Seiichirou Kondou has made a place for himself in the royal accounting department of the Romany Kingdom after he was dragged – by mistake – from present-day Japan into a parallel fantasy world alongside Yua, the predestined Holy Maiden. But since then, his scrupulous attitude to his work has made him enemies as well as allies – and as Volume 3 opens, he’s been attacked by three men and left semi-conscious and badly injured. Luckily for him, he’s discovered by none other than Prime Minister Karvada – and when word reaches Captain Aresh Indolark, he comes hurrying to the rescue. Kondou’s problem is that – unlike Yua – he acquired no resistance to the magic used in this world when he was transferred and is extremely vulnerable. His life has been saved – more than once – by young Aresh Indolark, a magic wielder of the Third Royal Order. The only way to save Kondou’s life, it seems, is for them to have physical contact of the most intimate kind imaginable. Yes, to have sex. (Although the manga opts for the discreet side of actually stating that’s what takes place, leaving it to the reader’s imagination what happens between panels.) As the stern Aresh ‘the ice knight’ has developed feelings for his troublesome patient, it all seems to be consensual – although the oblivious Kondou doesn’t quite ‘get’ that Aresh has fallen for him. He feels indebted to Captain Indolark (he has to frequently be reminded to call him by his first name) but has a tendency to ignore the good advice he receives (especially not to rely on so-called nutritional tonics or to take work home with him). This happens so often that he has begun to feel a little guilty – and even offers to be more proactive when it comes to ‘healing’ sessions. To complicate matters, Kondou, although unable to identify by sight his three attackers, recognized their voices – and it turns out that all three are Aresh’s subordinates.
Meanwhile, the life-threatening miasma – which Yua has been summoned to dispel – has been spreading. Thanks to Kondou’s calculations, the purification journey to the Demon Forest is able to set out more swiftly (and better resourced) and the king announces that Kondou will be going along too (even though Aresh protests that his fragile health will be endangered). After the party is attacked by enraged beasts fleeing the miasma, the enormity of the problem comes home to them all. Is it too great a challenge for Yua, even with the support of the prince, the sorcerers, and the knights?
The main shtick of The Other World’s Books Depend on the Bean Counter is that even though Kondou arrived in this other world by accident, his skills as ‘a bean counter’ and his intelligence might make him just as much of a saviour as the Holy Maiden. Then there’s the Boys’ Love aspect to the story, with the growing – though awkward – relationship between two proud and stubborn young men. Aresh is probably still smarting from the knowledge that Kondou is older than he is and has said that he would never fall for anyone younger than himself. And it’s more than probable that Kondou isn’t in any way experienced in the ways of the heart, being wedded to his work, so he might be the older of the two but he certainly isn’t the more emotionally mature. By this third volume, I had hoped for more development in the relationship between the two main protagonists – although they are at least shown touching fingertips on the handsomely drawn cover.
However… there’s an intriguing exchange later on in this volume that stirred quite a few questions in my mind. It might be a translation issue (although Emma Schumacker’s translation is consistently reliable, so I’m not casting aspersions) where the original Japanese text is ambiguous. This errs on the spoiler-side so if you don’t want to know what happens toward the end of the volume, best to avoid the rest of this paragraph! Aresh insists on sharing his horse with Kondou on the first day of the journey to the Demon Forest to gain as much bodily contact as possible (for Kondou’s own good, naturally). Yua (who seems to have something of a crush on Aresh) watches enviously from the carriage in which she’s being escorted by the prince. That evening, she approaches Kondou and says she has a request. “Please swap places with me during tomorrow’s travels!” Kondou then proceeds to give her a very stern talking-to, reminding her that he’s likely to die, even given all the precautions that he’s been taking. “This world isn’t one where you can live a peaceful life… while waiting for others to tell you what to do.” And his thoughts as he speaks are portrayed over a starkly black background. I intend… to destroy her path as the sunny Holy Maiden. She gets upset, naturally; she’s young and equally out of her depth as he is in this unfamiliar world. But reading this very harsh sentiment from our kind-hearted workaholic accountant strikes something of a discordant note in the image of Kondou that’s been built up over three volumes. Does he mean that he needs to open her eyes to the reality of their situation? This isn’t a delightful trip they’re embarking on, the fate of the kingdom depends on the outcome. Or is this just self-protection on Kondou’s part (he needs to be close to Aresh or he’ll succumb to the Miasma)? Or… is this Kondou subconsciously expressing a wish not to share his lover (for what else is Aresh by now?) with a rival?
Kazuki Irodori’s art, as in the two previous volumes, is what raises this manga version of Yatsuki Wakatsu’s isekai novels to a different level. The mangaka, even though working from character designs by Kikka Ohashi, has made these characters very much her own. Even when the story is at times a little clunky in the way it unravels the plot and the characters’ motivations, her art, and especially the characters’ facial expressions and reactions, still make this a pleasure to read. The bonus story at the end, The Knight Captain’s Mood Depends on His Cushion, provides a delightful, light-hearted antidote to the dramatic events unfolding in the Demon Forest.
There are only three novels in the isekai series by Yatsuki Wakatsu that the manga is based on, so with Volume 4 of the manga already out in Japan (no date yet given by Yen Press), we may well be reaching the end of the story soon. (Given the popularity of the manga, I can’t help wondering if Yen Press is going to bring us the light novels too…)