Anyone who keeps up with the current anime and manga landscape knows one of the hottest trends right now is Isekai, where the protagonist is an everyday person who is whisked off to another (typically fantasy) world, playing the fish out of water before typically becoming the hero of the land. Since it’s a popular theme, Isekai titles often try to find unique angles. The first volume of I’m Standing on a Million Lives, the new manga from writer Naoki Yamakawa and Trinity Seven artist Akinari Nao, takes this challenge on from three angles.
First, the characters actually get to go back home. The protagonist, Yotsuya Yusuke, and his teammates, prospective model Iu Shindo and shy, sickly Kusue Hakozaki, are yanked from their school lives and dropped into a fantasy world, where a creepy game master (going fully nude with stars and hands on your sensitive areas and without the top half of your head is definitely a fashion choice, that’s for sure) assigns them random classes. Hakozaki, unshackled from her frailty, becomes a sword-wielding warrior. Shindo transforms into a wind wizard. And Yusuke? His luck isn’t so great, so he’s stuck as a farmer. He knows about edible plants, and he can wield a hoe and a hand scythe, both of which break in his first fight. But the party is tasked with a quest, and once it’s completed, they’re whisked back home, left to live their normal lives until they are summoned for the next quest.
Then, the laws of the world itself stand out. As you can probably tell, the fantasy world is very much a video game realm, but the rules are much more Dark Souls than World of Warcraft. When the adventurers are ambushed by a giant troll, Shindo is torn in half almost immediately, and Hakozaki doesn’t fare much better. However, this isn’t totally an “if you die in the game, you die in real life” situation. As long as one member stays alive, the characters respawn 30 seconds after death. So our heroes spend a lot of their fighting time just throwing themselves at difficult enemies, dying repeatedly, whittling down the enemy’s hit points and gaining experience as they go (Yusuke manages to level out of the farmer class and switch over to become a slightly more useful chef.) But it’s kinda fun to see the gang sacrifice themselves with abandon against the bigger threats.
It’s the final point, though, that may be the make or break factor for you enjoying this book: Yusuke? He’s a huge jerk. He finds Shindo a little bit attractive, but otherwise doesn’t feel much of a connection with the rest of the team, so when Shindo dies and doesn’t respawn immediately, Yusuke leaves Hakozaki to pretty much die on her own while he takes on the troll. When he’s rewarded with a prophetic vision of himself and a large party defending real world Tokyo from a dragon, Yusuke considers just letting the city fall when the time comes. He hates Tokyo, and would much rather wander off to the woods, seeking out nothing but seclusion and video games. When he ends up helping out the team, it seems like more of an aftereffect of his actions, rather than a mission statement.
Yamakawa’s writing has set the table for a really interesting take on the Isekai genre. Yusuke is far from the only party member who has issues, and the in-and-out format of the fantasy world gives you a nice chance to step out of the realm, though life isn’t much easier in the real world. And while Nao’s monster designs don’t stand out much from typical fantasy fare, his character art is phenomenal at showing the wide range of emotions our heroes go through, from anguish and anger to relief and unbridled joy.
When you get down to it, there are a lot of Isekai titles out there looking to catch your attention. But if you’re looking for something that stands out in the crowd of master knights borne from getting hit by trucks, I’m Standing on a Million Lives is a great change of pace.
Yusuke doesn’t care about getting into a good high school. He just wants to get away from people and make it home to his video games. But when he suddenly finds himself in a real-life fantasy game alongside his two gorgeous classmates, he discovers it’s not as easy as he thought, especially when there’s a headless man “from the future” assigning him missions and his character class is…farmer. Before long, the unlikely trio find that they’re not just battling for their own lives, but for the lives of millions!Add to CartLearn More