Reviewby Theron Martin,
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
37-year-old Satoru Mikami has never had luck with the ladies, but he's otherwise led a decent life. When he gets fatally stabbed while trying to protect a coworker couple from a knife-wielding assailant, he finds himself in a new form where he can neither see nor hear nor smell; only a voice in his mind supposedly belonging to the Unique Skill Great Sage (which allows him to analyze anything he encounters) gives him any perspective. He soon concludes that he has been reincarnated in a fantasy world as a slime, a reality confirmed by an encounter with a dragon. By cutting a deal with the dragon to gain skills from other creatures he encounters, he's soon able to become formidable enough to start increasing his status in the world. He also learns that his “fated one” is a well-known hero who, based on her name, may also originally be from Japan. At the same time, he is blissfully unaware that his actions are upsetting the balance of things in this world...
Isekai stories are pervasive in the Japanese light novel market these days, and stories where the world-jumping involves reincarnation with mind and memories intact are swiftly becoming more popular. We've already seen some odd twists on that concept make their way into the American market, whether it's the war-torn Saga of Tanya the Evil (which also involves gender-swapping) or the savage genre parody KONOSUBA. However, this story might take the cake as the oddest variation yet. The protagonist does receive a couple broken abilities as a starter package in the new world, but he's still a slime, a creature long known as the lowest-of-the-low in fantasy RPGs. Such a formless, weak creature becoming an awesome force is about as incongruous a mental image as you can get.
Of course, that's exactly the point of this story. The volume spends only a few pages establishing Satoru (who isn't even named until one of the bonus 4-koma strips) in the modern world before his life-ending incident, but it's enough to get at least some idea of his personality. The most interesting part may be the next few pages, where he has to sort out exactly what he's become. Perhaps because of his lackadaisical attitude in his former life, he doesn't panic much at the realization, instead immediately setting a course to acquire new skills to improve his situation. The story doesn't dwell on this part for too long – because the main focus must be on him becoming awesome as a slime, of course – but we do get to see some of the process he goes through to learn how to propel himself in water, see and hear, throw out a Water Blade attack, and even figure out how to speak despite not having a mouth. (It involves clever use of sonic abilities gained from a bat and a lot of experimentation.)
The meat of the story comes from how he starts making strong impressions on those he meets, in part by exploiting his slime nature. This part is mostly a straight-up power fantasy, but instead of simply using overwhelming attacks, Satoru (now known as Rimuru) concentrates more on finding neat ways to use the diverse skills he's acquired alongside a cunning he probably accrued through extensive experience with fantasy RPGs (although this point is never more than vaguely implied). Need to heal someone? Those herbs he absorbed back in the cave just happen to be the basic components for healing elixir. Need to make an impression on a dwarven smith? Use some of that special ore he absorbed back in the cavern to make a copy or three of a magic sword. Eventually this shtick might get tired, but it hasn't by the end of this first volume. Naturally, even the ladies he couldn't attract in life come along for the ride, which is the part of the story that most strains credibility. Naturally, his “fated one” turns out to be an important but mysterious figure who's sexy despite her facial scarring.
Though it's not a major focal point of the story so far, at least some effort is put into world-building. Magic in this world is based on manipulation of “magicule” particles. Nothing too special about that, but much more interesting is how giving names to monsters has immensely greater impact than usual; it's effectively the same as establishing a contract with the monster, and the magic transfer involved in the process (unwittingly at first by Rimuru) causes them to evolve into stronger forms. The design of the dwarven city Rimuru eventually visits is also neat, and a few details are handed out about the geopolitical realities of the world. On a couple of occasions, Rimuru's actions affect the bigger picture in the world, and hopefully that will get additional attention in future volumes, since it's something he definitely won't be able to avoid as he grows in power.
The series originally appeared in web novel form, so this version is actually an adaptation done by a newcomer manga artist. Original author Fuse comments himself in the Afterword that he thought it would be tricky to depict the parts where Satoru was still figuring out his slime nature, but the manga-ka does an impressive job of coming up with visually creative ways to handle those scenes without resorting to all-black panels. He also does a better job with critter and character design than the underwhelming cover art and glossy opening pages would suggest, including some interesting variations on the appearances of both dwarves and goblins. (The cover art is also an odd choice given that the female character depicted doesn't actually show up in this volume.) Background art goes light on detail more often than not, but that doesn't prevent some substantial detail work in choice scenes.
At 233 pages of content, the first volume from Kodansha Comics clocks in a bit longer than standard manga volumes. A dozen pages of that are an all-text interpretation of the story's events from the perspective of the storm dragon Veldora, which shows both great insight into and yet great misunderstanding of Rimuru's circumstances. Also included are a few bonus pages with illustrations and brief panels, a one-page Afterword, and translation notes.
Overall, That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime works as light fantasy entertainment because it takes itself just seriously enough to detail things like power mechanics without glossing over the silliness inherent to its premise. Just about everything in the story from the time that Satoru gets reincarnated up through the end is written with a wink and a “yeah, I know this is ludicrous, but just roll with it” kind of attitude, and if you don't get too hung up on its power-fantasy foundation, then it can be some light fun. Also watch for the light novel version to start coming out later this year.
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Art : B
+ Makes an odd premise work better than it should, some good creature/character designs
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