Ordinary schoolgirl sets out to save fantasy world from an evil dragon while readers set out on the path to learn English.

There’s a new book that just hit store shelves in Japan, and looking at the cover illustration will instantly tell you what kind of story it is. Standing in the center of the trio of characters is our protagonist, wearing a Japanese schoolgirl’s uniform, and flanking her are a dashing swordsman and a woman dressed in a gown that makes her look like a warrior princess, an elegant enchantress, or some combination of the two.

And sure enough, the plot description confirms that this tale is 100-percent isekai, the genre of anime, manga, and light novels in which someone from our world gets transported to an alternate world where fantastic adventures and/or zany hijinks ensue. The story’s teaser description reads:

Runa Wakatsuki is a second-year junior high school student in Japan who, through strange circumstances, travels back and forth between a mysterious world and reality.

“What? I’m the ‘Girl of Legend?’ I’m going to save the people of the kingdom from a dragon?! N-, no way!!”

Let’s go on a thrilling adventure together with Runa!

Since otaku-oriented reading material usually means ridiculously long titles, you might be expecting the book’s name to be a major mouthful, of course with a trendy abbreviated nickname. But actually, the title of the tome this isekai story appears in is incredibly succinct: English Fundamentals 2.

Kiso Eigo/基礎英語 translates to “English Fundamentals”

And no, that’s not “English” as in “from England, the land of castles and knights.” It’s “English” as in “the English language,” and if you shift your eyes away from the anime-style cast of characters, you’ll notice the name of Japanese public broadcaster NHK in the upper-left corner of the cover.

▼ So yep, the Japanese government is getting into the isekai business.

That’s because the book is actually the companion textbook for NHK’s English Fundamentals 2 radio program for people studying English as a second language. Each month, the organization releases a new textbook corresponding with the vocabulary and grammar it’ll be covering in the next batch of upcoming episodes, and for April there’s going to be an isekai theme.

A major target for April’s lessons is learning how to talk about yourself and your friends, and the isekai scenario seems like it’s present ample opportunities for the characters to do just that, as outsider Runa will have an entire alternate world’s worth of potential new people to introduce herself to, and odds are she’ll need them to explain about their homeland to her before she can fulfil her dragon-defeating destiny.

Among the phrases covered in the text are:
● “Japan? I don’t know that kingdom.”
In Japanese: Nihon? Sono oukoku ha shirimasen ne.
● “A dragon captured Prince Jonquil of Blossom Kingdom.”
Doragon ga Burossamy Oukoku no Jonkuiru-ouji wo toraemashita.

On the one hand, you could argue that using an isekai story as the framing device for a series of English lessons is blatant and silly otaku-baiting. But on the other hand, traveling to a foreign country is about the closest real-world proxy there is to an isekai tale, in which you’re suddenly part of an already-developed civilization that presents opportunities to explore and thrive in as long as you’re willing to adapt yourself to the new environment. There’s also the fact that isekai light novels have never been more popular in Japan than they are now, with teens being some of their most voracious readers, and tapping into subject matter they enjoy should help keep them entertained and energized while learning English.

The textbook, priced at 486 yen (US$4.40), can be ordered online here. It’s unclear how long Runa’s adventure will be, but it looks like we’ll at least be able to follow her quest for the next month, during which time we expect a whole new supply of English-teaching anime-style character fan art to come pouring in.

Top image: NHK
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he says Escaflowne is the best isekai story.

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