The Spring 2019 Anime Preview Guide
Wise Man's Grandchild
How would you rate episode 1 of
Wise Man's Grandchild ?
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How was the first episode?
There is something sort of comfortable about how closely isekai series adhere to the strictures of their genre. Someone's going to be killed by a truck (in the “reborn” variants like this one), start a new life in another world, and have some sort of awesome “rebirth bonus” to make them stand out. In this case, Shin's bonus appears to be amazing magical powers, augmented by rigorous and kind of short-sighted training by his adoptive granddad Merlin. There is a nice tie-in with how Shin's previous life ended and new one began here, although it isn't harped on, or even really pointed out: he died in a car accident on Earth, and then is found as a baby in a carriage wreck in his new world. Merlin makes an offhand comment about how Shin's body temperature was so low that the demon who destroyed the vehicle and killed everyone else may not have noticed him, but it seems likely that it's not so much that he was playing dead (so to speak) as he was dead, and his soul was transplanted into the infant's cooling body to give them both another chance.
In any event, this may be fairly by-the-numbers, but it does a good job working with what it has. Merlin's total enthusiasm for Shin's magical aptitude means that he completely forgets to teach him normal human stuff, or even to tell him how ridiculously strong he is, which is going to have some major repercussions for the kid, probably starting next episode. Basically he's been raised in near-total isolation, only interacting with other ludicrously strong and famous people, so he's not zero idea of what regular life is like. He's clearly got a good moral compass, as we see when he steps in to save two girls, and he's intelligent enough to figure a few things out without being told, like buying from a merchant even though he's said he's never done so before. How this will help him interact with people his own age at his new magic school is anyone's guess. I suspect hijinks will ensue.
Wise Man's Grandchild doesn't look like it has any ambitions to do anything out of the norm for its genre, but that may be just fine. I admit to being pretty annoyed that our first image of the presumable love interest is her large breasts rather than her face, but hopefully that will not become her defining feature as a character. Otherwise this stands to be a perfectly enjoyable reborn-in-another-world show with a protagonist who seems genuinely nice (although that hasn't been peer tested) and a magic system that blessedly does not require convoluted time-wasting chants. It's not ground-breaking, but it sure is comfort food.
Wise Man's Grandchild's premiere features the typical modern isekai opening of an unremarkable guy dying in a tragic car accident, only to be reborn in a fantasy world where magic exists but he still has his memories, and so on and so forth. I get how the reincarnation angle appeals to a certain kind of escapist fantasy, but I'd honestly rather an anime drop it completely if it isn't going to do anything with it. So far, the only advantage Shin gains from being reborn into this world instead of just being a regular adventure story protagonist is that he has exceptional aptitude with magic.
The show also doesn't make a great impression with its setting and world-building, which is a complaint I'm having with more and more fantasy anime these days. In the opening scenes, which chronicle Shin's childhood, almost every scene takes place in some anonymous outdoorsy spot or inside his grandfather's cabin. This would be more forgivable if there was any attempt to make this magical alternate dimension feel unique, but outside of the characters' costumes and magical abilities, we get no real specifics. Though I suppose I'm just thankful that the world doesn't literally operate on the mechanics of an MMORPG.
Still, if the show about being reborn in another world is interested neither in the “being reborn” nor the “other world” parts, then what on Earth is Wise Man's Grandchild trying to accomplish? The answer to that question seems to be “generating some easy laughs at the expense of our exceptionally ignorant main character”. The core gimmick of this show is that Shin's grandfather raised him to be a world-class warrior and magician, but somehow completely neglected to teach him anything else at all. Shin has no clue how money or employment works, has never been shopping, nor has he even explored the world beyond his grandfather's isolated little cabin. Shin has no clue about the lives any of his family members live outside of their family gatherings, to the point where he only learns that his grandfather is a literal king in charge of an entire country on his 15th birthday.
If Wise Man's Grandchild gets anything right, it's this one simple gag that ends up being pretty funny. Honestly, I would love for Wise Man's Grandchild to lean into Shin's all-consuming ignorance as much as possible. I want to see the “Ernest Scared Stupid” of isekai, and I mean that sincerely. I have virtually no interest in the clunky exposition that the show keeps dropping, and I'm not at all invested in the magic-school plot that gets set up in the final act of the episode. But a low-key fantasy comedy about a preposterously buffoonish super-being? That I can get behind.
This new isekai series proves once again that the most fiendish villain in all anime is Truck-kun. How many more have to die in order for this bastard to be satisfied?
Jokes aside, this series looks like an experiment to see if an isekai series could stand out by not standing out. Even before it begins, Wise Man's Grandchild has one of the most inauspicious – or even downright boring – titles you'll ever see in isekai. Sure, it's accurate, but it doesn't speak to anything enticing, and neither does the content of this first episode. The setup is as standard as they come, with a lonesome overworked protagonist getting taken out by Truck-kun to be reborn into a fantasy world. From the abilities he shows at an early age, we can surmise that he is supremely gifted both physically and magically (and apparently remembering some real-world chemistry doesn't hurt), but the slight difference in this show is that viewers aren't beat over the head with how powerful he's become. He gives us a couple of big demonstrations of magic and that's it.
The other factor that gives this series some promise is that it seems to be focusing at least as much on how being that powerful can impact things in a more complicated way. Those around him acknowledge that he's incredible strong enough to potentially throw power struggles into chaos in the world outside his forest, and he's definitely not socially equipped to deal with the larger world; it's a factor that many other isekai series either overlook completely or sweep under the rug. I also like the angle of introducing the hero to a “normal” environment so he can start to appreciate how abnormal he seems, and of course plenty of “fish out of water” jokes can probably be expected. Looks like at least some fan service could be in order as well given the young ladies (his future fellow students) he handily rescues from the stereotypical mob of aggressive guys.
Hopefully there will be some fresh sparks somewhere in the upcoming school scenario, because the artistry certainly isn't providing much excitement. Outside of the grand explosion scene, this is a nondescript-looking series with a slapstick sensibility in how it handles lighter scenes. Still, while the series doesn't stand out much in any positive way so far, neither does it stand out in any negative way. The first episode just doesn't make much of an impression one way or the other.
Wise Man's Grandchild isn't breaking any new ground, but there's something admirable about how well it plays to its strengths. All the isekai cliches are there: reborn in a world with magic (check), naturally overpowered protagonist (check), and convenient access to a cushy life (check). Throw in the magic school setting and we have all the ingredients for a generic magical romantic comedy. Wise Man's Grandchild manages to be a step above generic for two primary reasons: the animation on display is impressive and the protagonist isn't a self-absorbed jerk.
Viewers will have to fully suspend their sense of disbelief for most of this episode's premise to work. You have to first believe that a kid can grow up around a group of adults their entire life and never ask who their caretakers are and what they do. Shin makes it to 15 years old before he finds out his uncle is the king of another country! He basically spent his entire life practicing magic in the woods and sparring with his grandpa's friend, never once curious about the people around him. He grew up satisfied despite never exploring beyond a few miles of his own home. If you can get past that and handwave all the amenities that his convenient connections provide him, the series is otherwise a fairly charming magic school romp.
What impressed me most is the artistry behind Shin's spells. There are three different stand-out moments in the episode, but the coolest might be young Shin battling a demon grizzly with wind spells on his shoes. The fight is pretty short, but if it's any indication of how other battles might look, I'd stick around for that alone. Wise Man's Grandchild might not be unique but it's a good example of how playing to your strengths can elevate material beyond an amalgamation of cliches. We haven't gotten to meet most of the actual supporting cast, so I'd give it at least one more episode to see if it keeps up the good will or dives face first into harem town.
Based on this premiere, it's looking like Wise Man's Grandchild will play out as a combination of the two most recent genre fads: “trapped in another world” plus “enrolling at a magical academy.” Normally, shows in either of these genres tend to fill out the bottom tier of seasonal catalogues, generally offering deeply suspect writing and a whole array of tired cliches. Wise Man's Grandchild is certainly far from immune to these issues, but also possesses a fair number of merits, poising it to potentially be one of the better isekai in recent memory.
Wise Man's Grandchild's unique strengths begin with the charming relationship between our protagonist Shin and his various mentors. Though Shin being an incredibly prodigy is pretty much expected in these sorts of light novel fantasies, there are plenty of endearing moments between him and his grandfather that help sell each of them as sympathetic characters. Additionally, the reveal that basically everyone Shin knows is famous is handled with comedy and grace, adding a somewhat novel wrinkle to a very familiar template. There is very little that is mean-spirited in this episode, and dedicating almost the whole premiere to establishing Shin's family was a choice that I felt really paid off.
That said, enjoying this premise does require accepting many of the narrative failings endemic to modern isekai. Shin being absurdly overpowered felt both predictable and disappointing, and the worldbuilding is threadbare in that “just assume it's like an RPG” way many of these shows embrace. Shin's adult outfit just straight-up being a Japanese school uniform felt like a terribly misguided choice, and this episode ends on that extremely tired “hero saves women from imminent rape to establish his heroicness” beat. Wise Man's Grandchild's positive spirit and novel setup set it apart from its fellows to some extent, but I would still have been happier to see this apple fall a little further from its genre tree.
In visual terms, Wise Man's Grandchild feels like a scrappy contender boxing well outside its weight bracket. Though the show's character designs are generic and its animation inconsistent, a combination of energetic direction and well-employed fluid cuts meant all of this episode's fight scenes felt pretty darn thrilling. The action and camera move together, meaning that the grace and power with which Shun dismantles his enemies felt parsable and exciting throughout. That active direction also bolsters the show's more comedy-focused material, aligning neatly with its punchy expression work.
On the whole, Wise Man's Grandchild is one of the stronger isekai premieres of recent seasons, despite some shakiness in both its visuals and narrative. If you're a fan of the genre, definitely give this one a look.
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