haruto within him may also be growing stronger. Several times across this omnibus Aishia suggests that maybe he should just come clean with Miharu about who he was, but that determination to kill Lucius is holding him back. He’d come to a clear resolution before, but then when Miharu and the other two appeared, he was thrown right back into internal conflict.
Miharu, however, doesn’t seem to be as stupid as he unwittingly assumes, and neither has she forgotten (or gotten over) Haruto. She’s been doing a lot of thinking while with the Spirit Folk, and she’s really three-quarters of the way to figuring everything out for herself…and Aishia is more than willing to lend a hand through some very specific dreams. This is something that sets Aishia apart from the other potential harem members of Rio’s acquaintance – she may be inappropriately cuddly (to the other characters’ way of thinking), but she’s also more inclined to feel as if she’s a part of Rio rather than a separate person in love with him. She’s also really pushing for Miharu to be his love, very probably because as a spirit contracted to him, she knows more about him than even he does at this point. Aishia’s low-key romantic meddling helps to take some of the ludicrous out of the rest of the girls’ behaviors, because while Rio’s a nice guy and insanely powerful, he’s also not exactly Mr. Personality for everyone to be fawning over.
Of the two volumes anthologized here, the second is the stronger in terms of both story and character interactions and development. The translation is also much better; while J-Novel Club‘s translations are in general just a little too fond of the word “fluster,” volume seven (Daybreak Rondo) overuses the term “in a fluster” to the point where it could easily become a drinking game. It’s also just a bit more stilted than the translation for Beyond Memories, something that might not stand out were the two novels not packaged together in one book. It’s still very readable, just not quite as good as it could be.
Despite that and the very thin pages, this is still a nice volume, with a spine resistant to creases and plenty of color pages and other illustrations. If you’re not already an isekai fan, it still may not be the series to convert you, but as with the previous omnibuses, this one proves that in some cases, the book really is better.