The concept for this series could not be more generic: a dedicated gamer wakes up to find himself in a fantasy world in the form of his uber-powerful game avatar. He doesn’t know how he ended up there or why, so he decides to just go with the flow and begins adventuring. Along the way, he acquires three equally-stereotypical adventuring companions: a cute spirit creature who cannot talk but seems quite intelligent, a sexy elf on a mission, and a ninja catgirl. He also performs many feats that are mind-bogglingly powerful by the standards of his new world and involves himself in great feats of derring-do despite claiming that he is trying to not draw attention to himself. The only minor catch is that he cannot take off his armor in public since he is only a skeleton underneath. (This results from him using a special skin for his avatar in the game setting, which translates into a curse in this world that can only briefly be remedied.)
As bland as this may sound, the series works – and is a title that I have no reservations about recommending to isekai fans – because it gloriously captures a spirit of pure fun. Plot points can get serious and the content is, at times, rather dark (assassinations, human trafficking, attempted rape, and extreme graphic violence are present), but the story content never loses sight of the fact that Arc is on a grand adventure and is fully committed to experiencing that to the hilt. Not everything may go his way, and he plays things very cautiously until he gets a sense of where he stands in his new world’s power scale, but even when he’s being careful he still has a grand time. Most importantly, the series accomplishes this without ever giving him the stuffy, smug feel that all too many other power fantasy protagonists have.
As appreciable as Arc is as a character, the supporting cast make big contributions as well. Ponta may fill the requisite Mascot character role, but he is somehow less obnoxious than most of these characters are and serves an important purpose by showing that Arc, despite his oddities, can be trusted. (Creatures of his type are known to never associate with those who aren’t good at heart.) The busty, sword-specialized elf Arianne fills the requisite Sexy Female Companion role, and does seem to be gradually growing to like Arc as he helps her rescue some elves caught up in human trafficking (elf trafficking?), but she earns points for being both quite capable on her own and having a steadfast purpose beyond just accompanying Arc; that he is accompanying her is, in fact, a far more accurate description. The way they grow to respect each other feels natural as well. Much later, they encounter and eventually start working with Chiyome, a ninja catgirl from an animal person village that appears to have been heavily influenced by a previous isekai visitor. (Don’t expect that tantalizing mystery to be explored further before the end of the series, though.) She is not around Arc enough for much of a relationship to develop before the end of the season, but she is also quite capable and has a skill set which complements the other two well. There’s also a male ninja from her village who constantly gets into contests of brute strength with Arc but also teams up with him quite synergistically when the need arises, but (sadly) he is not a regular traveling companion.
The other big plus for the series is that, while its power fantasy status is never in doubt, it isn’t just that; it also has two distinct, somewhat interrelated plot lines running through it, one which Arc influences directly and the other which Arc unwittingly plays a key role in. The former involves the aforementioned elf trafficking, which proves to have links to royalty. The other involves power plays within that royalty, which results in the assassination of a princess who is innocently seeking to ease tensions with the elves. But with someone like Arc around, she doesn’t stay dead, and that generates its own new batch of complications, especially when that princess mistakenly takes being anonymously raised by Arc as divine favor for her mission. Arc did at least worry about what impact his actions might have, but he still may have underestimated on that once again, and that will likely have bigger (and welcome) repercussions should a sequel ever be made.
Another key to the series’ success is the balance it achieves, and central to that is the revelation that being vastly more powerful does not also mean that Arc is vastly more skilled. Thought not as powerful as him, Arianne can match or exceed him when it comes to combat skill, and when faced against an opponent where only skill matters, he gets soundly trounced. This is something that I have long felt gets all-too-often overlooked in these isekai tales, as fighting in a game does not at all equate to real-life fighting, so I am pleased to see its inclusion here.
Technical merits are solid on both visual and audio fronts. The character designs are unquestionably the visual highlights, whether it’s Arc, Arianne, Chiyome, or the aforementioned princess. Animation quality has its moments but isn’t exceptional overall, with moderate reliance on shortcuts and occasional slips some on quality control. Monster designs are far more generic, but despite the production’s flaws, it still gets enough right with dramatic look and feel for a lot of flash and some cool action scenes. A jaunty musical score complements the tone of the work nicely, including an opener which harkens back to ’80s rock dramatics (and sports some fun visuals on its own) and a peppy, partly-CG-animated closer with a catchy beat. Kudos also go to Tomoaki Maeno, the voice of Arc, for an iconic performance, especially his hearty laughs. English voice actor Brandon Johnson, in his first lead role, gives it a fine effort that would be sufficient if you listen to the English dub first, but Maeno’s performance is better still. By comparison, Caitlin Glass is ideally-cast as Arianne and Sarah Wiedenheft and Emi Lo make good choices as Chiyome and Ponta, respectively.
The one problem with the series is that its most potentially objectionable content is in the beginning – like, the very first scene. Nothing as severe as that comes up in any of the later 11 episodes, however, so if you can tolerate that then you’re in for a fun ride.
* – While I have been using number values so far, letter grades feel more natural to me, so I am going to use them for everything other than Preview Guide entries from now on.
Other Series That Have Finished
Love After World Domination – Not sure what more I can say about this one that I have not already said. Sure, the series can be watched for all of its homages to (and parodies of) Super Sentai series, including such delightful details as how loyalty to an evil organization can be a family calling, but the true enjoyment comes from watching the interactions of Fudo and Desumi in their quasi-Romeo-and-Juliet-style relationship. 2022 has already offered up some strong competition for Best Duo, including Life With an Ordinary Guy‘s Tachibana and Jinguji and My Dress-Up Darling‘s Wakana and Marin, but Fudo and Desumi are just so adorable together – and so made for each other – that I now consider them the front-runners. This one is every bit as fun a romp as Skeleton Knight, albeit in entirely different ways. Grade: B+.