The Summer 2021 Preview Guide
Seirei Gensouki - Spirit Chronicles
How would you rate episode 1 of
Seirei Gensouki - Spirit Chronicles ?
What is this?
Meet Rio: a callous orphaned boy living in the slums. At only 7-years-old, he realizes he's actually the reincarnation of Haruto Amakawa, a Japanese university student with a tragic past. While still reeling from this shocking epiphany, Rio also comes to learn that he possesses extremely potent magical abilities and uses his new powers to solve the kidnapping case of a little girl. His good deed is acknowledged, and he's rewarded by being enrolled into… a prestigious academy for noble children...?
How was the first episode?
Seirei Gensouki has all the tropes of countless other “isekai” tales. A normal Japanese high schooler awakens in a fantasy world with all the knowledge he had in our world, has some sort of “cheat skill” that helps him to survive, and soon finds himself caught up in a dangerous situation that involves him saving a girl from danger.
Of course, implementing a well-used framework isn't a problem in and of itself. After all, twist the decades-old magical girl framework one way and you get Madoka Magica. Twist it the other and you get Kill la Kill. What's important when writing something in a popular and well-establish genre isn't what you keep the same, but rather what you change to set your story apart.
In the case of Seirei Gensouki, this twist comes from the circumstances in which Haruto finds himself after awakening in the fantasy world—namely the problem of having two minds in one body. It's not as if Ryo simply has Haruto's memories of Japan. Nor is it the case where Haruto's personality and memories overwrite Ryo's. Rather it is treated as an almost mental invasion where Ryo and Haruto's minds are fighting for control over their shared body regardless of any conscious attempt.
It's a cool concept, having our hero as the unwanted invader in some poor kid's head. Unfortunately, this gets pushed to the background once the action kicks into high gear, though we can't exactly fault Ryo/Haruto for using whichever's knowledge and personality is best equipped for any given situation (be it Haruto's martial arts or Ryo's street smarts).
I look forward to seeing how this mental battle progresses once things calm down a bit in the story. And if we look at the visual storytelling in the train crash scene, it looks like Haruto may not be the only one who is facing an internal battle with a personality from another world—both Miharu and a young girl were on the same bus as him after all.
So while this first episode is largely by the numbers in most aspects, I am interested by the twist on the formula and will be watching the next episode or two to see how things turn out.
Well, how do you like that! Let nobody ever say that I'm not willing to give these reborn-in-another-world isekai anime a fair shake, because I went into Seirei Gensouki: Spirit Chronicle with no expectations of any kind, and I ended up pleasantly surprised by it. It's not a barn burner by any means, but that's just fine; I don't need every single premiere to be a Made in Abyss or a Megalobox. Just give me some well-made entertainment, and I'm a happy camper.
For starters, even though I did roll my eyes pretty heavily at the absurdly cheesy opening scene, where our young protagonist swears his undying love to some random girl we don't know when they're both maybe seven years old, the remainder of Seirei Gensouki's premiere actually does a good job at making its standard isekai setup feel interesting. Instead of just being reborn as some kind of perverted man-baby, our main man Haruto ends up dropped into a life already in progress. Now, he's an orphaned slum kid named Rio, who has been seeking vengeance on the brutal killer who took his mother's life and left his own world in ruins. On top of all that, this spirit-merger seems to have granted Rio some magic powers, but he hardly gets a chance to use them before he is falsely accused of kidnapping the kingdom's Princess, Christina, and beaten mercilessly by the supremely sketchy Royal Guard.
The script isn't without its issues, of course. The amount of exposition that has to be dealt via Haruto/Rio's confused internal monologue clutters up the proceedings somewhat, and the story isn't entirely free of the usual light-novel isekai cliches. The presumed villains of this arc in the Royal Guard are cartoonishly douchey, and the world has the same copy-and-paste generic style as 90% of the other isekai anime we see these days. Someday, someone is going to have to tell these writers that coming up with slightly different remixes of the same RPG magic systems doesn't equal good world building. And for heaven's sake, enough of these medieval circle cities with the red-clay roofs!
Still, I'm just impressed with how well the story has managed to inject some real stakes into Haruto/Rio's adventure. The stuff with the elementary school girlfriend is still dumb, but it at least gives us the impression that Haruto had an actual life before he got reincarnated, and his gal pal is clearly going to play some kind of part in the larger story. Likewise, Rio's a likeable kid, and though I think the show ought to have taken more time to get through the steps of making him one of the princesses' vassals, I dig the dynamic. When you combine the competent writing with the show's solid production values, it's enough for me to plan on giving Seirei Gensouki the ol' three-episode trial run.
I remember reading the first volume of the Seirei Gensouki - Spirit Chronicles light novels and thinking that it was harmless isekai and that I wouldn't object to reading more of them. Them I somehow…didn't. Or I may have read volume two as well; the fact that I can't quite recall speaks to how innocuous the series is. Not that it starts out that way; after a brief visit to that old landmark trope, the childhood- separation-confession, our protagonist is in a truly terrible traffic accident (forget Truck-kun, the bus he's on somehow skids out of control on a city street directly into an oncoming train at a crossing). The next thing he knows, he's waking up in a child's body in a medieval slum, trying to figure out what the hell he's remembering; he doesn't even know what a “bus” is, much less why he'd be dreaming about one. He doesn't really come to the conclusion that after dying as Haruto he was reborn in a fantasy world as Rio, but it isn't hard for us seasoned anime watchers to know that that's what's happened.
Rio's landed in a fantasy land that's much harsher than most. He's living with a gang of what I'll call grifters who don't appear to be at all related to him and take a very lackadaisical approach to things like making sure he eats. They live on the outskirts of the really bad part of town, but still manage to get themselves murdered by a man in a Carnival mask while Rio's outside meeting some royal ladies looking for a kidnapped girl. He comes back inside just in time to be nearly murdered himself, at which point a person we'll have to assume is the goddess who reincarnated him teaches him how to access his former life's judo skills. Sadly, things aren't done being terrible for him, because while he does find the kidnapped girl, who is naturally a princess, the other princess refuses to believe he's her rescuer and Rio lands in an enhanced interrogation cell, where a grown man takes out his frustrations on a seven-year-old boy by beating him half to death.
To a degree, this does give the episode an edge over its many, many competitors in the genre if only because Rio's life is inarguably worse than it was before bus met train. Princess Flora and the slightly mysterious Celia are likely to help change that for him, and that's where I could see this heading into much more tried and true territory. If the opening theme is to be believed, everyone who was on that ill- fated bus has been reincarnated in Beltrum (à la The World's Strongest Rearguard), and that looks like it may include the girl from his long-ago promise. It's also certainly not fair to equate “dark” with “better” in this case, because this does run pretty familiarly; it's just more of the bad is being piled on right from the start. It's not without its promise, but that really only holds if you're not sick of the base premise of a normal guy being reborn into a fantasy land befriending mostly beautiful girls and eventually dressing like low-rent Kirito.
Alright everyone, get yourself some un-buttered popcorn, pour a glass of skim milk, put on your finest beige polo and khaki's set, and get ready for another perfectly forgettable isekai adventure! Spirit Chronicles is here to provide only the most average 5 out of 10 entertainment money can buy, and you won't want to miss this exciting new alternative to watching paint dry! Act now though, because there are only another half-dozen isekai shows airing this season, so they might be extinct before long!
Look, what do you want from me? We're half a decade deep into the seemingly inexhaustible deluge of isekai fantasy series, and after eight or more of these things every year I've officially run out of ways to talk about the same basic premise iterated for the millionth time. You have your average Japanese high schooler, he's reincarnated in a fantasy world with one of those same identical circle towns, he's coincidentally blessed with untold power in his new life, and will soon enough have a bevy of dedicated anime girls who all want to kiss his perfectly unremarkable face. The whole gimmick is even more ancillary here since Rio, our hero, spends pretty much the entire episode ignoring his newly awakened past-life memories. The OP hints at some long-lost lovers shtick as he finds his past life girlfriend also reincarnated into Fantasy Land #7589 but otherwise this could just be a bland fantasy story instead of a bland isekai one.
To be fair, there are at least a few hints at some depth here, even if it's not much. Rio himself is an orphan trying to survive in the slums, and when fate (and the magic lady in his brain who teaches him to be good at magic) ropes him into saving a kidnapped princess, he's tortured by the knights to admit guilt rather than being instantly welcomed as a hero. That still happens by episode's end, but there's at least the potential here of some sort of commentary on power or corruption, though I have serious doubts anything will come of it. I certainly won't be sticking around to find out, because nothing else in this episode is even mildly compelling.
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