Fushi no Kami: Rebuilding Civilization Starts with a Village, Vol. 1

By Mizuumi Amakawa and Mai Okuma. Released in Japan as “Fushi no Kami: Henkyou kara Hajimeru Bunmei Saiseiki” by Overlap. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Maurice Alesch.

I always enjoy it when I’m pleasantly surprised by a new license. The description of this did not seem promising – it read like “what about Ascendance of a Bookworm, only with a young boy?”. It also gets off to a bit of a slow start, though I will admit I was immediately taken in with the discussion of ancient writing types. As it goes along and picks up speed, though, this becomes excellent, with a young protagonist who has knowledge from a past life, manages to do wonderful things and save his village, and yet never feels overpowered at all. It helps that this lacks all the usual tropes of the genre – there are no dungeons, or guilds, and Ash has no magical powers or swords. Heck, even his knowledge from a former life isn’t all that helpful much of the time, as he’s not a botanist or chemist. But for this backwards village filled with exhausted farmers, he’s a breath of fresh air.

Ash has been reincarnated into this world, and retains his memories, but for the most part he’s spent the previous eight years pretending to be happy and content while being anything but. When we first meet him, he’s just had a major revelation, and bolts to the local church to beg to be able to read books – and also to be taught to read. It won’t be easy. The priest has been exiled and mostly given up. The village chief’s daughter dislikes those fake smiles of his. They’re all dirt poor. And there are mentions of demons out of the forest, though we never see one in this first volume. Fortunately, once he gets going, Ash proves absolutely impossible to stop, be it discovering aloe, learning about hunting and gathering, accidentally romancing the aforementioned chief’s daughter, and even fighting off a giant bear. But most of all: making life in the village better.

This book is not really slow enough to be a “slow life” title, but it has a bit of the same vibe. Ash may have memories of a previous life, but we never really hear all that much about it apart from a mention of nanotechnology in medical use… which is obviously not happening here. More to the point, with the exception of his romantic impulses, Ash feels like a kid more than a reincarnated adult (I’m looking at you, By the Grace of the Gods). The book is about 2/3 his POV, and the other third various people in his life, particularly Maika, who goes from the aloof chief’s daughter to being head over heels in love. (Ash sees her as a child, I think, which explains why he does not get the very obvious signs she is throwing at him.) All of the things Ash does improve life… somewhat. Things are a bit better. The highlight is the lack of deaths over the winter, a first for this remote village. It’s the sort of book that makes you smile.

It’s also not staying in the village – the ending indicates that Ash and Maika are going to the nearest city for the next volume, and I assume things will move onward and upward from there. In the meantime, this is recommended for fans of isekai who hate the usual RPG tropes that usually go with them.

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