The Summer 2017 Anime Preview Guide
In Another World with my Smartphone
How would you rate episode 1 of
In Another World With My Smartphone ?
What is this?
Touya Mochizuki is the unfortunate victim of a bolt of lightning thrown carelessly by God. Because he really wasn't supposed to die at fifteen, God is willing to cut him a deal – Touya can be reborn, or rather, re-placed, at his present age in a new world in order to continue living. To sweeten things, the world will have magic, which Touya will be able to use, his physical abilities will get a boost, and he can bring any one thing with him. Touya opts to take his smartphone, which God kindly equips with the appropriate maps and translation functions for his new life. And that life looks like it's going to go pretty well – within moments of awakening, Touya has been paid for his other-world clothes, formed a party with twins Elze and Linze, learned he can use all seven forms of magic, and introduced his new world to ice cream – and this is only the first day. In Another World with my Smartphone is based on a series of light novels and can be found streaming on Crunchyroll, Tuesdays at 9:00 AM EST.
How was the first episode?
I'm normally pretty tolerant of Gary Stu-styled heroes in these “transported to another world” stories, but there is a limit beyond which such antics just get too ridiculous. This series has managed to cross that line before its first episode is over.
That's a shame, because I actually like some aspects of the concept here. The notion of a smartphone as a powerful magical device is actually quite a reasonable one to me; the mapping app for the world he's in, combined with the ability to access information from the main world would, single-handedly make Toya a very powerful individual even without everything else. But he's got God on speed-dial? The ability to use all kinds of magic, including rare spells, too? And he's pretty physically handy even despite having no weapon training or other indicators of being unusually physically capable? That's laying it on quite thick. Sure, he's got a weak point, in that he has to be taught to read the local language, but we all know that's not going to be a weak point for long. And don't get me started on the whole ice cream scene, either!
At least the girls he meets are reasonable characters. I'd expected one of the twins to be a tsundere type, but thankfully, both seem pretty cheerful and nice even if they do have distinctly different personalities. And at least so far they're more flabbergasted and grateful than swooning over him. Doubtlessly that aspect is still to come, as the opener clearly shows multiple other girls eventually joining Toya. Because what would a character so overpowered as he is be without a harem to surround him?
Another strike against the series so far is that its technical merits are on the weak side. Character designs are fine, but there's nothing particularly interesting-looking about the world and the animation has plenty of rough edges. The regular transitional still scenes are cute but also make the episode choppy, as if it's trying to duplicate the feel of a 4-koma manga adaptation. I can't imagine why that would be intended.
This whole thing would be easier to accept if this series was on the road to parodying this situation, as I think a lot of fun could be had with making Toya so OP that it becomes part of the joke. Unfortunately nothing in the first episode points in any direction other than the story taking Toya at least somewhat seriously. He's just too strong, too fast, for this to be at all compelling.
Is it possible to care about a character who himself cares about absolutely nothing? From its very first moments, In Another World with My Smartphone seems to be digging hard into this philosophical chestnut, and I'll admit I was impressed with the results. Not because the show was any good, mind, but because I don't know if any of these isekai shows has actually managed to get me to care less about its own existence. This is already a genre plagued by the unhealthy habits of so may wish-fulfillment light novel fluff pieces, but IAWwMSP may take the cake for having the most boring and most blatantly pandering setup I've seen yet. In Touya we have a character who cares for and struggles for absolutely nothing. Phased by suffering an untimely death at the age of 15? Nope. Astonished at the fact that there is a God, and he is granting Touya a multitude of incredible abilities? Hardly. How about the fact that Touya has everything and anything he needs fall right into his lap at all times, including the supposedly never-before-seen ability to master every form of magic ever? Touya seems just as aloof and vaguely pleased as always, leaving the burden of awe and praise to the bevy of cute anime girls who are fawning all over him.
Look, there's nothing wrong with a self-insert protagonist or a bit of wish fulfillment here or there, but when you lay it on this thick it just becomes irritating. Say what you will about Sword Art Online (and I'm no great fan of that series either), but at least Kirito actually felt things, had desires, and generally resembled something approaching a human being. Touya, has all the human warmth and personality of an actual smartphone, and the show seems all too happy to just have the whole world and everyone in it stumble around to conform to its protagonist's current needs or situations. The show doesn't even seem to have an ongoing plot, instead functioning as an exposition-machine-cum-casual-hangout-comedy. Again, this would be fine if Touya or any of these girls had some kind of personality or rapport with one another that was interesting to watch. Instead we get a complete cipher of a protagonist who kind of wanders around different generic fantasy locations for awhile, succeeding at everything he tries to do, while plenty of sexy girls shower him with praise and respect. This isn't just boring, it's borderline patronizing.
At the very least the show looks and sounds fine, and there's nothing in it that's actively offensive. If you really love isekai stories, this might have something to offer you. I can't say it did anything for me though. All I saw was a show that gorges itself on every bad trope and lazy writing shortcut it can think of, and actively ignores every bit of potential and promise that made the isekai genre worth anything in the first place.
Come on isekai shows, you gotta try a little harder than this. Your genre is absolutely flooded with mediocre also-rans, you can't get away with performances this lukewarm. “Teen boy who is good at everything and beloved by all women” isn't gonna cut it. “Tedious and under-considered magical worldbuilding” doesn't help. But above all else, couldn't you think of a better hook than having a smartphone?
In Another World With My Smartphone is exactly what the title says - an isekai series where our boy hero Touya dies in our world and is reincarnated in a fantasy one, smartphone intact. Once he gets there, he immediately starts dazzling women with his bravery, super strength, wealth, knowledge, and mastery of all forms of magic. Then everybody claps and the episode ends.
I suppose if you haven't seen this exact concept executed better fifty times before, this episode might come across as less of a drag. But even then, Smartphone is just not an impressive effort, failing to succeed in terms of characters, narrative, worldbuilding, or really anything. Touya is “generic everyman” through and through, and the show so far has mostly just surrounded him with one-dimensional women who are instantly charmed by him. Narrative-wise, this episode is disastrously unfocused, welding a series of inconsequential and unrelated scenes together with constant eyecatches. Smartphone reflects the worst tendencies of “and then this happened”-style storytelling, where the events taking place don't naturally lead to the following events, and thus there's no real continuity to invest in. And even when it comes to worldbuilding, something these shows generally prioritize, Smartphone comes across as amateurishly under-considered. From its arbitrary magic system to its MMO-style economic system, nothing here feels real, or conceived as anything more than a canvas for Touya to be awesome.
While Smartphone's writing is cliche and amateurish in basically all respects, the show at least looks pretty fine. There's no flashy animation or direction, but the characters and background art is reasonably attractive. Still, unless you're absolutely desperate for the most vanilla kind of isekai, I'd give this one a skip. Smartphone reflects the worst tendencies of isekai stories and brings nothing new to the table.
Cue snarky remarks about Those Damn Millennials and their Smartphones. When Touya Mochizuki is accidentally killed, a contrite God offers him another chance in a new world, and when he asks what, if anything, Touya would like to bring with him, he chooses his smartphone, which God helpfully makes chargeable by magic, able to access the internet, and a literal direct line to him. Hey, if you're going to have a cheat, you may as well go all the way, right?
That attitude works a bit better in real life than in fiction, unfortunately. Touya's so very overpowered (although he's largely unaware of it at this point, which is a help) that he really doesn't have anything to worry about, taking a lot of the potential tension out of this episode. Everything just seems to literally fall in his lap – one second he's worrying about money, and the next a crazy man is offering him absurd amounts of it for his school uniform. He doesn't know what to do with himself, so seconds later he runs into Elze and Linze being hassled by thugs and ends up joining their party. He wants to learn to use magic and mere moments later he learns he can use all the magic. It's like watching a story on easy mode.
Of course, part of the problem is the usual besetting sin of light novel adaptations: this episode is rushed. Not to the degree of Knight's & Magic, thankfully, but this is still flying through the source material, condensing events awkwardly. Had it just been the fast-forwarding of events, it would have been unfortunate but okay, but Isekai Smartphone (the original author's nickname for the series) tries to make up for its rushed pace by throwing in chibi scenes letting us know what happens after the scene ends. It feels like the show has a lot of commercial breaks, and having weird laughter during nearly all of them is annoying. Honestly, I probably would have given this a 2 without them, because they're distracting and break up the action unnaturally.
Touya himself is a bit of an issue as well – he's so utterly unfazed by everything that happens to him that he isn't relatable or particularly believable as a protagonist. When the twins ask him who (or what) he really is, it's tempting to tell them, “The cookie cutter hero of an isekai series,” because that's how he comes off. Linze also feels very basic in terms of her character, though Elze has a little more going for her, if only in the line about how her strengthening magic is useful because it consistently means guys underestimate her before she blows them out of the water, a statement that's the closest to actual individual personality anyone shows.
Isekai Smartphone’s original novels aren't terrific, but they are more interesting than this adaptation. Unless you're really in need of a new series in the genre, this is easily skipped.
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