Monday, May 15, 2023

Merry Month of Shojo Manga Review #12: THE SAVIOR'S BOOK CAFE STORY IN ANOTHER WORLD

You'd think I would have loved this series, considering its older heroine and appreciation for reading as a hobby.  Alas, it's an idea that's more interesting in concept than execution...

THE SAVIOR'S BOOK CAFE STORY IN ANOTHER WORLD (Isekai ni Kyuseishu Toshite Yobaremashita ga, Arasa ni wa Muri Nanode, Hissori Bookcafe Hajimemashita), based on the light novels by Kyouka Izumi and story by Oumiya, with art by Reiko Sakurada.  First published in 2019 and first published in North America in 2021.


Tsukina was just minding her own business at home when some pushy orb claiming to be a god whisked her away to another world.  She has no desire to be any sort of hero, so instead she uses the god's power to set herself up with a cozy home/book cafe at the edge of town with just enough magic to defend herself and keep herself well-supplied.  She soon settles into a cozy routine with Il, captain of the royal guard, who himself just wants a quiet place away from the teenage savior creating chaos at the capital.  Unfortunately, it seems that same savior has the potential to do some serious damage and Tsukina's quiet days may be numbered.


While it's not out-and-out satire, you definitely getting the feeling that the writers were using The Savior's Book Cafe to work out some of the issues they had with reincarnation isekai stories.  You see right from the beginning with the way they write Tsukina.  She's not some poor put-down teen nor an overworked office lady.  She has an established life (complete with job and friends) that she's comfortable with and is not happy to be torn from that on a whim.  When it comes time to wish for the standard-issue isekai protagonist powers, she tries to anticipate any potential problems or dangers even as she sets herself up for the coziest life possible.  She's simply a sensible adult who wants nothing but peace, quiet, and a bit of company.  Honestly, I can relate.

She is clearly set up to be a contrast to the other (thus far unnamed) teen savior girl, whose isekai-induced beauty and power has turned her into a spoiled brat and the terror of the castle staff.  You can all but hear the writers chuckling to themselves about showing their readers what would really happen if you gave a hapless teenager more power than they ever deserved.  They are not subtle about it in the slightest, to the point that it felt less like satire and more like bullying onto itself.  A pointed jab here and there can be fun, but this combined with the usual light novel 'tell don't show' method of exposition speaks to the writers' inexperience and insecurities perhaps a bit more than they intended.

Mostly that girl serves as an excuse for Il, our resident love interest, to get out of the castle and meet Tsukina.  There's definitely something sweet in watching these two quietly enjoy books in one another's company, like true introverts.  I do wish we got more of a sense of him beyond "likes books" and "likes Tsukina," so that perhaps he felt a little more like an actual character and less like an otome game route.  Maybe then this potential romance could carry this story when the satire gets a little too blunt for its own good.


Once again, this is a case where the manga art doesn't deviate too much from the light novel illustrations but never really rises above workman-like competence.  At least the designs aren't overdone.  Everyone is attractive in a rather indistinct sort of way, even if the men are maybe just a touch too long-limbed to be realistic.  The contrast between Tsukasa and the savior continues into their character designs, as Tsukasa's look is comfortable, practical, and modest while the savior is dressed in the sort of fussy, frilly, overdesigned nonsense that looks more suited for idol performances than everyday wear (and much closer to the norm for a light novel protagonist).  Most of the emphasis is put on the titular book cafe and make it as much of an inviting escape as possible.  The decor is cozy and old-fashioned, the dishes Tsuakasa magicks up are well-drawn, and it feels more like a home than a business.


The Savior's Book Cafe is framed as another slow-life-style isekai story, but its cozy vibes are spoiled by its lack of character and overemphasis on passive-aggressive mockery of its own genre.

This series is published by Seven Seas.  This series is ongoing in Japan with 5 volumes available.  4 volumes have been released and are currently in print.

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