I must say, after making it all the way to the end of this almost 200-page volume, I can’t help but feel like it’s a bit misleading to call this volume one. I’m not necessarily saying this to criticize, and I do think there are some interesting elements to the story. However, by the time we get to the end of the first volume, the whole thing does feel like it is supposed to be merely a prequel to a much more epic tale. The majority of this entire volume is just setting up and establishing a premise with only vague foreshadowing to some grander quest towards the end. So it’s a little difficult right off the bat to recommend volume 1 of Chronicles of an Aristocrat Reborn in Another World on its own when it feels so incomplete. Regardless, I will do my best to extrapolate what strengths and weaknesses are present within this first volume besides that potential issue,
The story starts when a young boy named Kazuya was stabbed one day and finds out that his death was basically meaningless. The god of another world took advantage of that, reincarnating him with their blessings in the hopes that he will end up propelling this fantasy world forward. I’m just going to ignore the fact that this guy’s consciousness was put into a pre-existing body because there is no discussion whatsoever regarding what happened to the consciousness of the original 3-year-old that was displaced. From there Kazuya, now named Cain, discovers that he is the son of an Aristocrat in a world where people have different affinities towards magic governed by the gods. In other words, we’ve seen all of this before, and thus the fun of reading new isekai stories like this lies in finding out what variation the story adds to the classic formula to make itself stand out, or what route of self-awareness it decides to take.
A fun element to this volume is the fact that Kazuya was already a big fan of Isekai light novels before the fated incident, and seemed to have been secretly craving for something like that to happen to him. This functions as a cute little character trait as well as a nice excuse for him to just buy everything that’s happening to him at face value. The general tone of the overall volume is extremely laid-back, and that applies to even the technical descriptors regarding how magic works. The rules of the world are simple and easy to digest, and because Kazuya reincarnates as somebody of such a young age, exposition is delivered relatively organically. The pacing is also super quick, spanning a couple of years within this first volume alone, and the author seems to know where to trim the fat regarding the power scaling which is good when you consider the fact that a majority of this volume is just that : power scaling and training.
Reading this volume does remind me of what it was like playing a lot of early RPGs and finding new and inventive ways to effectively break the system even when the odds are so heavily in your favor. Almost immediately after reincarnating, Kazuya takes advantage of his resources as an Aristocrat to learn everything there is to know about this magical world. As such, he’s already an expert he reaches the age when he should be learning about the stuff, and that’s not even including all of the plot armor stuff that gets dumped on him later on. There are some interesting ideas regarding the powers introduced such as perception versus reality which means Kazuya needs to dance around how he introduces himself to people. However, the downside to this setup is that it does get a little unfulfilling by the time you reach the end.
I do wonder if this narrative structure would’ve worked better if we were introduced into the middle of the action from the get-go and learned of all this setup in the form of well-timed flashbacks. Maybe the author just wanted to get all of the established power increases out of the way from jump so that when the major inciting incident does occur, there will be more of a pay off there. Hard to say, but the fact still remains that the volume does lose a bit of steam as time goes on. There isn’t a lot of engaging action to keep you enthralled, and while the magic system is relatively interesting despite being so simple, the way it is presented isn’t anything that we haven’t really seen before. In fact, the manga is somewhat workmanlike on the visual front, with large panels for establishing shots and dramatic poses during action sequences, but devoid of any engaging action choreography or setpieces that really stand out. Though I will say that the design is relatively cute, and Cain himself is able to establish quite a bit of presence on the page despite his small and very unimposing demeanor, so props to the artist for being able to accomplish that balance.
Overall, Chronicles of an Aristocrat‘s first volume definitely leaves something to be desired. While the magic system is fine and seeing how said system gets abused is interesting, those elements alone couldn’t carry the entire volume. There is a sense of intrigue and foreshadowing for more intense escalations, but considering the point Cain needs to be at for that stuff to occur versus where he ends up at the end of this volume, I don’t even think we would jump right into the interesting bits at the beginning of the next volume anyway. So honestly this is a bit hard to recommend. If you’re a fan of old-school RPGs, you’ll probably get some fulfillment out of this, but if you’re hoping for something a bit more interesting and engaging, you may need to look a bit further beyond this volume.