Note: These light novel first impressions come courtesy of J-Novel Club‘s membership program, which allows members to read weekly parts of light novels as they are translated, before their official e-book release. These impressions cover the first 2 parts of volume 1.
Note Athlon had been looking forward to adventuring with his childhood friend and love interest Miya, but his hopes were dashed when he learned what skill he had: Mapping, an auto-mapping skill that is wholly outclassed by other mapping skills and takes up all his skill slots, so he has no other skills. And with skills being so important to an adventurer’s capabilities, he figured he had no chance of making it big as an adventurer and would only be holding Miya back, especially since she got three top-tier skills. Thus, he fell into a self-pitying despair so bad that even Miya could not deal with him anymore and left him after six months. After another six months of just doing grunt work for other parties and wasting his money on booze afterwards (this fantasy world apparently has lax drinking age laws), his life finally has a chance to turn around when someone from the top-tier adventuring party Arrivers invites him to join their party. Turns out Mapping might not be that useless of a skill, when it’s the only skill that can map out the dangerous dungeons that top-tier adventurers dare to challenge…
There’s something to be said for a story where the main character starts out a broken mess, with the rest of the story laying out a path for his character development. Note’s self-loathing and resulting behavior feels almost depressingly familiar, especially as his narration really gets into how poorly he views himself. Though there’s every much of a chance that he will come off as an annoying prick, given how he wallows in self-pity and also only became an adventurer because his girl friend wanted him to. (Though that too might be depressingly familiar…) Whatever you might think of him, it is good to see his narration show just what kind of thought processes lead to his self-destructive behavior: the focus on what-ifs, the inability to accept others’ care for him, and the belief that there is no use for the skill he has. And it’s a good thing we get all this out of the way early, because that means we have all of the rest of the story to give him a chance to grow out of that. Even here, it’s not as simple as seeing “oh hey, my skill is actually useful somewhere” and he’s magically a happy person; he still struggles with envy and realizes when his past demons try to resurface. Overall, this novel seems to be quite a solid story of personal growth, dressed up in a fun dungeon-diving package. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of this.
Here is the series page for Mapping, where you can read the first part for free. Pre-orders for Vol. 1 are not up yet but when they do go up, pre-order links can be found on that page too.