Novice linguist Hakaba wasn’t originally supposed to go to the Netherworld. His professor, a renowned expert in monster languages, was supposed to go but when he’s injured it’s Hakaba who is sent into the field instead for a one year research trip. Hakaba is already an enthusiast when it comes to studying the languages used by the dozens and dozens of monsters in the Netherworld but, along with the professor’s half-werewolf daughter Susuki as his guide, some of this work is going to involve a very steep learning curve for him.
Heterogenia Linguistico reminded me a little bit of Delicious in Dungeon; the covers are stylized similarly (in both English and Japanese) and Hakaba reminds me a bit of a more reserved Laos, although he’s horrified by the idea of eating intelligent monsters (even when it’s a common funeral practice) unlike Laos. Overall the series are more different than they are similar, but if you are a fan of Delicious in Dungeon I do recommend you try this out and see if this non-traditional “adventure” story is also up your alley.
And of course, anyone interested in linguistics should check this story out and see if they get a kick out of it! I have a passing interest in linguistics (i.e, a few late-night Wikipedia binges) and as far as I can tell the basic concepts presented here are correct. As Hakaba approaches the werewolf village at the beginning of his trip, he explains that many monster languages make use of words that are spoken when inhaled, not exhaled, and with a little cross-diagram demonstration to boot. It’s there you realize that Salt Seno must be truly interested in languages as well, and that they didn’t didn’t simply pick this topic out of a hat or such. There are so many little details like that wouldn’t be top of mind for most fantasy creators, like vibration-based communication and how even monsters have to learn each other’s languages.
Since Hakaba is going to spend an entire year in the Netherworld and his objective is to simply observe and record everything he can about monster languages, there no real sense of urgency in this manga which gives it an almost laid-back feeling (although Hakaba is a little too concerned about making a good impression to be very laid-back himself). It’s definitely more like a slice-of-life travelogue than a plot-driven quest story and I found myself reading just a little at a time, not because it got repetitive per-say but for me it worked better as a palate cleanser than as a main dish.
The art, like the story, is the simple side, with a rather restrained use of screen tones which contributes to the slow-life feeling of the story. Unsurprisingly, there is a lot of talking in this series but Seno does a good job at keeping the dialogue boxes from over-crowding the art and, when Hakaba runs into monsters who use gestures instead of spoken words to communicate, the art is able to keep up and more or less demonstrate what is being said (although, even Hakaba has a hard time following that particular language). With a premise like this there are an infinite numbers of situations that Hakaba can encounter next and I think I’ll stick around for his sabbatical year down under.