By EDA and Kochimo. Released in Japan by Hobby Japan. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Matthew Warner.
Given that this title starts off with a young man waking up in a forest with no idea where he is, it’s time to tick off the isekai/reincarnated checklist. And actually, the series so far seems to hold up pretty well after ticking the boxes. There is no adventurer’s guild here, nor do we go dungeon crawling. While the town it takes place in seems to consist of outcasts, there don’t appear to be slaves. Our hero does not have any new and fantastic powers from entering this world. He knows how to cook, but that’s from his life in Japan, and he doesn’t have skills above “I’m seventeen and still learning from my dad”. He doesn’t even meet God! That said, his skills are certainly needed as he meets a group of people who have forgotten how delicious food can be, and his job is to help them rediscover that. He’s helped by a blond, dark-skinned… no, wait, she’s not even an elf! They’re dark-skinned from their lifestyle.
Now, to be fair, the female lead is a tsundere. If you hate tsunderes, you may want to find something else to read. I quite liked Ai Fa, though, who is dealing with a lot. Her mother died years ago. Her father, after teaching her to hunt (which women don’t really do in their village) also dies, leaving her as the sole member of the family. Of the two big families in the village, one son tries to rape her (she fends him off) and the other tries to marry her to a second son (she declines). As such, she’s something of a pariah, going into the forest to kill food so she can survive. It’s no wonder that when she finds our hero Asuta, dressed as a chef, incredibly pale, and saying he’s from Japan, she’s inclined to want nothing to do with him. But he can cook, and that fact alone warms her up quite a bit. Plus, he’s nice and doesn’t try to take advantage of her. Well, except when he was sleeping and tried to eat her.
As noted above, Asuta is a nice guy, whose only real eccentricity is a tendency to overanalyze people by what they smell like. He’s here in this world with boar-like creatures and onion-like veggies and has to improvise, and a lot of the dialogue is cooking details. If you enjoy foodie manga, you might get a kick out of this. Aside from one scene that seems designed to provide fanservice involving a giant snake, there’s not really much skeeziness here. We also meet potential rivals for any romance, but honestly, Asuta and Ai Fa look pretty smitten with each other, so they’ll have to work really hard to top it. This title isn’t going to be winning any awards for excitement and adventure. But, like most good foodie manga, it brings a smile to your face when people eat the food, especially towards the end of the book. (Which does not end so much as stop – an epilogue may have been wiser than a side story.) I’ll be reading the next volume.