Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
The Hero and His Elf Bride Open a Pizza Parlor in Another World
When Kaito is run down by a delivery bike and killed, he's offered three reincarnation options: great swordsman, great wizard, or pizza chef. While he's busy debating between the first two, the impatient goddess in charge of his reincarnation sticks him with the third one, and before he knows it, Kaito is tasked with bringing high calorie foods to an elf world subsisting entirely on leafy greens. This may not be the hero gig he dreamed of, but can Kaito still find meaning in bringing junk food to the elven masses?
It is something of a relief to realize that Kaya Kizaki's The Hero and His Elf Bride Open a Pizza Parlor in Another World is actually a parody of the pervasive isekai genre. That's not because there's anything wrong with it as a genre, but recent trends have stretched its credulity, so to see Kizaki take that into account with a story deliberately designed to play on those tropes feels like a nice change of pace. That the book doesn't go as far as other genre parodies like Konosuba is also a positive; instead Kaito's journey to elven kingdoms in order to make them eat more calories is both silly and largely fun in a self-aware way.
The story follows Kaito, a young man of undisclosed age, who is run over by a pizza delivery bike on his way to work. (We can guess him to be in his twenties by the comment he makes about Lilia being “high school age.”) When he regains consciousness, he finds that he was killed but is going to be sent to another world in need of a hero, something he gets to choose – he could be a great swordsman, a powerful wizard, or a pizza chef. Immediately deciding against the last one, Kaito is weighing his other two options when the surly, overtired goddess in charge gets a phone call: two other isekai-bound guys have taken the swordsman and wizard jobs and now Kaito is going to be the pizza guy. Before he can protest, he's in a field being greeted by a bunch of elves.
The implied set up, that the isekai genre is entirely fueled by guys dying and being given options by overworked goddesses, is a nice bit of tongue-in-cheek action on the author's part. It's also basically the only nod of that kind to the genre's overwhelming popularity, although an argument could also be made for that about Lilia's behavior. Lilia is the daughter of the village leader, and when Kaito lands in the elf village, he's told that he's pretty much married to her already. Kaito's understandably not thrilled by this, and readers may not be either, given that Lilia's chief defining feature is a total inability to not eat whatever's near her that might possibly be edible. The joke is, of course, that because their new queen is a health-obsessed young teen the rule of law is to only eat leafy greens and other similar, low-calorie, low-protein foods, so Lilia's desperate for nutrition. But the phrasing is that Lilia reminds Kaito of his dog back in Japan, and having a dog who is essentially a stomach on four legs myself, the resemblance is rather uncanny. This would only be mildly irritating did not Kaito end up speaking to Lilia as if she was a dog: “leave it!” is the command he uses most frequently, one familiar to owners of dogs with indiscriminate appetites. That Lilia is intended to be Kaito's primary romantic interest makes this problematic, although we can arguably see this as a commentary on the obedient “nice girl” heroines of some male-oriented romances. If those housewifely characters are intended to be appealing because of their devotion to their men, could we see Lilia's canine behavior as pointing out how ridiculous that is? Possibly not, but other aspects of the book feel deliberate enough that there is a real chance for this to be the case, especially when you add in Kizaki's comments in the afterword about how the book was written to deliberately appeal to a specific male demographic.
The unfolding of the story is done in short chapters, each of which could stand alone as a short or flash fiction piece. (Again, Kizaki mentions that this is deliberate.) That makes the novel very easy to digest, although it also allows for a fair amount of repetition as new people taste pizza for the first time. Perhaps pizza is different in Japan, but the term “fluffy” doesn't feel like the right choice for pizza crust, nor does “ferment” appear to be the correct word for letting the dough rise; these choices are noticeable precisely because the chapters are so short and self-contained. On the other hand, Lilia and Hans, easily the two most difficult characters in the novel, are kept nicely contained by the format, keeping them from overwhelming the reader with their annoying traits. Kaito's voice works well as he tries to navigate his new world and figure out what to do with his status as “the high calorie hero;” some of the best scenes are when he attempts to be “heroic” after the fashion of regular isekai protagonists only to have the elves look at him like he's insane.
The Hero and His Elf Bride Open a Pizza Parlor in Another World is a fun little book. While it definitely has its issues, chief among them being Lilia and the possibility that her relationship with Kaito is not parodic, for the most part it's an entertaining take on its genre. Just self-aware enough to be amusing while still following the conventions of the genre, if nothing else, this novel will definitely make you want to run out and get some pizza.
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Art : B
+ Entertainingly self-aware, short chapters make it easy to read
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