Another isekai show makes it onto my review list, and it won’t be the last either. So why have I always been so hesitant in watching isekai shows? What it is about them that is usually an immediate turn-off for me? Well I think it could simply be down to the fact that most, if not nearly all, of them have the same kind of story, setting, and character design. Some poor sap passes away mysteriously, and then finds themselves transported into some fantasy world where they get a chance to redeem themselves for living such a terrible life in the real world.
Saying that though, the isekai genre has been around for so long now, the definition itself gets looser and looser. We have gone from the likes of Re:Zero and Ascendance of a Bookworm, with a somewhat simplistic plot of redemption after death, to shows like Sword Art Online and No Game No Life, where the protagonists don’t die and are instead transported to a video game-like world. So with the isekai genre not going away any time soon, how is In Another World With My Smartphone any different from the other non-descript isekai shows that come out very season now?
Using the tried-and-tested plot of reincarnation after death, In Another World With My Smartphone tells the story of Touya Mochizuki, who gets the chance to live again in a fantasy world. However as an apology, God allows Touya to take his smartphone with him. In this new world, he meets a variety of characters…all girls, to be precise. Twin sister adventurers Elze and Linze, Eastern girl Yae, noble girls Sushie and Yumina, and fairy girl Leen. Touya finds out that, via God’s interventions, he is able to learn magic very quickly, and thus makes his way to become a respectable person of society, smartphone in hand.
The hardcore isekai fans will take a look at In Another World With My Smartphone and find a lot of pros and cons. I think one big pro is that it has a far more relaxed pace than other big-name shows. Touya is just one guy who wants to live a fairly normal life again here in this other world. He’s not really aiming to be someone important, and he is a really likeable guy. He’s the kind of guy that would be on a student council but not strive to be the president, or part of the soccer team but not aim to be a striker adored by many. He’s a cute kid, but no-one outstanding…
…and that’s precisely the problem. The fact that he’s no-one important and that there is no end-goal here is what is a big negative. The show doesn’t start very strong at all, and these first impressions immediately give us the idea that the entire show will be like this, and it does end up like this. Episode 1 features Touya arriving in this new world, meeting Elze and Linze, joining a guild, fighting their first quest together, Touya discovering he can use pretty much any kind of magic, and later bring ice cream (of all things) to this new world. Sounds like a lot for the first episode, with a lot of points for the viewer to be entertained with, right? The thing is, however, is that it is just not executed very well. In fact, I’d go as far as say that it is executed very poorly. We watch these things that the main cast get up to in each episode and we ask ourselves, “Do we even care?”.
It’s conflicting, because I didn’t see anything wrong with the character design, or this new world that was built (despite it being fairly predictable). As I said, Touya is a kind and selfless guy who’s nice to everyone, and the main harem is pretty bland but not unlikeable. Funny how, as I browsed online for feedback on the show, someone put out the idea that Touya is basically Kirito on steroids. Well yeah, he definitely is alright. Touya is so incredibly overpowered, that the fact that he can do so much can get pretty unexciting to watch.
That was one complaint I did have with shows like Sword Art Online and Mahouka, in that the main protagonist was such a Mary Sue character that it just wasn’t fun anymore. Another non-isekai show that I adore, Gatchaman Crowds, has this same issue; its main protagonist, Hajime Ichinose, is portrayed as such a Mary Sue in the show, that it can really put off a lot of people (it even devotes half of one episode to the other characters talking about how wonderful she is). Anime viewers like to watch flaws in characters; that’s what makes them entertaining, and in turn likable. We get the opportunity to poke fun at them when they do something wrong, and so when it comes to our main protagonist Touya, despite fitting firmly into the ‘nice guy’ role, his godlike powers in this new world become very dull to watch very quickly.
I also made the point of the show not having any kind of end-goal. There’s no world to be saved by a nasty antagonist, or powerful monsters to be vanquished, or apocalypses to be averted. All of the characters, Touya in particular, don’t really give off any emotion or drama when things go wrong; to them, it’s more like a ‘Oh well…’ instead of a ‘OH NO!!!!!’. Also, because we don’t get to see what kind of person Touya was like at his high-school or with his family, we don’t develop that much of a connection with him like we do with some other isekai main protagonists. Towards the end of the show, we get more fan-service, and the girls begin to develop some more feelings towards their new lord and savior Touya. We watch the atypical tsundere, princess, uber-shy and mysterious girls all vying for Touya’s affection, but because Touya seems to just act fairly nonchalant and sometimes emotionless, we get even more of an impression that this harem (or rather the introduction of a harem) was pretty pointless.
Touya and his harem don’t encounter any real tension or encounter any massive danger that results in any long-lasting conflict in the group. Now to some that could be considered a good thing. While isekai fans like their action-packed shows, there are others who prefer more relaxed ones, and In Another World With My Smartphone is exactly that. Action-packed isekai can only get so fun to watch before they get predictable. In fact, I’d go as far as say that the isekai genre has become so predictable now that they only really cater for the devoted genre fans, and that any regular follower would find more fun in something else. The devoted genre fans would find a lot to enjoy here, and everyone else would switch to something else very quickly.
In Another World With My Smartphone is different from some of the other well-known isekai shows, in that it is so incredibly dull. Even though the character designs are fine, they themselves get boring to watch. Even though the world-building is fine, we get easily bored of it. And even though the plot is okay, it gets very predictable, and we grow to just not care. It isn’t a terrible show, but it isn’t a great one either. You can even think of a lot of other lesser-known isekai shows that don’t quite have the impact that the likes of Re:Zero, The Rising Of The Shield Hero and Sword Art Online have, and they can be more entertaining and engaging to watch…even that weird one about the big-bosomed and incredibly over-powered mother who is transported to a new world along with her son has running gags that we can chuckle at. It’s an easy-going and incredibly relaxed show, yes.
A fluffy and harmless anime to watch. An isekai show without the action, conflict, drama or high emotions. Whether you interpret that as a good thing or a bad thing is up to you.