Back in 2019 when The Rising of the Shield Hero anime aired, it caused a stir thanks to its initial premise based on protagonist Naofumi looking for revenge on those who wronged him. This also started a trend of isekai light novels revolving around revenge being licensed, the latest of which is The Hero Laughs While Walking the Path of Vengeance a Second Time from Yen Press. But does it offer anything entertaining? Let’s find out!
The story follows Kaito Ukei, a hero summoned to a fantasy world from Japan who has achieved his goal of defeating the Demon Lord. Having succeeded in his goal, Kaito is then betrayed by his companions and gets killed by the princess of the country whom he’d trusted with his life. Just before he meets his end, Kaito vows to take revenge on those who betrayed him, should he be given a second chance at life.
In a twist of fate, Kaito’s words are heard by the gods and he finds himself starting over from the moment he was summoned to this world. While his stats and abilities have been reduced in line with when he first arrived there, Kaito is still a force to be reckoned with, thanks to his muscle memory for fighting and he quickly beats up and tortures Princess Alicia and the guards in the summoning room. From there, Kaito makes his escape and lays low in the town while plotting his revenge against everyone who turned their back on him.
But before he can take his revenge, Kaito needs to grow stronger which means leaving the town behind to regain the spells and stats he had in his past life. He also needs a companion in order to unlock some of his prior abilities, which naturally leads him to take on a slave who won’t be able to betray him. At the slave market, we meet Minnalis a Beastfolk with rabbit characteristics. In her hometown, Minnalis lived a peaceful life with her mother where they hid their animal characteristics to blend in with the humans, but one day their secret is revealed and the two are sold into slavery. Minnalis has held a grudge against her friends and neighbours ever since and seeing that leads Kaito to decide she’s the perfect partner for him since she’s also seeking an act of revenge equal to his own.
This is ultimately as far as the first volume takes us, ending with Kaito having left town and defeated a dungeon to power himself up. While the story includes plenty of elements I usually enjoy, I have to say I struggled to get into The Hero Laughs, since the characters are so unlikeable. I wanted to feel something for Kaito after he’s betrayed, but when he comes back to life, he’s ruthless with those around him and even thugs looking to rough him up a bit find themselves sliced into pieces. There are so many long torture scenes that it’s hard to see any good in him.
Later in the book, Kaito talks about how he and Minnalis shouldn’t hurt anyone who isn’t directly tied to their revenge, but this comes a little too late to salvage things, since by this point, plenty of innocent bystanders have already been hurt! I was hoping that when Minnalis was introduced it would awaken some of Kaito’s humanity, but she ends up being as bad as he is. She’s also madly in love with him (for no real reason beyond him saving/accepting her), which isn’t so bad during the main story but in the extra stories included leads her to give off creepy stalker vibes.
I think without having more grounded characters it’s very difficult to get into the story, since it’s a grimdark series with no real substance. Yes, Kaito wants revenge and we’re supposed to root for him, but that’s not easy when he’s acting like a bad guy himself. There are no redeemable qualities here, which is what author Nero Kizuka needed to offer to keep readers on the hook.
As previously mentioned The Hero Laughs While Walking the Path of Vengeance a Second Time Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to Yen Press and has been translated by Jake Humphrey. The translation reads well with no issues to note.
Illustrations for the series have been handled by Sinsora (who has a couple of other illustration credits in Japan, but nothing else licensed here) and these are fine but not particularly memorable. They’re largely character profiles or images of Kaito being hurt/looking deranged, so there isn’t a great deal of variation or substance on offer.
The series is complete in Japan at eight Volumes and Yen have Volume 2 scheduled for release in April. They also have the manga adaptation licensed, of which Volume 1 is already available.
Overall, The Hero Laughs While Walking the Path of Vengeance a Second Time Volume 1 offers little substance with nothing but a gruesome tale of revenge. With the cast lacking any real sense of humanity, there is no reason to cheer for them and that makes the series a hard sell and difficult to recommend.