Reborn as a Vending Machine, I Now Wander the Dungeon, Vol. 3

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.

This third volume of Reborn as a Vending Machine tries to expand the world that we’re in and give our hero a bit more insight into goals for the future. As we’ve seen, a lot of his “what should I do next” thoughts involve collecting points to level up, get new products, etc. Here, after a very amusing eating contest, Shui from the mercenary group wins the right to have Boxxo for the entire day, and takes him to the first floor of the dungeon, home to (try to contain your surprise) a group of poor yet plucky orphan children. The dungeon, it turns out, needs to have someone reach a certain level in order to get to the second floor. So for the unwanted kids, or whose whose parents have died, they have this. It reminds Boxxo to, if you’ll pardon me, think outside the box and realize this is a real life world he’s now in, not just a game RPG.

There’s also his relationship with Lammis, which continues to be chaste (he’s a vending machine) but still have that “I am a harem manga protagonist” feel to it. Lammis is clearly deeply in love with Boxxo, and as such will try to overcome her limits in order to stay by his side (she’s terrified of the supernatural, and the last half of the book involves nothing but that) and also gets easily embarrassed around him (she tries to hide her heavy period, which doesn’t work but does allow Boxxo to show off that he can also dispense sanitary pads). As for Boxxo, his emotions are still a bit flat, but it’s pretty clear he likes Lammis quite a bit. I’m not entirely sure where the series’ endgame is here, but am content with it simply being cute and chaste – it really does get pretty adorable.

Less adorable is the climax to the third book, where our heroes defeat a skeleton lord and then discover the demon behind the skeleton lord, who is vastly more powerful. For a moment I wondered if the book was actually going to kill off a few regulars – the villain actually stops Hulemy and Shui’s hearts, and you briefly think the book might be going in a dark direction. But no, it’s just an excuse for Boxxo to recall that AED stations can also be part of a vending machine, and that he can use that to save their lives. Also, he has telekinesis now, though we don’t get too much of a sense of how he’ll use that. Honestly, you don’t want this series getting too dark – it’s about a guy reincarnated as a vending machine – so I’m fine with his breaking out vaguely deus ex vending machina powers so that everyone is fine again.

While the series has a number of volumes after this in its webnovel version, Kadokawa hasn’t published a new volume in about two years, so this may be all the vending machine we see. (The author has been writing KonoSuba side story volumes, which may explain it.) Which is a shame, as despite its truly ridiculous premise I found myself drawn into each book, trying to see what would be happening next. I’ll miss you, Boxxo.

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.

Reborn as a Vending Machine, I Now Wander the Dungeon, Vol. 1

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.

If you’re going to be selling, as a regular series, a story about a guy reincarnated as a vending machine, you’d better go all in. Some stories work better as parodies (see the upcoming “Do You Like Your Mom?”), but I’m pretty sure this would not be any good if it weren’t 100% serious about its vending machine hero and the world he now lives in. The author says he wrote the book as a sort of push against the typical isekai harem protagonist, and I can see that. Yes, the machine gets a “blessing” that allows him to have a super cool force field, but it uses up HP fast, and its airtightness means it’s hard to keep humans inside. He also can’t move – he’s a vending machine. And his conversation is limited to six programmed phrases – he’s a vending machine. And he’s not getting a harem… well, OK, that remains to be seen.

Our hero is Boxxo (yes, really – thankfully it’s not his own choice of name), a young Japanese man obsessed with vending machines and the things that come out of them, who one day is killed in a brutal vending machine accident. He wakes to find he is now a vending machine, dispensing mineral water and corn soup. Unfortunately, he is sitting at the side of a lake deep in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by frog enemies trying to break him, and if he doesn’t sell things he’ll eventually run out of lifespan. Then he meets Lammis, a super strong, super spunky, super naive girl who has been abandoned by her party and is on the verge of death. He gives her food and drink, and in return she picks him up and carries him to the nearest settlement. (I did mention the super strength, right?) As the book goes on, he finds he can add new items (provided it’s something he previously bought when he was a human), camouflage himself, and other cool adventure powers. As for going on quests… you’d be surprised how important convenient food and drink can be in a battle.

As you can see, the premise can be as silly as you’d like. This is absolutely ridiculous. But the characters are all treated as real people rather than stock isekai types, even the guards at the door, the innkeeper and her daughter, and the town madam. (Oh yes, Boxxo can also sell condoms. I was surprised it went there, but it’s handled quite well. No, Boxxo is not going to be using them, he’s a vending machine.) Boxxo and Lammis get on great from the start, she’s very good at figuring out what he means when he’s using his stock “welcome!’ phrases, and having her around means the story is not totally stationary. I mean… the book has a subplot of Lammis falling in love with Boxxo, and it actually plays out as really sweet and cute rather than weird and creepy. I could have done without the constant breast size discussion, but that’s what you get in this genre, and at least Boxxo’s lack of a human body means he’s rather blase about it all – mostly.

I was going to be cute and say this was the best vending machine isekai I’d ever read, but that’s selling it short – it was a really good read, period. I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected, and definitely want to see what happens next. You will believe that a fantasy world can be transformed by a simple machine that gives you Pringles when you want them.