Nearly a year ago, Kodansha Comics brought I’m Standing on a Million Lives to the west in digital format only. Back in May a physical release of the series dropped, and so I decided to jump in and see what it had in store. Is it good?
Ninth grader Yusuke Yotsuya is practical, friendless, and not active in any clubs. Then one day, he and two female classmates are suddenly sent to another world where they must work together to battle for their lives. Yotsuya is a lone wolf and has always lived his life according to his wants, but how will that work out now that he’s supposed to be a hero?! Get ready for a one-of-a-kind fantasy story that will challenge everything you thought you knew about fantasy!
The Initial Reaction
Now when this manga first came out digitally back in 2018, I looked at the first chapter of it, skimming mostly to see what it was like. From what I read in the free preview, it didn’t really jump out at me. Nothing wrong, but nothing too gripping, just looking like a standard isekai series.
That’s why when the physical release came, I decided to give this manga a fair shake and read it all. Having read all of it now, I can say that if I did read more than that first chapter, my opinion would have nosedived. I’m Standing On a Million Lives has to be one of the worst, most underwhelming, lackluster manga I’ve read in years.
Let’s break this manga down and get into the nitty-gritty of it. Story-wise, there’s nothing offensive or essentially bad in concept. It’s a standard isekai plot, minus the protagonist dying like in some series. Yotsuya is transported into a magical world where has to accomplish tasks with some girls from his class who have a bit of experience with this already. The world is based around RPG mechanics with them growing as heroes, and ultimately they’ll have to deal with a dangerous threat in their own world once they finish everything they need to do.
Outside of being able to go back and forth between their world and that fantasy land, everything is fairly serviceable. Nothing about this plot is bad per say. The writing does suffer in spots due to some rather poor pacing and plotting. The manga tends to jump around a lot, having a rather awkward flow to it. It often speeds through important moments or details, while spending a bit of time on other things that don’t need much explanation. Sometimes the manga will introduce something briefly before coming back and giving more detail to it, like the Log Points. The manga feels very disjointed, more like it was written to be a novel first than anything. However, the crux of the story and scope is not its problem.
The bigger problems lie within its characters and the writing around them. The biggest offender of this whole thing would be the main protagonist, Yusuke Yotsuya. The manga describes him as a loner, someone without friends, who views things practically and hates where he lives. It seems like at one point he was forced to transfer to a new school, leaving all his old friends behind and he never really got over it. It made him keep everyone at a bay and just stop caring about his life and where he would go with it.
However, all of that aside, the character, in practice, waffles between being baffling and just being a prick. The writer never seems like they have a good grasp on how he should be, occasionally being a loner while in other times thinking of his group and trying to help them. He learns to stop being so self-centered, but then goes back to thinking it wouldn’t be so bad if the town he lives in was destroyed. When he rescues one character from getting abused, he doesn’t really think much of her other than to question why she won’t fall in love with him (he was given a task to make someone fall for him). When one of the girls, who was pouring her soul out to him for several pages, is kidnapped, he says he and the others should forget her and just complete the mission. After all, she’ll be fine once they’ve done their task, regardless of what happens to her. There are so many things about this guy that are purely unlikable or confused that he just becomes an irritating figure that’s more of a pain to follow the longer the manga goes on.
Then we have our other three leads, Iu Shindo, Kusue Hakozaki, and Yuka Tokitate. Shindo is the most popular girl in class. She helps people, stands up for others, and even helps gives some of the girls in her class the courage to come to school. However, her aura and strength comes from hitting an absolute low point as a child. She lost an older friend due to suicide and was mercilessly picked on by teachers and staff due to the horrible behavior of her parents and older brothers. Seeing her friends come to her rescue made her want to become someone who others could depend on or look up to, while controlling the situation around her. If she were to die, she feels she would lose so much more than just her life. While most of her personality and image is just told instead of shown, she is certainly the most interesting and well-defined character of the series. Sadly, she is not the main character she should be.
Kusue Hakozaki is not nearly as well-defined as Shindo, mostly being a standard sick girl trope. She has always been sick most of her life, taking 500 bucks in medication per month to deal with whatever vague illness she has. However, coming to this world has given her a chance to be cured and live life a bit fuller. The down part is that she is still pretty frail and weak, not being able to carry her own sword or wield it properly. Her arc will be to get stronger from the looks of it, but besides putting plenty of trust into Yotsuya there’s not much else to her.
Lastly we have Yuka, the newcomer. She’s introduced within the second chapter as victim of sexual assault by three girls in her class. She’s a bit of a loner in her own way, viewing it best to not get close to anyone or rock the boat much. She rocked the boat by indirectly insulting one of her attackers once and it ended up hurting her, despite Yotsuya saving her. However, she ends up apologizing to and befriending her attackers, getting mad at our lead for saving her and destroying the attackers’ cellphones. It was apparently a bridge too far, the manga even depicting it as strangely cruel. She just doesn’t do much here beyond her introduction and what we got wasn’t too promising either. The writing is just all around poor with her, especially with her being treated as a trophy for Yotsuya to gain for rescuing her.
The whole manga is just weak on the writing front. The poor pacing and the characterization are incredibly underwritten and need so much work. However, the writing also underutilizes a lot of ideas and points. This world our heroes keep falling into just feels so generic and lacks much personality. It comes across as a hodgepodge of many other fantasy settings packed into one, with the only unique thing being a side character. That’s a female knight who chose knighthood because she loves blood and cutting things, seeing marriage as an obstacle to her bloodlust, and allies with our heroes since they heal quickly when attacked or cut. Yotsuya’s conflicts with the idea of loving this world over his own and pondering whether it would be better for his town to be destroyed are just window dressing. It’s brought up early on but kind of disappears. The whole manga is like this and there’s just nothing truly compelling here to keep you going.
The artwork is perfectly fine. There’s nothing wrong about the art used here outside of some awkward, stilted cuts from scene to scene. However, that mostly can lie in it being poorly scripted than anything. The characters are drawn well and emotively enough, though some female characters’ faces look the same. The layouts are easy to read and some of the action is decent. The monster and fantasy designs aren’t particularly noteworthy, but they get the job done. It’s a perfectly serviceable style of art, just not much else.
Is It Good?
I’m Standing on a Million Lives Vol. 1 is not very good at all. There are some potential gems amongst all of the bad or undercooked ideas, characters, and writing that make up this book. However, none of that makes up for the less than impressive characterization, standard story and artwork, or poor writing. There are many other isekai stories you can read out there, many of which are way better. This is just best left skipped over.
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