Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest (Season One Review)

Well, this is it. I believe Arifureta is the final isekai anime of Summer 2019 to finish up. The anime season that could very well be labelled as the season of mediocre isekai anime… or perhaps even stronger language could be used here.

Arifureta is not exempt from that either. Summer 2019 was truly the season where the isekai genre has seemingly overstayed its welcome. I’ve always been a fan of the genre, but it seems that with the anime industry seeing it as a way to make a quick buck, things are quickly changing.

Was Arifureta just another nail in the coffin for the isekai genre?

Arifureta Spoilers Ahead!

Individual Episode Reviews

If you’d like to see my thoughts on each individual episode prior to writing this review, you can find them all here.

A Brief Synopsis

Arifureta’s story goes something like this: an entire class of students and their teacher are transported to another world as heroes. Our protagonist, Hajime, is betrayed by one of his classmates and falls into the abyss of a deep labyrinth. He is then forced to eat monster flesh in order to survive – something that makes him very powerful. He then traverses the labyrinth, meets a companion in a 300 year old vampire named Yue, and finishes the labyrinth.

There he unlocks the ability to transmute essentially anything, allowing him to create all sorts of modern vehicles and weaponry. We learn that more powerful magic is locked away in other labyrinths scattered around the world. They go to the surface, and clear another labyrinth. More girls join the party, including a bunnygirl (Shea), a dragon that can turn into a human (Tio), and a young mermaid girl.

Finally, they go back to the original labyrinth where Hajime rescues his former classmates from danger.

From Commonplace to World’s Strongest In A Single Episode

Perhaps the biggest letdown of Arifureta was the introduction itself. Despite the anime’s name, Hajime becomes overpowered in the very first episode. There’s no “commonplace” in this anime. And that’s because the pacing was so fast that we never got to see the Commonplace Hajime. Instead, we essentially started the anime with “Strong” Hajime, who then became “World’s Strongest” once he cleared the first labyrinth and was able to create any weapon he desired.

My problem with this is that the core premise of the anime, which is progression from commonplace to strongest, doesn’t actually take place in the anime. Personally I think it’s a bit of a shame that we didn’t get a slower pace, with more buildup and progression of Hajime’s character. There was not much in terms of progression in this anime, once the first labyrinth was cleared. They cleared a second labyrinth, and the rest didn’t feel very relevant to the overall goal of clearing labyrinths in order to find a way back home.

There’s an argument to be made whether this was explicitly a negative or not, personally I didn’t like the way that Hajime’s character growth was handled. However, character progression isn’t necessarily required for an isekai anime. While it IS implied in the title, it’s not required.

Drastic Tonal Shift

And so, while many could point to the lack of character development and “botched” introduction as the main issue with Arifureta, I would argue that the lack of a consistent tone is actually its biggest drawback.

Arifureta starts out with a very dark and gritty tone. Hajime is trapped in darkness, he’s angry, and he is forced to consume monster flesh to survive. He goes through a process of changing into a much more cynical individual. While in the labyrinth, Hajime is forced to fight enemies and survive, all while trusing no one. This tone carries on for the first few episodes, and it quickly set my expectations to that of a “dark tone”.

Very soon after leaving the labyrinth with Yue, the tone changes. The goofy and loud bunnygirl Shea, is introduced. We start seeing more fan service. The anime begins introducing more jokes and comedy. Then Tio, the masochist, is introduced. And finally, the mermaid girl is introduced, and she becomes Hajime’s “daughter”. In other words, the tone shifted from “dark”, to something else – something I’ll call “cutesy harem”.

But wait, because we’re not done yet! After many episodes of a more cutesy tone, the anime suddenly decides to go BACK to a dark tone in the final two episodes. And so we see Hajime’s former classmates struggling to survive in the dark labyrinth against a demon and various monsters. We see Hajime arrive and unleash hell, eventually killing them all.

And then, the anime ends on a cutesy note with Hajime and his harem, with newly joined Kaori (former classmate and human priestess), driving off.

So my ultimate question is… which is it?

Is Arifureta a dark and gritty anime? Or a cutesy harem anime?
Because these two tones don’t exactly mix very well.

The fact that Arifureta failed to be consistent in this area is my biggest issue with the anime. Hajime is established as a cynical and edgy character, but for majority of the anime he’s actually a big softie who surrounds himself with girls. It just doesn’t work. You could actually remove Hajime and just turn Arifureta into a “cute girls doing cute things” anime pretty effectively I think.

The way I see it, Hajime would be better off as a lone wolf, either travelling alone or with very select companions. But that’s another topic altogether.

Dropped Themes

Arifureta also has a few other mishaps – it introduces something, only to drop it completely as if it never existed. So allow me to bring up a the two that came to mind:

Hajime’s “Learning” Ability

When Hajime first ate monster flesh, he quickly healed himself using holy water and then realized that by eating monster flesh he could gain the abilities of the monster he had consumed. He begins consuming one of each unique monster he encounters… only once he leaves the labyrinth, he never uses this ability again. To my knowledge, at least.

Yue’s Vampirism + Regeneration

When we first meet Yue, we learn that she was a powerful vampire who was betrayed by her uncle and imprisoned in the labyrinth because her regenerative abilities were so powerful, that she was essentially immortal. After she is freed by Hajime, she drinks his blood maybe twice, and then we never hear anything about her being an incredibly powerful immortal vampire ever again.

The CGI

I won’t spend too much time on the CGI of Arifureta, but I think it’s fair to at least mention it. All of the major enemies fought in the anime are CGI, while our protagonist and friends are not. Whether or not you like the look of the CGI in this anime is up to you, I’ll provide a few images so you can judge, my issue with the CGI was simply that it takes away from the fights.

Basically there was sort of an issue with the way fights played out. 2D attacks on a 3D enemy didn’t seem to translate very well, and so instead of getting dynamic fights where the enemy reacts properly to being shot at or hit, instead the CGI monster would just sort of wiggle around and we’d get some groaning sounds. But it just didn’t look right.

Anyways, it’s hard to describe, but I wasn’t a fan of the way the CGI monsters interacted with being attacked during fights.

However, I will point out that Hajime’s weapons that were also CGI at many points in the show looked good. It doesn’t solve the disconnect of the 3D models seemingly taking no damage during fights, but there were some moments where his guns looked pretty badass.

Backgrounds

On the bright side though, many of the backgrounds and environments we see throughout the anime were stellar. Some had a 3D look to them, others didn’t. But there were many moments where it truly felt like a fantasy world come alive. Despite the CGI monsters themselves being awkward, for the most part this anime had some very powerful visuals.

The Other Characters

I’ve mentioned Hajime’s progression, but how about the rest of the cast? How were they?

Well, not amazing.

Yue, The 300 Year Old Vampire

Yue, to start off, was essentially an emotionless doll the entire anime. While she became Hajime’s “lover”, she failed to actually show any emotion beyond a slight blush or smile here and there. The one exception was when Hajime was on death’s door after the hydra fight, but I feel like her emotionless state never fully perfected itself until after they left the first labyrinth anyways. Once she was exposed to other female characters, she became a lifeless doll.

Instead of an interesting and dynamic vampire with a long history, she played the role of Hajime’s lapdog, following him around and echoing his sentiments.

If anything Yue felt like lost potential, especially when I think of more interesting vampires. Shinobu from the Monogatari Series, for example, is a immortal vampire who has a very dynamic and pointed personality. She’s proud, she usually knows more than those around her, and knows what she wants. In comparison, Yue is just.. there. Nothing noteworthy. No personality.

Shea, The Bunnygirl

While Shea’s existence felt contrary to the entire dark tone the anime had established early on, with her clutzy demeanor and fan service oriented design, I came to like Shea quite a bit. She’s a pretty cliche character, filling the “airhead with a heart” role, but she fills it well. Shea had a fun and energetic personality and just brought more life to the series – although, once again, she did contribute in changing Arifureta’s tone.

Tio, The Masochist

Not much to say here, Tio, while sporting an excellent appearance, was a joke character for the most part. Immediately after we meet her, she became a masochist joke character. She had some powerful magic, but that seemed secondary to the fact that she’s a masochist. No personality beyond that either.

Myuu, The Mermaid “Daughter”

I finally had to look up her name. Despite Tio being a joke character, Myuu managed to become the most useless character of the season. To my knowledge, Myuu doesn’t have any powers, she doesn’t do anything special. She’s just a child that joins Hajime’s party, just because. She’s basically a vessel for “father – daughter” jokes. Her very existence is unnecessary. And yet, she exists. Just for those jokes.

The Action

It’s not all bad at least for Arifureta. In my opinion, despite the CGI throwing a wrench in the works at times, I thought the action overall for the anime was quite good. Hajime and his gunplay were a nice twist to traditional fantasy settings, and I really enjoyed watching him blast away at monsters. The magic and effects used for magic were also very nice to watch.

I’d have liked to see a little less “cutesy harem” and more action like what we got in the first two episodes, but at the very least the action we did get was enjoyable.

Rating

As you can probably tell, I think Arifureta was a disappointment. But, I’d like to say that most of my issues with the anime were aspects of the anime that if changed, could have lead to an amazing anime. So basically, the potential was absolutely there, as it often is in fantasy / isekai settings.

I’m giving Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest a 5.5 / 10.

The ideas were there, the possibilities were there, but what we got was a mess of an anime that couldn’t seem to decide if it was a gritty isekai or a cutesy harem, complete with a mess of a cast.

There were some fun moments, but overall this was just another case of too many mishaps and a botched execution.

If you’re going to watch this one, binge it. I think it’ll be much better to watch in a one or a few sittings than one episode per week. Weekly viewing just exposes the issues that much more.

In the end, Arifureta was yet another isekai anime that tried to cash in on the isekai craze and simply failed to impress. While a second season has been announced, and it may have achieved some financial success, it doesn’t change the fact that this anime was a complete mess with a serious identity crisis.

To be fair though, it wasn’t the worst isekai of this season. It was actually one of the better ones, if not the best one, surprisingly. I never watched the mom isekai, but I’ve heard it didn’t really deliver either. And I’ve written reviews of Maou-sama, Retry! and Isekai Cheat Magician that you can check out if you’re curious.

So, Arifureta ended up earning a “best of the worst” title here. And that’s why I mentioned earlier that the isekai genre seems to be losing its touch as it becomes more mass produced.

I probably won’t cover the next season, but my curiosity may get the better of me. After all, sometimes the second season can actually bring an anime back from the dead, like what happened with Rewrite’s second season.

We’ll just have to see when the time comes.

Until next time,
Thanks for reading.

4 thoughts on “Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest (Season One Review)

  1. Yeah, I was disappointed that Hajime barely used any of the abilities he gained from the monster flesh. They could have really made the fights epic if he’d mixed it up between the magical abilities and gunplay, but like you said, lots of potential and not a lot of realisation.

    Liked by 1 person

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