Death March kara Hajimaru Isekai Kyousoukyoku First Impressions
“I look like I did back in high school. Having a dream about your younger self isn’t that surprising. In any event… this has got to be a dream.”
In my review for Grancrest Senki, I made allusions to the idea that the prolific nature of so-called ‘isekai’ anime had led to standard, run-of-the-mill, fantasy anime feeling oddly novel despite being anything but that. Well, we are dealing with a new season of anime, so it should come as no surprise that we have a new story centered around a protagonist who suddenly finds himself in another world, so is Death March kara Hajimaru Isekai Kyousoukyoku a fresh breath of air that reinvigorates a well worn formula? No, not really. The biggest irony of Death March is I found the first half of the episode, which focuses on the wearisome grind of being a programmer, to be far more interesting than the actual fantasy world that we get transplanted into around the midway point. It doesn’t help that the design aesthetic of the show appears woefully underequipped when it comes to presenting interesting action scenes, and our main character becomes less interesting the longer he’s in this “Another World.” I hate to say it, but of all the shows I’ve watched this season, Death March would surprise me the most if it turned out to be good.
I remember the exact moment that a switch flipped in the back of my head telling me that this might not be good. It was when the intro kicked in, and I got a look at our main character looking positively Kirito-esque. This proved to be a momentary speed-bump though, since I actually found I enjoyed watching our main character, Suzuki Ichiro, going through his daily grind as he works to fix bugs and accommodate the often conflicting demands of clients. I won’t deny that this introductory section is a bit meandering and arguably goes on for a bit too long, but it’s rare that we get the opportunity to walk a mile in an isekai character’s shoes before they get dropped into the titular other world. That’s where the bland and boring promise from the opening comes into play. Ichiro goes to sleep under his desk after having worked significant overtime, and wakes up in one of the games his team is developing, War World, only now he is roughly half of his original age of 29, and can access and manipulate a HUD using only his mind. He finds himself facing down an army of lizardmen and is forced to use a proposed but untested starting item to call down a meteor shower to save himself. This strategy results in him, not only defeating all the enemies, but also gaining all the experience and loot that comes with that.
Let me just say that, while it is nice seeing the creators of this series put a bit more thought into the game design of its world than a series like SAO did, that doesn’t excuse the fact that War World’s starting area is freaking ugly. It looks like the barren mountain area where all the Dragon Ball Z fights occurred, except rendered in CG. The lizardmen look pretty crappy as well, and no amount of color filters can hide that fact. This frustration is exacerbated since the first half of the episode actually looks decent. It was nothing mind-blowing, but, had it maintained that style and quality, I doubt I would have had any significant complaints. The fact that Ichiro continues to refer to the alternate world as a dream also proves to be a sticking point for me. The episode has him experience pain, consume food, go to sleep AND wake up in this new world, and yet he still states he’s “not sure how long this dream will last.” Nothing else that came before suggested Ichiro was this stupid, so this is irritated me to no end. Furthermore, something about his younger voice sounds off to me. Best I can tell, it’s the same voice actor, so I was considering the possibility that they had pitch-shifted his voice, but I can find no confirmation one way or another. Regardless, where there was post-processing doesn’t change the fact that it just sounds weird.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- I’m still annoyed by the decision to make Ichiro younger in the other world. It feels like the only reason for this was so that he could have a harem of teenage girls without it being quite so creepy. Neither version of him looked particularly unique, but at least he didn’t look like Kirito when he was an adult. If anything, he looked more like Ryner Lute from Legend of the Legendary Heroes.
- There is an odd vocal effect that the anime uses when characters cast spells. I don’t like it. It sounds like someone is murmuring gibberish. It may be the true language that’s used to announce spells, or something like that, but it still sounds awkward and disrupts what was already a pretty shallow sense of immersion.
- When I first started preparing for this review, I had left my computer charger at Caveman’s apartment. Trust me, the quality doesn’t look any better on a phone screen, and, before anyone asks, I did go back and confirm the quality on a higher resolution before writing this review.
I'm actually a little torn on this one. Part of me would like to be slightly kinder to this show, and nudge that score up slightly since I did enjoy the first half of the episode. The other part of me saw the second half. Even collecting the screenshots and going back to get that quote for up above was unpleasant. Skip. Skip. Skip. I'm fine with relegating this show to the back of my mind where it will only come up for air when someone broaches the question of, "What was a particularly mediocre isekai series?"