We’ve established before that I’ll pick up books for the sheer WTFery of their titles alone.
That said, there was no way I was going to skip Hirukawa’s Reborn as a Vending Machine, Now I Wander the Dungeon, Volume 1 (illustrated by Ituwa Kato). 😄
In Reborn as a Vending Machine, our nameless protagonist is a vending machine enthusiast (yes), who’s crushed to death when he tries to catch a falling vending machine (yes), and wakes up in a fantasy world with the brand new body of … a vending machine (but you guessed that already).
He can’t move on his own. He can only talk in canned vending machine phrases like “Insert coins” or “Get one free with a winner.” And though he can convert money into magical points to fuel himself, he’s in the middle of a forest and running out of power. Fortunately, along comes the adventurer Lammis. She’s a cute, sweet girl, and despite her size, her Blessing of Might allows her to pick him up like it’s nothing and take him to her home settlement – where she and her fellow villagers are fascinated by this new magical item. 😯
And, well, being a vending machine enthusiast in a vending machine’s body, he decides to do the natural thing – and become the best darn vending machine he can possibly be. 😊
I’ve had such hit and miss experiences with light novels that my only real hope for this book was “Please be readable, 😬” so it was a delight to discover that the novel was not only readable, but unexpectedly charming (and followed by Volumes 2 and 3). 😀
I mean, you have to admit there’s something endearing and admirable about a character who wakes up as an inanimate object and goes “Welp, this is my life now. Might as well be good at it.” And as absurd as the setup is, in the context of its own world, it actually works quite well.
Like most isekai (“another world”) stories, this one features a character stat and magic system where characters can take special abilities (here called Blessings) and amass points to level up. This is how Boxxo, as he’s christened by Lammis and the others, gains his Force Field (ever useful when thieves and monsters try to break into him). He also uses his converted points not only to power himself, but to upgrade his vending machine body to become more durable, and to add new items for villagers to buy from him. He has access to any item he bought from a vending machine before he died, and they’re all novelties to the characters in this fantasy setting – not to mention useful. Soon he finds himself being taken on campaigns to feed adventuring parties in the field, being asked to provide unique items to help out in the settlement, and so on.
The story is a simple, almost slice-of-life one (the major problem at the climax is that Boxxo gets stolen and…well, he can’t move on his own) but Boxxo himself carries it with his upbeat characterization and resourcefulness. It’s fun to see how he solves problems by choosing what to offer his customers, and his past life as a vending machine enthusiast is evident in how he chooses the products. (Several sections go into minor detail about the manufacturers of certain products and why said products were designed the way they were.) The direr situations in which he finds himself also require him to think quickly, to determine how to best spend his limited magic points for defensive upgrades, often mid-danger.
The other characters are fun, too, but frankly they’re just anime archetypes, and in fact a lot of the episodic situations of the story follow similar familiar tropes. (There’s a bathhouse scene, naturally. And speaking of such content, some of the illustrations are pretty obviously aimed at readers who like boobs, but the novel itself never gets more scandalous than Boxxo being embarrassed about being in the presence of said boobs.)
All in all, for an isekai fan who’s looking for something light, fun, and just a little different, Reborn as a Vending Machine, Now I Wander the Dungeon, Volume 1 is worth a read. To my own surprise, I’ll be buying the next two volumes, because familiar as it may be, there’s something just that delightful about the story of little vending machine that could. 😊
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