Ride-On King by Yasushi Baba is properly mental. No teenage boys letching after a bunch of witch-girls here. Instead, our leading man is Alexander Plutinov, president-for-life of the small Central Asian “Republic of Prussia”, who is transported to another world one day when he is crushed by a falling chunk from a massive statue. And in this new fantasy kingdom, Plutinov has magic powers, can ride around shirtless on a wyvern, and put his martial arts skills to a new and noble use, saving a bunch of teenage girls from marauding orcs, wild boar and dragons or something. It is, for the world-weary politician, something of a holiday in a fantasy realm, an extended tour of an absurd fantasy realm accompanied by jailbait half-elves.
No, no, wait for it. There’s more. Because your correspondent had to scurry off to double-check that Ride-On King didn’t have a Russian-language Wikipedia page. Fortunately, it doesn’t, because if it did, I think there would be tanks in Tokyo by tomorrow morning – in case you didn’t already guess from the synopsis above, this manga epic is nothing less than “In Another World with Vladimir Putin,” its protagonist a cheeky allegory for Russia’s favourite shirtless martial-arts-loving president-for-life. I just loved the premise of this ridiculous manga, not so much for its off-the-peg D&D adventuring, but for the sheer gumption of casting an older man in the role so often snagged by ungrateful teenagers who, frankly, never make the most of it. The whole thing is a refreshing change from the norms of the so-called isekai genre, and makes me think about all the wonderful possibilities for similar celebrity spin-offs: Is it Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in the White House?, That Time I Got Reincarnated as Michael Gove, or Sorcerous Stabber Joanna Lumley. Admit it, you would read all of those.
Jonathan Clements is the author of Anime: A History. This is an excerpt from the Manga Snapshot column on Sirius magazine that appeared in NEO #217, February 2022.