“After being summoned to another world as the 68th hero, Setsuna Sugimoto is abandoned by that same world due to his sickly constitution. But when he meets Kyle, a millennia-old former hero like him, Setsuna is given a third chance at life—inheriting Kyle's knowledge, power, and even life force. Now able to travel the world as an adventurer, Setsuna will encounter people from all walks of life, with each meeting bound to leave a lasting mark on himself and the world. And so begins a journey full of firsts…” (Yen Press)
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The manga adaptation of “The Ephermal Scenes of Setsuna's Journey” has a lot to live up to, with the original light novel being a masterfully crafted story, that excelled in taking a considered and more traditional literary approach as opposed to the more sensational isekais that dominate the genre. Moreover, the original work took a relatively innocent, almost wholesome approach to the genre, which became primarily conveyed through Setsuna's inner dialogue and a gradual unraveling of the vast world presented to him. It is a formula that had the potential to be adapted but also one that had a lot of pitfalls in understanding what made the light novel so resonating and impactful.
The manga does meet most of the expectations fans of the light novel might have. Notably, It captures the kind nature of its protagonist while skimming critical plot points of the story to make a cohesive narrative that does not feel lacking. This makes it an ideal companion piece while being accessible to a new audience who is invested in manga and not interested in light novels.
The other element that compliments the source is the artwork of Rokusyuo Usuasagi, based on the character designs from Sime. The visual design has a general softness and a considered pace to the story. Moreover, Usuasagi's direction focuses less on action and more on capturing the interactions between characters, further showing an understanding of the source material.
The slower pace may not click on the same level for those approaching the manga without reading the light novel. However, it isn't easy to say how the work will connect with those first coming to it. Light novel aside, the manga moves at a considered pace, is light on action, and heavy on character building, all handled with skill. If these elements appeal to readers, the manga should find favor with those new to the series.
There is no doubt that “The Ephemeral Scenes of Setsuna's Journey” succeeds in offering a great adaption of the light novel that is also accessible to a broader audience. However, the light novel is still the ideal way to experience the story as compacting the writing of Rokusyuo Usuasagi loses moments of sincerity and thoughtful reflections that were key in establishing Setsuna's persona in the light novel.
For example, in the light novel, Setsuna encounters a wounded traveler who lays out how imbalanced and cruel the world can be. Setsuna's hopeful outlook and goodwill mark a possible return to happiness for the traveler while cementing the kind-hearted nature of Setsuna. This does not feel entirely amiss in the manga, yet, touching moments of self-reflection like this give more depth to the book than the comic.
Ultimately, the manga adaptation of “The Ephemeral Scenes of Setsuna's Journey” is a competently constructed homage to one of the best light novel releases of 2023. It should be enjoyed by those who like fantasy stories that heavily focus on character-building over action. Still, if you are inclined to jump into the world of Setsuna, read the light novel first, then add this as a companion piece.