Original Story: Usata Nonohara
Illustrations By: Ox
Translation: Erin Husson
What They Say:
A girl out of time, a fish out of water
Alchemists used to be a dime a dozen in the Kingdom of Endalsia, so Mariela was never particularly special. But her skills were put to the test one fateful day when a horde of monsters came stampeding from the nearby forest. In a desperate attempt to escape the horror, the young alchemist put herself in a state of suspended animation that lasted just a little longer than she’d planned – an entire two hundred years! Needless to say, there have been some big changes, and biggest of all: Mariela is now the sole alchemist in the entire kingdom. Her one wish in this strange new environment is to get back her quiet, leisurely, low-key lifestyle!
Content (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
A cold stone floor and dusty remnants of stale air are what first greet a sixteen year old Mariela as she wakes from her slumber, the atmosphere so rarefied that she can barely breathe, but with a helpful application of lifestyle magic to circulate the room it becomes easier to inhale once again. Her heart once again slowly pumps static blood even as a parched throat begs for moisture, and with the essential Drops of Life alchemic technique this young girl is finally able to wet her lips and revitalize a dormant body. Aching joints creak to life once again as pain retreats from her fragile form, letting her know she is alive once again after who knows how long she has been asleep. Her memory is foggy and the massive headache that plagued the first waking moments now slowly fades, but as the welcomed sunlight pierces these murky confines what caused her to be in this situation finally stirs blank thoughts … The Stampede.
The Kingdom of Endalsia was an abundant land that as bordered by a massive mountain range and the fearsome Fell Forest from its opposing side, the latter which was infested by monsters that threatened to overrun the people, and yet they stayed thanks to rich resources and bountiful crops. Citadel City set in the midst of within this complex crux of danger and wealth which attracted many to its confines, from the lowliest of nobles who wished to start over again to reckless adventures who wanted to make a name for themselves by conquering the beasts which periodically threatened the walls. It was to these bold explorers which many business catered themselves to within the settlement: merchants, taverns, gambling halls and brothels … and it was through this last enterprise which the child found herself born into the world from a night of pleasure. Mariela never knew either of her parents after being abandoned at the orphanage, but luckily her true name was found stitched into the swaddling clothes that she was wrapped in, and it was precisely to this coincidence that her Master took her in and taught the real secrets of alchemy. And it was due to those essential skills she was able to scrape a modest living once she was left to fend for herself, even live resourcefully thanks the modest cottage within the forest her teacher willed to her after graduation.
While Mariela was able to craft low grade elixirs to earn an impoverished living, not many took notice of this poor girl since alchemy was a mundane practice and even more common than bakers. But as the child cultivated plants from her small garden and made helpful potions, there where still those who bought these useful medicines, although she did not know they were taking advantage of the prices, and yet the young girl was entirely grateful these sales allowed her to buy a meager loaf of bread for a modest meal. However these tedious days were how she survived, but even these impractical habits could not last once the ground quaked due the thunderous approach of countless beasts from Fell Forest … the day which would be remembered as the Stampede.
She could still remember that day, it seemed like any other: Mariela wandered through the front gate and was told to pay a toll to which the guard swindled some low grade potions, made her rounds through Citadel City and sold medicines for a few coppers apiece, then collected discarded bottles for reuse later. But it was as she was readying to leave that the ground shook and people began to panic, while monsters did storm the town infrequently, adventurers were able to pacify the encounters and yet this time was different as the primal roar of inhuman creatures accompanied the tremors which drew closer. People raced through the narrow alleyways to return home, almost crushing the poor girl as she lost her belongings, the day’s earnings and immodest meal, and yet they did not care as their own safety was paramount to that a faceless orphan. While some fled to the mountains and others tried to huddle in their homes, most knew the latter would offer little protection from his oncoming onslaught of bloodthirsty beasts. Even as Mariela pushed her way through the slowly closing outer doors, the thieving soldier who accosted her earlier tossed a monster repellent to the girl, almost knowing they would not survive this oncoming doom which threatened to swallow all in its path.
The modest hovel in the Fell Forest which her teacher left was practically located within patches of plants which monsters found repugnant, and yet Mariela knew these minor defenses would prove worthless with the fury that drove beasts in their rampage. After shutting the massive iron door leading to the cellar, Mariela remembered the words of her Master: if she ever was in danger and could not find a safe place to hide, then to use her graduation gift of the Magic Circle of Suspended Animation. Knowing monsters could detect magic, she lit a small oil lamp and spread the three by three square that barely fit the stone floor and examined it carefully – if it had any flaws or mistakes the ritual would not work and all this effort would be in vain. Mariela was scared and worried if the underground ceiling would be able to support the weight of so many monsters, but she knew this was the only to survive the invasion, and as dim light flickered and dust shook down from above, the ceremony slowly began to take hold and the young alchemist fell into a deep sleep.
She had no idea how much time had passed, but the Circle was designed to wake her up after the danger had passed, and as Mariela climbed through the hole within the collapsed ceiling, she questioned what had happened to all that she knew. Neither paper thin walls of her cottage nor the foundation building remained from the Stampede, and the undergrowth of the woods was now thick beneath her feet, in fact the small herb garden that she used in her medicines was now no longer recognizable with so much foliage present. Wondering how much time had passed, the weary girl gathered handfuls of useful plants for later use but without a bag to contain them, had little choice than to craft them into what resembled a tacky grass skirt. After combining Drops of Life and other ingredients into a monster warding potion, Mariela sprinkled the odorless liquid upon herself knowing the mixture would keep her safe from any creatures who wandered too near and made a few more plus some low grade healing tinctures before setting out from the only home she had ever knew and back into the world past the Fell Forest.
The animal trails which she had used before remained intact, and it could be seen there were still people living nearby due to wagon tracks embedded in the road, but none of the expansive fields surrounding Citadel City were anywhere to be found – the forest had taken over. However as Mariela made her way out of the dense woods, the lack of civilization was foremost on her mind until she heard animals crying nearby – they were not sounds of pain but those of frustration due to their attack not succeeding and men repelling the beasts. Since she could not fight the alchemist hid herself in nearby brush to observe a massive pack of forest wolves attacking three ironclad carriages, with men mounted on raptors attempting to repel a group of at least hundred canines. And while they made progress with spear and sword, the heavy armor they were wearing made movements difficult, plus the arrows which flew threw vents in the vehicles did little damage either, for as one beast fell another immediately took its place. Although she wanted to help these people, Mariela knew she could not afford the risk of unwisely attracting any attention, and yet she still had a way to aid the inundated soldiers … her monster warding potions.
With a wild throwing arc, the helpful tonic flew in a haphazard fashion and immediately began splashing a majority of the sensitive wolves in the acrid liquid, causing revulsion in those doused by the repellent and pain to those who were forced to smell their companions. After the pack ran off, the sentries were finally able to relax but soon became alarmed once a mysterious girl stepped out of the undergrowth, supposedly unharmed by walking unarmed through the notorious Fell Forest. When the largest man stepped forward and asked if she was a forest spirit, perhaps thanks to her native grass skirt and stories of them helping humans for unknown reasons, this reasoning was soon dismissed when a boy about her age dismissed such nonsense. After chiding his superstitious Captain, the talkative boy asked if what she threw before was a monster-warding potion and if she had anymore, to which Mariela told them she was on her way into town to sell her wares and showed them the remainders within her bag. The straw haired knight was instantly impressed by her elixirs and stated they were valuable commodities, to which the large commander while disappointed by declaring they could have handled the situation by themselves, asked if they could buy her merchandise, including the one she used to chase the monsters away.
While she was shocked these strangers would purchase her merchandise without having to go into Citadel City, what stunned her even more was the price they offered for the four remaining monster repellents and five low grade healing potions: five large silver pieces. Although she was grateful for this generous offer, Mariela still had to wonder what caused such a drastic inflation when just days before she was lucky to get five coppers for each bottle. It was then when Captain Dick considered the effectiveness of the tonic which just moments ago chased away their attackers, and then increased his price to one gold piece. This was now a two hundred percent increase and something which she would never reject, so after the exchange was complete they offered the merchant a ride into Labyrinth City, and while she never heard of such a place before, gladly took them up on the opportunity. As the straw haired boy sat uncomfortably close to her on a loading platform on the last carriage, he introduced himself as Lynx and watched as now unfamiliar scenery passed them by on their journey. After entering the fortifications of the walled town, Mariela could not but wonder out loud what happened to the inner workings of what she called Citadel City and if anyone survived the Stampede. While he was amused by her spontaneous question, he stated they were probably living in Labyrinth City, or at least their descendants and quipped her query was based on fairy tales since that disaster happened two hundred years ago. And as the talkative boy continued to chatter away, the alchemist could not but wonder if she had really been asleep for such indeterminate period of time … and what happened to everyone and everything she ever knew?
The Alchemist Who Survived Now Dreams of a Quiet City Life is an amusing take on the tale of a person falling asleep and waking after learning the world has passed them by, but it is made all the more heartfelt as we read Mariela’s amusing thoughts of how she will survive on her own. Although she begins as a commonplace alchemist who herself thought as not being so talented, it is soon made apparent these skills are now extremely valuable after the Stampede destroyed her home and all she once knew, and yet she does not allow these events to depress her forthright attitude. For someone who is only sixteen years old, this young girl knows how to take care of herself thanks to a demanding master who at times took pleasure in drilling his teachings into this orphan, and yet she is now thankful for his lessons, even as she at times internally complains of his harshness. And it is this appealing openness which is wonderfully expressed due to writer Nonohara-sensei brilliant manner of reflecting Mariela’s optimistic personality with such unadulterated zeal, allowing us to enjoy her frank brevity even as she tries to find a place within this new world.
And yet what initially motivates us to become so enamored by Mariela’s journey are the exceptional illustrations of mangaka Ox-sensei, with a beautifully colored cover and equally appealing comic to introduce the reader to our resourceful heroine, plus vibrant monotone interior pieces to convey the gentleness of the narrative as whole. The story then captivates the reader in how Nonohara-sensei is able to convey such a natural expressiveness through smoothly flowing descriptions and conversations, allowing for the audience to effortlessly delve into the life of our young alchemist, almost as if we are a silent observer and become enveloped within the joy of her boundless energy and unlimited enthusiasm. And while the telling is sometimes bogged down by endless explanations of fantasy plant effects, alchemical processes and methods of how to create imaginary medicines, plus animated lectures of how magic works in this world, these moments also have a positive influence of mesmerizing the audience into wanting to learn more about Mariela’s world … all as we wait impatiently for the next volume of her amazing adventures.
Content Grade: A+
Art Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A+
Text/Translation Grade: A-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: October 15, 2019