「自動販売機, 移動する」 (Jidouhanbaiki, Idou Suru)
“The Vending Machine Travels”
Jidou Hanbaiki answers a question nobody has ever asked; What would being reborn as a vending machine be like? But while it looks and feels like an indictment of how creatively bankrupt the isekai genre has been, it hides behind its status as a parody to show just how intricate things would be if a Vending Machine had the soul of a human trapped within its machinery.
SO IT’S COME TO THIS
When it was first announced, it felt like the kind of concept that begged you to hate it. In an industry where animators are overworked and mistreated for the sake of having an anime season with over 45 new shows, an isekai about being reincarnated as a vending machine emblemized the kind of wasteful energy that’s brought into trend-hopping. It was hard not to see this as the final boss of all isekai, and if you beat it, you get to leave a power vacuum for a far worse subgenre to take its place.
The idea of an isekai is bastardized so many times that there are at least 50 different isekai and 25 different parodies of said isekai that crop up every season. For one to pop up that involves getting reincarnated as a vending machine in another world feels like a slap in the face to anyone who has ambitions. Have a neat idea? We’ll time to throw that away because the people with the greatest influence and the heaviest wallets would rather greenlight a cynical joke.
I was going to say I’m the problem for looking at this and going “Teehee, what could this be about”, but what’s the alternative? Jitsu wa Ore, Saikyou deshita? Okashi na Tensei? The isekai about a vending machine happened to be pleasantly mid, so it’s already prime-time television compared to the new crop of isekai it has to compete with. Is it a dire message that even the blandest isekai parody is a vast improvement from most of the serious isekai that have spawned lately?
A ONE-STOP SHOP IN A BOX
To its credit, I can see the vision they’re going for. The vending machine part is merely a red herring towards the actually neat idea of being reincarnated as a portable item shop. I was stumbling around Final Fantasy XVI recently and noticed how every time I had to grab potions, it would be a stop to the nearest town’s market that had nearly the same array of items, weapons, and such. But you can only go into a town for this stuff. You’d be in a tight pinch if you needed to grab some items on the fly while you’re in the middle of a siege or excursion.
A vending machine isn’t going to be that well-stocked, but if the characters are famished, they don’t need to rush back to each town to grab a collection of goods; they got a huge box of replenishable sundries right there. This premise absolutely wouldn’t be interesting past the first episode or so, but I can see how Jidou Hanbaiki got past the planning stage if they sold it off the idea that the protagonist is actually reincarnating as a storekeeper of earthly goods. Yes, it’s in a vending machine, but that’s the explanation I’d bring up if I had to give this an elevator pitch.
I could see shades of this with the kinds of things the anime was interested in showing. Where Boxxo (the vending machine’s new name) is introducing the people he’s come across to potato chips, corn potage, and canned oden. Everyone from the kind yet mighty Lammis to the dedicated guards finds that having his food gives them the strength to keep on keeping on.
It also allows for some pretty amusing moments such as Boxxo having to communicate through stock greetings or the imagery of Boxxo getting attacked by frogmen in an isekai version of the Office Space fax machine beatdown. The latest Mushoku Tensei is likely worth more of your time if you want an isekai experience, but you might find yourself surprised in a good way by the way Jidou Hanbaiki approaches the genre.