The Spring 2019 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
Isekai Quartet ?
What is this?
How was the first episode?
This short reminded me of CLAMP in Wonderland. Honestly, the idea of taking the characters from four of the biggest otherworld fantasy series and sticking them in a generic Japanese high school is kind of genius. The character personalities are also strong enough that you don't need an encyclopedic knowledge of all four series to understand what's going on.
I've seen two of these to completion (Saga of Tanya the Evil and Re:Zero), and I'm aware enough of Overlord and KONOSUBA that I never felt like anything was zooming over my head. This is a super-deformed short after all; each character is going to be distilled into their main personality points. Do I know the personal backstory of KONOSUBA's Darkness? No, but I picked up pretty quick that she's got a masochistic fetish. Aqua and Megumin serve as the dorky troublemakers and Kazuma is their long-suffering adventuring partner. The Overlord crew is basically a bunch of evil monsters. Tanya is still no-nonsense. The Re:Zero team appear last as the straight-laced and optimistic bunch. Most of the show's charm is going to depend on if you want to see these characters bounce off one another for 12 minutes.
What impressed me most is that for what could have been little more than a Flash anime, Isekai Quartet is surprisingly pleasing on the eyes. The super-deformed versions of the characters are cute and decently detailed. The backgrounds are pretty much stock shots of a generic school campus, but this show isn't exactly focused on set pieces. The premiere itself was centered on getting each group in the same place and getting the audience familiar with the characters. Hopefully the actual comedy comes in the next episode.
Isekai Quartet seems like a half-decent diversion as each respective fandom waits for the next installment in their favorite series. If you're a big fan of any of the shows making an appearance, it's worth checking out.
Watching Isekai Quartet helped me understand what it must have been like for the poor folks who went to go see Avengers: Infinity War without having digested the previous twenty movies in the franchise. Now we've got a crossover that features the casts of KONOSUBA, Re:Zero, Overlord, and Saga of Tanya the Evil, and the only one of those shows I've actively watched is Re:Zero. It only took an episode or two for me to realize that Overlord was not my thing, KONOSUBA has been on my backlog for a long time now, and I outright avoided Saga of Tanya the Evil. This means that I sit well outside the target demographic for Isekai Quartet, which makes it a difficult show to review; the perspective I offer is probably only useful to franchise neophytes who might be wondering if this heaping helping of fanservice has anything to offer them.
I will say that, looking at Isekai Quartet purely as a gag-driven comedy, it's a perfectly acceptable little show. The character designs are cutesy enough, and while the animation is limited, it does enough to get the characters from scene to scene, trading banter and barbs along the way. The season is positively stuffed with shorts this year, and I'd be shocked if Isekai Quartet ended up being among the worst. Given what I do know of the four different franchises involved, it seems like all the characters are able to mine comedy from their interactions with each other. It's amusing to see Subaru and the ladies from Re:Zero sharing the same space as the big skeleton guy from Overlord or the hyperactive weirdos from KONOSUBA.
Still, none of that is able to override the fact that fully 75% of this premiere was gibberish to me. Isekai Quartet quite reasonably assumes that anyone watching a crossover between four super-popular anime will have watched all those anime. It doesn't go out of its way to set up the circumstances behind each cast's stories; it exists simply as an excuse to get a bunch of characters people love in the same room for shenanigans to ensue. With less of an anchor to ground me in any of Isekai Quartet's shtick, the episode seemed to me like a bunch of barely contextualized in-jokes.
So should you watch Isekai Quartet if you have no investment in 3/4ths of its cast? Probably not. It's not a bad show, but it has no interest in courting newbies like me, which is totally understandable. Maybe someday I'll catch up on KONOSUBA or Overlord, and I'll be able to appreciate this one more, but until then, I won't lose any sleep over leaving Isekai Quartet off my spring watch-list.
Anime franchise crossovers aren't entirely unknown; see 2015's Infini-T Force for a recent example. However, this 12-minute series easily surpasses its predecessors as possibly the most ambitious anime crossover ever, as it takes four of the most popular isekai franchises of the past few years and combines not just their protagonists but the entire core casts of all four series into one grand chibi-fied affair. That's probably because the source novels for all four titles are published by the same company (Kadokawa), but even so, the sheer audacity of this stunt is staggering.
It's also a brilliant conceptual move. Director/writer Minoru Ashina has essentially pulled the ultimate “meta” play by creating an isekai story about isekai stories, where characters who have been transported to another world are transported to yet another world. Just as amazingly, it looks like this wacky idea is going to work out. The first episode shows how three of the four groups feel about ending up in this situation; Tanya sees this as a stunt by Being X, for instance. The episode also allows characters from each series to demonstrate their viewpoints and idiosyncrasies; Ains plays the cautious info-gathering game but also quickly evaluates the KONOSUBA lot as having inferior equipment; Kazuma and crew debate whether or not they should attack the obvious monsters in the Overlord crew; Emilia sees the whole situation as a chance to make a bunch of new friends, and so forth. There's also a small underlying mystery afoot in why the generals from Saga of Tanya the Evil seem to know what's going on while playing the teacher roles, but the episode ends before they get to detail their circumstances.
Frankly, the reasoning behind all of this doesn't matter much. The concept and casts present are absolutely loaded with potential for all kinds of fun interactions as different backgrounds and perspectives clash, and the chibi-fied designs and simple animation go a long way toward keeping things refreshingly goofy. If the creative staff can maintain a balance that keeps everyone involved in the chaos that's certain to ensue, then this could be one of the most entertaining anime romps in a long time. It sounds like they've even brought back the full voice casts for each series too. The one catch is that it looks like you'll have to be more than passingly familiar with all four franchises to fully appreciate the show; the Overlord parts reference events from the third anime season, and all of the Re:Zero anime has to be seen to fully understand what those characters are talking about. As someone who's done episode reviews for all four franchises, this series is a dream come true.
Now if only those fun-sounding theme songs could get translated...
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