In Another World With My Smartphone Episode 3
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 3 of
In Another World With My Smartphone ?
One thing Isekai Smartphone seems genuinely enthusiastic about is the introduction of different character designs. First there were the innkeeper girls from the first episode, and this episode sees Touya and his personality-free friends assist a unique little demi-human in finding her way to a meeting place where her other fairly different-looking companion is waiting. I bring this up because seeing characters that have more singular designs usually signals that they'll be important to the plot. But this is Isekai Smartphone, so the aside about using the titular device as a dang map for the umpteenth time passes with no apparent impact on the storyline.
For much of this third episode, things actually threaten to happen in this series, only to amount to nothing at all. In a better show, the hero's acquisition of a distinctively powerful piece of equipment would be a major dramatic story beat, but not in Isekai Smartphone. Here, Touya just goes shopping off-camera and buys that jacket he's got in the intro. It's apparently a magic-doubling item that would incur an offsetting damage increase to any character who actually had weaknesses, but Touya of course has none, so he suffers no drawbacks. “It's like it was made for you!” his cheering squad exclaims, not recognizing that this describes everything in this absurdly contrived fantasy world.
The foundation of a plot eventually washes across the audience when we learn that Touya has acquired a crafting spell that allows him to construct Shogi boards, so he goes on to make playing Shogi a hit with the inn patrons as well as the Duke from last episode. Of course it's a massive hit, because the people of this distinctly game-flavored kingdom have never encountered actual games before. In beats that fly by yet still take way too long, we see him invent more desserts that people love and play more Shogi with people. The whole show really just plays out like someone updating their Facebook status on their phone throughout their day. “Today I helped a demi-human find her friend.” “Today I made cakes.” “Today I played Shogi with the Duke whose wife's blindness I cured like it was nothing. His daughter is not annoying at all.”
So there was a certain amount of disbelief for me when an actual storyline kicks in about halfway through this episode, flimsy as it was. Touya and his henchwomen raid some ruins to fight monsters and find treasure. The actual ‘finding’ part is no issue of course, because naturally Touya has a whole spell dedicated to detecting treasure and ancient relics. The show sure gives us a lot of credit on this one, as Touya declares “Search: Treasure!” and performs the spell, immediately followed by Elze describing for us that he just used Search to detect treasure.
It all leads to a battle with a boss-monster-like crystal spider that the team has to strategize to defeat. The lead-up to this encounter and the fight itself really put the low-effort shortcomings of Isekai Smartphone's storytelling on display. Even in utterly basic kids series where the goal week after week is just fighting bad guys, there's usually undercurrents of character development fueling the conflict. One of the party will have a crisis of confidence that gets resolved by them beating a monster, someone will learn a new spell that saves the day at the last minute, something, anything. But in this confrontation, there's nothing. The characters are just fighting for the sake of fighting, and there's nothing driving things forward. Even the stakes are meaningless; when Elze sustains what appears to be a mortal wound (complete with a gush of badly-animated blood), we're immediately reminded of Touya's all-encompassing healing magic as he uses it to fix her.
So after whaling on the bug for what feels like an eternity and remarking that it seemingly has no weaknesses (as if Touya is one to talk), he figures out how to beat it by arbitrarily applying the King-capturing concept of Shogi from earlier in the episode. This isn't a ‘Eureka’ moment so much as an ‘Oh for the love of God’ moment, and it only passes as acceptable at this point because we want to be done with this insubstantial encounter. The team just kind of moves on afterward, with some vague idea about the capital being moved away from the ruins as part of a greater conspiracy thrown out in the episode's closing moments. Maybe this will amount to something next week. Maybe.
Look, for all my dumping on the sheer arbitrariness of this episode's proceedings, it actually does manage to be a bit better than the first couple episodes! Elze and her big cool gauntlets actually get to shine in some decent fist-fight scenes, and the battle that takes up most of this episode is at least decently constructed and animated, despite being mostly weightless visually and narratively. This episode also sees the smartphone get the most use yet, as Touya doesn't just use its expected map and recipe-reading functions, but uses the camera for something useful and even teams it up with his unlimited magic powers to make a fantasy world photo printer! It's still totally perfunctory, but it's something at least.
This episode does dip into the fanservice well more than the previous episodes, just in a short imagined slideshow of typical slime-monster harassment scenes, and frankly I'm almost grateful for these shots since they're actually drawn well compared to the flat art the series has the rest of the time. With a meager backstory established and Touya's abilities further explored, maybe Isekai Smartphone can move on to the humble goal of actually accomplishing something next week.
In Another World With My Smartphone is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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