The Summer 2018 Anime Preview Guide
The Master of Ragnarok and Blesser of Einherjar
How would you rate episode 1 of
The Master of Ragnarok & Blesser of Einherjar ?
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How was the first episode?
The Master of Ragnarok and Blesser of Einherjar is definitely a mixed bag of a first episode. In some ways, it really feels quite clever and well-researched – technically speaking, it isn't an isekai story because protagonist Yuuto recognizes the constellations he sees in the sky and the basic historical mechanisms at play and is able to extrapolate that he's been summoned not to another world, but to a point during Earth's Bronze Age. That's a neat twist on the usual, and the fact that his smartphone works feels less gimmicky both because of the time travel aspect, but also because it's not the first time travel story to do so – Akaishi Michiyo's 2001 shoujo manga Amakusa 1637 uses the same device. Yuuto also seems to be limiting his phone searches to historically accurate things as well, which shows that he's really thinking about the fact that he's in the past – no one's inventing the rocket here, they're just learning to grind grain and use the phalanx formation for battles.
The downside depends more on how you feel about harems, because that's definitely what this is. Even from a harem perspective, I find this one a little off-putting – due to the familial nature of the chalice ritual, which binds people together as “family,” all of the lovely ladies who are vying for Yuuto's affections address him as either “father” or “big brother,” which I find uncomfortable. (Father more so, honestly.) That the girls don't think of him as either of those things except in a symbolic sense feels clear, but it's still awkward at best, especially when Felicia and Sigrún start (playfully) fighting over who gets to take care of Yuuto's morning erection, much to his horror.
As for the Norse mythology implied in the series title, that's another of the better done aspects of the episode. As you may recognize, Sigrún is the name of a Valkyrie in Norse mythology, and with the exception of Felicia, the other two harem members are Linnea and Ingrid, both Swedish names. There's some interesting Bronze age imagery in the backgrounds and items the characters are using, and if it all feels a bit more Roman than Viking, it still feels largely faithful to its declared setting. Some of the battle scenes are interesting as well, mostly when Felicia whips out her rope and masterfully shields Yuuto from a barrage of arrows; it's the visual highlight of the episode. Less stunning are the female bodies, which look elongated to the point of just being kind of weird (especially Felicia, but she wears the least, so it just may be most noticeable) while the background men all were clearly drawn with much less care and attention to detail.
There's not quite enough here to merit checking out more unless you're a harem fan, but it does feel a bit less hackneyed than How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord. If it focuses more on Yuuto's quest than the girls, or at least divides it up evenly, there could be some potential here, but right now that's feeling like a pretty big if.
Oh boy, it's This Damn Show again. It feels like we get closer to the bottom of the barrel for basic isekai shows with each passing season. Second-string shows in this genre usually have at least some new gimmick working in their favor, but The Master of Ragnarok and Blesser of Einherjar just feels like a derivative copy of other derivative copies. The only unique thing here is an unfathomably ill-advised approach to introducing the plot, but let's start with the characters.
Protagonist Yuuto has been transported to another world, or at least into Earth's own distant past. He doesn't seem to be completely certain which it is, but in either case his smartphone still works as long as it's near a magic mirror, and he's apparently risen to power within a local clan by looking up infantry formations on Wikipedia. I could go into depth on how these ideas have been done already by such forgettable titles as In Another World with My Smartphone and The Ambition of Oda Nobuna, but you get the point. The rest of the cast consists of girls who pine after Yuuto while calling him either Father or Big Brother for totally legitimate cultural reasons and grumpy old dudes who are consistently outsmarted by an average high school kid. Color me unimpressed.
On top of the recycled premise and stock cast, this particular episode is set two years after Yuuto's arrival in his new home, meaning he's already in charge of his own army and has figured out a way to make phone calls to his actual sister who is still in her original time and place. I realize we've all heard this story before, but that's still one heck of a way to fast-track the usual early plot points. It also has the interesting side effect of making this premiere feel like a recap of a nonexistent previous season, with Yuuto having multiple “good to see you again” moments with the established members of his harem. I don't know why anyone thought this was a good idea, but it makes an already bad episode even harder to get through.
If you're hoping that all this boneheaded plotting will at least yield some good action scenes or plentiful fanservice, be aware that this show's production values are more or less on par with its script. The opening battle scene is dull and ugly, and the fanservice is far too tame to cause a stir in this day and age. Based on this episode, I can see no plausible reason to watch The Master of Ragnarok and Blesser of Einherjar. Even if you're not tired of this genre yet, this particular example is about as cheap and disposable as a show can get. I didn't expect to be saying this, but you're much better off watching How Not to Summon a Demon Lord.
Oh, the third season of Overlord can't debut soon enough! Seeing shows like this only make me appreciate even more how good that one is.
I don't think I'm overstating the difference there, either, because this one also can't hold a candle to How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord in the realm of isekai harem series, and I called that one a “poor man's Overlord.” Yes, this one thankfully drops the overused game mechanics aspect, but it replaces it by revisiting the “my smartphone still works!” gimmick that was none-too-successful (at least in my book) last year. This one also strikes me as incredibly lazy by comparison, as it starts with the male lead/transferee already being the master of his domain and a couple of hot, capable girls; who needs an origin story when you can get right to having the male lead turn all the girls into his children or little sisters?
In fairness, the story does explain that becoming a child or sibling of the clan patriarch is just the way that things are done in this setting for everyone, and not just hot girls. However, the greater connotations about how things normally work in these kind of series makes it feel like that principle was added in just to give the MC a legitimate excuse to call all of his underlings “imouto.” Also in fairness, this could well be an in media res situation, where the story is going to come back in another episode or two and explain how Yuto ended up in the situation that he's in, in which case I'll retract the “lack of origin story” criticism. I will also admit that the business with him being able to communicate with his real little sister back in the modern world – something which only the busty gal seems to know about – is a different twist, as is the indication that he apparently didn't actually magically know the local language to start.
For every detail that could be listed in the episode's favor, at least one negative one also pops up. The episode attempts to imply that Yuto's use of the phalanx would have been innovative for a setting equivalent to the beginning of the Iron Age, but historically concepts similar to the phalanx existed at least as far back as the 25th century B.C. (And sorry, Yuto, but it's a real stretch to give Nobunaga any credit there even if you are Japanese.) In lieu of some explanation about them being distracted, that the archers wouldn't continue to fire at Yuto makes no sense. The petting on the head and dog analogies are a little uncomfortable, too. The sexier elements – especially the opening scene and the fan service-laden closer – can simply be attributed to standard harem hijinks; if you don't normally tolerate those then you won't find them any more tolerable than normal here. To say that the artistic effort is nothing special might even be generous; the character design quality is very ordinary and unexciting and nothing else about the visuals impresses any more than that.
Maybe this series will show us something different, but right now it's not looking promise at all.
Master of Ragnarök & Blesser of Einherjar is, like last winter's Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody, a series that wastes its overly long yet potentially cool title on a truly mediocre premise, which in both cases happens to be the story of how a regular guy from modern times gets transported to another world where his knowledge and skill is unparalleled by any other, which also means that he is surrounded by a harem of girls who all just think he's the bee's knees. Ragnarök already starts off on the wrong foot by stuffing itself into an already crowed and overdone genre, and it only digs the hole deeper for itself as this premiere continues.
To be frank, I didn't like much of anything about this episode. The art is ugly, it's barely animated, and the characters are all shallow harem clichés. Yuuto has no discernable personality outside of his generic desire to be a nice yet successful ruler, Felicia is a walking series of lame sex jokes, Rύn is just there to literally act like an obedient puppy, and so on. By the time both Rύn and Felicia waste a solid few minutes trying to decide what to do with Yuuto's boner, I was ready to check out of this one, and the rest of the episode doesn't offer any character or narrative hook to justify sticking around. Given that this story picks up two years into Yuuto's journey, we at least don't have to spend a lot of time watching him learn the ropes, but the exposition we get about his situation is still clumsy. Why does his cell-phone still work if he's trapped thousands of years in the past? How did this kid manage to go from not even knowing the language of this society to becoming a feared warlord; I know the idea is that he basically used the internet, but I still can't shake the feeling that a lot of details are being glossed over because the story knows it doesn't make much sense on paper, and it doesn't want anyone to think about it too much.
Just about the only positive thing I can say about this premiere is that I like that Yuuto still has that connection to his life on present day Earth, and that his relationship with Mitsuki is a driving force for him to find a way back to his own time; that is an interesting wrinkle that could be interestingly developed in the future. I also do appreciate the basic conceit of Yuuto having to use his access to the internet to do what he does, but I don't see it being capitalized on in any meaningful way; outside of a few nods to historical inventions that Yuuto ends up reverse engineering, it just feels like yet another excuse to give the self-insert protagonist an edge on the competition without having to give the story any dramatic weight or stakes. This might do well for hardcore isekai fans, but I'll be staying far away from Master of Ragnarök & Blesser of Einherjar for the foreseeable future.
The Master of Ragnarok stands as our third isekai production of the season, and in spite of us already having witnessed the literal slave fetish isekai, somehow it manages to be the most bald-faced power fantasy of the three of them. That's certainly an accomplishment of a sort, but I'm not really sure I should applaud: Master of Ragnarok isn't doing anything particularly novel, it's just that every single element of this production so far seems entirely designed to bolster its power fantasy appeal.
This episode introduces us to our cast some time after our protagonist Yuuto was transported to Yggdrasil, but it's easy enough to understand Ragnarok's theoretical hook. Thrust into a world dominated by warring clans, Yuuto uses his smartphone to look up classic military tactics and other useful data, combatting bronze age foes with all the knowledge of the modern world. Through doing so, he gathers trusted allies over time, ultimately hoping to find his way back to his own world.
All of that is well and good in theory, but in practice, I couldn't find a single moment of this episode that wasn't dedicated to demonstrating either how awesome Yuuto is or how much all the girls around him love him. In this world, becoming a “patriarch” means your defeated foes turned allies all join your “family” - meaning in short, Ragnarok has found itself a worldbuilding excuse for every adoring woman to call Yuuto “big brother” or “father.”
“Modern man is tossed into the past and conquers it with his modern knowledge” is a well-worn narrative with plenty of dramatic potential. My problem with a show like Ragnarok specifically is that all of its narrative decisions seem to stem from a base purpose of “how can we make this the most dedicated power/harem fantasy we can,” not “how can we tell an interesting story.” If that purpose equates to interesting for a given audience member, they're in luck - but if not, there's absolutely nothing to engage with here. None of the female characters feel like real people - they feel like living avatars of the audience's desires, begging for head pats and tearfully thanking their big brother in spite of theoretically being leaders and warriors. Yuuto's best warrior is in love with him, his advisor is in love with him, his blacksmith is in love with him, and even his newest defeated foe is in love with him - and they don't express that love through convincing drama, they express it through the same tsundere beats and bawdy innuendo every other harem uses. The political mechanics of this world seem designed to validate a little sister fetish, while all of Yuuto's fellow councilmen (aside from his ladies, who trust him completely) are framed as cruel-hearted idiots just so he looks smart and gallant by comparison.
As an actual dedicated harem, Ragnarok lacks the comedy, engaging characters, or strong execution to really distinguish itself. As a fantasy adventure, Ragnarok's dedication to also being a harem makes it very hard to invest in anything. Overall, Ragnarok's reasonable production values and novel worldbuilding hooks put it over the bottom of the seasonal barrel, but not by much. Lukewarm harem plus lukewarm isekai equals easy skip.
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