Belle

The magical realism of anime meets the enchanting wonder of Disney in Academy Award nominated director Mamoru Hosoda’s (The Girl Who Leapt through Time, Mirai) mesmerizing virtual world fantasy that echoes Beauty and the Beast. The tagline of this fantasy thriller states, “You can’t start over in reality, but you can start over in U,” prepping viewers to delve into this alternate reality where the inhabitants adopt identities that mask their true personas, yet draws out their hidden strengths.

Suzu, a reclusive and socially awkward lone wolf of a schoolgirl, leads a melancholy life. At a young age, she lost her mother to a drowning accident, and since then, has been holding onto a fractured relationship with her father. With the aid of her savvy social media classmate Hiro, they enter “U,” an immersive virtual world populated by avatars of every imaginable size, style, and variation. Before long, she rises to stardom as a sensational global pop star, captivating fans with uplifting songs that inspire and heal. In this world, however, lurks a brooding figure known as the Dragon, a monstrous beast who hides in the shadows, isolated and sheltered away from everyone else. Who is this mysterious beast? What secrets does he harbor? In her persona as Belle, Suzu seeks to penetrate the depths of the Dragon in hopes of uncovering his identity to redeem him.

A brilliantly executed rendition of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, Hosoda’s fantasy, supported by the creative character designs of Jin Kim (Frozen, Moana, Encanto), orchestrates a story that intersects elements of mystery, romance, and fantasy while touching upon issues of self-identity, trust, loneliness, courage, and hope. Vibrant CGI set designs along with exquisitely hand-drawn scenic backgrounds complement a surrealistic world reminiscent of the dazzling dreamlike sequences in Satoshi Kon’s Paprika. In addition to the vibrant fluency and synergy of colors, strategic camera angles capture majestic and iconic shots in homage to Disney’s original animated film. The songs enrich the film’s charming enchantment, transforming it into a semi-musical piece that resonates with warmth and heart.

While not initially apparent, each character plays a significant role that culminates in a riveting climax that propels Suzu to embrace her true identity and purpose, empowering her to uncover the mystery behind the beast’s predicament. Bonus extras include character and set design galleries, insightful interviews with Hosoda, scene breakdowns, and more.

A fine achievement to the ever-expanding films of GKIDS (a division of Studio Ghibli) for family and adult audiences, Belle radiates with heartwarming passion and makes a welcome addition to anime collections .

Belle
By Mamoru Hosoda
Art by Jin Kim
GKIDS/Shout! Factory, 2022

Publisher Age Rating: PG

NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16)
Creator Representation:  Japanese
Character Representation: Japanese

Alice in Borderland

Welcome to Borderland. You’ll be dying to stick around.

In volume 1 of Haro Aso’s Alice in Borderland, life is simple, if a bit of a letdown, for eighteen-year-old Arisu and his friend Chota. Obsessed with girls and unconcerned with school, the boys spend their time skipping class and hanging out with older dropout Karube at his bar. Weighed down with family and social pressure as well as dwindling hope for the future, the trio have accepted their lot in life. All that changes with a visit to a fireworks show and a flash of blinding light.

They wake up in their own town—now rundown and absent of any people. Unsure whether they’ve been transported to the future or some alternate dimension, the three embrace their new adventure until they meet a woman named Shibuki—a woman who calls this strange landscape Borderland and reveals that it is not the grand opportunity they first believed. Borderland is an arena. Every night features games where the stakes are life and death—and the only way to stay alive is to keep playing. With no idea who controls Borderland, the four survivors must work together to face the challenges and uncover any way to get home. There are many players in Borderland, but not all of them are friendly. And many will not be going home alive.

Written and drawn by Haro Aso, the story takes its time establishing the characters before charging headlong into the tension of their new predicament. The manga is weakest at its opening, in part because neither Arisu or Chota is particularly likeable when we first encounter them. As the story continues, Aso weaves in flashbacks alongside the main action, giving the reader insight into the struggles each faces and deepening our investment in their survival. It is these secret motivations, in part, that helped bring them to Borderland for this twisted version of a chance to change their fates. Each of the four central characters brings a key strength to the group’s survival, and with each new player introduced, Aso lays the groundwork for future plotlines. Volume 1 is an exciting read on its own, and its promise of future stories makes it a strong introduction to the series.

The art has comfortably familiar manga stylings. There are some strange flourishes—particularly in characters’ expressions—but Aso largely captures the events and emotions of both quiet moments and action sequences in clear detail. In particular, the visuals shine during some of the most sinister moments of the second game, keeping the unfolding action clear while also building tension and drawing the reader into the nail-biting efforts of the characters just to see another sunrise.

The publisher rates Alice in Borderland Mature for depictions of violence and death. Along with some language and suggestive content, it’s certainly a manga aimed at more mature readers. While the themes and violence are intense at times, the content is not so extreme as to be unsuitable for older teens. With a mix of teenage and adult characters, mature teens and adults alike will certainly find something to appreciate here—especially for fans of Battle Royale and The Hunger Games as well as the more recent Squid Game on Netflix. A strong first volume with lots of thematic and action promise for future chapters, Alice in Borderland is a worthy addition to any collection with older manga readers. And with the 2020 live-action adaptation of this manga available on Netflix as well, having this series on the shelf carries the added benefit of drawing in any reader curious about the source material.

Mystery, action, and high-stakes survival—Alice in Borderland, Volume 1 is bold enough to pull you in and has enough layers to keep you thinking about it even after the last body has hit the floor.

Alice in Borderland Vol. 1
By Haro Aso
VIZ, 2022
ISBN: 9781974728374

Publisher Age Rating: M
Related media:  Comic to Movie

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Creator Representation:  Japanese,  Character Representation: Japanese,

Kaiju No. 8, Vol 1

Kaiju No. 8 is the most surprising, refreshing, and entertaining book I’ve read in some time and is my new favorite “You should read this” book recommendation. Japan is constantly under attack by kaiju and they have had to develop their own special task for to deal with the menace, the Japan Defense Force. The setup all feels pretty standard for a Shonen manga, but the twist is our main hero isn’t on the Defense Force, he’s on the clean-up crew. He has the unenviable job of cleaning up the corpses of kaiju after they are taken down so that people can try to resume daily life and it’s anything but glamorous.

Kafka Hibino once had aspirations of joining the Force with his childhood best friend Mina Ashiro. They watched their homes and school get destroyed and vowed to wipe out kaiju together. She went on to glory as Captain of the famed Third Division, a hero to the people. Kafka failed the exam and went into a different type of public service, a much grosser type of service, but someone has to clean up the intestines, right? Now, at 32 he’s too old to enlist, so he’s resigned to a life of “what-if’s” until a new guy joins the cleaning company and shakes his world up. Reno Ichikawa is 18 years old and wants to join the Defense Force. He holds a mirror up to Kafka’s life and while Kafka resents him initially, they form a quick bond when they have to fight off a kaiju who isn’t quite dead yet. Mina winds up saving them both and later in the hospital they pledge to enlist together after Reno tells him the age limit has been moved up to 33. Then, out of nowhere, a tiny flying kaiju appears, says “I found you.” to Kafka and flies directly into his mouth. Now, suddenly endowed with the power of a kaiju, Kafka is on the run because while he may still be himself, he looks like the enemy.

Kafka can now stand toe-to-toe with kaiju and fight them himself, without the fancy equipment that makes the Third Division so deadly. Reno offers to help keep his secret, but he will not hesitate to put him down if Kafka cannot control his power or becomes a threat to the people. They head off to take the entrance exam and we start to meet some of the other candidates. There is stiff competition to get into the Defense Force, but they are determined to do their best and Mina being there spurs Kafka forward when his resolve flags.

Aside from being a little unconventional in initial setup, a plot synopsis wildly undersells this book. This has the right amount humor to keep it from being dry or stale, without being over the top cartoony. It is self-aware enough to be able to play against expectations and set up the humor. It is genuinely fun to read and is paced wonderfully between both the action and the interpersonal relationships. The art work is both huge in scope when showing cities and monsters, yet detailed enough for smaller, personal panels to still feel full of life and energy. “Balance” is probably the best word to sum this book up: it manages action, heart, humor and personality perfectly.

If you have a manga section for teens or adults, this is a great addition to either collection. If you are considering starting to add manga to your library, this is a fantastic book to begin with. It has no foul language, no sexual content, no gore, just a lot of kaiju getting blown up. I wouldn’t recommend it for kids, Kafka smokes early in the book and the themes are just mature enough in nature to require some life experience. Personally I have ordered this for our library and pre-ordered Vol. 2 as everyone I have recommended it to also enjoyed it. Really looking forward to seeing where this series goes as there isn’t a lot out there like it!

Kaiju No. 8, Vol. 1
By Naoya Matsumoto
VIZ, 2021
ISBN: 97819747259

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Character Representation: Japanese,

Came the Mirror & Other Tales

Supernatural intrigue laced with magical realism and punctuated by moments of humor permeate the short stories in Rumiko Takahashi’s latest collection Came the Mirror and Other Tales. This volume introduces five selections and an autobiographic bonus that highlights her early years as an aspiring manga storyteller.

Came the Mirror opens the collection with two teenagers who grapple with a dilemma through the time tested adage that with great power comes great responsibility. Whether by chance or by fate, Nana and Eito cross paths with each other and acquire magic mirrors that mysteriously materialize in the palms of their hands. They are gifted with the ability to see the dark side of people—an inner darkness manifesting as grotesque monsters to which the people themselves are oblivious. Together, the two must join forces to stop this insidious evil from spreading amongst the inhabitants of the town.

Obsession runs deep in “Revenge Doll” when Sentaro Yuda, a struggling manga artist past his prime grows jealous of a young budding artist who makes impressive strides with the chief editor of a popular manga magazine. One day, Sentaro receives an odd looking doll that grants him the power to place curses on others. How far will he go to fuel his jealousy? Will he resort to wishing death upon his competition?  Ailurophobia runs rampant in “With Cat” when cat-fearing Shuta attempts to reunite with his childhood crush Miya, only to discover that he may be developing feline urges—literally. In addition to these tales of magical and comical intrigue, “My Sweet Sunday” offers a glimpse into a young Takahashi who indulges in manga novels, takes a sequential art course in college, mimics the artwork of classic manga creator Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy), and follows the career of manga creator Mitsuru Adachi in her dream to becoming a manga artist herself.

Whether combating deadly monsters lurking inside the psyches of people, dabbling with a curse inducing doll, or entertaining pesky cat games, Takahashi’s stories run the gamut of magical realism and humor. As in her other popular series Ranma ½ and Inuyasha, ordinary and innocent characters are often thrust into extraordinarily bizarre and amusing situations. Her careful attention to conveying character emotions range from pensive curiosity and fearful anxiety to frustrated annoyance and anger. Climactic scenes unfold as striking medium close-up shots imbued with swift action and sound effects.  The stories cover a diversity of genres including horror, drama, romance, mystery, and comedy. Although some characters aren’t fully fleshed out, this collection offers a cross-sectional sampling of Takahashi’s standalone works that make an entertaining addition alongside her usual episodic series.

Came the Mirror & Other Tales
By Rumiko Takahashi
VIZ, 2022
ISBN: 9781974725847

NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18)
Creator Representation:  Japanese,  Character Representation: Japanese,

Ima Koi: Now I’m in Love, vol. 1

Satomi Mizusawa is a first-year high school student, and normally on the bashful side. But when a mystery boy saves her from a handsy stranger on the subway, she throws shyness out the window in her quest to meet her rescuer properly. She still regrets failing to act on a past crush and is determined not to make the same mistake again. So when she discovers that the boy, Yagyu, attends her school, Mizusawa makes a point of telling him that she wants to get to know him better. He agrees, and suddenly, they’re dating!

Unlike the common “will they or won’t they” romantic storyline, this manga settles the question immediately, following it with “and now what?” Mizusawa has never dated before, and she isn’t sure what the norms and expectations are. Can you ask for attention without seeming needy? What do you do when one of his friends seems not to like you? How do you tell your boyfriend that your birthday is coming up without sounding like you’re fishing for presents? Fortunately, Mizusawa has her supportive friend Nimo to help her figure it all out.

The central romance of this story is sweet, with Mizusawa and Yagyu each standing up for and taking care of the other. They’re clearly both still figuring out how to date, and each seems willing to give the other the benefit of the doubt. Meanwhile, Nimo’s tell-it-like-it-is attitude adds some humor, as does the shock that Mizusawa’s older brother, Saichi, feels about his sister starting to date.

While the two main characters start dating abruptly, the relationship moves slowly in other ways. By the end of this volume, they have confessed to liking each other and have shared a couple of brief kisses. There is no more sexual content than this, aside from the stranger on the bus groping Mizusawa in one panel early on. There are a few moments of very mild danger, as when Mizusawa yells at a stranger for being rude to Yagyu and the stranger seems like he might possibly hit her before Yagyu intervenes. No one is hurt at any point in this gentle story.

The art of this manga is mostly straightforward and down-to-earth, with few visual exaggerations. Occasionally, a character appears in a chibi or stylized form for a single panel, and there are a couple of instances of floating hearts or fanciful screentones, but mostly, the art is consistent and realistic, by manga standards. Backgrounds are often minimal, composed mostly of screentones, keeping the focus on the characters and their emotions. When settings are illustrated, they are everyday places like school, Mizusawa’s home, or the mall.

This sweet, earnest romance will appeal to readers of romantic shojo manga, especially those who like a realistic contemporary setting. Unlike many series, it does not have a flashy hook—no sports stars, teen singing sensations, or characters hiding dramatic secrets (as far as we know). The most unusual part of the premise is the fact that Mizusawa and Yagyu start dating early on, eliminating the question of whether and how they will get together. Some readers may find this comforting, and might be intrigued by the new questions of how two high schoolers new to romance can build a relationship together.


Ima Koi: Now I’m in Love, vol. 1
By Ayuko Hatta
VIZ, 2022
ISBN: 9781974728954
Publisher Age Rating: Teen (13+)

NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16)
Creator Representation: Japanese
Character Representation: Japanese

Sensor

This uncanny story begins at the base of Mount Sengoku, where a woman named Kyoko Byakuya, whether by fate or chance, stumbles upon a secluded village covered by gold-colored “angel hair.” These fine threads of hair—known as divine Amagami—somehow possess a mystical ability that enables the villagers to commune with each other through the power of clairvoyance. But why do they believe this woman to be their messianic savior, and what unearthly forces have been unleashed by her sudden arrival?

Thus launches horror master Junji Ito’s Sensor, a cosmological tale of apocalyptic proportions. Whereas Ito usually spins tales of the macabre in short, self-contained stories with morbid shock endings, this graphic novel unfolds through episodic chapters, each one ratcheting up the suspense as side characters and incidents enter the plot. Among the intriguing elements are Wataru Tsuchiyado, a “no name” reporter who investigates the mysterious appearance of a woman with long, flowing golden hair, allegedly the sole survivor of a volcanic eruption from Mount Sengoku. During his investigation, an underground group of cult believers begin mobilizing their forces, seeking to summon forth their lord of destruction known as “The Black Hair.” Amidst these warring factions of good and evil, Ito injects his signature brand of horror including a hypnotherapy session that nearly spirals out of control; an onslaught of “suicide bugs” shaped like spiders with bulging sacs as they deliberately place themselves in harm’s way to be stomped upon; and a sinister woman in black who materializes in mirrors and stalks unsuspecting victims around the streets of Tokyo, causing traffic mayhem.

Ito serves up a flurry of horrific treats interspersed throughout an extensive storyline. From a pair of forlorn women with flowing, wispy hair to a dark, shadowy entity lurking in the hidden reaches of outer space, Ito infuses suspense with chilling effect. Swift action scenes punctuated by gradual close-upshots accentuate the mounting tension across his meticulously orchestrated panels.

Although fans accustomed to Ito’s self-contained tales of the macabre may prefer his concise narrative style, Sensor packs a unique dose of horror into an epic story that unfurls through episodic chapters, similar to the intense momentum of Remina. Furthermore, he conjures forth a cosmic tale that blends mystery, horror, fantasy, and even mythic elements that will diversify library collections in this obscure corner of the science fiction universe.


Sensor
By Junji Ito
VIZ, 2021
ISBN: 9781974718900
Publisher Age Rating: 16+

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Creator Representation: Japanese
Character Representation: Japanese

Lovesickness: Junji Ito Story Collection

For those seeking to indulge in the spooky imagination of Junji Ito, the renowned “Stephen King” of Japan, his collection Lovesickness serves up an extra delectable treat that will whet voracious appetites for past and present fans. Marketed as a collection of ten stories, two of them are actually segmented into multiple chapters and drawn out as mini-novellas that occupy more than half the book.

The titular “Lovesickness” centers on a young boy named Ryusuke who returns to his hometown of Nazumi to discover a series of suicides among girls. What could possibly drive them to take their own lives? They wander through an ancient folkway in hopes of receiving an auspicious “crossroads fortune” from a mysterious handsome young man. Those who receive an ill-fated pronouncement on their love life kill themselves. This rash series of incidents propels Ryusuke to investigate these mysterious deaths. Combining the allurement of mystery, folklore, superstition, and urban legends, Ito unpacks a tale that crosses the realms of unrequited love and relentless passion, ultimately unleashing the deadly effects of human obsession.

In another twisted story, dark humor runs rampant in the dysfunctional family of orphaned brothers and sisters in “The Strange Hikizuri Siblings.” The grotesquely drawn siblings include an overweight, gluttonous brother, a fiendish, pigtailed young daughter, and a morbid young boy who may harbor a deadly secret behind his diffident facade. Their activities are equally outlandish: Their elder sister Narumi is driven to emotional distress when her siblings accuse her of indulging in a secret love affair; a dinner of conversations revolves around inventive methods to punish Narumi’s secret lover; and the family conducts a séance to conjure up their deceased parents with riotous effects.

Rounding out these protracted stories are shorter self-contained one-shots. “The Mansion of Phantom Pain” features a sickly, incapacitated boy confined to a mansion, whose pains are strangely connected to remote areas of the house. A woman considers undergoing surgery to remove her ribs in exchange for a beautiful physique in “The Rib Woman,” but at what cost?  The one story that doesn’t quite hit the mark is “Memories of Real Poop,” though some readers may still enjoy this lighter slice of edgy humor. Human obsessions with love, beauty, vanity, and greed permeate these gruesome stories—their plots often rising to a hyperbolic and feverish pitch.

From fog sketched panels and haunting sound effects to characters driven mad with desperation, Ito’s visual narrative images produce an eerie atmospheric mood and tone in “Lovesickness,” signifying the intoxicating spell under which the young girls have been bewitched. The abnormally drawn Hikizuri siblings wearing exaggerated facial expressions in the second story present a bizarre spectacle akin to the Addams Family.

Although not as prolific as previous collections, Lovesickness compensates by offering two extensive stories that afford more time for character development and will complement manga collections for readers with a penchant for the macabre tinged with black comedy.

Lovesickness: Junji Ito Story Collection
By Junji Ito
VIZ, 2021
ISBN: 9781974719846

Publisher Age Rating: 16+

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Creator Representation:  Japanese
Character Representation: Japanese

Boys Run the Riot, vols. 1-2

Boys Run the Riot is unique for a slice-of-live manga. It tells the story of a transgender high schooler named Ryo Watari. When we first see him, he’s switching out of his school uniform and into his gym clothes in a train station bathroom. He hates his uniform for more than the usual reasons—his uniform is a girl’s uniform and reminds him daily that he was born female.

Ryo navigates the pitfalls of high school with the added stress and complications that come with being transgender. Besides the uniforms, the social situations are fraught. The guys tell him he’s a girl and needs to hang out with girls, and the girls call him a slut for hanging out with boys all the time. He doesn’t fit in. And in Japan, “the nail that sticks out, gets hammered down.”

The only time Ryo feels like himself is in his street clothes. He’s fascinated by fashion and he can indulge himself by dressing as masculine as he likes with no judgement (besides his mother’s). Suffering from body dysphoria, lonely, and unsure of himself—how to act, whether to come out at school, at work, not to mention what changing room to use—he feels alone. 

Enter transfer student Jin. He presents himself with an air of confidence that makes Ryo jealous, with unconventional hair and piercings (a big no-no in Japanese high schools). But these two outsiders find each other in a clothing boutique seeking out the newest fashion label.

It’s an unsurprising plot that these two form an unlikely partnership and decide to make their own fashion brand in the first volume of the series. Writer and artist Keito Gaku has created charming, honest characters in a tightly paced, well plotted manga that will hook its readers. 

Rather than instant success and smooth sailing, these young entrepreneurs will face adversity. But they will not do it alone. They add to their ranks with a photographer, as well as a social media influencer. They will meet dubious adults who scoff at the idea of teens running a fashion brand, and deal with their own doubts and insecurities as well. They meet those challenges with a plan, some guts, and a little bit of luck.

Gaku is transgender himself and his heartfelt insight is all over the page. Ryo’s story is dramatic, yes, but punctuated with humor and humanity. The amazing part of the production of this manga is that the entire English translation and localization team at Kodansha Comics are transgender as well, a dream team that is creating work that will resonate with any reader.

I was blown away by the first two volumes in this series and can’t wait to see how far Ryo goes. The publisher rates this series for older teens (16+), which makes perfect sense for the age of the characters. The translation notes provide information not only on Japanese culture, but on transgender issues like binding, as well. 

This series needs to be on high school and public library shelves everywhere.

Boys Run the Riot, Vols. 1-2
By Keito Gaku
Kodansha, 2021
Vol 1 ISBN: 9781646512485
Vol 2 ISBN: 9781646511198

NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18)Publisher Age Rating: 16+

Creator Representation:  Japanese,  Gender Nonconforming
Character Representation: Japanese, Gender Nonconforming,

Yakuza Lover

Yakuza Lover, a new series by Nozomi Mino, follows the romance between a college girl, Yuri, who gets swept off her feet by the young underboss of the Oya crime syndicate, Toshioma Oya.

In the first volume, Yuri, feisty and beautiful, attends a party in search of a boyfriend. After being hit on by rude guys, she and her friend decide to leave, only to walk in on some illegal drug use—and that is where the trouble starts. Although Yuri is prepared to defend herself (through violence if necessary), they are interrupted by a suave, sexy yakuza named Toshioma Oya, who takes care of the problem, wraps Yuri in his coat, and gives her his business card. Oya is immediately smitten by the headstrong, gorgeous woman and Yuri is undeniably drawn to the handsome, gallant gangster. 

Name your romantic trope and Yakuza Lover has it. In spite of that, this shallow-sounding romantic plot works. Oya is not your typical yakuza. He’s slim, stylish and romantic, rather hulking and thuggish. Yuri is brave and capable and smart enough to not immediately fall into bed with him. The romance proceeds apace and the reader isn’t kept waiting for the good stuff. The only refreshing original plot point in Yakuza Lover is that Yuri exercises her sexual agency without being manipulated or forced. Oya, in a dangerous line of work, seeks to live his life to the fullest—he sees what he wants and goes for it, but it’s left up to Yuri to make the last step and cross the line into a sexual relationship with Oya, even though it may put her in danger.

What fun would it be if she played it safe? 

It’s not a love story for the ages but the manga is well drawn and enjoyable enough. The characters are gorgeous and volume 1 ends in a cliffhanger that will be enough to keep me interested in the second installment. Only time will tell if the plot is sustainable over the long run.

Yakuza Lover is for mature readers (18+), featuring violence and on-the-page sex (although not full-on nudity). It’s a great, modern romance for fans of titles like Midnight Secretary, An Incurable Case of Love, or Happy Marriage?.

Yakuza Lover is published by Viz Media and a second volume will be released in September.


Yakuza Lover, vol. 1
By Nozomi Mino
VIZ, 2021
ISBN: 9781974720552
Publisher Age Rating: 18+

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)
Creator Representation: Japanese
Character Representation: Japanese

Farming Life in Another World, vol. 1

Farming Life in Another World, vol. 1 documents how Hiraku Machio dies from working to death in Japan and is reincarnated, or relocated, to a fantasy world. This is how most isekai stories start; however, this story diverts from the usual trope of the main character wanting to become a hero in his/her new life. Hiraku has the opportunity for “god” to grant a few wishes before he is reincarnated, and so he chooses to request a healthy body that never falls ill, to not be dropped in a big city with lots of people, and to become a farmer. The god character grants these wishes in addition to mentioning the “complimentary beginner pack” and presents Hiraku with the Almighty Farming Tool. With a very simple explanation of how to make the tool work, “god” teleports Hiraku to a forest and dresses him in villagers clothing. 

The first half of this volume features the main character attempting to learn how to use the Almighty Farming Tool while also finding food and building a shelter. This does lead to the occasional hilarious moments as he freaks out about something new that he’s discovered. Once Hiraku has the basics down, his farm begins to grow as he plants more food and starts to build a family, starting with a pair of horned wolf beasts that act like guard dogs once fed. Towards the end of volume one, Hiraku’s family has grown to include a giant spider, who makes textiles, a female vampire and angel, who start calling him husband, and a tribe of female elves. 

As a fan of isekai stories, I really liked that this one broke some of the tropes by focusing on agriculture and farm planning. I don’t believe it to be an accurate portrayal of what to do in real life, but it was a nice break from the usual video game training and fighting aspects of other isekai. The black and white illustrations do a good job showing the farming aspects with schematics and diagrams. I did find it interesting that there were blurred illustrations when Hiraku beheads some rabbit monsters with the hoe and just the heads are left behind while the body is instantly turned into fertilizer.  

Overall, I think this would be a good addition to a teen graphic novel/manga collection if you want to add some variety to the isekai titles. I will caution that there is a page where sex comes up. The female elves want to procreate with the main character. It reads, “I fight back, but it is no good. Though I don’t mind when they curse at me and call me weak-willed.” This feels like both a description of rape and a plug for kink, and it really comes across as mixed messaging at best. Luckily, there is no sex on the page and this isn’t really referred to again later in the story. The final chapter in this volume introduces the concept of a demon king in the area and how Hiraku might encounter him in the future, which sounds promising. 


Farming Life in Another World, vol. 1
By Kinosuke Naito
Art by Yasuyuki Tsurugi
One Peace Books, 2020
ISBN: 9781642730852

NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18)
Character Representation: Japanese