The Magic in This Other World Is Too Far Behind!, Vol. 1

By Gamei Hitsuji and himesuz. Released in Japan by Overlap. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Hikoki.

If you’re going to lure people in to reading another isekai these days, you need a compelling concept. Not necessarily a strong concept – vending machines and hot moms will also do – but a concept where a potential reader will think “that actually sounds like it might be interesting enough to wade through more interminable “you have been summoned here to defeat the demon lord” claptrap. Too Far Behind! (as I will call it going forward) isn’t lights out, but it’s a pretty decent idea. Our hero, his not-quite-girlfriend, and their cynical best friend are teleported to another world, and told to fight the bad guys. The concept is that we follow the best friend, who is not given tremendous superpowers by the journey, but does already have some secrets up his sleeve. As a result, we have the inverse of the usual isekai themes – the protagonist comes into the story already having cool powers, and finds the world he’s now in is completely inadequate.

Suimei is our protagonist, brought to another world with his friends Reiji and Mizuki. Reiji is the actual hero, imbued with tremendous strength that will help him to defeat the demon lord. Mizuki and Suimei were caught up in the summoning as well, but have no new powers. Mizuki will help Reiji anyway, as she has a crush on him. Suimei, however, heard the story of millions of demon lord foot soldiers hankering to hunt some humans and puts his foot down – there’s no way he’s getting involved in something this dangerous. And so, while the hero and his not-girlfriend (and the princess, who has already fallen for the hero almost immediately) train so that he can save the world, Suimei holes up in the castle and seemingly sulks. Of course, Suimei has a secret that he’s never told his friends, and that no one except the court mage has discovered – he’s actually a magician!

I’m going to say this right off the bat: this story introduces us to Felmenia, talks about how strong and powerful she’s gotten with her magic, and then proceeds to write her as a ditzy dojikko deep down. When Suimei reveals his true self, she’s so impressed by how big and powerful his magic is that she can’t help but fall in love with him – at least after a battle where he proceeds to humiliate her (which, I will grant you, even he admits was petty of him). Basically, it’s that kind of plotline for Felmenia, and I couldn’t help but sigh and sort of rub my temples. Once I got past that, though, I was surprised how enjoyable the rest of the book was. Suimei is a cool protagonist without being emotionless, and we occasionally see him make mistakes and let his emotions get the better of him. Reiji is not belittled by being the hero, and we appreciate his motivations and more straight-ahead “shonen hero” thinking. As does Suimei, who’s just concerned Reiji is going to die. Even the King is one of the nicest kings I’ve ever met in an isekai. And Felmenia is fine, once I got past what type she was going to be. She’s cute and very earnest.

The book ends with Suimei setting off to another kingdom to research how to get back home, and I suspect Book two will introduce a new heroine. This isn’t breaking any isekai rules, it’s just looking at them from a different perspective. Fans of the genre should be relatively happy with it.

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