Survival is a series of difficult and sometimes morally questionable choices.
Art: Guru Mizoguchi
Original Story: Usata Nonohara
Character Designs: ox
Translation/Adaptation: Erin Husson
What They Say
Mariela is the last alchemist alive after waking from a deep sleep that lasted two hundred years. As the sole alchemist in town, she can make a killing from making and selling potions…but after two hundred years of suspended animation, all she wants to do is relax, take things easy, and live at her own pace!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Mariela is a young alchemist who awakens after she put herself into a magical stasis to avoid a monster attack on the city she lived just outside of. What was supposed to be a short stasis accidentally turns into an extended one as she awakens two hundred years in the future. Her former residence and city are not as she remembers it, the biggest change is that her profession is now rare. So rare that the potions she makes have skyrocketed in value.
Mariela is the sort of protagonist you usually find in shoujo manga. She’s smart, capable, and thankfully logical. The first people she comes across are a mercenary trading corp who get a little too friendly with her too quickly. She’s suspicious of them and is careful to not tell anyone where, or when, she’s from. Once people realize she’s an alchemist it would be easy to see how others would take advantage of her. She was lucky the first group sees her as a valuable ally instead of a product to be sold.
Especially since that group happens to be trading in slaves at the moment.
It’s made clear that Mariela is familiar with the slavery system in the country she lived in, and it apparently hasn’t changed. She knows slaves can be magically bound to their master so they can’t disobey and makes a rash decision to purchase a very injured and emaciated slave for herself as a source of confidential information. Plus, she feels bad for him despite not knowing his circumstances.
So much of this volume is spent with Mariela kindly healing her new purchase and treating him like a human being that the alchemy almost takes a back seat. We do eventually learn what put Siegmund into debt slavery and this almost turns into a story of rehabilitation. Still, there’s the rather icky fact that Mariela now owns him and he’s magically bound to her. Knowing how these stories go I’m not going to be surprised to see this turn into a romance at some point, but I have to wonder how far those magical bonds go.
Many recent light novel fantasy series (and the manga based on them, like this one) have plots focused heavily on isekai elements. Even when the story is played as straight fantasy, like Alchemist here is, some of those elements still sneak in. It’s basically unavoidable at this point. Despite this not being isekai, the fantasy world these characters live in does feature some very gamey mechanics. The adventurers that fight monsters have ranks, and the crafting of alchemic supplies that Mariela conducts feels a bit like a game as well. At least their magic system appears to have rules and regulations, which is better than there being no logic to the system. It does feel artificial in many aspects though.
I don’t have much to say about Mizoguchi’s art. It’s sharp and clean, and Mariela is cute while the men look like adult men. The world has a pleasant if generic fantasy style. Only the monster art is a bit lacking and it’s clear that this isn’t an action manga despite the few scenes of attacks.
The only extra for this volume is a short side story comic after the main chapters.
The Alchemist who Survived is not what I expected. The story of a woman trying to reestablish her life in a changed world is the driving force of the narrative, but the circumstances in which she quickly adapts and protects herself against potentially hostile and unfamiliar surroundings is rife with potentially problematic material. It’s quickly very clear her society is a far cry from our own. I’m always wary of stories where slavery is a main feature, and the ‘kind master savior trope’ makes my skin crawl. Mariela is extremely likable though, and I can’t say I’d behave any differently in her fragile position.
Content Grade: B
Art Grade: B +
Packaging Grade: B
Text/Translation Grade: A –
Age Rating: Teen
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: July 30, 2019
MSRP: US $13.00 / CN $17.00