The Other World’s Books Depend on the Bean Counter (light novel) Volume 1: Holy Maiden Summoning Improvement Plan Review

Workaholic accountant Seiichirou Kondou, twenty-nine, is walking home when he hears a girl screaming. Rushing to her aid, he sees her disappearing into an anomaly and in reaching out to catch her hand to pull her back, gets dragged in with her. They both find themselves in a European-style castle, surrounded by people in clothing that doesn’t belong in twenty-first century Japan. The girl, high school student Yua, has been summoned to be the Holy Maiden and Seiichirou was unlucky enough to get caught up in the summoning. Now that he’s there – in the kingdom of Romany – he’s going to have to find a role for himself. Luckily, he’s appointed to the Royal Accounting Department, where he’s in his element, with plenty to sort out and far too much work to keep him busy; just the way he likes it!

Unfortunately, though, his health wasn’t great back in Japan (he has a delicate stomach, probably caused by work-related stress) and in this new world, things go downhill fast. He starts to buy tonics in the city pharmacy – but his health continues to decline. Young, dark and handsome Commander Aresh Indolark has been deputed to watch over him and when Seiichirou collapses, he has to use his magical powers to heal him. That’s when the next problem kicks in; Seiichirou’s body hasn’t adapted to the new world (there was only enough magic to protect the Holy Maiden) so he’s adversely affected by the magicules to be found in everything (even food) and especially healing magic and those tonics he’s so fond of. There’s only one way to save him: sex. (Or, as the publisher’s blurb coyly puts it, ‘a unique physical relationship’ with Aresh.)

Meanwhile, Holy Maiden Yua has been undergoing training to purify the deadly miasma that has been spreading from the Demon Forest, jealously watched over by Prince Yurius who has obviously developed feelings for her. But she can’t help but pay attention to Aresh (who has been teaching her magic) which leads to some very awkward social occasions.

Luckily, thanks to Aresh’s ‘unique’ attentions, Seiichirou is able to devote himself to his work and ignore Yua’s indiscreet comments. But when the miasma begins to spread, Yua is required to go to the Demon Forest to fulfil her role – and Prince Yurius insists that Seiichirou should go too. This will be a risky journey for the accountant as his body, in spite of Aresh’s interventions, is still not well acclimatized to the new world, and the miasma is stirring up the wild beasts in the forest, sending them crazy and likely to attack travellers.

The beautifully drawn manga version by Kazuki Iridori of – let’s call it The Bean Counter for short (although the German title Isekai Office Worker works even better!) – preceded the publication in the West by Yen Press of the original BL/isekai light novels, so we’re already three – indeed four, as of March 2024 – volumes into the story and very familiar by now with the cast! And the manga, it turns out, is very faithful to the original novels.

The Bean Counter seems to be author Yatsuki Wakatsu’s first published fiction and there’s some background to its origins at the end in her afterword. Some thought has gone into world-building, such as different names for the hours of the day and night and for the different foods Seiichirou encounters. Other readers may not be as bothered as I am by the way the narrative veers from Seiichirou’s viewpoint (the main one throughout) in the middle of a scene to another character’s head and back again, which makes me a bit queasy. Also, a random first-person couple of pages from Holy Maiden Yua appear out of nowhere towards the end. If this could have been woven in throughout the whole book, it would have given a really interesting and contrasting view of the events unfolding and helped to fill in some plot points too. But no. Maybe in Book 2? The first volume is relatively self-contained in that it not only has an Epilogue but also a feeling of having reached a kind of conclusion/resolution to the matters raised in the course of the story, while leaving the larger over-arching plot to continue into the next volume.

The illustrations and cover art are by Kikka Ohashi and with a generous eight illustrations and an illustrated character guide, really help to enhance the story (even if Seiichirou looks more like a bespectacled high-schooler than a weary salaryman). Nevertheless, I admit I prefer Kazuki Irodori’s illustrations for the manga which inject much more life into the characters on the page and the Other World and convey all the main developments (both for characters and plot) in a skilful and memorable way.

So, is it a disadvantage to have read the manga first? Well, yes, if you’re the kind of reader who likes to be surprised by what happens; there are no surprises here. But, as it’s prose fiction, everything is explored in far greater depth as the words have to do all the hard work and bring the world and the characters to life, which can be done visually in a single manga panel. This also means that there’s much more time to describe the unique relationship between Seiichirou and Aresh and to go into far more physical details of what starts out as a purely medical intervention (and yes, as it’s consensual, gradually shows signs of developing into something deeper). Inevitably, this raises questions in the reader’s mind. But it also puts a spotlight on the rather strange concept used by the author to get these two unlikely bedfellows together. This leads me to wonder: if they have sex only for purely medical healing reasons, is this something that Commander Indolark would expect to do with other patients in a medical crisis? Is sex, therefore, regarded differently in the Romany kingdom? What about feelings? Etc. etc. The sex/healing scenes are not very skilfully written (I’d call them clunky) with the addition of vocal sounds which seems to be A Thing for scenes of a sexual nature in light novels and (at least for this reader) makes them often read more like a fight than a romantic encounter. But as the light novels are rated 16+ by Yen On, there’s nothing too explicit (although much is implied).

The translation for Yen is by Jenny Murphy and the second volume subtitled (rather unenticingly) Church Management Support Plan is due out on June 18th 2024. I would still recommend the manga version over the light novels for all the reasons mentioned above – but if you’re a completist, you’ll still want to read the original inspiration, and why not!

Our review copy from Yen On was supplied by Diamond Book Distributors UK. 

6.5 / 10


Sarah's been writing about her love of manga and anime since Whenever - and first started watching via Le Club Dorothée in France...

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