Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
The Wolf Never Sleeps
In a land riddled with dungeons, a once-in-a-lifetime chance sometimes appears: a black void leading to another world. It's said that those who go through and return bring back untold riches and glory, so when adventurer Lecan, known as the One-Eyed Wolf, spots one, he doesn't hesitate to jump through. Now in another world, Lecan has to figure out how his skills translate as he walks the path to a new legend.
The Wolf Never Sleeps is translated by Jason Moses and lettered by Brandon Bovia.
Isekai is certainly still in its dime-a-dozen phase of popularity, but that doesn't mean that there aren't attempts to do something new with the genre. Although Shienbishop's The Wolf Never Sleeps (based on the light novel of the same name) does follow several of isekai's comfortable plot points, it stands out in one interesting respect: hero Lacan doesn't come from our world, but another fantasy world, and one with rather more game-like elements than the one he journeys to.
In his original realm, Lacan is an adventurer, delving the many dungeons that riddle the land with his partner Bohd. They've both heard the tales of a mysterious black whorl-like portal that appears from time to time, but they're still mildly surprised when it appears in front of them in the boss room of the dungeon they've just cleared. Always ready for the next adventure, the two men jump through, only to be separated while inside. As of this volume we don't know what happens to Bohd (and honestly, Lacan doesn't seem all that concerned), but Lacan wakes up in a new world full of new people and monsters.
In some ways, the hardest piece of this volume is attempting to relate to Lacan himself, or even to feel much of any interest in his exploits. His total lack of reaction to being separated from his adventuring partner pretty much sets the emotional tone for the character: things happen and he doesn't much care. The only event that seems to shake him up at all is the fact that his game-like powers don't work quite as well as they did back in his own world; while he can still activate the skill [Life-Sense] on the other side of the portal, the majority of humans don't have sufficient mana to show up on his radar. He's also mildly disappointed that their healing potions are garbage by the standards of his old world, but nothing really seems to faze him all that much; the one real word of complaint he utters (internally, of course) is that the livery of the family he ends up working for makes him feel kind of silly.
The point seems to be that Lacan is a seasoned, hard-nosed adventurer, the fantasy equivalent of the hard-boiled detective. He feels things, but they ultimately matter less to him than the business at hand, which in this case is both killing monsters and guarding Ruby, the fourteen-year-old lady he saves soon after arriving in his new realm. There are some vague hints that he feels grateful to Ruby, who not only took him on as a retainer but also taught him the local language, but mostly it seems like she's just a job to him, one with added side benefits of giving him a standard to judge, or at least figure out, the new world he's in. While I'd hesitate to say that this makes him unlikable, it does make him inscrutable, so if you're in this for the character development, as of this first volume that doesn't look like the reason you'd pick up this series.
There is an interesting—albeit somewhat overdone—dark edge to this, however. Lacan is no bright-eyed high school kid, and if he had a phase of being excitable and perky, it's long over. Nor is he driven by the need for revenge or a fortune; he's just a guy who's good at what he does and seems keen to keep doing it. He takes his work seriously, and that does mean that he evinces some concern for others from time to time. He saves Ruby from assassins both because it's his job and because he doesn't want to see a kid killed, and when he decides to take out the giant monster lurking in the woods not quite far enough from her family's estate, that's in part because it's not quite far enough from her family's estate. Despite not showing much concern over Bohd's fate, Lacan does care about his fellow humans, and if that isn't quite enough to fully realize him as a character, it is reassuring that he's more than just a blank stare and a big sword.
The art is understandably dark to go with the storyline, and it's also quite detailed, which works well. There's a nice medieval sensibility to the costuming, and if the movement is a bit stiff, it's also good enough to get the point across. Monster designs are a highlight, with most of them being pure nightmare fuel in creative ways; the ape-spider hybrid is perfectly unsettling in just the right way, and the porcupine-elephant seal monstrosity also works very well—you can definitely see why that's the one Lacan is so determined to get rid of.
The Wolf Never Sleeps may very well improve in pacing and characterization in the next volume or two; this is pretty clearly an introduction to both Lacan and the basic set up of the piece. It does feel like a rushed, imperfect adaptation right now, though, and its chief appeal is the monsters and the fact that Lacan has moved from a more game-like world to one that's less so. It's got potential, even if this volume isn't quite living up to it.
Overall : C+
Story : C
Art : B
+ Decent twist on the isekai formula, very creepy monster designs.
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