Management of a Novice Alchemist, Vol. 1

By Mizuho Itsuki and fuumi. Released in Japan as “Shinmai Renkinjutsushi no Tenpo Keiei” by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Sean McCann.

It’s been a while since I’ve come at a light novel series from this direction. Lately, the Japanese companies are getting clever, and getting an English-language company to license a series several seasons before the anime is announced, so that the anime can drive up sales of the book. But when Management of a Novice Alchemist came out in the Fall of 2022, the novel and manga were both absent here, meaning the anime was many people’s first exposure, including mine. Well, “many people” in quotes. This is not exactly Chainsaw Man. There was a small following who enjoyed a mostly laid-back series with the occasional monster battle. And now, a year and a half later, we have the novels, and good news! The same vibe carries through to the books. That said, the anime either added a lot to the start of the series, or else it was brought in from future books. Sarasa’s past is not important here. The shop is all.

Sarasa Feed has just graduated from the Royal Alchemist Academy, and is now able to call herself one of that rare profession. Her master decides to give Sarasa a gift to celebrate her graduation (and also her saving and scrimping to buy the ludicrously expensive 10-volume Alchemy Encyclopedia) and gets her her very own shop at a low low price, where she can start selling potions and remedies. There is one slight snag – the shop is in the middle of a very remote village. And is a bit of a fixer-upper. That said, the core of it is still excellent, and Sarasa is an orphan girl who’s spent her entire life surviving on pluck and guts, so Sarasa settles in, cleans up, orders furniture, and opens shop. Soon she has a shop assistant, a girl two years younger than her 15 (the age of maturity here), and she’s able to find a nearby city where… well, at least one of the shops is not there to rip her off. Most importantly: Sarasa is a totally normal, ordinary garden-variety alchemist. And not an insanely talented terrifying prodigy at all.

Sarasa is pretty much THE main reason to read this. Her matter-of-fact, blase narration sucker punches the reader as well into underestimating her, but we do notice right off the bat that she spent her entire school life studying and making no friends, that her mentor is a Master Alchemist revered the world over, and that she’s not only terrific at alchemy but, when she physically strengthens herself, can easily lift huge logs and take out grizzly bear monsters. She is essentially Twilight Sparkle as a human light novel girl. Two warnings, though, which the anime watchers noticed as well. First, this is another series where the lead cares far more about breast size than I ever will (she’s relatively flat, of course), and it does not go away. More importantly, Sarasa believes everything has a cost, and she will be enforcing that, even if you bring in an adventurer who’s lost an arm and is on the verge of dying. We do not do things out of the goodness of our heart here. Well, mostly. She is a bit of a softy. But the girl still owes Sarasa a huge amount of money for saving her life.

If you liked the anime, you’ll like this. If you never tried it, this is a good one for girls who say they’re typical but are anything but, misers, and a slow life that really isn’t.

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