DEATH MARCH TO THE PARALLEL WORLD RHAPSODY (Desu Machi Kara Hajimaru Isekai Kyosokyoku), based on the novel by Ayamegumu, art by Hiro Ainana and character designs by Shri. First published in 2014 and first published in North America in 2017.
Ichirou Suzuki is a programmer who is currently in the middle of a crunch to finish a new JRPG. In the middle of testing, he falls asleep only to find himself in the game in a younger form of his body. A chance encounters gives him all the resources, levels, and skills he needs to get by, so he's content to lay low, explore the world, and try to learn as much as possible from the many pretty girls that come his way so he can find his way back. It seems this dream world has a greater destiny for him in mind, though, and he'll have to put all his knowledge of the game to the test.
I get that these isekai stories exist by and large exist to serve as adolescent male wish-fulfillment. I have to wonder just how much fulfillment any reader, teen boy or otherwise, could get out of a work like Death March. What kind of satisfaction can come from a fantasy where the hero faces virtually no challenges and has everything handed to him on a silver platter?
Suzuki (or Satou, as he's known in the game) is exceptionally bland as far as protagonists go. The big difference between him and the Kiritos and Subarus of the world is that while he looks like a teen in-game, he still has the mind of a 30-year-old man who knows the game's mechanics inside and out. There are some positives to this, in the form of a strong practical streak and a decidely un-pervy approach to the many girls who cross his path. I can't imagine a lot of the teen boys who star in these stories worrying about things like making sure they have a change of clothes, after all. The downside to that is that Satou doesn't seem to have any strong emotions at all. He still believes it all to be a dream and doesn't want to make waves, so he takes a laissez-faire approach to everything.
The bigger problem is that Satou has no major problems to face. It's not even like he's using his programmer skills to cheat or hack his way through the game system, which might be a mildly clever twist. Nope, instead it just hands him whatever he needs right from the start, be it resources, high-powered magic, or an endless array of skills (to the point that it serves as the manga's primary running gag). He doesn't have to struggle with making friends and allies, as everyone but the most obvious villains warm to him instantly. He can't even be bothered to get upset at obvious injustices around him, such as the presence of slavery. Satou has nothing to overcome or works towards other than the vague goal of getting back to his world, so it's little wonder that neither he nor his story has any sort of real forward momentum.
So with no personality to fill the gaps with and no goal to achieve, Death March fills the time in the only way that any light novel adaptation knows how: by talking endlessly. Nary a page goes by without somebody yammering on about their perfectly generic fantasy world, whether Satou is purposefully pumping them for information or not. It also drops more than enough obvious hints that Satou is going to be some big Hero of Legend, although it's hard to tell whether Satou is purposefully overlooking them to lay low or is simply that dense. Either way, it's the finishing touch in what may just be the laziest, most boring take on this style of story yet.
True to form as a light novel manga adaptation, the artwork here is exceedingly mediocre. The character designs are bog-standard for this sort of fantasy story, and virtually everyone seems to have the same generic, dopey face. At least they go out of their way to avoid fanservice, as all the girls have perfectly sensible armor and clothing and not the sort of overdesigned, skimpy nonsense that tends to plague modern fantasy settings.
The backgrounds are perfectly competent, if nothing all that notable. It's hard to take much note of them, though, because the pages have to accommodate so much talking. That means the pages and panels alike tend to be small and cramped and that at least half of them are little more than talking heads. It's far from the worst of its sort that I've seen, but it doesn't make much of a case for itself as a stand-alone work either.
Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody manages to be lazier than average through sheer lack of conflict and personality. With so many other stories like this out there with a lot more inspiration behind them, why waste your time with this?
This series is published by Yen Press. This series is ongoing in Japan with 4 volumes available. 3 volumes have been published and are currently in print.
Want to win a $25 RightStuf gift certificate to purchase manga like this one? Then make sure to enter the Manga Test Drive's annual Holiday Review Giveaway here!