By Makishima Suzuki and Yappen. Released in Japan as “Nihon e Youkoso Elf-san” by Hobby Japan. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Hiroya Watanabe.
When you have so many isekais coming out in Japan all the time, it’s inevitable that someone’s going to want to try the reverse. Take a stock fantasy character and have them experience the wonders of Japan. We’ve seen this in manga a few times, mostly for comedy (Plus-Sized Elf comes to mind), but, though there are funny moments, this new series doesn’t really have comedy in mind. Arguably you could say it’s romance – the two leads are clearly sweet on each other, but she’s too shy and he’s too dense, as always. I don’t expect a relationship upgrade anytime soon. No, the Japanese parts of this book seem to have two goals in mind: first, to show off the cuteness of its female lead and show her having adorable slice-of-life situations. And second, so show off how wonderful Japan is and how swell the people in it are. Honestly, at times when I was reading this I wondered if it was a government mandated product (J-Novel’s licensing hint didn’t help).
That said, there was far less Japan in this first volume than I expected. Our hero is Kazuhiro (“Kazuhito” in the fantasy world), a 25-year-old salaryman who’s always had the ability to travel to a fantasy world in his dreams. He’s been doing this for some time, and is now a Level 72 adventurer. He’s also good friends with Mariabelle (Marie), an elf mage who has assisted him in the past. One day they’re investigating a ruined city and accidentally get killed by a dragon that happens to live there. As always when he’s killed, Kazuhiro wakes up in his bed in Japan. But this time he was holding onto Marie when he died… and now she’s in Japan with him! Now she, like he, can go back and forth between both worlds when they sleep. What’s more, she gets to experience the food, clothing, books, and so much more that Japan has to offer.
So yes, the elf is in Japan, but there’s also a good half of the book that’s in the fantasy world, with all the usual accoutrements. There’s trying to defeat the dragon, dealing with evil bandits, etc. This just wasn’t as exciting, to be honest – it wasn’t bad, but it’s not really why I wanted to read the book. The Japan segments were much better, summed up, as I noted before, by the word “cute”. The author is good at showing the friendly, unconscious flirting between the two leads, and it’s fun without getting too frustrating – you are content to let them awkwardly fumble it out. The cast so far is small, with the only other possibly relevant members being the dragon who killed them (who turns out to be nicer than you’d expect) and a local librarian who knows Kazuhiro (and who is married, the book clearly states – there’s no love rivalries here yet).
This won’t win awards for depth, but it put a smile on my face. It’s nice to see a lead guy who works as a regular Japanese corporate officer worker, though his “fantasy” appearance is still middle school (as is his narrative obsession with breasts). It’s a relatively new series in Japan, so Vol. 2 may be a bit, but I’m looking forward to it.