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
Stunningly handsome Kohei Sugihara was outgoing and popular with the girls at school. But when a sudden illness left him with partial hearing loss, he grew quiet and reluctant to engage with others. At college, a chance encounter with an ever-optimistic classmate named Taichi Sagawa helped Kohei open up once more. And over time, the two began to develop feelings for each other. As the story continues, the pair tries to balance their budding relationship alongside Taichi’s inspiring new career and Kohei’s continued studies. But things don’t always go as planned. One day, seemingly out of nowhere, Kohei announces that maybe they should spend some time apart.
I Hear the Sunspot By Yuki Fumino ISBN: 9781944937300 One Peace Books, 2017 NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16)
A fantasy kingdom in danger summons four legendary heroes to fight the monsters that threaten the realm. However, those heroes turn out to be ordinary young men from four different parallel universes, each hailing from a different version of modern-day Japan. How can these normal, even slightly nerdy, guys defend the kingdom? Well, it turns out that things in this fantasy world work an awful lot like video games do in their worlds (and ours)—right down to visible hit point bars and leveling up. All four of them have played video games. So maybe they do have a shot against the monsters. But what if the people who summoned them don’t really want them to succeed at all?
This manga volume—a spin-off of a light novel series and manga called The Rising of the Shield Hero—follows Motoyasu, the Spear Hero. It begins with Motoyasu being summoned by the fantasy kingdom… but having a strong sense of déjà vu. He has been here before: has fought to save the world, leveled up, and defeated the villains, but now, somehow, he’s starting over. Events are repeating around him, and he’s determined to stop the betrayals and tragedies he remembers from happening again. Unfortunately, most people think he’s crazy and don’t believe him. But Motoyasu has one big thing going for him: in addition to keeping his memories from the previous go-round, he kept his high level and power-ups. With everyone around him at level 1, he’s now practically a god. But will that be enough to save the day?
If this sounds like a fun mash-up of Sword Art Online and Groundhog Day, it kind of is. Or it would be, except for the unfortunate fact that Motoyasu is so wildly misogynist that he literally does not see women as humans. And when I say “literally,” I mean that, with a few exceptions, he looks at any woman and sees an actual pig wearing human clothes. When women speak, he can only hear pig squeals.
For what it’s worth, the other characters do not sympathize with Motoyasu’s worldview. They see him as crazy and off-putting. Unfortunately, the story seems to validate some of his sexist behavior: the evil plot he means to foil involves betrayals and false rape accusations by multiple women. Most of the female characters who appear are immediately subject to Motoyasu calling them “pig,” “bitch,” or “whore”… and then revealing that they are, in fact, liars and villains. There are a few positively-portrayed female characters, but this is not a woman-friendly story.
This is a real shame, because otherwise, it has a lot going for it. The art is lively and expressive, with cute chibi asides. There are fun video game tropes and fantasy creatures, including the birdlike filolials, with which Motoyasu is obsessed.
As the first entry in a spin-off series, this might be a little confusing to newcomers. There is a character introduction at the beginning; this, along with the asides and summaries of previous events scattered through the volume, might help new readers catch up.
The premise of a quirky comic-relief side character gaining godlike power and the knowledge of everything that is going to happen, then scrambling to create the best possible future, has great comedic potential. You can see this in the scenes when Motoyasu is not around women, as his other oddities make for some fun humor. But “thinks women are evil pigs” is a trait that’s very hard to get past in a protagonist, and “he’s usually right about the evil part” is not a good reaction from the story itself.
This series will certainly appeal to some readers. If you are squeamish about recommending a book with a dramatically misogynist protagonist, though, then I recommend handing fans of video games and fantasy Sword Art Online, the Kingdom Hearts manga, or the less-known but fun Log Horizon manga series.
The Reprise of the Spear Hero: the Manga Companion, vol. 1 By Neet Aneko Yusagi Art by Minami Seira ISBN: 9781642730340 One Peace Books, 2019 Publisher Age Rating: Series Reading Order: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rising_of_the_Shield_Hero
Browse for more like this title NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Adult (18+) Character Traits: Japanese Creator Highlights: BIPOC Creator