Alternatively titled – “The Problem With Summer 2019’s Isekai Anime“.
This is just a thought I’ve had recently, something I’ve noticed while following along with the following three anime: Arifureta, Maou-sama, Retry!, and Isekai Cheat Magician (while I’m not following it here, you can find my posts on Maou-sama, Retry! over at Ecchi Hunter!). I’m not watching the isekai mom anime, so really the issue is just with the above three isekai titles.
It’s something I’ve realized thanks to these three anime, but it’s present in all sorts of anime, intentionally or unintentionally.
An overreliance on future possibilities in anime, or as I like to call it, “passing the buck”.
Essentially, I have noticed that many anime have a tendency to rely too heavily on what amounts to cliffhangers – hints of future possibility or what is to come. Instead of providing individually enjoyable episodes, they provide episodes that exist only to build up the future potential of the series. And sometimes, this spans several episodes.
I’ll give an example to make things clearer, using Maou-sama, Retry!.
I’ve been following Maou-sama, Retry! for this anime season, and something that I noticed about my episodic reviews is that I almost always mention how much I am looking forward to the next episode, to see what happens with X or Y. In fact, I would say that looking forward to X or Y is where I get majority of my enjoyment from for this anime. But I think there’s a problem here.
If my enjoyment primarily comes from speculating and anticipating future episodes, then what does this mean about the actual episodes themselves that I’ve already seen? To be honest, if it wasn’t for the enjoyment I get from anticipation of what’s to come, I wonder how much I would even enjoy Maou-sama, Retry!.
And that’s why I like to call this “passing the buck”, or you could also call it “kicking the can down the road”. Because what’s happening is I am not enjoying Maou-sama, Retry! because each individual episode on its own merits is enjoyable, but because I want to see what happens next, or see what happens with X or Y. But then if nothing happens with X or Y next episode, I have to wait another episode to see, and possibly another, and another. Basically the anime can pass the buck forward in this way, relying not on the merits of individual episodes, but on what I’m eagerly waiting to see play out.
I feel very similarly towards Arifureta, although it isn’t as bad as Maou-sama, Retry!. I find the episodes more enjoyable individually, but a large portion of my enjoyment comes from waiting for the next episode to see what happens next, not from the episodes that I’ve watched themselves.
I don’t think this is a bad thing in itself, because obviously a good anime will generate that interest in what is to come. But I’m thinking it can be a problem when it becomes the largest source of enjoyment, or the ONLY source of enjoyment.. Especially if an anime just passes the buck forward for so many episodes that it can’t possibly hope to live up to expectations once it can’t pass the buck forward anymore – unless it decides to leave the ending open for a future season that may never come.
When I compare Maou-sama, Retry! to an anime like Konosuba, I can’t help but think that every single individual episode of Konosuba, completely self-contained, is just more enjoyable to me than all of Maou-sama, Retry! and it’s possibilities. And that makes me think that maybe Maou-sama, Retry! just relies a little too much on what is to come – how will Kunai react to future events, how will characters react to meeting Kunai, what will Kunai do next… questions like this are pretty much the sole reason I am enjoying Maou-sama, Retry!. I just worry that Maou-sama, Retry! will fail to deliver in the end.
On another note, there is Isekai Cheat Magician. Which for me not only has unenjoyable individual episodes, but also gives me no real reason to want to see what happens next. It’s failed on both fronts. Failed to the point that my biggest hope is to just see some flashy action scenes, because the overarching story hasn’t generated any interest from me and the characters / episodes so far have been a bore.
A good anime will not only create a compelling overarching story that leaves viewers wanting more, but also provide plenty of fun along the way. I think that the “along the way” part is what’s missing here with Arifureta and Maou-sama, Retry!, while Isekai Cheat Magician is lacking both components.
Anyways, those are the thoughts that I had regarding the isekai anime I’ve been following this season. I’m going to see all three to the end, but I couldn’t help but think that compared to other anime I’m currently watching, the individual episodes themselves haven’t been anything special and most of my excitement for these shows is just waiting for the next episode. Because maybe something exciting will happen next episode!
That’s all I’ll write for this topic.
Naturally I’d love to hear if any of you have similar feelings, either towards the anime I’ve referenced in this post or towards something else. I’d have to go through my list but I’ve definitely felt this way for other anime that I’ve watched.
Until next time,
Thanks for reading!