Premiere Report - Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?!by Jacob Chapman,
Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! is hardly the first isekai light novel series with a title that's barely able to fit on its own poster, but at least that massive moniker gives viewers an accurate idea of what to expect. While most isekai protagonists (and presumably the viewers at home) secretly long to become omnipotent overlords in the fantasy world of their choosing, high schooler Misato Kurihara wants nothing more than normalcy from her second chance at life, after years of academic exceptionalism in our world left her feeling lonely at the top. Being a genre-aware nerd herself, Misato is practically relieved when the appearance of Truck-kun gives her the chance to start over and make friends as a normal kid for once. Before being reincarnated, her only request is for absolutely average abilities in every possible regard.
Unfortunately, the other-dimensional deity processing her request is too logical for his own good, and he makes Misato—now reborn as a 10-year old girl named Adele von Ascham—average in ability compared to every living being in her new universe instead of just every living human. The median in magical power and physical strength between a termite and a millennia-old dragon god is still thousands of times more powerful than the average RPG adventurer in her new home, so Adele finds herself woefully out of place once again, trying her best to make friends despite her terrifying superpowers. What follows is more "cute girls doing cute things"-style comic mayhem than the more expected melodramatic power fantasy, as Adele meets three other misfit girls and forms a party to tackle the challenges that lie ahead at the Eckland Academy for would-be RPG NPCs.
On the positive side of things, Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! earns a lot of goodwill with its commitment to lighthearted comedy, instead of delivering yet another grimly generic D&D session driven by exposition and cookie cutter harems of mages and rogues. Not unlike KONOSUBA, "Average" trips a fine line between genre awareness and gleeful slapstick, as Adele navigates her new world with an inner monologue of gamer's glee, balanced out regularly by her dismay at standing out with her astounding magical powers, which she tries in vain to hide from the world. (Apparently, the average intelligence of all living creatures in this world is much lower than the average power level, because even by 10-year old girl standards, Adele is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, leading her to constantly reveal her godly powers by accident.)
Her three new friends fit into familiar anime character archetypes without falling too far into cliche, from Reina the tsundere fire mage to Mavis the handsome lady knight to Pauline the suspiciously Stepford-esque healer. As of the first episode, they haven't had much time to interact as a group, but there's already plenty of promise in their chemistry, which errs on the side of snarky cuteness exchanged between oddballs over savage burns dished out by powerhouse personalities. Given the story's core theme of friendship, which Adele longs more than anything to find with others, these four aren't constantly at each other's throats like the KONOSUBA crew, leading to more lightly comedic shenanigans that only rise to a more manic pitch when the party encounters buffoonish villains to defeat. While the production values aren't anything special (the art and animation are mediocre at best), the episode's direction is solid enough to make its best jokes land right when they should, and the material is just decent enough to elicit regular chuckles from isekai fans, even if it's far from a raucous comedy experience that broader audiences might enjoy.
Unfortunately, "Average" bares its Achilles heel often enough to lose out on a significant portion of the audience who might otherwise be excited for a cute comedy about four weird girls struggling to succeed at an RPG Academy—and by Achilles heel, I mean the specter of an unmistakable lolicon fetish. Not unlike the harsh divide between successful gags and unsuccessful drama in this season's Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit Multi-Target Attacks?, for every three or four fun and punchy jokes "Average" drops with a wink and a smile, there's one lame or uncomfortable tangent about Adele or other young girls being inappropriately sexualized. (The foolhardy villainess that our heroines first join forces to combat is a pedophile who's kidnapping young girls to "enjoy their company"—purely in a chaste way according to her, but the "joke" is that her drooling expression tells a different story.)
It'd be one thing if this pattern were limited to a few jokes about Adele's flat chest or other eye-rolling anime canards, but this lolicon element is prevalent enough that it becomes impossible to ignore that all the unnecessary gags about little girls are clearly a surface distraction from a sincere proclivity of the author's, which distracts from the otherwise charming comedy in all the worst ways. This is even weirder because the first episode contains virtually no fanservice or otherwise overt sexualization beyond flippant gags, but it's certainly possible (or even probable) that this will not hold true for later episodes. As it stands, I can't imagine Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! will be the next isekai hit of this oncoming fall season, but if the lolicon angle diminishes in the story's following chapters, it might at least serve as a relaxing low-stakes comedy for superfans of the genre who can overlook its occasional dips into poor taste.
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