Having dominated the medium for the past several years, it's understandable that many anime fans are suffering from isekai fatigue. Despite this, the genre continues to grow, getting ever more intentionally ridiculous as it does. While the genre began with everyday people falling into fantasy worlds or getting trapped in video games, more recently things have taken a decidedly wacky turn, even beyond series like That Time I Got Reincarnated As a Slime and So I'm a Spider, So What?.
One example of this is Reborn as a Vending Machine, I Now Wander the Dungeon. Pretty much everything about this light novel series can be inferred from its title, but there's a hidden, tragic layer to its protagonist. Despite the ridiculous premise, Reborn as a Vending Machine is surprisingly strong in the body horror department.
Reborn as a Vending Machine Is a Horror Story
Vending Machine began in 2016, and is written and illustrated by Hirukuma and Ituwa Kato, respectively. The story follows an unnamed young man who dies after being crushed by a vending machine. He awakens later to realize that he's been reincarnated into a fantasy world...as a vending machine. He can convert the coins he receives into experience points that allow him to level up, build upon his body and learn impressive skills, but as a vending machine, he's completely immobile.
Things get better for him when he meets a young elf woman named Lammis with her own problems. She's gifted with incredible strength but struggles with controlling it. She dubs him "Boxxo" and begins toting him on her back to balance out her strength, and the two begin a series of subversive adventures together throughout their world's dungeon. For as fun and happy-go-lucky as this all sounds, there's a hidden layer of sadness in the series, especially before "Boxxo" meets Lammis.
The Horror of the Vending Machine
As mentioned, Boxxo can't move on his own and is thus helpless to do much of anything. He also can't speak in a traditional way, either, only able to toss out vending machine slogans like "Thank you!" or other such phrases. This means that he's the only one who knows what he's truly thinking or experiencing and can't communicate any of this to anyone else. The only thing he can physically do is dispense items, but even this is limited. The only items inside of Boxxo are items that he himself had purchased from vending machines in his previous life, so even this skill has drawbacks. Even in other shows where characters become slimes, spiders or other seemingly useless things, they can still speak and move on their own.
Thankfully for Boxxo, the horror of his situation isn't played up -- or at least not for too long. Instead, the series puts more focus on the adventure and inherent humor of the situation, though it's been criticized for falling into the genre's fantasy and RPG tropes in the process. Thankfully for isekai fans who want to read what the weird series is all about, Yen Press has translated and published the series in English, and it's available for purchase through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million and other book providing retailers. Just try not to focus on how horrifying everything logically should be.