Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Anime Review: Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni

Originally, I passed up on this anime. It seems that since Saga of Tanya the Evil received such great praise, "dying and being sent to another, magic-filled, world" type anime are getting made left and right. In other words, it's part of the 'copy-pasta' craze that has been hitting the anime (and manga, and light novel) scene for the past decade. There seems to be absolutely zero shame in completely ripping off whatever schtick a popular, original anime that made it successful. Further, these anime always appear in the off-season of whatever they're copying in the hopes that people hungry for more will jump on it. Anyways, enough of that blog-in-the-making rant...

The Story
The premise is interesting, despite the obvious copying. Who wouldn't like to get a second chance in life in a world much more interesting than your own. These type of stories fall into what I consider the, "God Modeing" sub-genre. It's been a rising theme in a lot of novels since Amazon made it incredibly easy to publish somewhat successfully via their kindle ebooks. I named it after the distasteful role play practice of dictating what happens with complete disregard of the other role players, essentially making yourself a god.

So how is Isekai (shortened because the name is just too long...) 'god-modeing?' Well, first, the protagonist is allowed to come back to life after dying. Not only that, but God is extremely apologetic for his death and allows him to come back in a magic-filled world along with any one request the protagonist has to help give him an advantage in this new world. This story is unlike the others (Tanya or Magic & Knight) in that the protagonist isn't reborn. He enters this new world exactly as he currently is.

The protagonist chooses to take his Smartphone with him. "He, that's dumb! He can't charge it or use the internet, so what's the use?" Well, the protagonist thinks of this and god tells him he can use the magic - which he assures the protagonist that he will be able to use in 'no time' - and he'll allow any non-direct communication with his original world. That means he can use the internet so long as he isn't using it to talk directly to other people. So he has the internet and access to way to charge the battery of his phone. He also gets God's phone number, of course.

Further, God gives the protagonist one last gift before sending him on his way. He 'boosts all his abilities' and essentially makes him super human. This is made apparent in the first episode when the protagonist is in a fight, with all his opponents movements being in slow-motion and being able to strike them down in a single hit. Of course, he does this to save two young and beautiful girls.

Now that the protagonist finds himself on this world, cell-phone or no he has no money and has no idea what to do. Sure, he has a map of the world on his Smartphone that he can follow just like a real-world GPS map, but there's still no money to use once he's there. Lucky for the protagonist, he is immediately approached by a wealthy merchant who deals in clothes who wants to purchase what he is wearing because it's so outlandish and unique. Everything from his school jacket to his boxers. So there's his money issues completely solved for the foreseeable future.

You might notice something. So far the protagonist has had zero struggle in this new world. It's obvious that once he does have a struggle, it's going to either be incredibly easy to over come or some world-changing event that has absolutely no build up and can't really be topped without doing the exact same thing again. In otherwords, there isn't much of an actual structured story and there's no real struggle. It's exactly what any random person would come up with in a random afternoon of day dreaming. Why would you give your day-dream self any real struggles? You would have more fun in a sandbox world where you're essentially a god, right? It's great for day dreaming, lame for story telling and it gets boring really quick.

Essentially, this type of story isn't good for anything other than a short story, a novella, or a one-shot. It's certainly not suitable for a series of 20-minute episodes where this theme has to be stretched so far. It'll be popular with the fan-fiction crowd and those who are into the lighter, main-stream anime. And the internet means that almost anything will have an audience. But it's not a great story, even if it fulfills a niche that a lot of us want to indulge in every once in a while. Including me.

So, as an overview: We have a weak story, with a weak world, with a weak protagonist. This protagonist has everything handed to him so there's no struggle to make the story interesting. And despite having everything handed to him, the protagonist is such a weak character that he doesn't even do anything interesting. He doesn't take the world by storm and make himself a king. He doesn't become an amazing merchant by using his smartphone to recreate the industry in the world. No, he becomes an adventurer. The only reason this was made into an anime is that anime apparently have become incredibly cheap to make.

The World
This is a pretty big part of this type of anime. It's even more important than the protagonist, honestly. The world in Isekai is your typical fantasy game world. There's generic inns, large towns in places that make no sense, guilds for adventurers, quest boards, etc... Basically if you've ever played a somewhat generic open-world RPG, you've got the world of Isekai.  Whoever came up with it had no real interest in building the world, and apparently preferred to focus on the protagonsit (and failed at developing him into someone really interesting...) and that results in a rather bland experience across the board.

Magic is prolific in this world, as you might expect. I'm hoping that a similar anime will appear at some point with a sci-fi setting rather than fantasy magic. But then again, the point of these types of stories is to put the modern-day protagonist in a situation where he can be super-human and essentially a god. A random High Schooler or Salary Man (unless it's the guy from Tanya, I guess) won't have much success in a sci-fi setting unless the author/creator is incredibly good. Anyways, the magic is your typical fair found in generic fantasy anime.

In typical shit-show fashion, the world is filled with beautiful, attractive young women who are into fighting. So this means this is a harem anime. Oh yeah, because the artist, animators, and writers all suck... it is also a comedy. And when I say comedy, I mean that it's unfunny trash. All the jokes fall flat, all the gags are dumb, and every piece of world lore is stolen, borrowed, and twisted from some other work.

The Artwork
Is incredibly bad. This is the same style of artwork you would expect from a low-budget 1980's hentai. If you've never seen one, or an anime of a similar caliber, it essentially means that the animators do whatever they can to avoid movement in the animation. On top of that, the backgrounds are... well, they look good but too good. They have no personality to them. For example, the protagonist finds himself in a sizeable fantasy medieval town. There's no horse poop on the roads, no dirt on the walls, no tons of horses or carriages (remember, avoiding movement is their MO). No, there's nothing but pristine artwork with very little faint hints of wear in the stonework.

To give you an idea how bad the artwork is, the facial animations are completely static. Occasionally, for an important character, you might get some minor eye animation. However, for literally every character they use just a repeated mouth animation whenever they are supposed to be talking. Nothing matches what is being said. There is very little variation, if any, in any particular scene. It's just the same "open-close" whenever they talk.

The completely aversion to movement is incredibly apparent. There's no special techniques to cover it, no plot device that might help make much movement unnecessary. No, this is supposed to be an action anime with lots of combat and the animators can't even be assed to use more than three or four frames when a character is pulling a piece of paper off a board. I feel like this anime maybe had two people working on it, that's how bad it is.

Speaking of action, though... The action scenes are just as static as any other. All the movement is done by flashy colored backgrounds and camera pans that imply movement. But really, there is none. "Why even make an anime?" is all I can think while watching this. I truly feel bad to all the people who worked on this because they're obviously not that great at what they do, otherwise they wouldn't be in a situation where they have to scramble for any work they can find. I am not surprised that I had a difficult time finding any actual names of people who worked on this project. I imagine that they all (rightfully) feel ashamed of themselves.

Fuck off. Seriously, anyone that had a hand in the creation of  this shit-show needs to take a step back from anime and re-think their lives. You're all failures and you contribution to humanity is less than a flies swarming around a pile of cow shit. Never watch this trash, I beg you. Wait patiently for Tanya to restart, or avoid the Isekai genre all together. If you ever die and god gives you the chance to come back, beg to experience your own 'isekai' adventure and revive in literally any world that this crap does not exist. It's horrible, not worth watching, and should be avoided at all costs.