I never thought I’d review a story about a reviewer before, but here we are in a sort of sequel to the creative fantasy That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime. This new Yen Press manga is about Framea, a rabbitfolk chief’s daughter who loves to score things. It’s also about the kingdom of Tempest and features the original’s main character lord Rimuru as the catalyst for Framea’s adventures. This is the kind of manga that takes a little while to get going, but once you hit the true conflict you won’t want to put it down.
The Ways of the Monster Nation opens with Framea stepping out of the shower and quickly giving the room she’s in “three stars all around.” We soon learn Framea has a desire to rate things that interest her, or simply to rate things after she’s taken it all in. It’s her way to reflect on her experience and carry on. She’s light-hearted and interested in the world around her. One reason why this book works is that she has a childlike view of the world that makes you want to be like her and see things for what they are. She rarely hates things and relishes life.
The book also keeps the focus of what Framea is rating in each chapter quite clear while also pushing her along her journey so everything flows nicely. It’s not stunted with a forced “let’s try out clothes” episode so much as it’s a dance of Framea walking down the street, encountering a beautiful clothing shop, and then exiting the shop into the next adventure. Framea rates all sorts of things in this first volume, from food sellers on the street to clothing, to weapons, to even dangerous adventures. Things get even more interesting near the end of the book as the characters enter a dungeon and the fantasy elements get jacked up to 11.
One problem with this first volume is it takes a while to get to the central conflict and point of the book. Rimuru plays a part in that, but it doesn’t rear its head till two thirds through the book. Up until that point, this reads like a way to see what characters in the main series are up to via a random girl’s impressions of them. She’s fun sure, but she’s also sort of wandering around with no purpose.
The art matches the original work and matches any food manga or fantasy manga. Monsters look sharp, the characters from the previous series look just right, and the food looks delicious. When Framea gives something 3 or even 5 stars, you’ll believe her. It’s also not overly sexual save for the first few pages that inexplicably show Framea nude. It’s an odd choice since she’s not sexualized in the book overal — maybe they were trying to lure in new readers?
Translation by Kevin Gifford and letters by Barri Shrager are tight and easy to follow. A key element of Framea is how she gets worked up over how great a thing is and the translation and lettering help convey her intensity. The calmness of Rimuru is a good counterpoint too, which can be seen in Gifford and Shrager’s work.
This is a good first volume that has great elements you’ve seen in other manga, from food stories to fantasy tales. Framea is a fun, easy-going, and infectious character you’ll want to spend time with, especially during these tough times. The Ways of the Monster Nation is lighthearted, clever, and a critically enjoyable darling of a manga.