The Spring 2021 Preview Guide
I've Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level
by The Anime News Network Editorial Team,
How would you rate episode 1 of
I've Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level ?
What is this?
Ordinary office lady Azusa Aizawa died due to overwork. For that reason, when she finds herself reborn as an immortal witch with the appearance of a 17-year-old, she decides to live an easy-going life. Her main source of income is collecting magic stones that drop off the slimes that live in the nearby forest and selling them at the nearby village's guild. After doing this for the last 300 years, she's unknowingly become a level 99 witch, the most powerful of all.
I've Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level is based on author Kisetsu Morita and illustrator Benio's light novel series of the same name and streams on Crunchyroll on Saturdays.
How was the first episode?
Now, I'm not one for “slow life” slice-of-life stories in general. I like my fiction to have a larger plot and themes beyond just depicting random events that occur during one's day-to-day life. While Killing Slimes may look like one of these with its light-hearted tone and whimsical comedy, the twist is that it is not. Our heroine, Azusa, the Witch of the Highlands, has lived her slow life for 300 years. This anime is shaping up to be the story of how her slow life came to an end—and how her life is better for it.
After being reincarnated in another world (with an unaging, immortal body), Azusa has basically lived a life of minimal work. She's killed slimes and made medicines for money but has never let “work” become her reason for living—like it was in her previous life as a corporate slave in Japan. Now, this doesn't mean that she's been living completely selfishly. Over the years, she has helped the nearby village with medicines and the like, basically cementing her role as the town's doctor.
Yet, while she is accepted and revered by the villagers, her long life has also made her more of a guardian spirit than a person in their eyes. She has many acquaintances, but no friends. It is the classic curse of immortality: she will outlive all those unlike herself, watching as they grow old and die while she remains the same.
That's why the arrival of Laika is so important. Laika may or may not be immortal, but as a dragon, she is the equivalent of a teenager even after 300 years of life. Her age also makes her the first person of Azusa's own age that she has met since her early years in the village.
Before her reincarnation, Azusa had no time for her own entertainment—much less friends, family, or romance. Since then, she has enjoyed her free time but has never gotten the most out of it, as she never found people to share it with. However, Laika has the potential to be such a companion. And through her, Azusa may finally gain what she missed out on in both of her lives so far.
That's a thematically solid story and I am here for it.
There's something morbid in this show that I can't quite put my finger on. Maybe it's just the deluge of isekai has become so all-encompassing that I've resorted to reading between the lines to differentiate Killing Slimes from the dozen other shows like it I've seen before. Maybe the straight-faced, half-comedic way the characters just explain the premise to each other made it harder to ignore how depressing it is that the main character just casually accepts dying from overwork. Maybe the Spider show has just filled my quota for Aoi Yūki snarking her way through a fantasy world, making this one feel superfluous.
Whatever it is, I doubt it's intentional. While this premiere does bookend itself on a message about not working yourself too hard and giving oneself permission to have a healthy work-life balance, it's first and foremost a sugary comedy about heroine Azusa trying to chill in her new fantasy life. The gag's right there in the title: she did the bare minimum to get by comfortably, then vibed for three centuries and inadvertently hit the level cap of this RPG world. Now everybody thinks she's an amazing witch with god-like powers and they're raring to challenge her or demand to learn her secrets. Insert a new cute girl every couple of episodes and you've got yourself a recipe for a perfectly middle-of-the-road sitcom. And for most people I'm sure that's how this premiere will play out, and they'll either stick around or just go watch The Slime Diaries instead.
But I don't know, there's something buried in there that bugs me. Like, 300 years of immortal life but Azusa seemingly never wandered further than a nearby village, and has had no urge to explore or learn more about the vast world she's been given an unending vacation in? She offhandedly mentions bringing medicine to villagers and even stopping a plague, but she never mentions making friends or acquaintances, and there's not a word of how she feels about effortlessly outliving every person she ever met there. I get that's part of the joke – Azusa went on narrative autopilot to set up the gag that she accidentally became insanely powerful – but it paints our lead as a dull, incurious hero who either doesn't or can't picture more to life than dying from overwork or living in hermetic near-isolation. That's just depressing.
Maybe I'm just overthinking things. I probably am. But that was the most substantial feeling I came out with after this otherwise serviceable premiere. If you're not a weirdo like me, there's nothing particularly bad or offensive in this first episode, and if you're in the mood for a low-stakes comedy and aren't sick of isekai yet then this will probably do you just fine.
What I remember about the source novel for I've Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level are precisely two things: 1) the lead character quickly builds up a yuri harem and 2) the author really quite desperately wants to say something about Japan's culture of overwork. It looks as if the anime adaptation is going to stay true to both of those things, and that's honestly not so bad. What's more interesting is the way that this compares with The Saint's Magic Power is Omnipotent, because that's another female-led isekai story about a woman who has to learn how to slow down and enjoy life – but having not actually died in her original world, she's much less urgent about the whole thing.
It's amazing what a little death via overwork at age 27 can do for a woman.
To say that our protagonist Aikawa Azusa is bitter about the whole thing might be something of an understatement. When she drops dead in the office and suddenly finds herself before a very accommodating goddess, the first thing she asks for in her next life is immortality, because there's no way in hell she's going through the whole death thing again. Since the goddess has a soft spot for pretty teenage girls, that's what she reincarnates Azusa as, giving her a nice set of witchy powers and plopping her down, already age seventeen, in front of a local vacant house in the beautiful highlands of some random generic fantasy country. Azusa promptly flips her name order and starts living her best life until, boom, three hundred years have passed.
It's a good sign that the episode doesn't feel like it's skipping or condensing material. In reality, we probably don't really want to watch three hundred years of Azusa killing slimes and hanging out in her house, but regardless this feels very organic. In fact, the actual meat of the story doesn't start until Azusa's built herself a nice reputation as the Witch of the Highlands, when the latest guild employee decides to check her stats and shriek loudly at the discovery that Azusa is now level 99. Since the town gossip is right there eavesdropping, word gets around very quickly, much to Azusa's dismay.
One of the really nice things here is Azusa's devotion to her easy-going lifestyle. She doesn't get caught up in details or day-to-day issues; she's just enjoying her second chance and making the most of it. She's really not happy to suddenly be on everyone's radar, but her fight with Laika, a red dragon, does net her a servant, er, student, so it worked out. Seeing her explain to Laika that having too good of a work ethic can be damaging is in many ways the heart of the episode, because we know first-hand why Azusa is so keen on taking it easy.
Admittedly, this is all a little dull. Azusa's constant narration can get annoying, and not a whole lot happens besides that. But it's also the right kind of harmless, and if it can maintain that even as the harem builds, this could be a nice counterpoint to other isekai shows.
At the very top of the premiere of I've Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years etc. etc., our heroine Azusa encounters the goddess who will revive her into the generic fantasy world that is part and parcel with this isekai subgenre these days, and the goddess freely admits that she is going to give Azusa the Deluxe Isekai Reincarnation Package on account of being biased towards cute girls. In that same freewheeling spirit, I am just going to be upfront with my own critical biases here, which should make my feelings about this show fairly self-explanatory:
- I absolutely hate this trend of having characters getting reincarnated into vague and uninspired fantasy settings that function exactly like a lame, uninspired MMORPG for absolutely no reason. I don't care whether or not it's trying to be a power fantasy, or appeal to an already on-voon-board demographic, or whatever. It is the pinnacle of lazy, cynical capitalism to completely forego even the pretense of giving a shit about creating a unique or interesting setting for your "fantasy anime" just because you know readers will pay money for the bare minimum of effort.
- I am irritated by modern anime's general trend of fetishizing youth and escapist wish-fulfillment to such a degree that Azusa's story is not only a tired cliché, but a completely unquestioned one. Why does someone who died at twenty-seven from workplace abuse have absolutely no friends, family, hobbies, or personal goals that she will miss in this new world? Why would it be so magical and cool for this goddess to freeze her immortal body at the age of seventeen? Does the anime industry know that we don't live in Logan's Run? Here's a news flash, anime: People generally tend to become more interesting and fulfilled as they get older. There is no universe in which it would be better to live an eternal life as a teenaged girl than a twenty-something woman. I'm just saying.
- Finally, I know that these kinds of slice-of-life light novel adaptations aren't supposed to be gag-a-minute yuk-fests, but I need these shows to try a little bit harder at working up some kind of entertainment for their audience. I would argue that it isn't until over halfway through the episode that I've Been Killing Slimes even makes an attempt at a joke, or tell some kind of story, and it isn't like Azusa's capable of carrying the whole operation herself by virtue of her winning personality. I've been saying this for years, but having a vaguely chill protagonist just narrate how they live in an RPG world for twenty minutes isn't television – it's a glorified Let's Play video. And the game isn't even any good!
In short, even though the show isn't actively offensive or anything, and Revoroot has come through with some decent animation, I just don't think there was ever going to be a version of I've Been Killing Slimes that I didn't actively dislike. It's one thing to indulge in some anime junk food every now and again, but I've Been Killing Slimes is more like anime Soylent Green. All it does is cannibalize already worn-out tropes and clichés, only to vomit them back up and reconstitute them into a completely featureless and indistinguishable mush. I'll tack on an extra half star for the cute dragon lady that Azusa makes friends with, but that's the best I can do, because otherwise, this show just makes me depressed.
discuss this in the forum (370 posts) |
this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history