Title: Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody Vol. 1
Author: Aya Megumu (Art), Hiro Ainana (Story), Shri (Character Art)
Publisher: Yen Press
Genre: Shonen, Fantasy
Publication Date: January 24, 2017
Ichirou Suzuki is a 29-year-old programmer who falls asleep during a “Death March.” A Death March is just another term for Crunch Time; a time where game creators work very long hours in order to push a product to its final state to meet a release date. When Suzuki awakens, he is a 15-year-old named Satou who is trapped inside of a fantasy world with no known way to wake up. A lot of the world’s systems are identical to the game WW, a title he was working on when he fell asleep. Suzuki decides to make the most of his dream before he begins to realize that he’s not truly dreaming afterall.
The “trapped inside of a video game” genre has really exploded as of late, starting with Sword Art Online (although .hack// came before it) and Log Horizon. Other titles such as Accel World, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, Re:ZERO, Overlord and GATE have capitalized on this setting in their own way. When compared to all of the others the story of Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody seems a bit on the generic side, but it has a few key differences which actually make it quite interesting. The main character doesn’t take being trapped in this world too seriously, but as the story progresses, he begins to realize that he may actually be trapped inside this game world. In addition, the story also offers a pretty big clue as to how he arrived in that world, something that Log Horizon and Re:ZERO didn’t really accomplish right off the bat.
The first volume also does some pretty nice world building in establishing some history and lore of the world Suzuki finds himself in. Everything from hierarchy of humans to creatures is explained with the note that dragons are the highest form of any living creature, even more powerful than a Hell Demon Lord. There are even social ranks from commoners to nobles to slaves. There seems to be a pecking order for everything, but even though it is a lot of information to learn, the volume presents it in a way where it is simplistic to follow and it shouldn’t confuse the reader.
If you’re expecting a lot of action in the first volume, you may be a bit disappointed. The first volume spends the majority of its time building the world our main character is a part of. While information dumps such as this are usually reserved for the second or third volume, Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody looks to take things in reverse. With the way the first volume ended, volume two looks to be full of action. It’s a risky move as a lot of shonen manga like to kick things off with action in order to hook the younger viewer so starting off with a huge information dump is risky as it could come off as boring to some people. In my opinion, it paid off because I found all of the lore interesting and the transition into the action-oriented cliffhanger works very well here.
We are introduced to a few major and minor characters in the first volume, all of which look to be playing a specific role. Sadly, a few of them are on the “trope-ish” side so we’ll have to wait and see how they really balance out in the end.
Starting off, we have our main character Suzuki (Satou). When he arrives in the world, he simply just thinks he’s having a dream. After being injured while fighting Lizard Men, he realizes that the dream may not be a dream after all, or at least, it’s a very realistic one. After using a meteor spell that he programmed into the game before falling asleep, he wipes out all the enemies and he gains a TON of levels. He went from level 1 to level 310 with just one meteor spell. After collecting the spoils of his effortless win, he equips some gear he looted and sets out to find anyone or anything he can communicate with.
After finding an army being attacked by a wyvern, he rescues a girl named Zena. It is, essentially, love at first sight for Zena after being rescued by Satou. However, we are quickly introduced to Iona, who plays the role of the stern swordswoman and protector of Zena. Rather than following that trope completely, Iona quickly warms up Satou and agrees to take him to Seiryuu, the major city in that area. There they help Satou find a place to stay and even get a new ID issued. This sends our main character to an inn where he meets another new character in Martha… the energetic daughter of an innkeeper who quite literally pulled Satou off the street.
Martha also has a thing for Satou (I can just see the harem happening now) even though she is younger than him (what kind of harem is this!?). Satou stays at the inn until Zera pays him a visit and the two go on an unofficial date where we learn about Zera being a wind magic user and wants to learn how to fly. Satou jokes that they could go on a date in the sky and Zera becomes adorably embarrassed and tells him to look forward to it.
With the exception of Iona, most of the female characters seem light-hearted and innocent. I guess that is the shonen appeal at work there. Despite this, while we have a plethora of good characters, there has to be evil ones. The first volume focuses on the High Priest of the Zaicuon Temple. He seems to be a radical religious zealot who is prophesizing about an upcoming disaster. We’ve seen this type before and he’s later caught in a scheme to rob people of their money by painting two beast children as minions of the Hell Demon Lord. Sounds like typical religion to me!
There is a nice balance of characters, but most of their personalities aren’t really all that distinguished from each other. While Zera is supposed to be of noble status, she doesn’t act like it. Martha is just a typical energetic girl and Satou lives mostly inside his head while putting out a friendly persona. I’m hoping that we get some more depth to these characters over the next few volumes, but most series will wait a bit before doing any sort of character fleshing out so I’m sure further on down the line they will become a bit more distinctive… at least that’s the hope here.
While the series’ story seems a bit on the generic side, they seem to be approaching it in an interesting and realistic manner. The lore is particularly interesting and will suck a reader into the series’ world. Everything from the characters to the hierarchy and social statuses are laid out in an easy-to-understand way that allow a reader to become absorbed into the story without becoming confused. The fact that the first volume can handle the information overload in such a pleasant and organized manner gives me high hopes for the storytelling potential of this series.
Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody throws its name into the sea of ‘trapped in a fantasy world” titles that have come out over the past five or so years. While it doesn’t look to offer anything new, sometimes a tried and true simplistic formula works best. In that regard, Death March looks to take that simple formula and make something special out of it. Not to mention that there is a television anime green lit for some time in 2017. Now that I’ve read the first volume, you better believe that this series made my To Watch list!
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This item was provided for review by Yen Press