July 29, 2022
By Shelley Pallis.
Dale is on his way home from a grotty mission – purging the forest of frog monsters, which should have been simple, but has left him covered in gunge. And as he scrapes ranine snot off his clothes and body, and bemoans the fate of the low-level adventurer, he realises that someone is watching him. It’s a little girl and she appears to be lost. So begins If It’s For My Daughter, I’d Even Defeat a Demon Lord, a story that carries every hint with it of being one of those light novels in which a gamer from Earth is mysteriously sucked into the world of his game, although Chirolu’s story never quite goes there, as if the idea had become so hackneyed he couldn’t even be bothered to write that chapter.
Despite the traditionally unwieldy title and the gamified fantasy narrative, there are little touches that show the author trying harder than most to inject a little bit of worldbuilding into their narrative, starting with the opening prologue, that suggests the realm’s colour-coded seven gods have their origins in the sight of a rainbow. When Latina first encounters Dale in a forest clearing, they have no shared language beyond those few words that Dale knows from magic spells, forcing to him to cannibalise several of them in order to construct rudimentary communication.
Latina, of course, is not Dale’s daughter, she is a one-horned demon-child, the broken horn being an indicator that she might have been abandoned by her own kind, and Dale takes it upon himself, with no apparent urging or previous interest, to suddenly become her adopted father. And much of the story, at least in this volume, veers away from adventure and into two intriguing cul-de-sacs of fantasy fiction. One of them is what, for want of a better word, I will call the “housekeeping genre” of light novels, as characters in hackneyed milieux try to work out where the ale in the tavern comes from, and who carries the coins out of the dungeons, and what various monsters would taste like if you cooked them – a sort of Infrequently Asked Questions about the sort of fiction that seems to think multicultural quasi-medieval societies just happen. The other is a prolonged and intricate investigation of imprinting – how two perfect strangers should suddenly feel obliged to one other; how Latina becomes an adopted daughter, and how Dale becomes an adoptive father, embracing his role with such enthusiasm that within a few days, he is reluctant to even go out of the house and go to work.
And this is no fantasy. I have seen it happen in the real world, when a father of my acquaintance suddenly announced that he would rather jack in his high-paid job than bring an end to his paternity leave. So, even though the world of light novels is crammed with unlikely scenarios and creepy set-ups, there is something oddly wholesome and compelling about Chirolu’s, in which a fantasy adventurer has to embark upon a deeply unlikely quest, to somehow bring up a child… who might also not be quite as cut off from her race as first appears… and let’s remember, they are demon lords, so there’s probably trouble ahead.
If It’s For My Daughter, I’d Even Defeat a Demon Lord by Chirolu is published in English by J-Novel Club and available in the UK from Anime Limited.