By Fuurou and Yuki Nekozuki. Released in Japan as “Shishi Kamori de Slow Life” on the Shousetsuka ni Narou website. Released in North America by Cross Infinite World. Translated by Andrew Attwell.
If you do want to read slow life books, you’re going to have to put up with the slow life. And that can sometimes be hard. I have a few slow life books I’ve had to drop simply because the everyday descriptions of their slow life were putting me to sleep. On the other hand, if you can come up with a good plot and characters, you can usually hook your reader enough that they will put up with your slow life anyway. That’s exactly what we get here. I have to tell you, there is a lot of food preserving in this book. A whole lot. Honestly, the book should have been titled “So you want to preserve food?”. And, having peeked at the webnovel itself, that is absolutely never going away. That said… likeable leads who are both adults, good worldbuilding in terms of how this sort of thing would work, and an occasional action scene. I enjoyed it.
Our main character is Mikura, who is decidedly NOT hit by a truck and does not end up in any sort of fantasy world. That’s because it’s already come here. There is a massive forest in Japan called the Beastly Wilds, host to Beastpeople. Grownups look like humans with animals ears and tails, but the kids look like animals wearing clothes. There are all sorts of rules and regulations about going into this forest at all. And Mikura’s great-grandfather had a house here, where he paid the beast people to tend to the chestnut and walnut trees and sat around preserving food as a hobby. Now that he’s passed away, Mikura decides to quit his fast-track office job and follow in his footsteps. Of course, there’s a bit more to it than just moving in… for one thing, he’ll need to deal with the locals.
I’ll be honest here, the best thing in the book by a mile is the main female lead, Techi. She’s essentially a grade school teacher/foreman/minder for all the kids who are working on Mikura’s farm (and there is a welcome discussion of child labor laws and how they apply to beastmen who essentially get a lot less agile as they get more human), and she takes a while to warm up to Mikura… or anyone, really. She is what I would call a ‘lovable grump’ and Her basic expression most of the time is :| or variations on it. Seeing her slowly start to fall for Mikura is the highlight of the book, even as she’s also helping him acclimate to this new situation and fighting off crooked chestnut dealers who want to use the beastfolk for their own ends. The first half of the book is all plot, for the most part, and I loved it. The second half is about 1/3 plot, 2/3 recipes, and I felt like I was googling ‘pancetta’ and having to read someone’s life story before I got to the recipe.
Despite that, and the risk of future volumes being worse, I really loved the lead couple, even if they aren’t a couple yet. (He sensibly sees her flirtation as more of a fascination with romance than him specifically, though I’ve no doubt that will change.). If you’re a cook, this is a must read. to everyone else, recommended if you like relaxed isekais or chipmunks.