Written by Ross Locksley on 19 May 2023
Distributor One Peace Books • Author/Artist Sei Takano/Liz Takayama • Price £7.99
Driven by the tragedy of losing his younger sister to a brain tumour, Kanji Yakutani is taking the pharmaceutical world by storm with his ceaseless dedication to medical science.
Sadly Yakutani pushes himself too far and dies of a heart attack, triggering another Isekai setup that, at this point, is so expected that the character seemingly adjusts to his new body, life and surroundings almost instantly. On this point, I'm slightly puzzled as to why the setup is even needed here, a brilliant pharmacist in another world didn't really require such a trigger, though of course it does lend itself to shorthand exposition as the character discovers the new world and narrates his view of it.
Still, putting that aside, Yukutani quickly discovers he's now Farma, the son of a renowned pharmacist in this traditional Westernised world. Aided by his maid, Lotte, he discovers that his new body was hit by lightning, presumably killing the original occupant and transplanting him there simultaneously. In this parallel world, Farma has the ability to produce water from thin air, but the medicines and treatments available are not only based on superstition, but also potentially dangerous.
Farma also discovers that he has an unheard of ability to create elements with just his mind - so long as he knows the chemical structure, he can both produce and erase these materials at will. When studying with his tutor Elen, she discovers that not only does he have the divine "none" attribute (not seen in 300 years) but that he also has more divine power than has ever been recorded. He can also "see" injuries that are hidden and has no shadow.
So essentially our protagonist is the smartest and most powerful being that has ever existed in his new environment. This should sound familiar.
Isekai are generally wish-fulfilment fantasies, with hard-working or unlucky individuals granted a second lease on life in an idyllic setting and surrounded by attractive people. Parallel World Pharmacy is very much of this mould, therefore your enjoyment of it will largely depend on how much you enjoy the genre in its purest form. Where Rising of the Shield Hero subverted the trope by putting its hero through misery, or even The Weakest Contestant in all of Space and Time had the novel twist of making all of its characters pathetic, the only thing Farma has to really worry about, at least initially, is that he's just too awesome for his own good. He's a noble, he has power and he's surrounded by decent, if misguided, people.
The translation is a breezy read, though there was at least one error I spotted ("Here me, water" is a clear error), but what most impresses is the amount of medical detail in the book. I'm not qualified to say whether or not it's accurate, but the author certainly seems to know their stuff when it comes to pharmaceuticals. This air of authenticity really helps to balance out the magical qualities of the book, and the fact that Farma can genuinely help the people around him with modern medical practices is, for me, the most compelling part of the story.
The artwork is lovely, very sharp lines with plenty of details in the panels and lots of tone used to create depth across the pages. Certain page layouts feel a bit old fashioned (by which I mean 1990's - still feels like yesterday...) but everything flows cleanly. There's plenty of cheesecake for fans of busty women and cute girls, but it never feels gratuitous.
By the end of the book, we're faced with a life or death situation and a fantastic cliffhanger - so good in fact that I've pre-ordered the next volume.
With an engaging protagonist, rounded cast and plenty of character development, Parallel World Pharmacy has gone from feeling like "more of the same" to a top tier drama in a single volume. I'm both surprised and delighted with the series, and it's now on my "must read" list. Pharm-tastic! (Sorry).
Ross founded the UK Anime Network waaay back in 1995 and works in and around the anime world in his spare time.
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