Friday, October 4, 2019

[New][End][July 2019] Isekai Cheat Majutsushi (Another World Cheat Magician)

You are literally the only one that was expecting to fail here.
We know what's up.

Last Seen: Completed

Summary: Paraphrased from

"High schooler Taichi Nishimura and his childhood friend Rin Azuma, are on their way to school one morning. A glowing light suddenly appears beneath Taichi, and despite him shoving Rin out of harms way, she jumps back in with him, and it transports them to a fantasy world full of magical creatures.

Upon their arrival, Taichi and Rin are attacked by a monster. They are saved by a group of adventurers, who advise the pair that traveling unarmed and inexperienced makes them vulnerable to the recently increasing monster attacks. Taichi and Rin are directed to the Guild, where they can determine their magical aptitude and register as adventurers. However, the test produces strange results: It gives a very strange reading for Rin, and Taichi straight up breaks the device! They suddenly find themselves changed from typical high school students to the ultimate cheat magicians.

The Guild calls in a specialist to help Taichi and Rin learn to grasp the full extent of their powers and familiarize themselves with their new world. However, while the duo seeks to uncover the reason behind their transportation and a possible way back to their original world, unexpected trouble lurks in the shadows."

First Impression: Favorable, and sustained my interest. Absolutely a better story than Another World Smartphone. (don't mind me, trying to start a new version of the "a better love story than Twilight meme").

My Opinion: I remember saying something while talking about Abandoned Sacred Beasts, to the effect of "I feel like I would have liked this more as a book than a show". Let me go ahead and refine that even further with this show: I am certain that I would like this show better as a book, especially more than as an Anime in particular.
I think I've pinned down what it was that was off-putting about Sacred Beasts...and that is, unfortunately, the medium. Sacred beasts is very much so a rather gritty and grim setting, meant to be more depressing than anything else really...but that is not something that the conventional art style of Animation lends itself to. Quite the opposite really.

It was much easier to notice and pinpoint this time around, because I had the opportunity to watch this series in bulk, filling in blank days where I didn't have new episodes coming out during the week.
Cheat Magician suffers from its art style choice to be animated. Despite what the initial impression of the story and setting presents, (hell it has >Isekai< in the title right up front, that's not really a good sign these days), it has a good deal of thought and value in it.

I think that it's fair to say that if one wanted an example of an Overpowered character presented well without using One Punch Man's method of comedy, this show is probably as close as I've ever seen...or at least can recall. At least on the point of the character being ridiculously overpowered right out of the gate, almost all anime protagonists eventually become brokenly powerful, but that still can mesh with a typical Heroes Journey style writing archetype. From a literary stand point, starting with your character having the power they would normally only acquire at the end of their journey, right from the start, presents a lot of interesting and unique challenges. Challenges that, if done correctly, can be overcome to make a unique and fascinating story. I believe Cheat Magician pulls this off...

It's really really jarring to have the characters and voice actors trying so hard to be serious...and the art style just completely undermining it. I remember this briefly from Slime Reincarnation as well, it may just be a Japanese industry standard of some kind. They shied away from showing any kind of disfigurement of one of the main characters, despite their horrible burns being rather a potent part of their character. Similarly, in Cheat Magician, Rin ends up with what the show clearly wants you to believe is a serious burn wound...but just looks like someone bruised her with something covered in glitter. It was the first time I've ever experienced such a jarring disconnect with a scene that wasn't already a train-wreck to begin with.

Having said that, I'm going to do something...unusual. I looked it up, and this was indeed an adaptation from a Novel series rather than a Manga or other source. So, I'm going to present this show with a

Conditional Recommendation,

To check out the show, and if you like what you see after the first few episodes, maybe consider changing over to the Novels instead.

I'll be the first to admit, I am acquiring an ever larger preference for Novels over Anime the older I get, and I can't really keep that under a rug anywhere while presenting my opinions.
This show however, was the first time where it was very clearly obvious that the normally light-hearted art style anime typically has was under-cutting what the scenes were trying to present.

To wit, I can think of a few examples where this was used to great effect: The Saga of Tanya the Evil is an amazing one. There, the cutesy style of anime is actually to the strength of the show, because it's such a contrast to the main characters true nature, and helps the audience see her the same way the world around her does at face value. It then frames it for our enjoyment of that stark contrast.

To a slightly less effective example, I would present: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni: There, the idea is to mislead you into thinking it's just another normal light anime show...before the show then goes out of its way to make sure you're as completely confused and off balance as possible. I'm not sure that the art style necessarily lends itself to any great effect after the big twist is delivered, but its not like you could (reasonably) drastically change the art style mid-season, not without a budget that would make most companies collectively shit every one of their employees pants I'm sure.

I'm almost certain there was another example I wanted to make, but instead I'll just bring it back to Sacred Beasts. There, the studio seemed to be a lot more self-aware of the difficulty of the presentation they wanted to make. The backgrounds and character designs strike a stark contrast if compared to the art in Cheat Magician, they very clearly made the effort to make things as sombre and grounded as possible. That's probably why I could never pin down what was so off-putting. Now, it rather makes sense. The reason I found Schaal so grating and she seemed to stay overly-naive for so long can likely be attributed to how anime's art style probably made her appear far more frail and meek than the author probably wanted her to appear after a certain point in the story. It doesn't help that as a character that wouldn't be prone to monologuing to begin with, a live-playing medium like a TV show isn't going to let you just listen in to a characters thoughts like you can get away with in a book, to really understand how a character is interpreting events and maturing.

In particular, I want to go out of my way to point out how amazingly mature the main characters in Cheat Magician are, especially for being high schoolers. These days, I'm as liable as not to just throw out any anime that says the main characters are high schoolers if they're even remotely annoying in the first episode or two. I've just had far too much of that.
I think a lot of it may be attributed to how well they play off of each other, and that they really do present to the viewer as actual human beings, rather than cartoon characters playing out tropes. They even had the token "walked in on a girl in the bathroom" scene, and I literally sat back in my chair, un-clenched, and thought "...yeah. that is actually how it would play out in real life. Bonus points for this show."

For all my misgivings about the choice of medium, I really do recommend the story on display here. I think it's a good balanced presentation of an overpowered character, and it loses nothing from pulling from the "Isekai" trope that everything in Japan seems to be bandwagoning on. Give it a go, I say it's worth your time.

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