The Fall 2018 Anime Preview Guide
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
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That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime ?
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How was the first episode?
Based purely on its premise, I was hoping That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime would be a fun twist on a genre that's been plagued by a surplus of bland titles in recent seasons. If its first episode is any indication, this show might just be the silly change of pace I've been looking for. It gets through the usual exposition quickly and efficiently, and there's plenty of goofy (or perhaps gooey) fun to be had once Satoru ends up in his new body. There are a few concerns and question marks to be found, but for the most part I'm pleasantly surprised by what I've seen.
At the moment, my main worry is that Satoru's laundry list of special abilities has already started expanding, with no obvious limit in sight. If he continues picking up new powers at this rate, he runs the risk of becoming too invincible for his own good by the end of the season, which would ruin some of the fun of having the protagonist be a dopey blue blob. On the upside, the way in which he acquires his initial abilities is actually kind of clever. Instead of letting Satoru pick and choose how he wants to be reborn, some grand magical system interprets his rambling final thoughts as requests and comes up with abilities that match up with those statements. As coincidence would have it, that list of traits just happens to describe a slime monster.
Once we get past the reincarnation process, this episode really hits its stride. The slime's voice and appearance are wonderfully silly, and I have to give the show points for finding ways of conveying facial expressions and body language with an amorphous puddle of goo. There's a genuine sense of fun as Satoru gets used to his new form, especially once he starts devouring every magic herb and rock in the cave simply because there's nothing else to do. His encounter with Verudora wouldn't be nearly as amusing if it had taken place between two humans, but something about the image of a tiny slime chatting with a giant tsundere dragon is just delightfully weird.
Admittedly, it's tough to judge this show's long-term appeal based on this episode alone. While the whole man-becomes-blob thing makes for a fun half hour, a lot will depend on how Slime develops the world and characters outside of this starting cavern. The story of the summoned hero girl could be compelling, but only if the series can strike a good balance between that more serious situation and the antics of Satoru and friends. The writing will also need to present Satoru with obstacles that offer a genuine challenge despite his many abilities, which could be tough if he keeps picking up new ones. For now, though, this premiere is an enjoyable way to get the story started and is worth checking out even if you're sick of the usual isekai formula.
The simuldub (or slime-uldub, if you prefer) of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime is off to a promising start. Making a final call after one episode is a bit tough since we haven't yet encountered most of the supporting cast, but so far everyone seems well-suited to their roles. Jason Liebrecht turns in a solid effort as Satoru Mikami's original human self before handing protagonist duties over to Brittney Karbowski as Rimuru. Her performance is pretty darn close to Miho Okasaki's original take on our slimy hero in terms of pitch and personality, and the dub script does a respectable job of keeping the more entertaining parts of Rimuru's inner monologue intact. Chris Rager is similarly spot-on as Veldora, hitting both the dragon's bellowing fury and hidden soft side nicely. There isn't much emotional range built into the Great Sage role, but Mallorie Rodak seems to be a good tonal fit for the voice of Rimuru's skills. Barring any disastrously bad decisions further down the line, this dub looks like a good option for viewers who prefer English audio.
Of all the things, I was never expecting That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime to be so damned cute. I'd heard some positive buzz already about this isekai anime's more creative take on what is becoming a very crowded and tired genre, and Studio 8-Bit has put out some pretty good shows in the past; Aquarion Evol has really grown on me over time, and Knight's & Magic certainly wasn't the worst isekai I'd ever seen. Even with slightly raised expectations, though, I was genuinely surprised at how much I liked this premiere, though there are still some familiar genre hang-ups that are keeping me from completely giving in to its charms.
Let's start with the good stuff, though. For one, the series makes a great first impression by giving us a hero that works as a familiar but dependably likable hero. Satoru an (almost) 40 year old virgin who is happy enough with his average job and his average life, though he's the first to dive in front of his best friend and his best friend's fiancé when a man suddenly runs at them with a knife. The joke about Satoru wanting to wipe his hard-drive is a funny way to cap off a death that is otherwise played straight, but even this tiny glimpse of Satoru's last, heroic act on earth is enough to make him more interesting than most isekai protagonists are at this point in the story's setup. I also really dug TTIGRaaS's almost experimental visual style, cross-cutting Satoru's death and slimy-rebirth with trippy visual effects and CG interludes that enhance the otherworldly aspect of the setting.
It's when Satoru fully transitions into his life as Rimuru the slime though, that the show really picks up. When Miho Okazaki takes over voice-over duties from Takuma Terashima, it perfectly captures the cuteness that literally oozes out of Satoru's new form, and the animation instills a bouncy sense of fun and curiosity into what could have otherwise been lifeless character (I never get tired of the slime forming punctuation marks with its own body). Rimuru even forms an adorable relationship with the only other being that lives in the cave he's ended up in, a giant and fearsome dragon named Verudora, who is essentially a giant, scaly tsundere. If there's anything that could have improved some of the other, less enjoyable isekai series' I've watched lately, it would be replacing all of the self-insert “badasses” with slimes, and all of the slaves with pouty dragon besties.
My main problems with this premiere have to do with some of the script and direction choices. A lot of this episode falls into the familiar light-novel trap of over-indulging in jargon and the technical explanations behind all of the characters' powers and whatnot, and I'm personally the kind of guy who gets turned off when series spend too much time trying to sound like over-complicated RPGs. Also, much of the story takes place in a very dark and nondescript cavern, and while I appreciate how the color palette expanded once Verudora gifted Rimuru with magical sight, the drab visuals aren't exactly selling me on the wonder of this magical new world.
These are minor points, though, and I suspect that the show will pick up even more once Rimuru break into the outside world and joins up with all the other ladies we get to see in the key art and ED. I never thought I'd say it, but this isekai is something I'll be looking forward to keeping up with this fall. Whether you're a faithful fan of the genre or an isekai skeptic, I highly recommend giving That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime a shot.
I have read the first volume of the manga adaptation of the original novels, so I was very curious to see how the first anime episode would handle the internal dialogue and rather abstract aspects of the protagonist's discovery process about being a slime. I am pleased to say that the first episode not only handled that wonderfully well but also did just about everything else right. A better start to the series probably couldn't have been reasonably hoped for.
Isekai reincarnation stories commonly start with the protagonist dying in the modern world, but rarely is the death of the protagonist shown as darkly or in as much detail as it is here. It's a legitimately dramatic death scene rather than just a toss-off moment, and the strange voice which seems to be assigning him powers and characteristics as it listens to the protagonist's dying thoughts doesn't distract from that one bit. The transitional stage as he jumps between worlds and is reborn is imaginative and effective at conveying the sense of change that the protagonist is experiencing; director Yasuhito Kikuchi doesn't have the most auspicious credits beyond Macross Frontier, but the way he envisioned and handled this could be a major new feather in his cap. The vocal change, which sounds like an adjustment in electronic pitch, was also a neat touch.
And then there's his reality as a slime. Even though he starts with some unique skills, he also starts as the lowliest of fantasy creatures, so he has to quickly adapt to his circumstances and take advantage of what's available to him. Still, it's not going to be a big strain for him, as his Predator ability already shows signs of being broken as hell. I was also worried about how expressive the slime could be, but he comes off as surprisingly visually emotive, even at times cute. The intro (which plays as the closer for this episode) shows that he will eventually advance to the capability to assume a human form, but for now he's a delight scuttling around absorbing things. The encounter with the storm dragon, who in an amusing twist turns out to be quite the tsundere, slows things down a bit but still has a certain degree of spark.
It isn't just the visual direction which shines here, either. The technical merits in general are higher than I would have expected; studio 8-Bit clearly isn't treating this as a second-tier project. Whether or not the series will be successful in the long run depends on maintaining those technical merits and the story balance once the protagonist starts to become over-powered (and yes, he does look to be gathering a harem around him eventually), but at the start at least, this show displays more promise than average.
Even though I enjoyed the first novel, I wasn't expecting to like this episode quite so much. But this is an isekai show that, right now, is doing its best to be just a little bit different from its fellows in the genre. Yes, it still features a regular guy who dies and ends up reborn in a fantasy world with a random voice that announces things like power-ups and skill acquisitions, but apart from the “I was a thirtysomething virgin dude” trope, That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime manages to keep things fairly fresh – and not just because protagonist Mikami Satoru was, as the title says, reborn as that lowest of all dungeon monsters.
In large part it's the visuals in the opening ten-odd minutes that really sell this. Human Satoru isn't just some blank-faced schlub, he's a guy with a character design and a decent life. He's got a good job, a bounce in his step, and if he's never had a girlfriend, he's not consumed with bitterness about it. (At least until he dies; but it feels more understandable at that point.) He's not even that upset about his kohai wanting him to meet his girlfriend (fiancée?) – and it's in saving that kohai that he gets stabbed by a lunatic with a knife dashing out of the subway. That just as much attention is paid to detail in the visuals of this opening scene as when Satoru reincarnates is again nicely different from what we've been seeing in isekai anime lately, as if the story understands that it is Satoru's human life that's really going to inform his slime on and so we had better pay attention to the details while we can.
Also interesting is the way that CG is used in the episode. While we see much more of it in a sort of schematics-like manner as Satoru is dying and reincarnating, there's also good use of it in his slime form, giving him a believable elasticity that really works for the character. Slimes, as any gamer knows, are not the most…dynamic forms out there, and this episode is really doing its damnedest to make sure we can read Satoru's body language once he's in blob form. Mostly this is done with pop up punctuation formed from Satoru's slime body, but the way bugged out eyes are animated and Satoru's movement also really works to make him visually interesting and engaging.
There are still some annoyances here, like Unexplained Magic Voice and her weird ability to grant Satoru all of his powers, but even if isekai is beginning to grate on you as a genre, this is worth checking out. As novel readers already know, the little girl during WWII in the opening few moments plays an interesting role going forward (pay attention to what the dragon said about Summoned and their Summoners), and Satoru won't look like a slime for the entire twenty-four episodes this is slated for.
Plus there's a tsundere dragon who just wants to be friends. Really, how could you resist that?
Alright, let's start with the good news. In terms of production values, Slime is a far, far above average isekai production. In fact, its visual strengths shouldn't be downplayed as simple solidity of design - the sequences of our protagonist Satoru transferring between worlds and investigating his new body are genuinely inspired, combining strong fundamental concepts with purposeful post-processing to arrive at a truly convincing transformation into a new body. Slime doesn't just look “good,” it has a look - strong color work, active direction, and an overall quirky, inherently humorous visual sensibility.
Speaking of comedy, Slime's jokes are also pretty strong on the whole. The actual dialogue isn't great, but the comedy is executed with a snappiness that makes reveals like “yep, I'm still a slime” inherently funny. The best gag in this episode is a dragon whose poutiness, giddiness, and all other supremely un-dragon-like qualities come through clearly in his actual animation. On top of that, the opening sequence is a very strong effort headlined by Ryouma Ebata, an animator who's become famous for his dynamic motion, strongly conceived overall compositions, and the very specific way he makes all of his characters strut.
On to the bad news: narrative-wise, this is still a pretty default isekai, and actually exemplary of many of the genre's modern problems. The first six minutes are essentially indistinguishable from every other isekai, and once our hero gets into his new world, the rest of the episode is taken up with tedious explanations and a steady stream of unearned level-ups. It feels like the fundamental promise of the modern isekai genre is “watch someone else talk about how good they'd be at videogames if they had all the cheat codes turned on,” and this episode's narrative stays true to that promise in every way, from the effortless way our hero gains every skill to the gleeful acknowledgments that this isn't a convincing fantasy world, it's just a videogame. If not for that dragon's charming character acting, the second half of this episode would be an interminable slog - it's basically just the dragon and some unknown authorial voice answering questions as Satoru rifles through the user manual, clarifying how the different skills in this videogame work.
I'm clearly not the target audience for this sort of power fantasy, but even in terms of basic storytelling structure, this glut of dramatically meaningless exposition is just a terrible way to hook audiences in general. Slime's strong aesthetics mean it may ultimately rise to the top of the seasonal isekai heap, but this episode only gave me a negative impression of its actual storytelling, and such a failure of form right out the gate implies pretty dubious things about its narrative going forward. The isekai genre has essentially collapsed in on itself at this point, promising one extremely specific fantasy of competency in one extremely specific videogame world. Some shows strike at that goal better than others, but I'd rather my stories be stories, not all-hacks-on Let's Plays.
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