Reborn as a Vending Machine, I Now Wander the Dungeon, Vol. 2

By Hirukuma and Ituwa Kato. Released in Japan as “Jidou Hanbaiki ni Umare Kawatta Ore wa Meikyuu wo Samayou” by Kadokawa Shoten. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Andrew Prowse.

It’s time for the vending machine isekai to try that difficult second album, and as you’d expect, it’s not quite as good as the first. Don’t get me wrong, Boxxo tries his hardest, but the limitations of the premise are starting to make themselves felt. The first half of the book is essentially a series of short stories revolving around everyday life in the town Boxxo and Lammis life in, as Boxxo does things like compete in a magical item competition, battle against a chain restaurant trying to infiltrate the village, and add another girl to his growing, if strange, harem – Hulemy, Lammis’ mad scientist friend from the last volume, is a major character in this book, and is intrigued by Boxxo. The second half of the book is a more standard fantasy dungeon crawl, as Boxxo accidentally ends up on the floor below and has to bide his time till he can be rescued.

Last time I noted that the harem aspects of the book were OK, mostly as Boxxo had no libido as he’s a vending machine. This does, however, cause issues when he’s placed in mortal peril or experiencing heartwarming events and has the same sort of similar “oh, that’s a thing” reaction. Boxxo is emotionally flat, and we need to rely on the other characters to be emotional for him. (Lammis excels in this regard, as her love for Boxxo has grown a bit terrifying – when he goes missing, she turns into a berserker.) He also levels up here, allowing the reader to see that Japanese vending machine varieties are truly ridiculous – he can also be an air hose and car wash, and pump out dry ice, and turn himself into a balloon vending machine or a cardboard vending machine. (Boxxo/Danbo OTP.) It’s a bit sad when your protagonist is a vending machine who can’t move on his own or talk properly and he’s still overpowered.

That said, there’s still a lot to enjoy here. Hulemy is an excellent addition to the book, as she’s smart enough to figure out what’s really going on with Boxxo – that he’s a human soul trapped in a vending machine. The consequences of this are then examined, as it turns out (in one of the few emotional funks that Boxxo allows himself to get into) that he’s somewhat wary of beeing turned back by whatever fantasy “reward” this world can give him. In Japan, he was a typical nebbish Japanese guy with a vending machine obsession but little else. Here he’s the heart and soul of the village, and one of the adventurers outright suspects that he’s a “Hero”, which is played up as a cliche in-universe. If Boxxo changes back to an unuseful guy, what will happen to his bond with everyone else? It’s a very well-explored side plot. Oh yes, and major props for Boxxo for delivering what young ladies adventuring in a swampy area in the middle of nowhere really need – a portable toilet.

I note that this series has only three volumes, and the last was about 18 months ago. I suspect this may be other of those “does not so much end as stop” light novel series – after all, if Boxxo is turned back into a human, the series has to end. Still, I’m impressed enough with the characters and worldbuilding to move on to the third book. Still better than you’d expect.

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