With his great-grandfather’s dying breath, Mikura Moriya agrees to take over the family estate, much to the relief of all his other relatives. Mikura was on his way up in the world, on the career ladder at a good company at age 25, but someone from the family must live on the estate (and he did always love it). It’s not family tradition that requires it but an old contract: the house isn’t in Japan but in a separate country inside of Japan, the Beastly Wilds, and the owner acts as a minor, defacto, ambassador between the two worlds.
Not that this is a regular occurrence — for all intents and purposes Mikura is inheriting the family farm and managing the nut orchards, but even that isn’t really his problem. Another part of this agreement is a work contract with the squirrel Beastfolk who live in the Beastly Wilds who manage the orchard in return for a portion of the crop each year. Mikura’s life is about to undergo a lot of changes, although they’re pretty enviable changes!
Like the title says, this is a pretty laid-back story but your interest in the story depends less on your tolerance for the slow life and more on your tolerance for incredibly detailed instructions about preserving food. I wasn’t surprised to read in the author’s afterword that this is one of Fuurou’s actual hobbies but I do wonder if they just didn’t realize that writing all of these instructions (more in-depth than a say “How to Get Started Preserving Food!” 20 minute YouTube video) would be dull for most readers or if they were desperately trying to pad out the length of the book. I didn’t mind it at first and think that these sections might have actually worked better in live-action or animated form, where they could be used as moments to show subtle character acting, but with the amount of prose devoted to a hobby I don’t see myself engaging in (wild pigs/boars are thankfully not common wildlife near me) I found myself skimming over these sections more and more as the story went on.
These over-explanations weren’t the only weak part of the story; while I did have some general questions about the world-building (the impression I got was that Mikura had never met any Beastfolk before, despite having spent time over many years with his Great-Grandfather at his home), those parts I was able to shrug off, something I couldn’t do for the “main” antagonist at the very end of the volume. The antagonist simply came off so flatly that I wondered how few drafts this story went through before publishing; the antagonist is an old family acquaintance who was a buyer of the nuts (one who paid incredibly low despite selling incredibly high) and despite Mikura’s subtle and direct communications that they would no longer be doing business, the antagonist proceeds to break through the equivalent of an international border in the middle of the night, stride up to Mikura’s house, and still act as if of course this business deal will go through. I have no doubt that there are bozos in real life who are that dumb but as a general rule of thumb, most people aren’t so a story needs to do more work to convince me that yes, this really is one of those unusual dumbasses!
Which, of course, the story didn’t, and the wrap-up of the story would have been unremarkable (except perhaps for the assurance that the Japanese government will cover this up and the reporters will eat that story up, which makes me concerned for the integrity/appearance of integrity in the Japanese press) except for some of the other Beastfolk who come to Mikura and company’s rescue in the fight. I wouldn’t exactly call this story an isekai, but the way that Mikura is then able to introduce this “new” method of smoking and preserving wild game to these non-Japanese characters certainly fulfills the “introducing Others to the wonders of Japanese cuisine” trope that is so common in isekai these days.
Ultimately I don’t see myself coming back to A Guide to Life in the Beastly Wilds. The art was cute but not cute enough to justify reading another book, and I’ll be looking elsewhere for tales of food and fantasy.