Note: This will be one of my regular weekly reviews, and it should be on a regular “no later than next-day” schedule starting this coming weekend.
Rating (ep 1): 4 (of 5)
Rating (ep2): 4.5
Rating (ep 3): 3
Though Social Studies in Secondary Education was my college major, Economics was the one subject in the field that I avoided taking a collegiate-level course on, in large part because the high school version of it bored me. Hence me eventually developing an interest in anime series which are heavily-grounded in economics is quite ironic, but I have favored them ever since starting to follow the Spice & Wolf franchise in the late 2000s. That interest continued with MAOYU and Ascendance of a Bookworm, and one or two others along the way that I am sure that I am forgetting. This isekai series, which is based on a light novel series, has a similar kind of foundation to its predecessors, one which looks more at the nitty-gritty details than the grand adventures of its medieval fantasy setting – at least so far, anyway. That gives it the potential to be involving for those who were fans of any of the aforementioned franchises, though episode three also shows some troubling warning signs.
In the story, Kazuya Souma is a studious young man in modern Japan who doesn’t have any family ties left, but suddenly getting summoned to another world still throws him off. Worse, he finds that he’s not supposed to be a battle hero for the Elfrieden Kingdom who summoned him, but rather a tribute to the Gran Chaos Empire (in lieu of money), which is bearing the burden of the fighting against the invasive Demon Territory and expecting other natures to contribute. To avoid that fate, Kazuya sees only one option: convince the leadership of the financially-troubled Elfrieden to reform their kingdom’s finances so that the tribute can be paid after all. To his surprise, he is so convincing at this that the weak-willed current king chooses to abdicate in favor of Kazuya, as he sees the young man to be more suited to the task.
While this might seem overly optimistic and irresponsible at first, the first episode does at least clarify that multiple nights of discussions led to this decision, and that it might be the first truly sound decision that the spineless king has made. (Interesting that even the ministers seem to look to the queen for approval, though!) The other mild surprise is that Princess Liscia, a boyish type who actively serves in Elfrieden’s military, has not yet turned into the total tsundere which might be expected for a character in her situation. After all, she was promised in marriage to Kazuya as part of the deal, and that suddenly happening would throw anyone off, but through the first three episodes she is shown quickly coming to appreciate how serious and thoughtfully Kazuya is taking his new role and how hard he is working for the betterment of Elfrieden. He’s even being thoughtful towards her, both by giving her the option to reject the marriage arrangement and by showing her what she needs to know so that she can eventually rule herself. By the end of episode 3, signs are already showing that she may be falling for him, so anything less than that eventually happening will be a disappointment at this point.
The first three episodes are all about laying the foundation for the economic revitalization of the kingdom, based on Kazuya’s premise that things like wars cannot be handled unless the kingdom has a firm financial basis first. Episode 2, where Kazuya makes a kingdom-wide announcement that he is recruiting talented individuals in all fields regardless of status or background after realizing that most of the kingdom’s administration is lacking, is the strongest and most effective episode so far at promoting this revitalization. In fact, it’s done well enough to give me high hopes about the series accomplishing grand things despite its more mundane focus. It also furthers some indications made in episode 1 that the series will also be tracking how others in power and information positions view Kazuya’s actions.
Sadly, episode 3 is a regression on this front, one that bogs down badly by taking nearly the whole episode to introduce several individuals shown (and named!) in the opener. The characters being introduced are not the problem, and the specialist role each will play for Kazuya is obvious in most cases: the dark elf is his champion, the singer is his tool for influencing the kingdom’s morale, the smart human will be his advisor, and the beast girl’s ability to communicate with animals has all sorts of potential applications. The most interesting case is the hard-core foodie, who worthiness is least obvious but still important: his knowledge of cuisine from all over the world will be invaluable for determining which food crops would be worthy financial investments both for feeding the populace and for trade, especially since Kazuya is seeking to reverse a previous trend towards cash crops that have gone bust. I did particularly like how the adviser guy’s estimation of Kazuya switched to favorable based on Kazuya picking up on that. But did a whole episode really have to be spent on this? They didn’t even finish with the beast girl’s introduction, either – and hopefully she has something more crucial than just needing to go to the bathroom that the episode cliffhangs on, though I wouldn’t put it past the writing to pull that stunt.
As for the economics side of things, all the points and observations that Kazuya makes are sound, practical ones, such as monetizing treasures that are just sitting around gathering dust and have no major symbolic value or realizing that the over-commitment to a cash crop has cut into the kingdom’s ability to feed itself. Also, some fresh blood with fresh ideas was clearly needed to shake up a kingdom which had become too staid in its ways due to weak leadership. However, did the person doing the shake-up have to be an isekai individual? After all, Machiavelli’s The Prince (which Kazuya was shown reading before getting spirited away) was written during Italy’s Renaissance period, and the economics of things like cash crops – and how that could go awry – was understood (if not widely-used) even earlier than that. The idea of recruiting the most talented regardless of social background is also hardly a modern concept; leaders as far back as antiquity were known to have done that (though admittedly it wasn’t a common practice). Basically, I’m a little concerned about too much credit being given to Kazuya for his innovations based on him simply being from a more modern world.
But I am willing to give the series time to set itself up on that point, since this is not going to be a fast-moving story. Technical merits so far are only average at best, and none of the character designs used so far stand out. Both the OP and ED themes are solid (though the visuals for the latter are lacking), but the musical score is not otherwise remarkable. Hence the series is going to have to carry itself entirely on its story content, but at this time, I can see no reason why it will not be able to do so.