Isekai, sci-fi, and fantasy are huge light novel genres. But how about a mash-up of all three? That’s what you’ll find in Sasaki and Peeps! Read on for the review of Volume 1.
Back Cover Blurb
Even though Sasaki’s droll corporate life is constantly filled with work, it leaves him tired and unfulfilled at the end of every day. In search of some companionship to fill the emptiness in his life, he visits a pet shop on a whim, not realizing he’s about to change his life forever. After settling on an adorable bird and bringing it home…his new roommate reveals that it’s actually an incredible sage from another world who promptly bestows Sasaki with supernatural powers as well as the ability to cross between worlds. All Sasaki wants to do is use these newfound powers to live in peace and comfort, but there are more than a few colorful characters who might get in the way of that…
Sasaki and Peeps falls into the category of light novel, but like the installments of Tanya the Evil, it’s not very light at all. Volume 1 weighs in at 304 pages. And unlike most light novels with insanely long subtitles, this subtitle of this one confused me rather than clarifying what the story was about.
The reason for the convoluted-sounding subtitle is because Sasaki and Peeps incorporates multiple genres. It sounds like a hodgepodge because it is a hodgepodge. However, the story manages to work because of the interactions between the two leads.
The story (which originally began as a web novel) is primarily told from the perspective of Sasaki, a self-described office drone in his late 30s. The lonely bachelor decides to buy a Java sparrow from the local pet shop for a little companionship and gets way more than he bargained for when the sparrow introduces himself as “Piercarlo Starsage, inhabitant of another world.” The name is a mouthful so Sasaki nicknames him “Peeps.”
So it’s a version of an isekai where the reincarnated individual plays costar to a modern-day normie. Buncololi-sensei eases us into the world-building with Peeps requesting Kobe beef of his new owner. Although Sasaki’s enamored of his unexpectedly intelligent and intelligible companion, the item is far beyond his price range. Undeterred, Peeps, who has retained all the magical powers of his previous life, proposes sharing them with Sasaki so that they might earn the money for the beef by exporting Japanese household goods into his old world.
Thus, the first fifth of the book is a quest for delicious food. Peeps teleports Sasaki to his old world, “a fantasy world of swords and magic,” and teaches him about the place as well as instructing Sasaki on the use of magic (for which Sasaki demonstrates proficiency). Meanwhile, Sasaki provides Peeps access to the Internet so he can learn about modern Japan, warns Peeps about transactions that might arouse the suspicion of the Japanese authorities, and provides the funding for the printer paper, ballpoint pens, and sugar they trade in the fantasy world as luxury items. Their interchange is engaging as well as informative, and their discussions on what to purchase at the superstore and how to pitch items to their buyers are surprisingly entertaining.
Then things take an abrupt turn when, on the way home from his office job, Sasaki stumbles on a fight between two individuals with supernatural powers. Up till that point, Sasaki and Peeps have been keeping their abilities on the lowdown, in Japan and the fantasy world. After all, they want to enjoy life; they don’t need the extra stress of the attention their magic abilities would attract. But seeing one individual about to kill the other, Sasaki feels compelled to intervene with his powers. In doing so, he saves a life but effectively blows his normie office worker cover.
Thus, the story takes sharp turn into sci-fi. Sasaki gets sucked into the secret world of psychics, which in this novel are individuals who manifest a supernatural ability. These psychics are roughly divided into two camps: “regulars,” who use their abilities in service of the government, and “irregulars,” who oppose government control. Having unwittingly used his magic to rescue a regular psychic from an irregular one, Sasaki is presumed a psychic and forcibly recruited into a new, more lucrative, and way more hazardous job as a psychic civil servant in the Paranormal Phenomena Countermeasure Bureau.
As result, readers are introduced to an entirely different system of powers, another set of characters, and a hitherto unknown conflict. Most of this action takes place apart from Peeps because he must stay in Sasaki’s apartment to maintain his guise as an ordinary pet. However, Peeps does serve as a sounding board as Sasaki strives to keep his new work life from invading their precious leisurely time in the fantasy world. Peeps’ bird form also proves valuable in informing Sasaki on the happenings in his home while he is at his new job.
With all this happening in Japan, their leisure time in the fantasy world becomes that much more valuable. Unfortunately, war breaks out in that world. As result, their usual trading partner makes a desperate request for war supplies. One thing leads to another, and Sasaki and Peeps wind up in the thick of the battlefield.
The initial fantasy world scenes are limited to the town of Baytrium, its inhabitants, and local affairs. With the outbreak of war, the reader is introduced to the broader scope of the kingdom of Herz, the political powers and various creatures within it, and of course, additional characters. The story also reveals Peeps’ former standing within that world, which is not insignificant.
That is why this novel is 304 pages. No, there is no tidy conclusion at the end, only a prompt from the author in the afterword to check out Volume 2. And because I am invested in Sasaki and Peeps, I’m willing to do that.
In terms of audience, I’d say this novel targets older males who enjoy a range of speculative fiction. Main character Sasaki is not out to relive his youth, nor does Peeps want to take over the world. They just want to enjoy a peaceful life with good food.
By the way, the genres incorporated in this story do NOT include romance. While Sasaki certainly notices women, he’s given up on marriage due to his age, occupation, and looks. And he’s sworn off casual encounters because he got chlamydia from a sex worker. While I appreciate Buncololi-sensei not glamorizing sexual encounters, the fact that Sasaki picked up an STD after a superior at his workplace took him to a brothel tarnished my impression of an otherwise very likable character.
Actually, in terms of female characters, they get sexualized in a way I find unpleasant. A glance at the profiles at the back of the book shows male characters ranging from a teenager up to men in their 30s and 40s. All the female characters, however, are underage. The one exception is a psychic woman who, thanks to her powers, maintains the form of a pretty elementary school girl, so she might as well be underage. Thus, even though Sasaki is not involving himself with anyone, he’s surrounded by jailbait. The most troubling of these female characters is the neglected 14-year-old who lives in the next door apartment. Sasaki, who himself had a poor childhood, occasionally gives food to the malnourished girl like she’s a stray cat. As a result, she fantasizes about repaying him with sexual favors. Ugh.
Like many light novels, the narrative is short on dialogue tags, so it’s sometimes difficult to tell who said what. The book also contains a couple of text errors.
The first eight pages, which contain illustrations and a thread from Sasaki’s social media just before buying Peeps, are printed in full color. Extras also include ten black-and-white insert illustrations, character profiles, and original cover material. I should note that two of the profiles contain quotes that are not actually in Volume 1.
An isekaied wizard. A wronged chef given the opportunity to create the restaurant of his dreams. A paranormal war in the shadows of the modern world. A valiant prince and nobleman brandishing swords to save their kingdom from an advancing army. There’s a ton going on in Sasaki and Peeps, whose protagonist is a 30-something bachelor working a dead-end office job. Yet this chaotic mess of genres and storylines works thanks to the charming owner-pet relationship of Sasaki and Peeps and the simplicity of their shared dream: a peaceful existence with delicious food. If you don’t mind a genre scramble and an older protagonist, this title’s worth checking out.
First published at the Fandom Post.