I recently read James Beckett’s opinion on episodes 1-2 of Death March to The Parallel World Rhapsody, which you can find here, and I spent most the time wanting to correct him constantly so I thought I would write about it here.
James writes that it seemed like little more than a poorly written, cliché-filled bore that added nothing novel to the isekai genre, which was already being stretched to its breaking point through years of overexposure. Which I can only see as a personal attack on the isekai genre as a whole rather than the animes own merits. I can only see it as nothing more than someone hating SAO because it’s popular. Isekai rather than a genre is more like a MacGuffin to take a relatable character into a story larger than life. It’s like hating anything with a spaceship in it because Star Wars and Star Trek have done it all before.
Ignoring subjective comments on his preference of animation style he goes on to say even the “normal person stuck in a video-game setting” premise felt mishandled. “Death March makes the mistake of obsessing over the minutiae of menu management in the illusion that it adds some depth to the scenario instead of making the proceedings tedious to watch unfold.” Which I want to scream about, Death March shows great promise because it’s about a game designer inside a game world, of course he’s going to look at in and outs of his software. In fact, the use of a HUD or GUI consistently throughout the anime is something I want to praise, it’s there constantly just like it would be in a game. You can achievements (Titles) and you gain stats just like a game, it’s a huge part of the setting and something that they can even play to dramatic effect. Just imagine a boss fight where the protagonist is unrolling windows to min-max his stats with some in time music.
More importantly, we don’t see the protagonist cast off his understanding of his situation straight away, he’s unsure if it’s a dream or not and rationally analyses the situation. Since he doesn’t come to a full conclusion he decides to just enjoy his circumstances rather than fight them. As a result he just plods around making the most of what he can, this isn’t some fast paced isekai with an otaku highschooler wanting to make a name for himself. It’s a professional game designer taking a forced vacation.
This leads to my next complaint, James claims “The plot sputters and stalls without going anywhere”. Which shows he doesn’t understand what Death March is, this isn’t an isekai like I mentioned above, it is a slice of life coincidentally set in another world. He wants to see the sights and taste the food, his stats are just there to make things easier. There is no more plot than watching a grown man visit the seven wonders on TV, occasionally getting dragged into some wacky event. Rename the show Seven Wonders of Another World and maybe he’ll stop complaining.
Now I suppose I should talk about the protagonist himself. The complaint that most Isekai protagonists are self insert isn’t wrong, so I will let it slide, but that’s because most of these novels start as community fiction where the author or readers are self inserting before they get novelization. The complaint that Ichiro still thinks he’s dreaming, or at the very least he believes he’s merely playing a video game, I feel is wrong. I actually think this is exactly how most people would take this situation. Who sees a HUD of a game they are familiar with and goes “Oh yup this is another world”. I’d be more inclined to believe it’s a dream. Even in this circumstance he doesn’t go on to to abuse this fact, and he just takes what comes. Which is why the next part of this article annoys me.
I will be using loads of quotes here. “He enjoys the opportunity to brush up against 13-year-old Martha’s breasts” and “He’s quick to point out that he’d bang the girl’s mom too if only she was 20 kilograms lighter”. Okay hands up who has never thought things like that? He’s also a rational person, so he just rationally examines the situation and makes the most of it. Martha pushes herself up to him, so he just goes with the flow. Let’s be honest, who hasn’t seen a person and gone “oh if they were taller I’d like them more”? It’s a bad thing to say for sure, but scolding someone for thinking it would just end up requiring the entire planet to line up.
I’ll wrap up now I think, but this anime isn’t some supernatural battle show or anything like other isekai genres. It’s probably closer to Restaurant in Another World than anything. Sure his stats are broken, but he doesn’t laud is power more than is necessary to keep his daily peace. He’s not brainwashing young girls into obeying him, or becoming a hero to gain wealth and fame, nor does he force his world values on the inhabitants with his superior might. He could easily have strong armed the city into ending the slave trade and discrimination. The skills are nothing more than an assistance, if you haggled every day then I’m sure you’d get good at haggling, he just expedited the progress by dumping some points into a skill stat. There is no power fantasy because he doesn’t exhibit it. The powers are just there to expand his horizons.