Among those who see In Another World with My Smartphone (Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni) in this season, there are probably some who feel resentment to the myriad of fortunes that the protagonist Touya Mochizuki has acquired: have all magical attributes, surrounded by pretty girls, and most importantly, have a smartphone with him. Such an impossible dream of a character that is Touya is easy to draw ire, and I admit even I had laid curses on him while his adventures were still in the novel form.
It was such a shock to me when I heard that this novel which started its life on the web novel platform Shousetsuka ni Narou was to get an anime adaptation. It feels so boring with the writing style that feels like a tabletop RPG replay book, and the protagonist who gets all the conveniences after dying. Regardless, there is demand in the market for such contents. According to anime streaming service Crunchyroll’s data, In Another World with My Smartphone is one of its most watched summer 2017 anime in a number of European countries. And then, there are Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari and Death March Kara Hajimaru Isekai Kyousoukyoku, which also have similar elements to what I have described before, and both have been confirmed to get anime adaptations.
Ever since I started to regularly watch anime in 2012, I have never before encountered a story that’s written the way In Another World with My Smartphone is, even among “isekai” stories or the stories where the protagonist live a new life in another world. However, from my experience looking up at the various light novel titles, there is no doubt that the so called isekai genre is quite a trend indeed.
Admittedly, there aren’t that many isekai novels that I have read, since their synopsis often don’t offer anything unique outside of the usual pattern of a NEET teenage boy who died and reborn in some kind of medieval Europe-inspired fantasy world, gifted with all magic powers and surrounded by pretty girls, end of story. Not all of those points may appear together in a single story, but even having one of them can be frustrating enough, especially for the “harem” part.
However, it is not my intention here to get people to condemn the perfect life of Touya Mochizuki. After all, for a novel to be published, there must be some reasons and considerations that make a publisher interested in it, such as having many readers while it was still a web novel. A story sells because there are people who read it.
I also do not intend to make a comprehensive analysis of isekai narratives, for I am aware that I lacked the expertise to do that. However, I would like to draw from my own reading and viewing experiences to offer some recommendation, to argue that the isekai genre itself need not to be treated with extreme prejudice.
Not all isekai stories take the neatly convenient route of In Another World with My Smartphone. Take for example Youjo Senki: Saga of Tanya the Evil, which has, in place of a NEET dying in an accident, a
ruthless stern and disciplined manager who was killed when an employee he had just laid off pushed him into a speeding train. Reborn as a little girl in another world torn by warfare, her new life is far from happy-go-lucky as the kids of Houkago Tea Time were. Joining the army, she took to the battlefield with her ruthlessness in hope of being able to advance in ranks quickly.
From Saga of Tanya the Evil, there are three points of contemplation that could be considered: appearances can be deceiving, don’t go overboard when contemplating the existence of God, and try to love Yuuki Aoi. Confused? Just check out the show.
Then there is the tale of Grimgar of of Fantasy and Ash (Hai to Gensou no Grimgar). Following a group of people transported into a fantasy world, they too are not blessed with blissul life. Their newfound life is a struggle with no knowledge of the alien world they found themselves in, limited equipments, and even losing one of their precious friend. With an approach that goes against the mainstream of isekai narratives, the realism it brought provides a foundation for a good story.
Another isekai story is best described by the verse from the Quran: Laa yamuutu fiiha wa laa yahya (herein he … neither die nor live). Such is the suffering of Subaru in Re:Zero in his blind pursuit for his love of Emilia, for which he’s willing to go through the loop of life and death repeatedly, with only an old cell phone and a bag of groceries to his name. A stubborn pursuit that leads him to turn down a confession from another girl, Rem, much to the consternation of many fans online.
All things considered, it is unfair to simply write off isekai stories because of the genre, for it doesn’t necessarily mean the story would be like Manga ga Yomeru Ore ga Sekai Saikyou. And even the typical story pattern of web novels in Shousetsuka ni Narou is not necessarily bad, as there are people who still can find something enjoyable out of them. Perhaps isekai stories can serve as alternative when you’re having a burnout with other genres.
However, if you have tried to get yourself to read or watch an isekai story and you and still find the fantasy to be too hard to swallow, perhaps you can keep in mind these words of wisdom from Spongebob Squarepants: “all you need is a box, and imagination.”
The Indonesian Anime Times | by M Razif Dwi Kurniawan | This opinion is the personal views of the author and does not represent the views and editorial policy of KAORI Nusantara
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