The Winter 2022 Preview Guide
Life with an Ordinary Guy Who Reincarnated into a Total Fantasy Knockout
How would you rate episode 1 of
Fantasy Bishōjo Juniku Ojisan to ?
Community score: 3.8
What is this?
A 32-year-old unpopular salaryman is transported alongside his handsome friend to a fantasy world, due to the whims of a naked goddess. While his friend has been transported without change, the salaryman now has the body of a beautiful girl. To get his male body back, he must go on an adventure with his friend to defeat the world's demon lord.
Life with an Ordinary Guy Who Reincarnated into a Total Fantasy Knockout to is based on Yū Tsurusaki and Shin Ikezawa's manga and streams on Crunchyroll on Tuesdays.
How was the first episode?
Boy, this season is just packed with gender, isn't it? You've got an intersex king, a wolfman with dysphoria, and not one but two isekai where the male protagonist magically becomes a girl. If you're going to pick just one of the genderriffic anime this season, go with… Requiem of the Rose King, because that one is definitely the most interesting, and besides, shojo adaptations almost never get the attention they deserve. However, if you're specifically deciding between the two isekai, definitely choose Life with an Ordinary Guy Who Reincarnated into a Total Fantasy Knockout, even if the title is awfully cumbersome.
Why? Because unlike She Professed Herself a Pupil of the Wise Man, this one is actually fun, despite it being almost entirely two characters talking. Jinguji and Tachibana display solid chemistry as they trade barbs with one another, and while the visual style isn't particularly interesting, it's glossy and has just enough personality to carry the dialogue, delivered by two veteran voice actors who sound like they're having a great time.
The thing is, this is going to be either super queer or super gender essentialist. Jinguji rejects every woman and is intensely protective of Tachibana, so it's hard not to read it as some kind of latent same-sex attraction that he won't admit to himself. And when Tachibana starts rambling about wanting to be a girl, it's probably meant to just be about him being frustrated about Jinguji's masculinity overshadowing his. However, it's more interesting to read her as a trans woman. It's really annoying to think that her sudden attraction to Jinguji is because now she's a GIRL and GIRLS are attracted to BOYS, but I prefer to read it differently: Now that she's in a body that feels more right, she's in a position where she can begin to explore the romantic feelings she's always had.
None of this is probably what the creators had in mind, but that's the wonderful thing about fiction. Who cares about author intent? Interpret it however you like! Especially since I doubt I'll watch more than the first episode, and thus will never have my hopes dashed.
Total Fantasy Knockout (and no, I am not writing out the ridiculously long name of this show every single time) is one of the biggest surprises of this season for me so far, because I was kind of expecting it to hate it based on the premise. Anime's track record for dealing with gender and sexual identity has historically been less than great, to put it mildly, and I was very wary of how a modern isekai comedy was going to deal with the sexual and romantic tension between Jinguji and Tachibana that is the main selling point of this whole story. The last isekai comedy I had to watch was The Fruit of Evolution, okay? I have every right to be suspicious.
Thankfully, Total Fantasy Knockout has gone with one of the better routes to approaching this premise: These two guys have always been Not Straight (and very obviously so, in Jinguji's case), and getting reincarnated into a fantasy world and Tachibana getting gender-flipped into a cute anime girl body is merely the drastic disruption of traditional social norms and stigmas that will allow this pair of dorks to recognize their true feelings for one another. At least, this premiere leaves room for that interpretation, and I sure hope it's the right one, because a lot of the show's charm and goodwill would go flying out of the window if it was simply and straightforwardly arguing that the only “real" way for Jinguji and Tachibana to love each other is if one of them is biologically female. Granted, with the tagline that emphasizes that Total Fantasy Knockout is a rom-com between “two old guys", I want to give it the benefit of the doubt.
So, for now, I'm shockingly invested in seeing where the series goes from here, though there are some obvious caveats that could bring my enthusiasm down quite a bit. All of the shaky gender/sexuality stuff aside, the show doesn't look that great, and we haven't yet seen any other characters or settings to suggest that this will be an exceptionally creative story. Still, it's funny enough, and honestly pretty cute so long as you're willing to put up with a lot of “I couldn't possibly be in love with my same-sex life partner of 25 years…could I???” shenanigans. Then again, if that's all that this series has to work with, I could see the shenanigans getting tiresome very quickly. I'll be sticking around for at least a couple more episodes to see if Total Fantasy Knockout can make Tachibana and Jinguji into a genuinely endearing couple without getting obnoxiously heteronormative about it all. Like I said, anime doesn't have a great track record when it comes to avoiding that particular obstacle, but a guy can dream, can't he?
When it comes down to it, this entire anime looks to be built around a single joke: What if one of two heterosexual best friends suddenly transforms into a woman? From there, it's just the two trying to hide their obvious attraction to each other while figuring out what this change means for them in the context of their sexuality—i.e., does this make them gay or not? Unfortunately, for me, this humor didn't quite hit the mark.
Of course, this is far from the first time such a plot has been done. The supposed novelty here is combining the romance plot with your typical isekai fantasy plot; in other words, our two heroes must deal with their feelings for each other while trying to save the fantasy world they have found themselves in.
There is also one other additional wrinkle: the two can't be 100% sure whether their attraction to each other is natural—that it's not the Goddess' curse affecting their emotions—which, if nothing else, makes their refusal to accept that they like each other a bit more plausible. Because of this, much of the episode involves either one of them trying to trick the other into revealing how they feel—often having it turned back on themselves in the process.
In the end, your enjoyment for this one will come from how you feel about the premise. If you find the whole gender-bent rom-com situation funny, you'll probably like this one a lot—especially if you're into the fantasy world parody stuff as well. If, however, this does nothing for you, the opposite is likely true.
Although not strictly the case, I felt like this entire episode basically consisted of two guys yelling, “But I'm not gay! I'm just inexplicably attracted to you!” Depending on how offensive or funny (or neither) you find that may well determine whether or not you want to give this isekai comedy a pass or not. That's largely because the central conceit of this story is that two best guy friends are sent to another world and one of them is turned into a lady. That Tsukasa, the more conventionally attractive of the pair who has always been rather more fond of best bud Hinata than women, is the one who's still male feels like this is all just an excuse to write a totally not gay romance between them.
Fortunately, there is a bit more to the episode than that. It wasn't random chance that turned Hinata into a woman; it was a self-proclaimed goddess of love and beauty answering his drunken wish. And it does seem to be Hinata who she wanted to take to the fantasy world with Tsukasa as a bonus add-on; either that, or she could read the unsubtle writing on Tsukasa's wall and thought she was doing both of them a favor. That may be why she's so pissed when they start yelling at her and have zero interest in being the heroes she wants them to be. One could argue that her casting a curse on them in retaliation is really the only option she had, since for whatever reason sending them home doesn't seem to be on the table. Of course, that assumes that she really cursed them; I'm not sold on that. It's more likely that she made them think she cursed them so that they'd get on with the getting together.
In any event, the only thing I see this really having unequivocally going for it is the bunny monster, who is the most bizarre and terrifying thing I've seen in a comedy in a long time. I may see it tonight in my nightmares. Other than that it's a pretty standard isekai comedy episode – pokes fun at the tropes like “underdressed goddess” or “video game stats,” plops the heroes down in the middle of nowhere, and lots and lots of yelling/bickering. I'd call it harmless – but that whole romance angle and the way it's being framed could be anything but.
I officially have no clue what to make of this one. You'd think a show like this that spells out its entire premise in its overlong title would be pretty easy to get a read on, especially considering it's the 900th isekai series of the season. Yet I spent basically this entire premiere oscillating between laughing and skeptically side-eyeing the whole thing, eventually settling into some awkward mixture of the two.
On the one hand, there are some pretty funny gags in this thing, carried by a strong sense of comedic timing and pretty expressive animation. Tachibana and Jinguji have a solid chemistry that sells the idea of them being lifelong friends who nonetheless have dueling personalities, both before and after the genderbending magic gets involved. And there are some really funny moments with the two of them trying to ferret out if the “curse” making them fall in love is real or not, leading to a game of chicken where both keep trying to nonchalantly flirt to get the other to broach the topic first. It's silly, but it's the kind of silliness that could very possibly make this “romantic comedy between an old guy and someone who used to be an old guy” work if it's played right. There's also some great incidental jokes, like the cute-looking monster unfurling the skin of its face to reveal a grotesque, grinning maw underneath.
On the other hand, I'm not certain how much credit I should be giving the show on that front, considering about a third of the punchlines are just the characters having some form of...well is it gay panic if Jinguji has never been interested in women but is crushing on his best friend in a female body? Would that be straight panic? Gaystraight panic? I'm almost assuredly overthinking this, but how the show portrays and addresses that aspect going forward will likely decide if this ends up being a mostly fun comedy or an eye-rolling, gnarled mass of gender essentialism and homophobia.
There's room in either direction, considering the boatload of subtext to be read into with Tachibana drunkenly wishing he could become a cute woman or Jinguji calling his friend “the oasis of my heart” and saying he's always been more comfortable around men. So it could just be a setup for “but I can't fall love with a GUY!” jokes, or wind up being about two friends recognizing their feelings for each other. Along with how it resolves the vague “curse” they've been put under and whether it's actually influencing their attraction to each other, how all those elements are framed in the end will probably be the deciding factor. For now though, I'm at least willing to give this another couple episodes to see how it develops. If nothing else, it's an interesting setup, so much that I wasn't even bothered that it's another god damn isekai, and that should count for something.
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