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One of many regular issues with the overpowering characters in the isekai series is motivation. So many times, our reincarnated heroes amassing of abilities, weapons, or allies/love interests are treated as an acquisitional goal unto itself, just adding more stuff onto an RPG character sheet for its own sake under the pretense that it’s cool. It might be fun to imagine that sort of power facilitating these fantasies, as is the bare minimum for this inescapable genre, but it’s rarely conducive to actual storytelling. And so in the face of that, we have Saint? No! I’m Just a Passing Beast Tamer!, whose whole gimmick is borne out of assigning its lead an actual motivation. A very, very silly motivation.

Up-front, one thing I dig about Passing Beast Tamer is how it takes moments to hone in on several elements I miss in most modern isekai and how they regard their protagonists. Heroine Kanata’s past life circumstances of hospitalization with terminal illness are expounded on, with even a brief mention of the parents she left behind. It doesn’t dwell on it too much and mainly uses it to lead to the undercutting anticlimax of her goal in her new life. But it’s still nice since it all lends just a bit more flavor and realizes Kanata as something resembling an actual character rather than a cipher for the readers to interact with the world’s game mechanics.

It means readers are taken along on a ride with Kanata and her excitable eccentricities. The goal Kanata decides on for her new life effectively winds up being an embodiment of that “Why can’t I kiss all the kitties?” meme, single-mindedly devoting herself to the pursuit of getting to pet some fluffy friends. As a one-joke premise, it’s decently chuckle-worthy and is more than most isekai protags get. And Kanata’s approach to achieving her goal and how it interfaces with the expectations written for this world forms the backbone of the ongoing plot and how she interacts with other characters.

Much of that is noticeable in how mechanically these elements motivate the story. Beast Tamers are said to be an undesirable class due to lowering the stats of their users in favor of relying on their teamed-up tamed creatures. Thus it’s a class that’s much easier to fulfill the conditions than higher-level roles like Saint. Some of this works as a subversion of more expected isekai gimmicks, in that Kanata didn’t intentionally choose an underpowered class specifically because she knew how to twist it into a min/max power source but because it was just the best avenue for her extremely simpleminded ends.

The irony is that those priorities cause some of the mechanics moving those ideas to clash or get lost in the sauce. Beast Tamer is supposedly a low-tier class for which anyone can fulfill the conditions, yet Kanata worked hard to build up her skills and abilities to ensure access to it. Kanata’s overpowered stats are also attributed to said hard work, even as it was confirmed earlier that this world’s reincarnation-governing isekai god bestowed upon her the genre-mandated stat boosts. There are indications that the latter might have facilitated Kanata’s efforts paying off so effectively, with her obliviousness towards her resulting exponential abilities being another layer of a joke. But it’s not dug into enough in this volume for that to solidly land as a bit.

Instead, the actual progression of Passing Beast Tamer can regularly feel as flighty as its heroine. “Free-spirited” gets thrown around a lot as a character descriptor. Still, Kanata embodies it effectively, even as it results in her zooming around the story, dragging the plot with her. There is an amusing intent to have other characters interact with Kanata by misinterpreting her actions based on how things usually go in this world. Though too often, that results in walls of expositional text being thrown out that we couldn’t get to otherwise. Kanata stumbles into explanations of monster encounters, demon king backstory, and adventurer guild economics that exist more for our benefit than anything she interfaces with, and it can come off disconnected.

As a joke, a lot of it still works. The rapport Kanata establishes with her first tamed beast and demon-king-in-the-body-of-a-cute-kitty Zaggy is particularly amusing. Zaggy remains so convinced that Kanata must know what she’s doing. But so much else feels odd aside from setups for plots that haven’t kicked in yet, apart from Kanata going on about how much she wants to cuddle cute kitties. Occasionally we’ll get to spice things up with fights against giant birds or a dragon. Kanata’s overpowered, irreverent approach to resolving those can feel just as dizzying as the way the story races into them, but then that at least feels more calculated than the volume, spending nearly twenty pages on Kanata’s principal trying to convince her not to drop out of school. The potential for whiplash extends to other corners of the content, specifically a bizarrely out-of-place graphically illustrated aside of guild receptionist Melissa explaining goblins’ penchant for sexual assault to Kanata. So uh, content warning for that if you’re curious about checking this one out.

It’s not that I’d necessarily want Passing Beast Tamer to slow down as it continues. There’s an intent to its energy that I appreciate, which is carried well enough by iidatoy‘s art in this manga adaptation. The no-thoughts-head-empty approach of Kanata herself is particularly presented well on the page, which is good since virtually everything else is rooted in reacting to her. But it would be prudent for this series to straighten its story out more, to aim Kanata and her simply effective motivation in a direction that we can follow with some crumbs of consistency, rather than just being carried along by whatever the writer thinks is silliest at the moment. It’s akin to a fluffy newborn kitten: Adorable and inherently charming but also prone to stumbling around and getting lost in places.

Disclosure: Kadokawa World Entertainment (KWE), a wholly owned subsidiary of Kadokawa Corporation, is the majority owner of Anime News Network, LLC. Yen Press, BookWalker Global, and J-Novel Club are subsidiaries of KWE.

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Saint? No! I’m Just a Passing Beast Tamer! GN 1 – Review