Posted: Tuesday May 9, 2023
With some series hitting their sixth episodes this week, we’re now approaching the midway point of the Spring 2023 season. That means it’s time to take a look at this season’s crop of isekai series, most of which I am following this season to some degree. Which ones are more deserving of attention than they’re getting so far, and which ones can be relegated to the trash heap?
(NOTE: I never finished the first season of In Another World With My Smartphone, so I will not be including that one. Also, all episode counts are as of 5/8/23.)
The Aristocrat’s Otherworldly Adventure: Serving Gods Who Go Too Far
Episodes So Far: 6
Premise: A young man dies protecting two girls from a knife-wielding assailant. As he’s reincarnated into a fantasy world, he’s prodigiously blessed by that world’s seven gods. He find himself reincarnated as the young son of a Margrave and soon discovers that his abilities in all respects are on a scale vastly beyond anyone else in that world. But the gods also eventually expect big things of him.
Evaluation: For better or worse, Aristocrat seems determined to stake out ground as the ultimate example of isekai power fantasies. To the series’ credit, it does seem cognizant of how ridiculous it’s being and plays much of its antics in a light-hearted fashion, which softens the absurdity level a little. Even so, by the age of ten young Cain has already found himself betrothed to two princess and a Duke’s daughter (including one who’s considerably older), earned a noble title on his own, introduced a new game popular among high nobles and even the gods, slain multiple dragons, and generally proven to be, by far, the strongest person anywhere. The one minor saving grace in all this eye-rolling excess is that not all of the characters are entirely numbskulls. They do notice that Cain’s not normal, and that leads to a scene in episode 6 where they confront him about it. Without that scene, this series would be utterly forgettable so far. Even so, the only other real merit is the bright, invitingly cutesy art style. Not devoid of entertainment value, but not a series I can recommend, either.
Rating So Far: C
I Got a Cheat Skill in Another World and Became Unrivaled in The Real World, Too
Episodes So Far: 6
Premise: Yuya Tenjo is an overweight, friendless loser who’s been subjected to severe bullying, in part from younger siblings upset that their grandfather (Yuya’s only positive link) left his house to Yuya on his death. One day, after getting his ass kicked for intervening when some thugs were intimidating a young woman, Yuya discovers the secret room in his worldly grandfather’s house, which has a door to a fantasy world. There he finds a trove of obscenely powerful items which help him become amazingly strong – and that strength even carries over to the real world, as high new stats reform his body into an ultimate hunk. But a radical outward change doesn’t necessarily mean a radical inward change, too.
Evaluation: With how fast Yuya gets incredibly strong and physically perfect, and how quickly he gathers a gaggle of knock-out girls around him, this isekai power fantasy should be every bit as eye-rolling as Aristocrat is. Surprisingly, though, it’s vastly more appreciable, even if its animation is frustratingly limited at times. The key to that is Yuya himself. He may be an ultra-talented Adonis now, one who turns heads everywhere and is mistaken for an actor or model in the real world, but thanks to his past experiences, he struggles to even accept that people would willingly be nice to him, much regard him as supremely cool. That very relatable vulnerability keeps him grounded even when he’s doing incredible feats of athleticism. Another huge plus is that Kaori, the real-world girl he protected at great cost to himself, regarded him as worthy before he transformed into a stud. Episode 6 also brings up The Sage, Yuya’s otherworld predecessor and the supplier of his broken-grade equipment, and his story about how his extreme power isolated him and how he doesn’t want that for his successor.
In other words, despite its occasional eye-rolling antics, this series takes its premise much more seriously and operates with a lot more heart than most series of this type do. It doesn’t hurt that its character designs – especially for Yuya’s potential love interests – are all gorgeous, either. In all, this is the isekai series this season that I feel is most being overlooked and has one of the better chances to achieve at least some degree of lasting popularity.
Rating So Far: B
Dead Mount Death Play
Episodes So Far: 5
Premise: A necromancer who became known as the Corpse God in his fantasy world, and who was defeated by a Hero, is reincarnated in modern Japan in the body of a recently-murdered teenager. Awed by his new world, he seeks to find the peaceful life here that he couldn’t in his previous world, but quickly getting caught up in the seedy underworld of Tokyo threatens to get in the way of that goal, as do members of a police task force.
Evaluation: This rare reverse-isekai variation certainly has its own quirky style that mostly works for it. Turns out that Corpse God wasn’t really a villain (even though his death theme certainly suggests otherwise!), and he’ll even use his necromantic powers to create skeletons that rescue orphans from a fire – as well as, of course, skewering the teenage girl out to kill him and turning her into a zombie. Despite sometimes-very-dark overtones and deadly action, the series leans at least as much in the humorous direction and has a somewhat playful side. Keeping those element in balance, so viewers don’t get tonal whiplash, has been tricky so far, but the series has managed it more often than not. Combine that with plenty of CG skeletons and some longer-term intrigue and you have an entertaining series.
Rating So Far: B+
Summoned to Another World for a Second Time
Episodes So Far: 5
Premise: Setsu and his whole class has been summoned to another world to be a band of heroes in an expected conflict against demons, but for Setsu, it’s his second trip to this particular fantasy world to be a hero! Last time he was an heroic figure who made peace between humans and demons and befriended many powerful individuals on both sides, and the passage of five years in that world hasn’t lessened their memories of him (even if he looks different now). But intrigue is afoot, as the threat to the human kingdom isn’t coming from the demons, who are being subjected to other schemes as well.
Evaluation: Although this one is also a power fantasy, and has Setsu owning everybody, it plays more as him hanging with the powerful, with somewhat of a side arc about his female childhood best friend also trying to get strong so she can stand alongside Setsu. This approach only works sporadically so far, though, with the biggest problem being that Setsu doesn’t have much of a personality. (One of the most pathetic Demon Queens to come along in fantasy anime in quite some time is another major problem spot, though a more limited one since she only prominently appears in one episode.) In fact, the best episode may be the one which focuses entirely on the childhood friend, and that episode is still remarkably stereotypical for its type. Unless it comes up with something better, this series is destined for the “Quickly Forgotten” stack where series like Isekai Cheat Magician reside.
Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear Punch!
Episodes So Far: 6
Premise: Yuna is still traipsing around the “game world come alive” setting she’s been trapped in and is still sporting the bear suits and hand puppets. People continue to not take her seriously until they see what she can do, and everything is still bear themed.
Evaluation: Unlike its first season (in Fall 2020), this one did not get picked up for episode reviews on Anime News Network, and that’s telling. It continues to be the cutest and mildest of all of the isekai power fantasies out there, but that’s all that the second season has going for it so far. The visual quality is still there, but the first four episodes were such a yawner that I have had trouble getting motivate to keep up with this one. The spark which made the first season work has faded.
Why Raeliana Ended Up at the Duke’s Mansion
Episodes So Far: 5
Premise: Failed university student Rinko was pushed off a roof by someone, but instead of dying wakes up as Raeliana, a character in one of her favorite novels whose early death becomes a motivating factor for the novel’s heroine. She isn’t about to let that happen, so she uses her knowledge of the book to cut a blackmail-tinged deal with dashing, crafty Duke Noah Voltaire Wynknight to get out of her current engagement and become his pretend-fiancee. That starts a battle of wits between the two that the Duke seems to find charming (while Rinko find it aggravating), but there are other challenges and dnagers which must be navigated as the story gradually starts to go off the rails.
Evaluation: Semantic about whether this “trapped in an otome game/romance novel” genre truly counts as isekai aside (I argue that it does), this one has proved to be surprisingly involving. A mediocre animation effort definitely hampers it, but Rinko/Raeliana has proved to be a delight in the way she privately shows off her frustration to viewers while using every trick she can think of to keep herself safe. She’s a strong, wily heroine with just the right touch of vulnerability, but Duke Noah is also a delight as the proper, smarmy noble who matches wits with Raeliana and may be falling for her more than he cares to admit. A superior-grade English dub (which is being simulcast) also is a plus here, especially Ian Sinclair performance as Noah – a role he was born to play. I haven’t watched enough of the rest of the genre to know how this one compares, but it’s a show I can get enthusiastic about each week.
3 thoughts on “Spring ’23 Isekai Round-Up”
I have really enjoyed Raeliana, as the characters carry the show despite the production standards. It reminds me of old anime where the character and story had to hold together all those animeation shortcuts.
I hesitate to give cheat skill a go. I wonder if I am doing it a disservice. I do not like the authors previous works and I genuinely dislike Japans propensity for considering it right to hate on people being overweight or not high levels of beauty. Is the whole idea of his inner self coming through more then the ego side of power fantasy? IE the power and presence automatically makes the lead right and unquestionable thing a lot of cheaply written Isekai do.
While there are some thematic similarities (accepting someone despite appearances – which definitely seems like it should be at odds with the “transform into a more ideal physical form” element – and a haremlike gathering of girls around the MC), Cheat Skill is a very different series from The Fruit of Evolution. It takes itself almost completely seriously and is far more introspective. It’s quite possible you’ll like this one despite not liking Fruit.