After a brief uptick in story interest in volume two, volumes three through five of the manga adaptation of Shinkoshoto‘s light novels The Strongest Sage With the Weakest Crest take another nosedive. This isn’t to say that they’re terrible, but rather that the more interesting aspects of the story and world that were introduced in the sophomore volume take a backseat to much more mundane exploits, most of which rely on the fact that Matty is super powerful and awesome.
The reveal that humans lost the knack for wordless spellcasting in volume two as a result of some demonic influence does get a bit more explanation, however. As it turns out, shortly after Gaius’ demise, humanity managed to nearly destroy itself, which honestly is the most believable piece of this entire series. As they were struggling out of the ashes of their civilization, the demons managed to keep their magical knowledge at a low level, with the goal of one day helping humanity to a more permanent demise. This also is very likely the origin of the complete reversal of the crest valuation system in the years between Gaius and Matthias – it would make a lot of sense if, along with suppressing knowledge of wordless casting, the demons influenced the humans’ understanding of what was the most powerful crest to be born with. It seems likely that eventually the story will move to a place where all crests are acknowledged to be useful, because even Matty himself notes that there are things that he’s unable to do now that he has the crest he coveted in his past life – teleportation spells, for one, and close combat. It doesn’t bother him unduly, but an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each crest would be a good way to show us how both Matty and society have grown.
That, however, is firmly on the back burner for these three volumes. The primary content is Matthias showing us how amazing he is as he delves deeper into the dungeons than anyone in the present era has ever gone, tricks demons with his deceptive and powerful skills, and nets his party a dragon who can take on human form. That last is possibly to serve the dual purposes of adding another nubile young lady to his growing harem as well as a powerful ally, but Iris also provides some humor as well. Her dragon form lends itself surprisingly well to a variety of chibi faces and overreactions, while her sense of time is completely divorced from the way that humans function – she wants Matty, Lurie, and Alma to wait “just” twenty years for her wings to heal, for example, because for her that’s the equivalent of twenty minutes. Later, when she takes on human form at Matty’s behest, she spends a lot of time grumbling about her new “stumpy” legs and expressing surprise that falling down a hole could break them.
Mind you, common sense isn’t one of Matty’s strong suits either, and there are moments across these three volumes that can be quite funny. Mostly he has zero clue that Lurie has a crush on him (and that Alma is supporting her from the sidelines; technically speaking, Matty just has three female companions rather than a harem), but his sense of what’s doable and practical is nearly as off as Iris’. He can have a mean sense of humor at times, such as the way he handles the principal of the First Academy, the rival school of his own, although that pales in light of the sheer glee he exhibits when taking out demons. That can be a bit hard to take; you know that a protagonist may be excessive in his battle tactics when you find yourself feeling a little sorry for the supposed bad guys he’s destroying. In part this is because the demons have no basis for comparison; as far as they know, all humans are at a very inferior level of magical skill and ability and have been for a least a thousand years. Matty truly comes out of nowhere. But there’s also something unsettling about how delighted he is to obliterate them, and that takes away the awe we’re presumably supposed to feel at his remarkable accomplishments and feats of magic.
These things combine to make volume four the most memorable of the three. The third book is mostly about training Alma and Lurie (with Matty going off on his own to be amazing) and the fifth focuses on Iris and how she (fails to) acclimate at school and to her newly-acquired human body in the dungeon. Volume four has the main cast going to an abandoned human village where demons have set up an outpost, one that Matty finds when he realizes that someone has bugged the throne room, which explains why the demons have consistently been one step ahead of the humans. It’s a good balance of important new information, such as what happened to human civilization and more of what’s going on with the demons, humor with the introduction of Iris in her dragon form, and action, as the gang works together to kill the demons in the old village. While it does have its excessive moments in the fight scenes, it also functions as a fully realized book, with rising and falling action and plot points, and even a smidge of character development. The other two, while fun in their own ways, lack this basic format, and that does make them feel like a bit more of a slog.
The chief problem, though, across all three books is that the stakes just feel so miserably low. Yes, humanity has fallen and the demons are poised to enact their long-standing plans, but there’s never any doubt whatsoever that Matty will save the day. Even when it looks like he may lose a fight, you know he’s one panel away from a cocky grin and a magical MacGuffin that will turn the tide of battle. While that does a good job of playing into the fantasy of the overpowered protagonist, it effectively shuts out readers looking for something more from the story. That’s a shame, because there are genuinely good elements to the series; they’re just eclipsed by the author’s need to remind us at every single turn how amazing their protagonist is.
The Strongest Sage With the Weakest Crest certainly isn’t the worst fantasy manga out there, but it also is designed to mostly appeal to readers who want nothing more than an impossibly amazing main character. It’s decent fun if that’s what you’re after, but for readers looking for something more than that, this may not be the series to pick up.
#Strongest #Sage #Weakest #Crest