Death doesn't stop you from saving the world!

Nirvana Volume OneTitle: Nirvana
Genre: Isekai, Action
Publisher: Kadokawa (JP), Seven Seas (US)
Creators: Jin & Saiyuki (Zowls), art by Saiyuki
Translator: Angela Lui
Serialized in: Comic Gene
Original Release Date: August 8, 2017
A review copy was provided by Seven Seas.

In a market that is currently flooded with overly similar isekai stories, Nirvana seems like a breath of fresh air on the surface. Instead of focusing on Joe Schmoe, the mid-teens to early twenties man with no discernible personality who has been pulled into another world to do great deeds while still alive, high schooler Yachiyo Hitotose has actually died in a freak plane crash and ended up in a world that functions as the underworld for Earth, Gulgraf. There are already signs that Yachiyo is different in this world. However, she can remember her life on Earth, and her precious watch memento — which survived the journey with her — marks her as the reincarnation of the Lady Sakuya to the denizens of Gulgraf. Yachiyo is skeptical that she’s the reincarnation of their goddess, but her strong sense of doing good won’t let her stand aside when her new friends are being attacked; especially when it seems as if she can use some of the Lady Sakuya’s powers after all.

Don’t be fooled by the female protagonist; this story not only runs in a shounen magazine but also feels like a third-rate shounen tale. Superficially Nirvana reminds me a little bit of Soul Eater with how they both had female leads who engaged in fights not wholly under their own powers but partially through the ability to transform their (male) teammates into weapons. Soul Eater had a better start however by introducing a larger cast of characters and immediately setting them up with big, external conflicts and personal, internal conflicts as well. Here in Nirvana there is a larger external conflict in the form of the vicars and blau attacking the ordinary people but on a personal level Yachiyo is progressing rather aimlessly. Yachiyo feels like a flatter Yuki Yuna from Yuki Yuna is a Hero; they both aim to do good in the world and save people from antagonistic forces but Nirvana is so concerned with getting to the big action scenes right off the bat that Yachiyo’s personality isn’t really developed beyond this vague sense of “I want to help people, that’s important to me!” There is always room for more development later on of course, but the characters are the foundations of every story and without giving the reader a reason to care about the characters the entire story will flounder.

In short, this story doesn’t have an original idea in its structure. Even the visuals, which occasionally evokes an idea of an Indian setting instead of the “generic European mishmash” which has become so common to isekai stories lately, isn’t truly unique. Other manga have used an Indian setting to far better effect, and frankly it’s hard to even remember where Nirvana is supposed to be set as the character designs and backgrounds are so generic! There are rare panels where Yachiyo uses one of Sakuya’s powers and the effect is rendered in a dramatic, black ink, but those moments just remind the reader that it’s a shame that the art style doesn’t experiment more to create something interesting to look at. Instead, by and large, the art appears to be purely perfunctory, not something that contributes to and is an integral part of the story (which is, of course, the entire point of presenting a story in an illustrated format!).

If you truly need more isekai stories in your life and desperately want one that isn’t set in a European or Japanese setting then this manga might be for you. Otherwise, give this one a pass.