Oigakkosan’s Summer 2019 Anime Season Wrap-up

Arifureta began as a grim, visually unremarkable dungeon crawler, hinting at global conflicts and structures of political and social control… before devolving into guy-shoots-monsters-gets-harem-rinse-repeat. Pitting guns, missiles and motorcycles against orcs and wolves is tricky to make compelling, and Arifureta’s mediocre animation, slow plot, and constant battles doesn’t help.

Worse shows aired this season but few featured dragons being anally raped by the protagonist with a giant metal spike, nor said dragon joining said protagonist’s harem afterwards. However, and I’m going out on a limb here, even if this is up your personal kink, Arifureta’s PG-13 sensibilities probably wont go far enough for you. Niche at best, Barely Watchable for the rest of us.

Dr Stone is delightfully consistent with it’s focus on science process, over the top characters, and methodical plot to rebuild society from the stone age up. While its medium term objective (defeat super-strong/ super evil antagonist with science) has taken a back seat to gaining support of the villagers Senko discovered mid-season, its not forgotten.

We’ve learned about electricity, food chemistry, and glass as much as human nature, motivation and weakness. Hand in hand with lovable characters and charming visual style, Dr Stone is probably my most recommended show of the season.

Given’s relationship story is lovely, thoughtful, and matured with deeper issues of loss. The wow is in the details. From taking a dozen buses just to stand by the ocean, just to stand where you once stood with a close friend, to walking off stage after only one song, Given doesn’t over explain itself with dialog.  It’s solid but, like real romance, the best parts come from getting to know the characters. So I called it quits after episode six. Still, highly recommended

Granbelm finally developed an emotional core: Mangetsu is a magic puppet created by Ernesta’s subconscious desire to have a friend who isn’t an effed up mess. Also, despite earlier signs that losing wasn’t that big a deal, it has been revealed that girls die all the time in magic fights but no one remembers because… magic amnesia.

These are solid reveals and Mangetsu’s heart filled good bye to the cast (almost all of which immediately forget she ever existed) was strongly delivered. It just took way too long to develop. Combined with a dull pure evil villain, power levels that swing at the whim of the story, and Granbelm’s misunderstanding of what a mystery is (as opposed to just being confusing) and the show is only watchable.

Maou-sama, Retry! started off so absurdly bad, so generically Demon Lord/Isekai, that it had a certain charm. As it strolled forward, it took no greater objective than to introduce new characters to Maou’s harem, and forget about previous characters and potential destinations for the story. Aku hasn’t even been in the previous two episodes. The result is powerfully without purpose. It doesn’t care. You shouldn’t either. Barely watchable.

UchiMusume also suffers from a lack of purpose and follow through. For a show that features a central character who’s past is a mystery, and a hero who occasionally kills people for political gain, there’s an awful lot of wandering around aimlessly and eating food!

The result is harmlessly cute but smidgens of world building do not make up for a four episode long trip to and from a village to buy a new trench coat. It’s Barely watchable.

Isekai, Ranked

If Anime is escapism, there is no better way to escape than Isekai’s theme of plunging Into Another World, where our niche skills and routine possessions may shake the fabric of reality! From MMO-inspired, to hard fantasy, there are many types of Isekai on this list. However, there are no movies, nor series we haven’t seen recently. Bring all disagreements to the comments below!

1. Re:Zero − Starting Life in Another World
Re:Zero takes Isekai’s love for fish-out-of-water stories on step further: through brutal, expectation breaking blind sides, it makes the viewer a fish out of water too! Dripping with fantastic animation, Re:Zero’s true strength is the balance of its highly detailed world without over explaining its magic system, time loop mechanic and political systems. It also earns bonus points for  limiting the application of its protagonist’s powerful magic and technological advantages.

2. Sword Art Online (1st season) 
In the narrowest of second places, SAO pairs top shelf animation with an approachable cast and easy to appreciate central conflict. Put its lovingly constructed MMO setting aside, and Kirito’s mistakes and occasional darkness elevate him above his potentially generic good-at-everything character type and Asuka plays the strongest heroine/love interest on the list.

3. Now and Then, Here and There
Imagine if Digimon told a bleak story about sex trafficking child soldiers trapped on a waterless world with a maniac king? NTHT’s intense swerve from adorable into darkness is on par with Re:Zero and, much like Natsuki Subaru, HTHT’s Shu must rely on ‘durability’ and ‘heart’ to make it through. While some of it’s later tragic moments are predictable, this f’ed-up little anime scores major points for telling a complete story and having that story grow Shu from simpleton into a conflicted young adult.

4. Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet
While Ledo’s post-earth scifi origin may stretch the common definition of Isekai, being trapped in a primitive culture that treats him (and his AI-driven mech Chamber) like a hero of old does not. Beautifully, Gargantia flips the script and makes Red’s overwhelming power, and killing in general, counter productive and at odds with the local people.

5. Yōjo Senki / The Saga of Tanya the Evil
Give us World War I with magic, a gender swapped villain as our protagonist, and God as our antagonist, and you’ve given us something pretty damn original. Like Gargantia, this reborn in another world captures thinking differently about the world can be as powerful and terrifying as unworldly strength. Without question, Yojo Senki’s cast is the most uniquely imagined on this list.

6. No Game No Life
Like Tanya, the Blank twins piss off god and are sent to another world as punishment. However, their punishment is much more stylish and… harem. Underneath NGNL’s acid-soaked panties, over the top protagonists and the psychedelic color pallet, is a show featuring thoughtful puzzles and imaginative spins on classic gamble-to-win story telling. Sadly, its story ends unfinished…

7. KonoSuba
One part jab at Isekai and one part love letter to the starting town of every fantasy MMO, KonoSuba is all parts ruthlessly funny! While this reborn in another world (with a goddess!) show is not as smartly written as NGNL, and it becomes repetitive after a time, the constant frenetic action more than makes up for it.

8. Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash
Quiet, thoughtful, and full of sadness, this hard fantasy Isekai doesn’t care if its heroes are reborn in another world or trapped in a dungeon crawl afterlife. Building family bonds and connecting with people who would not normally be friends is all that matters… and it’s lovingly animated to boot!

9. ReCreators
As a reverse Isekai, ReCreators distinguishes itself by bringing the other world to us. The experience is fantastically animated and packed with clever dialog that somehow breaths sincerity into a profoundly silly plot. The cast is quite diverse, both in design and personality, which keeps the action fresh, yet somehow cohesive throughout. It’s only major flaw is, the final act, which is way to drawn out.

10. The Devil is a Part Timer
No I’m not kidding! This reverse Isekai’s premise that the Devil is trapped in our world and must work at McDonnald’s to get by is charming. While DiaPT’s humor isn’t particularly specific to the devil, the jokes are punchy, and the overall plot develops at a respectable pace. As an added treat, the opening gothic fantasy fight scenes are surprisingly well animated.

11. Log Horizon (1st season)
Most exposition heavy, trapped in an MMO themed Isekai featuring ‘top ranked’ players crumble after a few episodes. More often than not, these shows try too hard to sell the coolness of their game worlds, user interfaces, and central characters. Miraculously, Log Horizon gets better mid season with a simple question: if former NPCs have personalities, can grow and learn, and even die, are they more human than the former players that dismiss them as background texture? Still, it takes Log Horizon six episodes to get going and good lord is it gray looking…

12. Overlord (3 Seasons)
This transported into an MMO Isekai mirrors its main character: it is competent but not sure what it should be doing at any given moment. Sometimes the protagonists are villains and sometimes they are heroes. More often than not, characters are given lavish screen time to develop, only to be slaughtered whimsically. The resulting narrative is full of call backs and revealed foreshadowing… yet hasn’t gone very far in 3 seasons and hasn’t asked any interesting questions along the way.

13. El Hazard – The Magnificent World (OAV/TV)
Predestined paradox, trans-dimensional time jumping high school students (and their drunk gym teacher) are trapped in an Arabian Nights’like land besieged by sentient bugs, a secret tribe of assassins from another dimension, and a death star like eye of god orbiting nearby. If you watched anime in the 1990s it will all be familiar but it still manages to feel original yet cohesive production. The character abilities are wonderful, the tragedy is nice, and plenty is left up to your own imagination to fill in the blanks. A bland, fault free, protagonist and a boy-crazy harem vibe are the only reasons it isn’t higher on the list.

14. Gate: Jieitai Kano Chi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri
This invading the other world Isekai flips the script to deliver political intrigue, clash of culture, and commentary on Japanese society. It loses points for being a overly harem, relying on super dumb/super evil antagonists, and a dull protagonist but it’s fun enough to watch.

15. Juuni Kokuki (The Twelve Kingdoms)
This brought back to the world you actually were born in Isekai begins with a whiney good-girl who doesn’t want to be queen pissing off her not-friend, who would really like to live in another world, but no one cares, because she’s not the chosen one. Whiney protagonist who has limited agency over the plot aside, that central theme, and the magic and political intrigue around it grow nicely over time. Sadly, the second arc introduces a new character, tons of vocabulary heavy exposition, and just drags. The result is a slightly dated looking show but completely watchable show.

16. Drifters
Stylishly violent, strikingly ugly, historical character filled and utterly bonkers, this reborn in another world Isekai’s uniqueness will hold your attention. Even if you do not want it to.

17. Rise of the Shield Hero (2 Seasons)
On paper, this transported to an MMO world Isekai’s “treat the hero like crap,” “watch him accept the role of a slave-buying villain” and ultimately “rise to become the true hero” concept is great. Revealing that the world he’s saving may be less redeemable than the world the invaders are trying to save is also great. Too bad its padded and many of the arbitrary delays and narrative dead ends feel like cop outs.

18. That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
While it lacks the initial hardcore’ness of Shield Hero, this reborn in another world Isekai is pleasantly animated and full of heart. The idea that naming monsters grants them power is a pretty neat mechanic too. It just sort bounces from idea to idea without a sense of purpose of resolution. One minute it’s a story of unlikely friendship, then magic destiny, then town builder, then harem, and onto magic school and isn’t about anything in particular until a hastily thrown together plot ties it up at the end. It scores points for making its hero a slime… although the reborn aspect never feels played with or justified.

19. Angel Beats!
If the gun fetish, kids fighting a loli-angel instead of attending school in the afterlife plot weren’t so dumb and drawn out, this rebirth story’s touching moments would push it much higher. There’s a really good tale of life cut short, reunion after death, and again after rebirth here and it gets major bonus points for finishing the story it had to tell. Totally squandered.

20. Death March / Kara Hajimaru Isekai Kyousoukyoku
Like Shield Hero, this reborn in an MMO Isekai is actually quite good looking. However, its Gary-Stue protagonist, harem and absurd narrative padding make it far less interesting.  OMG how many episodes are about making lunch?! That’s too bad because the concept of code-like “copy and paste” magic system is pretty neat.

21. Wiseman’s Grandson / Kenja no Mago
Despite opening with a modern day man being killed, this reborn into a fantasy world Isekai is more Magic School than Isekai. The only thread that connects the protagonist’s lives is that he can look at magic with an eye for process instead of outcome. The result is harmless easy watching but harem elements, a slow pace and lack of getting anywhere narratively hold it back.

22. How Not to Summon a Demon Lord
This summoned into an MMO Isekai starts off as charming, but ecchi-heavy, before abruptly turning dark at the end of the season. We’re talking ‘make a child watch as her best friend is slowly tortured to death’ and creepo ‘finger-bang a loli cat girl in order to give birth to the demon inside her’ level dark. While those elements elevate HNtSaDL above niche appeal of its harm and MMO content, they aren’t so interesting to earn my recommendation.

23. Problem Children are coming from Another World, Aren’t They?
T
he non-ecchi poor man’s No Game no Life features a talking cat that only some characters can understand and dreadful music. TFW smooth jazz? There’s some cuteness to be had, and the solutions to gambling games can be clever, but the overall vibe is low energy. It loses drama points because its protagonist is as smart as a god and physically stronger.

24. Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit Multi-Target Attacks?
This poor man’s Konosuba is occasionally funny, satire of RPG conventions and family relationships. Mama’s skill that interrupts whatever her son is doing, no matter what it is or where he is in the game world, is particularly charming. Unfortunately, there’s no avoiding the creepo factor of sexualizing that family relationship.

25. Restaurant from Another World
My mom is secretly from another world and my restaurant’s front door connects back to that world each day is certainly unique, but it’s structured more like a food-porn show than Isekai. While the linkages of each patron become clear over time, few characters are not aware of those connections themselves. The result never feels like it gets anywhere.

26. Dot Hack//Sign
This stuck in an MMO Isekai dedicates too much animation and story to grunting, chuffing, whimpering, and sighing. Combined with a grotesque color pallet, hilariously terrible early 2000’s character designs, and awkward ‘weapon up’ pose each character takes, and it just bleeds out before you can invest in the character drama.

27. In Another World With My Smartphone
Stories without risk are still watchable when they immerse us an interesting world, or delve into niche details like food or how magic works, or hilariously us with harems and sex appeal. Smartphone fails all of these things. Worse, it does nothing with it’s one idea: protagonist Touya is reborn in a fantasy world with smartphone. Except, GOD GIVES HIM GOD TIER MAGIC FROM THE GET-GO! Ironically, Re:Zero and No Game No Life both use of a cell phones in more interesting ways, and Tanya’s God isn’t even comparable. Unoriginal, unfunny, not dramatic, not sexy, not worth watching.

28. Maou-sama, Retry!
This transported to an MMO Isekai’s trash production values, and bizarre characters are hard to take seriously. The results are sometimes so terrible they are funny, such as incompetent background music transitions and detailed horses hiding at the edges of the frame. Sadly, a bland harem and complete lack of narrative objective kill the mood.

29. Isekai Izakaya
Imagine a low energy, public access style show, with a tourism theme, that featuring a modern Japanese restaurant that serves fantasy world patrons…

30. Isekai Cheat Magician
A loveless summoned to a fantasy world Isekai who’s protagonists are the most powerful and purely good characters could deserve a niche rating. Not this one. The narrative sort of ‘skips the boring stuff’ and, in doing so, skips character development. Hilariously, what the narrative does show is poorly animated, always underwhelming magic battle scenes or people standing around talking.

31. Endride
Without dialog, this stumbled into a magic world Isekai’s vibrant color and crisp art would be watchable. The fact that the world is somehow inside of Earth’s core and the sparse use of mythology are unique, but its dumb-as-bricks whiny teen protagonists have the maturity of a small children. There are many unintentionally funny moments like scientists using gigantic laptops or the king’s magic weapon looking like a safety pin. Ultimately, the cast is so unlikeable that the show itself is unwatchable.

Maou-sama, Retry! – 07 – All or Nothing

In what amounts to a rolling, episode long battle sequence, we are introduced to:

    1. A Murder Clown, who is torn apart by Yu.
    2. Two zombie girls, who immediately get killed by Queen.
    3. The old knight “Marshal Arts,” who disappears without explanation.
    4. A sad demon girl, who dies and comes back after a flash back.
    5. The Prince of Darkness, who is killed by Dragonkin-Maou.

While there were many puns sprinkled among the character names, and it was funny that the number of Satanists in the battle would imply 1/3 of the total city population was Satanists, this was not at all a good episode. Constant move-names and pointless character introductions get dull fast and Maou isn’t even in the first half of the episode.

I’m not sure what the writers were trying to accomplish this week but the result was barely watchable. Ouch!

Maou-sama, Retry! – 06 – Dinner, Soap and Satanists

Why not dedicate another episode to Maou eating dinner? While the answer to this question should be obvious, Maou-sama, Retry! asks it anyway. The result sees Maou, Luna and Yo celebrating Aku’s ability to walk at a fancy restaurant. Maou even makes Aku a fancy cake and has the waiter bring it to the table as a surprise.

Later, a heavyset woman who wields significant influence amongst the nobility interrupts the meal and Maou introduces her to soap. SOAP. Unfortunately, satanists show up and Maou has to kill the demon they have summoned.

It is all very uneventful really. Dare i say, even more low energy than normal? At least someone got the chance to render a 3D chandelier. I’m not sure why. It’s not a very good looking render but, by God, they put it in there!

Someone also wanted to draw a demon dressed kind of like a clown with a guitar over its shoulder. Again, I’m not sure why as the guitar is not used in this episode. Maybe the guitar serves some purpose in Maou-sama, Retry the manga? (Is there a manga for this?)

Regardless, after loading several skills-as-text onto the screen, Maou beats the devil in a single hit. I found the explosion quite charming. It looked something like fireworks mixed with popcorn popping.

This week’s stand out moments included Luna being weirded out by Maou’s abrupt use of inter-party communication, and the ‘big reveal’ of Soap being his flagship item. I don’t even know what this show is about at the moment. this episode seemed mostly like an excuse to draw cake and have dinner again.

However it wasn’t unwatchable and, as a niche show, down weeks don’t really effect MSR’s score.

Maou-sama, Retry! – 05 – All’s Well that ends Well… Hop!

Beginning with a now smitten Girlish Boy declaring his need to have all the holes filleed with Aku’s dad, Maou-sama, Retry! wastes no time getting to its kink. It wastes little effort on anything else, really. Foreground characters are awkwardly posed like motionless trees around our questionably framed heroes, sound effects are cued before the animation they should sync with, and Maou-sama invents the laziest game-logic fix to a water shortage ever.

Call me crazy, but I thought it was glorious!

Notice that tiny horse the art team stuffed in the lower right hand corner? If animation is money, you know it was placed there on purpose, but for what purpose? Are we supposed to feel the horse’s distance from the party — to feel the horse’s yearning to enter Luna’s town and peek around? Should we relate to the horse’s struggle carrying people who have somehow grown larger than the horse itself?

Like the hilariously gigantic door the satanists walk through (backwards) there’s probably no thought put into Maou’s art direction. The result often feels childlike, which grants sincerity to the incompetence. Maou doesn’t know it’s bad and that knowingly bad shows like Isekai Lazy Magic every day.

I’m not going to lie — Maou is objectively not a good show. Entertainingly playful dialog like when the Bunny Girls declare “Humans get NOTICEABLY disappointed if we don’t finish each sentence with ‘hop’,” (to the chagrin of Maou) is the exception, not the rule.

Likewise, Maou creating a water wheel game-item that creates water from a dry well… because that’s what it does in game… is either a thoughtful jab at gaming conventions or just really dumb. You either love it for the niche it fills or see the 5 for what it is: a fairly low rating for any show.

Maou-sama, Retry! – 04 – Doctor Sailor Leg

Girlish Boy and Boobarian stride into the wasteland to fight the sand wolves… but there are too many so they run away! Meanwhile, Maou and Aku and Luna are riding a carriage in that general direction. Maou wants Luna to put on a sailor uniform and goes out for a smoke. He’s annoyed he needs a ton of skill points, which he gets right away by killing all the wolves.

Later, while Luna and Aku are taking a bath in his magic portable base, Maou spends skill points to summon Yu Karino, who is one of his many in game underlings. Something something mad scientist doctor, but she heals Aku’s bum leg and then falls in love with Maou.

Maou-sama Retry is an odd duck and this week’s expansion of Maou’s harem from three to seven, including a transvestite teenager and the working-man coach driver, doesn’t make it any less weird. Sure, there’s sarcasm aplenty, what with Luna now wearing a school girl uniform but I’m not even sure if Maou is aware enough of itself to be making fun of genres?

Something something production values still terrible but more enjoyable to watch than Isekai Magic Cheat. Still, remarkably little happened this episode :(

Maou-sama, Retry! – 03 – Killer Queen

The Gist: Luna bonds over a bath with Aku and Maou-sama manipulates a local merchant to buy a worthless piece of pottery for 1 giant gold coin. Meanwhile, satanists are plotting something and Luna’s older and more badass sister arrives in town.

Bad Sister doesn’t believe the Demon Lord exists but she sure as hell doesn’t think highly enough of Luna to let her go attack him on her own. Lots of swearing and a fight with the Satanists ensue. Maou sort of gets dragged into the fight but incapacitated in the process, which forces him to ‘change characters.’

Thus the Zero, Maou’s alternate good-character, is born. He’s more martial arts and melee attacks focused and totally immune to the Satanists’ special attack. Bad Sister swoons, the Satanists are defeated, and Maou is embarrassed with himself as a result.

Honestly, making the holy maidens transparently evil and having the protagonist embody both the top rank for light and dark alignments is novel enough. Maou creating the new character is out of left field and doesn’t feel earned, but it plays with the Isekai genre a bit.

However, It does not play with the harem tropes. I get that the story wants us to accept Luna’s complete conversion from enemy to follower as part of Luna’s assumption that she’s ‘tamed’ Maou through his love of her butt… but that’s both silly and too underdeveloped to work.

Retry! is beginning to remind me of Isekai Maou to Shoukan Shoujo no Dorei Majutsu, except with worse production values and funny-bad sound design. The hero posing as a villain (and the reverse) also reminds me of Maoyu: Archenemy & Hero, except that show was also had higher production values and a more interesting cast and setting.

I guess what I’m saying is Retry!’s only unique quality in the Isekai genre may be laughably bad production values, and it’s harmless nature? As long as Maou isn’t asked to impregnate anyone through their belly button, or have out of left field graphic torture scenes, or a non-ending ending like those two shows, it will probably be okay.

Yay?

Maou-sama, Retry! – 02 – Spanking The Priestess

In no particular hurry, this week’s Demon Lord adventure starts by building a residence with items from Maou’s pocket and having Aku take a bath. Maou remarks that she finally smells nice, which is a questionable observation to make while he is smoking cigarettes.

After defeating the mole-bandit tribe and spanking the Holy Maiden “Golden Luna Elegant,” Mou buys Aku some pretty dresses before going to a fancy restaurant for dinner. Elegant joins them and the other patrons note Maou’s refined taste in wine. However, it appears that neither Maou nor Aku eat the salad or dinner roles included with the meal.

Then all three go back to Maou’s expensive hotel room and settle in for a quiet evening.

MSR’s backgrounds look like posterized photography and the music design is weird too. Chiptune came blaring out of nowhere leading up to the bandit fight, only to be cut off by rock cords and then dead silence, mid way through the battle. These elements give the show a ‘made in my basement’ B-quality feel.

Maou’s response to being in another world is boredom, marked with occasional rambling dialog that no one can follow. That bandit really looks like his manager. That pronunciation sounds like Shenmue. Man he really misses Shenmue…

From animation to writing, MSR is utterly incompetent and I cannot stop laughing at it.

Ultimately your milage with MSR will depend on your enjoyment of it’s lazy production values and flippant humor. While both of these elements work to tease the other-world genre, MSR doesn’t seem entirely self aware. Sure, going to another world that was based on a poorly constructed video game that you’d worked on for several years probably would be underwhelming… but making an audience sit through that experience is a risky proposition.

MSR also tries to make some jokes about an accommodating, possibly homosexual clothing shop owner that fall flat. It’s not skin crawlingly awful but, when you include spankings and Aku’s lack of agency, theres definitely a regressive vibe.

If you’re good with that, MSR is laugh out loud terrible and I’m loving every minute!