Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
The Savior's Book Café Story in Another World
Tsukina is a comfortably settled thirty-three-year-old when she's suddenly lifted out of her life by an orb calling itself “God” and told that she's being sent to another world as a savior. Tsukina promptly says, “No, thank you,” and tries to get out of it. When that doesn't work, she bargains with God to make this whole isekai experience exactly fit her requirements: no actual saving (unless strictly necessary), a peaceful country, and her very own book café cottage on the edge of the forest where she can while away her days peacefully reading. It seems like it all might work out – especially when a handsome bookworm knight named Il comes calling – but God may have neglected to mention a little detail…about the less-than-excellent isekaied savior already living in Othell and not doing her job…
Fellow adults who would rather read than go out and save the world from monsters with magic, our isekai story has arrived. While this may change with later plot developments, The Savior's Book Café Story in Another World is the tale of a woman in her thirties who, when selected by an orb calling itself “God” to go save a fantasy world, politely says “no thanks” and tries to get out of it. Were she still a teenager, she acknowledges, she might have jumped at the chance for a swords-and-sorcery adventure, but as a comfortably settled adult with a life she enjoys, Tsukina would really rather stay home and read her books.
To say that God is surprised and unsettled by this less than enthusiastic response to his offer is perhaps a bit of an understatement. Most people, he's found, have exactly the opposite reaction, and he's not quite sure what to do with Tsukina, especially since she's already been plucked out of her life and is now stuck being sent on an isekai vacation (that never ends). When he admits this, Tsukina immediately begins to bargain, set on striking a deal that best suits her and again surprising (and exhausting) the deity, who is aghast that she thinks to ask a question no one else has: whether she gets infinite wishes or just the one he initially offered to make her new life easier. And that's how Tsukina ends up with a magic pendant that can give her anything she asks for, a cozy home on the edge of the forest in the peaceful country of Othell, the ability to both speak and read her new language, and the book café of her dreams. This is a woman who knows how to make very good lemonade out of nearly-expired lemons.
Of course, if this was the entirety of the plot, this wouldn't be the first of several volumes of manga (and original light novels). What God has neglected to tell Tsukina is that, while she's able to start out this comfortably because there is another isekai'd savior in Othell, she may not be able to maintain that lifestyle forever. That's because the other savior is doing the exact opposite of what she's supposed to: rather than training her magic and helping the kingdom, she's reveling in the beauty she requested as her wish and basically being the queen of the spoiled brats – and she's running the kingdom into the ground.
Tsukina doesn't know this at first, of course. She finds out slowly in what feels like a fairly natural unfolding of the plot, partially because her first (and most frequent) customer at the book café is Il, the captain of the royal knights. Il (which is a somewhat tortured nickname for Soleil) is exhausted by the strain he and the other knights and people who work at the palace are all under due to the so-called savior, and lest you think that she's just acting in run-of-the-mill bratty ways, the story is careful to make sure that we know that she's basically evil at this point: when Il's horse startled her, she demanded that all of the horses be killed (later revised to the horses simply having no place to run free), she gets a maid fired for not giving up her family heirloom, and, when we first meet her, she's physically abusing a chef. God, it seems, really only followed the letter of Tsukina's wishes; with a savior like the one it now has, Othell is at risk of not remaining peaceful for much longer, at which point a second savior will be required to save them from the first one.
There's a real sense that Tsukina was specifically chosen for that reason. She's certainly the polar opposite of the current savior: an adult with a calm temperament, intelligent, and happy as long as she's got a kitchen and books. In some ways, she may have been selected because the deity knew she wouldn't be keen, since choosing younger, enthusiastic “saviors” seems to have utterly backfired in at least one case. That in itself feels a bit like a statement on the isekai genre in general, because it's suggesting that by choosing teenagers to save your otherworld, you're getting children, and children are not necessarily who you want in charge of saving the world. While we've seen this in other isekai titles to a degree (How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom comes to mind), this story seems to be taking it a step further in giving us a failed savior to contrast with the heroine.
That's not to say that this isn't still a fantasy in the wish-fulfillment sense. Il is, of course, attracted to Tsukina, who prior to meeting him has never really thought much about romance and, of course, she's an orphan with no extended family to miss her back in Japan. She's also smart, gifted at learning to use her new magic, and a good cook, making her something of a perfect paragon of a heroine, although her love of reading to the exclusion of most other things does mitigate that perfection. There's a slight element of The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent to the story, although Il is a far cry from Albert in how harried he is and worried about the direction of the kingdom, and Tsukina isn't the workaholic that Sei or Iris (Accomplishments of the Duke's Daughter) are, which is nice, because that means there are no scenes of her doing paperwork.
Essentially, The Savior's Book Café Story in Another World is something a little bit different while still slotting comfortably into the “isekai for adult women” genre and its trappings. It's a pleasant story to read that doesn't feel like a rehash of everything that came before, and Tsukina is a solid protagonist, even if she's not interested in being one. Il is sufficiently handsome (even though there are perspective issues in the art) and has a distinct personality to keep him from feel like Generic Love Interest Number 20. Hopefully we'll get the source novels for the manga eventually, because it does feel like some things are being glossed over, but otherwise this is a solid start to a series that doesn't fall entirely into the same old tropes – because its heroine has no interest in being a protagonist.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B-
+ Tsukina and Il are a good set of protagonists, doesn't strictly adhere to genre tropes.
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