Storylines about people going to or reincarnating in another world can find it hard to come up with a unique idea or device that makes the story feel special. Even though I don’t really like the isekai genre, I’m always interested in what writers will do to make something new out of a known structure. Parallel World Pharmacy piqued my interest the most because it seemed to focus less on action or show and more on using this familiar framework to put science into practice in the real world. Does this first book keep its foot on the ground, though?
As we all know, Parallel World Pharmacy begins with an adult man dying of overwork and reincarnating as a child in a fantasy world that looks a lot like the Middle Ages but has magic and is a few hundred years behind modern medicine. A great thing about this manga is how well it builds its world and mixes well-known story elements with current science from the real world. The idea of magic is simple to understand because it fits into a fairly simple class system and makes a lot of sense without using too many generalizations. It makes a lot of sense that this is a social comment on how the rich can use magic and the poor can’t. That’s not new for these stories, but there’s an extra twist about how being a doctor is connected to being a magician. People in the top class have the most access to medicines that can cure illnesses because they know how to control the elements through divine arts.
But Parallel World Pharmacy isn’t just making up illnesses or medicines. This book is based on a lot of study, and it uses many modern medicines for illnesses and diseases that are pretty well known. This story is a lot like Dr. Stone in a lot of ways. It teaches readers a lot of basic chemistry and science in a way that is easy to understand, and it also moves the story forward. As the story goes on, readers learn a little more about science and elements. This is where the book really shines, when it combines its world-building with those science uses to make the story more interesting.
Graphs and other visuals of the parts that need to be put together help the talk get across this interest. There is more than just name-dropping of chemicals, medicines, and illnesses in the attention to detail. Our main character doesn’t stand out as much as the other characters in terms of style, but the attention to other designs and clothes is very clear. The characters show how they feel, and there is a strong air of intelligence about how everyone acts that can be seen throughout. The story doesn’t really get going until the last third of the book, which is a shame because most of the time was spent setting up the world. That’s normal, and I like how the world is built, but the first two-thirds of the story could have been better.
Thank goodness I was able to wait until the book really got going in the last third because I cared about the main character. Another interesting thing about Falma as a main character is that he is a good chemist and does study. The story, on the other hand, shows how deeply he wants to make sure people don’t die needlessly. He will give a treatment if one is available, and if not, he will do everything he can to make sure one is. The story hits close to home for him because he lost a loved one to an illness that couldn’t be fixed when he was young. You can relate to his journey. Using what he knows about modern health in a society that hasn’t reached that level yet makes me wonder what will happen next in the story.
How will society change now that Falma is a part of it? What about other people like Falma? Or does this class system really separate people from those who are hurting to those who feel like no one can touch them? A lot of interesting paths can be taken with the story. I was really surprised by the cliffhanger at the end of this book. I didn’t think we would get to that point in the story until later books. I wish that perfect storm of story intrigue had come sooner, but it was nice to get it in this first book, since some series don’t even get this far. With good art that plays to the strengths of the book and a likeable main character who is the heart of the story, you should have a pretty interesting time.