It’s almost been a full year since I’ve covered this series, and I’m finally happy to have the chance to return to it. The manga volumes have been coming out so far and few between that I almost started to miss reading through this series and have been really looking forward to the next volume. The Alchemist Who Survived Now Dreams of a Quiet City Life (or for a more easier to digest title The Alchemist Who Survived) intrigued me when it first came out because of its slice-of-life with a fantasy twist that seemed reminiscent of another of my favorite series Snow White with the Red Hair. I love discovering series that take place in a fantasy world but focus more on daily life than action packed events, and this series has so far leaned more towards the daily life side of things though it does have some moments of action thrown in. The more volumes I pick up, the more I can’t wait for the next one. Volume two has been a delight to read.
After a spell kept her frozen in time for 200 years, Mariela wakes up to a world completely different where she is one of the only alchemists left in the area of Labyrinth City that can make potions. While trying to keep this fact a secret from the residents of the city, Mariela works to sell her potions under the guise of a chemist in order to open her own apothecary. In order to do so, she must first pass the guild exam.
The original story was written by Usata Nonohara as a light novel. Ox was brought in to do the character designs and Guru Mizoguchi took over for the manga adaptation. Overall, I think it adapted very well, but I haven’t read the original light novel to make a good comparison. I think the story and art work really well together to form a nicely cohesive manga. I really enjoy the character designs that ox came up with. Mariela is definitely adorable and the clothing selections have a nice mix of styles to really showcase each character’s position in society and the kinds of work that they do.
Mizoguchi’s way of laying out the pages of the manga are clear to interpret and quite visually interesting. I really enjoy how he pulls out certain characters and has them overlap into panels for a nice visual effect that really draws your eye to the character. They’re also used quite a bit when introducing a new character so that we get a larger picture of their design and a more prominent call-out to the fact that these characters may be important to the story. Or this design choice is used as a way to just break up panels more, create a more visually appealing page, or as a more simple call-out to something important going on. We see this a bit when Mariela calls upon the Salamander to help her make some sheets of glass. The ball of magic it appears in overlays the other panels on the page, drawing attention to his magical appearance and nature.
Volume two does builds off of where we left off in volume one. Mariela is on a quest to make money off of her potions, enhance her magical abilities, and make a place for herself in the new Labyrinth City without giving away her secret that she is an alchemist. To do so, she signs a magical contract with a slave named Sieg who then becomes her loyal bodyguard, keeping her safe from harm as she goes traipsing around the woods looking for medicinal plants and protecting her secret. I have honestly loved seeing their relationship grow as we got more into the story of volume two. I was a little hesitant with the concept of slavery in the first edition, but now I think it’s moved past that and more into a close friendship between equals. Their magical contract where Mariela can pretty much command Sieg to do anything is never really used again even though the history of his slavery and his feelings around being bought by Mariela are brought up often. I don’t really see this depiction of slavery as detrimental to the series because their more interpersonal relationship becomes the highlight. Sieg is finding something he’s good at again after he lost his eye and magical abilities with it by training to be her bodyguard while Mariela respects and cares for Sieg, relying on him to help her with her alchemy and to be a trustworthy companion in a world she doesn’t know or quite understand. It becomes more of an equal relationship, where they wind up supporting one another.
I love seeing the difference in personalities between Sieg and Mariela too. Sieg winds up being the more emotional, more drawn to the negative, yet more cautious of the pair while Mariela I feel like is the more outgoing, positive, and carefree. Their partnership becomes one of harmonious contrast where one fills in for what the other lacks. Mariela is known to overexert herself when she’s on a mission to create something and Sieg has to be the one to make sure she gets home safe and care for her until she wakes up. We saw it happen when she was out making the plate glass for her new shop. She used up all her magic, collapsed, and Sieg had to take her home. After the first volume of Mariela healing Sieg’s terrible wounds, I feel like the position has somehow been flipped where Sieg now has a bit more of a caretaking role this volume.
Stories like this are also all about the growth of community. Mariela is setting up a permanent and stable life for herself which also means that she will need to connect with the community around her, build partnerships, and create opportunities for herself. She already made connections with the Black Iron Freight Corps who buys the majority of her potions now, the man who runs the supply store who takes her and Sieg into the Labyrinth to collect supplies with him, and the men who renovate her apothecary who become regular customers to enjoy some tea with her. I’m interested in seeing how her community grows and what other interesting characters wind up showing up. I already really enjoyed meeting the guild leader who seemed quite adorable and connected instantly with Mariela and her incredible knowledge.
I have no idea when the next volume will be released. It may be a year from now given when this one was released. We’ll have to wait and see when Yen Press announces it, but I am really looking forward to seeing where the story goes from here. Let me know in the comments if you’ve been following the series or were thinking of picking it up yourself!
~~Thanks for Reading!~~
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