By Hiiro Shimotsuki and Takashi Iwasaki. Released in Japan as “Itsudemo Jitaku ni Kaereru Ore wa, Isekai de Gyōshōnin o Hajimemashita” by HJ Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Berenice Vourdon.
You frequently hear grumbling from light novel fans – the hardcore ones, of course, not the filthy casuals – about why so many isekai titles are licensed every single year over here, much in the same way that I imagine ten years ago everyone went “oh man, another Alice in the Country of _________” manga?”. But the answer is pretty basic: people buy them and people read them, and then they want more. If you go to AO3, you’ll tend to find that the most popular fanfics in the big genres are not doing something wildly innovative and different, they’re doing something that’s exactly the same as all the other popular fanfics, only with variations. It’s true comfort reading. You don’t have to worry as you read them. Peddler from Another World may be so unoriginal I wondered if an AI had written it, but it was well-written enough to have me finish it, grudgingly declare it decent, and want to read another. That’s all you can ask.
There are two types of male isekai protagonists, and Shiro Amata is the second one; not a high school kid, but a salaryman who just quit his job working for a “black company”. He’s now staying at his late grandmother’s place, after she disappeared seven years earlier and was declared dead. There, among her things, he finds a letter explaining what really happened – she’s from a fantasy world, something she hid from her family. Now Shiro too can journey to that fantasy world, and come back to Japan whenever he likes. Armed with two killer abilities – the usual infinite storage, plus the ability to convert fantasy money into Japanese yen and vice versa – he ends up in a town out in the boonies, and becomes a merchant, selling things that fantasy worlds need but don’t have – like matches.
First, I want to mention that I suspect the illustrator drew all the color pages in this volume before reading the book, as neither the cover nor the interior color illustrations match up with ANY of the scenes within. Secondly, it can be hilarious how derivative this series is. The matches merely got a shrug from me, and the “evil guy who is evil because villains in isekais are always 100% evil” made me sigh, but when we got to the cause of a woman’s deadly wasting disease, I groaned, because it’s the same disease it always is in these books. That said, the book is very readable. Shiro is a “nice guy”, but has a bit of a dark side to him, as we find out towards the end of the book. He also has at least three possible love interests at the end of the first book, as well as a girl who may as well be an adopted daughter. (The only reason I know this wasn’t written by an AI is that if it was, the little girl would be the one with the cat ears.) There are a few “oh anime no” tropes, such as the mayor’s large breasts, which get referred to quite a bit, but, I mean, you’re reading a light novel.
If you like reading slow life isekai, and want more of the same, this is a good choice. There is little to no sexual assault or slavery, and the little girl really is very cute. Just don’t expect surprises.