The Spring 2021 Preview Guide
The Saint's Magic Power is Omnipotent
by The Anime News Network Editorial Team,
How would you rate episode 1 of
The Saint's Magic Power is Omnipotent ?
What is this?
Sei, a 20-year-old office worker, is whisked away to a whole new world. Unfortunately for Sei, the ritual that summoned her—meant to produce a “Saint” who would banish the dark magic—brought two people over instead of one. And everyone prefers the second girl over Sei. But this is just fine by Sei, who leaves the royal palace to set up shop making potions and cosmetics with her newfound magic. Business is booming, and this might not be such a bad life, after all as long as her supposed Sainthood doesn't come back to haunt her.
How was the first episode?
The Saint's Magic Power is Omnipotent starts with a good hook. What happens when two young women are summoned to a fantasy world at the same time, and the prince tells the younger, cuter one that she is the Saint destined to save the world, while the other woman is ignored and later told she was summoned by accident and isn't needed?
Now, this isn't some grimdark fantasy where the kingdom kicks the extra woman out, leaving her to plot revenge and/or find a way home herself. Rather, our heroine, Sei, finds her immediate needs taken care of. She has room and board within the royal palace, and even has a personal maid to wait on her. She's not even barred from leaving the kingdom if that's what she wants. However, even Sei can see she currently has no way of surviving alone in this strange new world.
Sei's real problem is the fact that she is unneeded (at least for now). No one comes to visit her or ask anything of her. She just wiles her days away doing nothing, feeling guilty that her maid is basically being forced to be her conversation partner. Just like any human, she needs to find something to do with her time and give meaning to her everyday life.
Luckily, she finds a herb garden containing plants she is familiar with while on a walk and, soon enough, finds herself working at the attached medical research institute. Not only does this job allow her to learn how to use the most basic of magics, it also becomes apparent that the potions she makes are more effective than they should be—hinting that she may not be as unneeded as originally thought.
From Sei's summoning, to her finding a job, to the first obvious indication of her saintly powers, there's a lot that goes on in this first episode. Yet, despite covering literally months of her life, it doesn't feel rushed. While we get to see only the most important events during this time, they are paced correctly to make everything make sense. Even the short montage in the episode is well done, as it's easy to figure out what conversation she is having—we don't need to hear it to understand it.
Going forward, I'm most interested to learn about what is happening to the other girl, Aira. Unlike Sei, it seems as if she has little in the way of freedom, with the prince dictating where she can and can't go. This also raises questions about the prince's competence as he won't allow Aira to heal the injured men—not to mention him unilaterally deciding Sei wasn't the Saint in the first place. In other words, it seems that there's another story going on in the background, and I look forward to seeing it come to light.
I was going to start this review off with a crack about someone sitting the series composer down and having a serious talk about pacing and just how much to establish at the beginning of a show. Imagine my surprise when I looked it up and it was popular light novel author Wataru Watari! Then I wondered if it was a neophyte director at the helm, telling the staff to skip over all that boring set-up, but no, Shōta Ihata of Domestic Girlfriend and Girlish Number directed, scripted, and storyboarded the episode. Now I don't know who to assume is at fault here!
Okay, I know anime production is highly collaborative and it's rarely clear-cut just who is to blame for issues like this, and it's rarely just one person, but seriously, the pacing here is just a mess. I read the first volume of The Saint's Power is Omnipotent's manga for the Fall Manga Preview Guide and found it rather dull, but whizzing past the setting phase of the story has only exacerbated the problems I had with it.
Saint's Magic Power is, at least at the start, of the more chill, escapist variety of isekai, which is not my preferred version of the genre. Overworked office worker Sei gets pulled into another world, passed over for the important role in favor of the cute young high school girl, and, left with nothing else to do, becomes an herbalist. I checked the timestamp: in the space of literally four minutes, we go from the first shot of Sei leaving the office way too late to her being told that she just has to spend the rest of her life bumming around the palace because Prince Kyle (what a name) snubbed her; ten minutes in, and her maid is telling her how much she's changed since she first arrived.
That kind of breathless pacing makes the story pretty ineffective; we just kind of have to take their word for it, instead of seeing the transformative effect the new environment and sense of purpose has on Sei for ourselves. We also know little about the world, other than that apparently things are bad enough for the country that they summoned the saints to begin with, and that magic is a thing. Oh, and apparently all the men are blandly kind lanky pretty boys, but even they get boring and samey fast.
All this adds up so that the episode's big climax, in which Sei gives one of her extra-powerful potions to a soldier injured in a fight against a salamander (the fire-breathing fantasy kind, not the small and adorable amphibian) as the theme song swells in the background, completely toothless. There are hints of some interesting stuff – like Sei's feelings of resentment toward Prince Kyle, or the way he cuts access to the chosen Saint off from others – but it's background radiation in a generally lackluster story.
I'll give The Saint's Magic Power is Omnipotent one thing: it's a pretty show. Ihata has a real eye for beautifully lit and composed frames. The palace grounds and rooms that Sei wanders are gorgeously lush and decorated, but nothing interesting ever happens in them. I'd hoped that The Saint's Magic Power is Omnipotent would be a return to the isekai that shaped my youth, but it's no such thing.
This Spring Season has felt mercifully thin on new isekai light-novel adaptations, which already put me in a more chipper mood than usual to cover the premiere of The Saint's Magic Power is Omnipotent, and I've found that isekai focusing on female protagonists have generally been a bit more my speed, since I have little patience for the hollow cool boy theatrics of whichever vaguely person-shaped lump of oat mush is pumping up his RPG stats to battle the newest demon lord, or what have you. I knew that TSMPO focused on a heroine, Sei, who was basically double-summoned to a fantasy world alongside another girl who ends up getting the job of the newest evil-battling Saint, and I knew that Sei's fallback plan for making a life in this strange land involved brewing potions or some such. That's a mildly interesting take on the usual formula, and the opening scenes of the episode also gave me the impression that diomedéa was at least putting together a stylish little production, which is always a good thing.
Unfortunately, what little enthusiasm I had for this series' premise or execution quickly began to wane as the first episode dragged on, and the only feeling I had left to respond with by the time the end credits rolled was one of dispassionate boredom. The setting is virtually indistinguishable from any of the five thousand bland RPG template worlds that have littered the wasteland of mediocre anime over the years, and our heroine isn't much better off. Sei is not an offensive or irritating protagonist, but neither does she have any traits that I would consider likeable or interesting; just about the only thing we learn about her in this entire premiere, outside of her being generally nice and enthusiastic, is that she digs botany. The work she puts into crafting potions at the Research Institute she so gamely volunteers for is also rather dull, since crafting potions in this world so far seems to consist of dumping some ingredients into a pot, holding your palms over it to infuse the potion with magical essence, and then waiting.
The whole hook of the story is built on how Sei really does possess the all-powerful magical skills of the heroic Saint, which explains how she can craft super-duper effective potions, so you'd think that would take the story somewhere interesting or cool…except no, not really. Sei meets some passably handsome potential love interests and saves an important guy from death with a potion, and the Director of the Research Institute is going to keep tabs on her, I guess? There's not much humor to be found here, nor is there any drama, tension, mystery, charm, or any of the other qualifiers you could attach to an entertaining story.
The most noteworthy thing about The Saint's Magic Power is Omnipotence is its overlong title; the rest of it simply is, never causing much of a fuss, but never giving us a reason to care that it exists, either. Diehard fans of the genre may discover something here that I am missing, but I won't lose any sleep after I turn in this preview and then immediately forget that this show ever existed in the first place.
The word for this premiere is “pleasant.” This is twenty-odd minutes of solidly animated, totally inoffensive isekai fluff that, while not particularly engrossing for me, made for a totally alright viewing experience. Which is honest praise considering how burnt out I am on isekai anime in general. Unless one of these things has a neat hook or unique approach to the setup, they usually make for interminable and predictable pablum that at best runs through me like water, at worst actively repulses me with whatever barely-concealed fetish it's trying to throw my way. So Saint's Magic Power being a perfectly OK time is still ahead of the curve.
For one, while not a powerhouse of personality so far, Sei is a very nice main character. She's at her most interesting when she's sternly demanding these rando magicians to send her back home ASAP after being sucked into this new fantasy world. Unfortunately it doesn't take long to talk her down, and from there the premiere turns into a pretty standard, if somewhat more sedate, version of your typical isekai and chill.
Sei finds her specific specialty making potions at the royal palace's research institute, and wouldn't you know it, she's got a magical quirk that makes her potions way more effective than normal! She's also so skilled she's making super-advanced potions in just a few months' time! And of course it just so happens that those potions come in handy to save several warriors' lives by the episode's end. That's a flippant way to describe it, but that's the best way to replicate how matter-of-factly and without conflict the rest of this premiere carries itself. There's presumably some tension to be mined from Sei's fellow Isekai'd companion who's whisked away as the “true” saint by the haughty prince, but that's only barely brought up here.
That said, I do understand the appeal. One of my favorite series is Snow White with the Red Hair, which I affectionately refer to as “Hot People in Cute Fantasy Outfits: The Manga” every time I recommend it to people. I totally get the appeal of a chill, low-stakes romp in a fantasy world with some attractive anime characters, and that seems to be what this show is going for. This particular brand of iyashikei doesn't really vibe with me, but that's not the same as being bad. So while this isn't for me, if you're in the mood for a calm, low energy type of isekai, this may very well work better for you.
I'm almost certainly rating this a bit too high, because wow, they just sped through a huge chunk of the first novel in a single episode. I can more or less understand why; the material skipped was mostly Sei being bored, the explanation for why she was left by herself in her room at the palace, and Sei getting used to her new workplace. None of that, by almost any measure, makes for particularly thrilling viewing. I'm also in no way going to complain that Sei learning to see her stats in good-old isekai tradition was left out; in fact, I hope that gets cut altogether.
But what is a bit of an issue is that there's no time spent learning who Sei is. We know she was an office worker back in Japan, living by herself and working until eleven p.m. We know that she's been summoned to the magical realm of Salutania to be the Saint and help with their not-so-little miasma problem, and that she was ignored and rejected because a much younger girl was summoned alongside her and Prince Kyle decided that the prettier and younger person must be the Saint. And…yeah. That's about it. It's a real shame, because Sei herself is one of the major draws of the light novels this is based on, and her journey is at least in part based upon her having to learn how to overcome the dangerous attitude towards work that she developed in corporate Japan. We do get a hint about this, but honestly, her being bored could be due to having nothing to do at all rather than a feeling that she needs to be working some sort of job. Sei's just as much of a blank slate at the end of the episode as she was at the beginning, and that's not good.
On the other hand, what we do get is decent. I love how clearly pissed off Sei is by her summoning, and her boundless enthusiasm to finally have something to do is also very nice. Her genuine pleasure at finding the Medicinal Flora Research Institute's garden is also a good touch, and we do see a flash of anger again when she thinks about Prince Kyle; therefore, it's not that she has no emotions, but rather that the episode does nothing to develop them. I have a suspicion that all of that may change with the next episode, and that for whatever reason the show decided to hold that back until the romantic interest was introduced, which happens at the end of this one. (Don't try to tell me that's a spoiler; just look at that shiny blond hair. You know he's the romantic interest.) While I can't fault that decision, because it will make things more dynamic from an anime point of view (plus the author of the light novels mentions in every single afterword that she's been forced to cut romance for plot), not giving Sei any real development before he comes in could make her feel like less of a strong character in her own right.
That said, I really like the light novels, so I'll probably stick with this. I don't like the use of “ser” for “sir” or the random old-fashioned spelling of surgeon, but the story is strong enough to overcome some unfortunate choices in the first episode. We get few enough isekai about older people and women being summoned that I desperately want to see this live up to its source.
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