The Winter 2022 Preview Guide
The Strongest Sage With the Weakest Crest
How would you rate episode 1 of
The Strongest Sage With the Weakest Crest ?
Community score: 2.9
What is this?
His strength limited by the magical crest with which he was born, Mathias, the world's most powerful sage, decides reincarnation is necessary to become the strongest of all. Upon his rebirth as a young boy, Mathias is thrilled to discover he's been born with the optimal crest for magical combat on his first try. Unfortunately, the world he's been born into has abysmally poor standards when it comes to magic, and everyone thinks he's still marked for failure. Now it's up to Mathias to prove everyone wrong as the world's strongest sage.
How was the first episode?
Oh, crests? I love Fire Emblem: Three Kingdoms!
God, I wish this were Fire Emblem: Three Kingdoms, because even watching someone else play a video game would have been more entertaining than sitting through The Strongest Sage With the Weakest Crest.
For starters, I really had no idea what was happening. You have a guy within a robe with the hood drawn over his face counting off the names of crests, announcing that he still needed one, and then disappearing. Cut to a teenager riding off to magic school, when he kills a giant monster despite having what is called “The Crest of Failure.” Not that we see him actually use his powers; it just cuts to the cart driver making a surprised Pikachu face while the teen sheaths his sword. Is this a flashback? Does that kid grow up to be the hooded figure?
…I have been informed that he is the reincarnation of the hooded figure in another time, and this is an isekai. *sigh*
If you've ever seen another entry into the microgenre, “magic school where everyone thinks the main character is weak but he's actually super cool and smart and competent, and also one of his two female friends think he's mega-hot,” you'll know what's coming: an endless cycle of minor characters expecting Matty to be weak based on the external manifestation of his power, then him showing off how strong he actually is, and then everyone around him making the surprised Pikachu face once again. The most surprising part about the episode is a person over the age of five voluntarily going by “Matty.”
That is, up until the end, when it turns out the rival named Devilis is, in fact, a devil!! Now it's my turn to make a surprised Pikachu face!
I feel like I may have an unfair advantage here for having read the manga adaptation of The Strongest Sage With the Weakest Crest. That's because, while I completely understand the decision to skip the beginning of the story, the resulting episode is totally without context. Maybe this isn't as important as I'm thinking it is, because what information the episode does give us lets us know that Matty used to be the Sage Gaius, reincarnated as Matty with his memories, and is roughly 100 times more awesome than everyone else. This is a power fantasy, make no mistake.
It's also not off to an amazing start. In part this is because it hit the fast forward button on its adaptation of the source material. It's hard to get behind Matty being amazing when we don't have the background information about his past life and how he's grown up in this current one with the crest deemed “the crest of failure” by future (to him) society. And while I can't say that his romantic interest in Lurie is all that much better with more space allotted to it, it's almost too insta-lovey here, on both of their parts. (Also, Lurie may be pretty, but Alma's got all the personality, so pet peeve there.) But that's about par for the course on this one: everything happens too quickly and too easily for anything to sink in. Everything's entirely on the surface and the stakes feel abysmally low. There is never any doubt that Matty will revive silent spellcasting, that he'll get the girl(s), and that he'll take the snooty First Academy down a peg or two in the inter-school magic tournament. And by speeding things up to this degree, there's not much room to care about any of it, either.
In book form, The Strongest Sage With the Weakest Crest is generic, but fine. In its first anime episode, it's something a bit less than that, barely even giving us time to wonder how the demons managed to infiltrate human society to steer them away from silent casting when they're so unsubtle as to have names like “Devilis.” I like the character designs (better than the manga, anyway), particularly for Matty, who manages to look like the kind of cute that could grow up to be handsome, but I think I'll be sticking with the manga for this one – and if you want the backstory, I'd suggest you do the same. (Until someone licenses the source light novels, of course.)
The premiere of The Strongest Sage With the Weakest Crest started off with some potential, since its opening scene looked kind of nice, even if it was the same vague fantasy foreshadowing we've seen a million times before. This winter, we have so far had almost nothing in the way of decent spectacle, so I was looking forward to an anime that might at least make for some breezy entertainment. If that sounds like I'm damning the series with faint praise, though, it's because The Strongest Sage goes downhill fast once those opening credits are done, to the point where I can't see how anyone would get much enjoyment out of it unless they're familiar with the source material.
I haven't read any of the series' light novels or manga, but it's still obvious that The Strongest Sage is rushing through its already thin story. It's the kind of premiere where a lot technically happens, but none of it means much of anything. In just 20 mins, our hero Matthias (aka “Matty") meets two obvious love interests who become his best friends for no reason other than they just sort of feel like it; Matty then proves he is ungodly powerful at every kind of magic, which automatically opens up a spot for him at the Second Academy alongside his new friends; Matty is instantly identified as a prodigy and mentor that must do everything he can to prove that “wordless" magic is still worthy of respect; there's apparently some kind of ongoing conflict between humans and demons; we get lots of talk about Crests, although it still isn't clear how they work or why Matty's is so special; there's even an Inter-Academy Tournament!
After all of that, what have we actually learned? “Matty is ultra-special strong and cool, and everyone loves him.” That's really all there is to this story, so far. Now, I suppose I could be wrong, but nothing in this premiere suggests that the setting or plot of The Strongest Sage is particularly interesting or creative even in its unabridged form, but the pace of this premiere kills whatever modicum of fun might have been left in this story. If the plot description up above interests you at all, I'd wager you will be better off just seeking out the original books and skipping this adaptation entirely.
From the start, something about this episode struck me as strange. Barely a minute in, we understand what drives our hero Matthias (that he has reached his maximum potential), have witnessed his reincarnation, and are watching him on his way to the Royal Academy to learn to get even stronger in his second life. It felt as if we had skipped over some major chunks of the story and I couldn't really figure out why. And then came the big reveal at the climax and suddenly everything made sense.
For most of the episode, The Strongest Sage With the Weakest Crest feels like the most run-of-the-mill empowerment fantasy anime out there on fast forward. By chance, our incredibly overpowered hero meets two beautiful girls of opposite personalities who immediately lock on to him. Then he aces his school entrance test in spectacular fashion and all too soon finds himself in a school-sanctioned fighting exhibition.
Yet, in the background, there is a constantly looming question: Why is he so overpowered? Sure, in his past life he was strong but tons of people had the potential to surpass him just because they had a naturally higher upper limit of strength. However, in his new life people are much weaker across the board—with magical techniques like chantless casting lost to time. The reason the rest of the episode is so rushed is to get us to the point where it can answer that question—i.e., that demons have infiltrated human society and, over the years, have slowly stunted humanity's growth to assure their own superiority. With this revelation, the story is no longer about a guy just wanting to become stronger. It's about a guy who discovers he is humanity's only hope for standing up to the demon threat—where the knowledge inside his head is more important than even his participation on the battlefield. That's a great hook for the story and one that makes me a million times more likely to watch again next week. Now, I do hope they slow things down from now on, maybe a flashback to his time as a child and show what that was like. But regardless, rushing to the plot twist was absolutely the right call for this one.
The first word to describe The Strongest Sage is “rushed.” In just this first episode we go from our hero Matty's previous life as a legendary sage, to him purposefully reincarnating to change his magic crest, to acing his magic school exams, to becoming an adjunct professor, to fighting a demon from a rival magic school and uncovering a centuries-long plot by demonkind to usurp humanity's leadership. It very much feels like a speedrun of the common “irregular OP guy at a magic school” story, and leaves pretty much no time for organic worldbuilding or establishing characters. I'm not acquainted with the original light novels, but if you told me this single episode adapted an entire volume of it I'd easily believe you.
The second word to describe the show is “bland.” While there's nothing here that's insultingly stupid or offensive, that's mostly because there's seemingly no new ideas to anything in here. Matty's whole bit of reincarnating to the same world, centuries later, rings very close to the lead of The Misfit of Demon King Academy, but he has none of the cocky flair that Anos brought with him. The world itself is thankfully devoid of video game terminology – no mentions of Skills or Levels or the like – but it's otherwise a pale and uninteresting medieval fantasy setting. The other characters have barely any personality, partly because they have to constantly spout exposition to get us to the next rushed plot point before the episode ends.
The animation is passable – certainly stronger than some of the isekai offerings we've gotten so far – but the art style is boring and generic. I actually had to laugh at Matty going on about how stunning and beautiful his love interest is, when she has all the striking features of a background character. Maybe she looked better in the LN illustrations, but anime certainly can't convey anything approaching striking beauty. Honestly, dude would be better off going for her silver-haired friend. At least she wears a cute hat sometimes.
All in all this is a real wet fart of a premiere, and the best thing I can say about it is that it's not awful. But not being terrible isn't the same as being good, entertaining, or worth anyone's time.
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