Another day, another isekai. Meek salaryman Hitomu finds himself transported to another world where he's forced to take part in a tournament to the death, featuring the most pathetic specimens from all of space and time. Constantly killed and reincarnated in gladiatorial combat, things take a turn for the worse when he accidentally escapes from the arena and lands in a strange land where death is permanent. Surrounded by his fellow losers, including a slime girl, an overconfident cleaning robot and a bug monster, they have to find a way to survive.
So this is a pretty unusual choice for me - I buy the majority of manga we review on UKA based on shelf appeal, and I'm notoriously biased against weak protagonists. Love Hina is torture for me, Keitaro being so utterly pathetic it pains me to read or watch it. I don't mind nervous or reluctant so long as they have something about them - Tenchi will stand and fight when he has to for example, Senpai from Nagatoro gradually increases his confidence - but just constantly pathetic main characters I find neither compelling nor endearing.
So why pick up a manga that deals exclusively with an ilk I find unappealing? Well, for a start, the art by KRSG is really rather fantastic - the character roster is so diverse, from slimes, monsters, cartoon pigs and even space invader drones, it's very inventive. The horror overtones of the book, which include several death scenes for Hitomu as he battles in the arena, are also very well rendered.
Partly I had hoped that it would be something that would at least force an opinion. We've had so many vanilla isekai set in fantasy worlds over the last few years that they've started to feel completely interchangeable. This almost had a Red Dwarf vibe to it, just a bunch of losers thrown together to try and make their way, and that at least made the title interesting.
And so it proved to be, with each of our loser-warriors bringing something interesting to the party. Hitomu plays our POV character, trying to deal with the incredibly aggressive robot K, basically a vacuum cleaner reprogrammed to think it's a mighty warrior, the slime girl that seems to have taken the form of a girl Hitomu likes back on Earth, the little cartoon piggy that has no concept of pain or death, and even a little ghost that causes no end of trouble when it's absorbed by K. The plot is inventive, Hitomu's reactions are actually pretty reasonable and though he's driven by cowardly survival instincts, he is at least driven and observant enough to solve problems when they arise. So despite my predisposition, I actually found myself liking him.
As this is just the first volume, time will tell if the book can carry our bevvy of losers through a satisfying story, but as a start it's actually pretty strong. Between the inventive artwork, dark tone and grim humour, it's proven itself to be stronger than expected in almost every area.