What’s the manga? Plus-Sized Elf, Volume One.
And what’s it about… I mean I could probably guess from the title but tell me anyway? It’s about Naoe-kun an unassuming massage therapist for the ‘Smiley Boar’ health clinic in Tokyo, he works there not just as a massage therapist but also helping his clients live healthier lives. One day an unusual looking woman shows up, covered head-to-toe with sunglasses and a beanie–she’s clearly hiding something… turns out she’s an elf named Elfuda from another world and she has a ~big~ problem, she loves french fries so much so that she’s gained a bit of weight and is now too self-conscious to return home to her elven kingdom. So Naoe decides to help Elfuda with a diet and exercise plan so she can live a happier, healthier life.
…Okay that’s kind of unexpected, I thought this was going to be some perverted manga with fetishistic tendencies. First of all, no kink-shaming, secondly it still kinda is… like while this manga spends a decent chunk of its time explaining various exercise routines and healthy living habits it also indulges in it’s fair share of ~THICC~ fan service. I don’t know if I’d go as far as to call it ecchi, but it does have ecchi shots, also unexpected nipples. I don’t know why I didn’t expect it but they are at least in the context of a hot springs.
Wow, first volume and there’s already a hot springs scene, huh? This manga wastes no time introducing us to its colourful cast of female characters, there’s so many I might have to list them just to make sure I don’t forget any:
Elfuda the titular ‘Plus-Sized Elf’.
Naoe’s curvaceous boss, Ino–and the only other human character so far (who’s also happens to be in her forties–you go manga having attractive older women!)
Kuroeda a dark elf who is experiencing a loss in magical powers due to her long hours standing in retail work–she also is having trouble “equipping” magical garments as ‘da booty too thicc’.
Mero a fishmonger and mermaid concerned with her flabby arms.
Kusa a mandragora (plant woman) with sore back and shoulders because of the flower that blooms on her head.
Olga an ogre who’s love for booze has given her a potbelly in stark contrast with the rest of her muscular frame.
Laika a husky lycanthrope who in canine form gets given lots of high-calorie treats from human which results in her human form being chubby too.
I’ll admit that is a lot of characters to keep track of from the get-go! Yes, but they’re all rather distinct enough that it’s never really confusing. Also, I do wonder if this is going to be a bit more ~anthology~ with regards to its characters, rather than having them stick around for every volume. It might end up like Nurse Hitomi’s Monster Infirmary (which this sort of reminded me of) and just have a core cast of a few recurring characters while having a few new “cases” and therefore different characters each volume.
Fair enough? So what’s the manga like? What’s its tone? Etc. It’s a light-hearted comedy, but its focus on healthy living and exercise almost gears it towards an adult audience, which makes sense since every new character in the manga are working age adults. It’s weird in a sense because so many manga (and by extension anime) focus on much younger casts of characters that having characters who ostensibly have to take responsibility for their actions and have to deal with realistic ailments (albeit in fantasy creatures) makes this a unique experience–at least for me. I guess I’m so used to stories set in high-schools that characters with lives more close to mine made for an interesting read!
Then would you say you’re the target audience, for a change? Well I don’t appreciate your wording, anyone can read anything regardless of age or target audience and still appreciate it, but yes as someone who doesn’t have the best diet, drinks too much alcohol and works a (sometimes) physically demanding retail job this felt very targeted to me. But that didn’t make me like it more or less.
I guess the big question is did you like it? I really did, I was dubious of the premise but I’d read anything monster girl or monster girl adjacent. But I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Funnily enough the character I liked the most was the dude Naoe, he genuinely wants to help these girls, even if it’s not someone who’s enlisted his help in a professional capacity and is just someone he happens to see in his day-to-day life. Also, despite the title it’s not all about Elfuda, which I’m kind of thankful for as she is a ~bit~ immature for my liking–though I can’t fault her love for all things potato, that’s a love we share.
Anything else you wanted to add? Calling Elfuda “Plus-Sized” seems a tad questionable. I mean I know Japanese perceptions on what is ‘larger’ are different to the west but she’s hardly that much larger than Shera from How Not To Summon A Demon Lord and I don’t recall anyone calling her too fat for an elf (well maybe Rem). But I think it’s more the Western publishers wanting a more ‘clickbait’ title for lack of a better term. In Japanese the translation of ‘Elf-san wa Yaserarenai’ is ‘Elf Can Not Lose Weight’ which ~feels~ more accurate to her struggle because she can’t stop eating french fries which results in continual diet failures–but that’s a minor quibble I suppose. Also I really like the fact that Naoe even tells Elfuda that she’s not actually problematically “overweight” and says that he prefers chubby girls, though I’m guessing that’s the author speaking through his protagonist more than anything. Still, body positivity for the win!
Final recommendation and score for ‘Plus-Sized Elf’ Volume One? If a slice of life comedy with thicc monster girls and a heavy sprinkling of vaguely helpful exercise techniques sounds like an odd combination–it’s because it is, but it works surprisingly well. It’s a well meaning endeavour but never takes itself or its subject matter too serious so remains in the fun “shenanigans” side of the genre. I’ll gladly have seconds of this treat, 83 out of 100.
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