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The Summer 2024 Anime Preview Guide
Quality Assurance in Another World

How would you rate episode 1 of
Quality Assurance in Another World ?
Community score: 3.7



What is this?

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Nikola is just a village girl working at the inn...until the day dragons invade, and she meets Haga, a scholar of everything around him. He's a part of an elite society called "Seeker," created to address a series of maladies plaguing their usually peaceful world. But both Nikola and Haga have secrets they hide...ones that will change each other's very existence...

Quality Assurance in Another World is based on the manga series by Masamichi Sato. The anime series is streaming on Crunchyroll on Fridays.


How was the first episode?

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Caitlin Moore
Rating:

Hey guys, if Quality Assurance in Another World is about a guy trapped in a VRMMO, is it an isekai? What if the NPCs can think and feel? Does it count as isekai then? Sound off in the comments!

Now that I've started a flame war in the forums for no reason other than to watch the world burn, let's talk about something that matters: Quality Assurance in Another World feels like it could break the long-calcified mold, and do so with the kind of confidence that the genre desperately needs. Even the most charming examples of MMO-based anime have felt like a copy of a copy of a copy for years now, and this episode… didn't. However, I don't want to spend the whole review talking about Quality Assurance in Another World relative to other series with similar premises, though; that would be doing it a disservice when it stands on its own so well.

The still-frames-loaded animation isn't exactly world-shattering, but smart direction and a distinctive art style make it fun to look at. Nobody is traditionally beautiful, but there's still a unique appeal to Haga's stocky build. The world design is thoughtful and unique, closer to anthropologically-inspired fantasy than the vaguely modern-with-fantasy-trappings look common to LitRPG isekai. Though I found the dragon's final transformed state challenging to look at, I still have to give them points for making something unusual. Sure, the climactic battle wasn't exciting, but there's a good reason for that!

If you're here just for action, you're watching for the wrong reasons. Haga and Nikola's relationship is the heart and soul of the episode and I'm guessing it will continue to be. Kaito Ishikawa brings a sense of sorrow to every stammered hesitation and plays Haga to perfection. This man has been through something terrible, whose unusual understanding of the world has come at much too high a price. Nikola picks up on his fundamental kindness, but not the heartache that forces him to keep others at arms' length. All of this comes in the context of the silliness inherent to quality assurance because bug detection is a weird and goofy field. It has energy, a sense of humor, and sincerity.

Quality Assurance in Another World feels almost like a convergent evolution of other VRMMO series: it just happens to have similar qualities to other series, but didn't come about as a result of them. I can't say for sure that's true, but I will say that it comes across as someone having a story they wanted to tell from the heart, rather than imitating tropes. And in a derivative genre, that makes it pretty special.


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Richard Eisenbeis
Rating:

That was much darker than I expected. What we see at first is just a guy who seems to be studying monsters—making notes of how they're acting versus how they should act. He befriends a young village girl after saving her life and then stands alone against a dragon—exploiting all his knowledge on the creature to stun-lock it into a battle of attrition. Then comes the big reveal.

In truth, this is the story of a man who was QA testing a new VR game with his friends. Yet now, they have found themselves trapped within—with no contact with the outside world whatsoever. No matter how long they did their jobs, nothing changed. Eventually, his friends, losing their sanity, went their own ways, leaving him alone. Since then, he has watched the same scripted event happen again and again—watching the only “people” he knows die to a dragon attack again and again. But to make things even more hopeless, it's impossible to save them. Their deaths are hard-coded into the game—to the point that even should he prevent every possible way of them dying, they just spontaneously combust.

Simply put, he is in hell. An unending cycle of despair where all he can do is send bug reports and hope someone lets him out. Yet, after an untold amount of cycles, Nikola, the girl he tried to save so many times has returned to him intact—a bug in the system. For the first time, he has succeeded in saving someone—and that could change everything for him. While not the most exciting episode of anime out there, this one comes with a solid twist that takes the whole “trapped in a video game” trope to a new level. It focuses on the mental toll of not only being trapped but of having no way out—no goal to reach for. There is no handy admin voice commanding Haga to clear the game or a conveniently placed tower in the middle of the world where one can communicate with the real world. All Haga can do is hope someone is reading his reports and will, one day, let him out.

But now that Nikola is alive for once, Haga can see that he can make a difference at least—that this static world doesn't necessarily have to be so. I look forward to seeing how this affects him as the series continues.


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James Beckett
Rating:

I got a good feeling from Quality Assurance in Another World right from the get-go. It's lovely character designs, bold linework, and generally quite impressive sense of style immediately set it apart from so much of the competition that also feature “Another World” in their titles. As the episode went on, the show didn't let me down. Nikola is a fantastic and likeable point-of-view character that provides us with a real sense of wonder and danger about this fantasy setting, and Haga comes across as a real guy that also functions as a heroic figure. He's studious, smart, and obviously knows more than he lets on to his new young fan, but he's also not some invincible demigod with impossible powers. It makes the fights against the “dragons” attacking Nikola's village have actual weight, which is necessary in a fantasy story that wants you to become invested in its conflicts.

Then the big twist at the end of the episode comes, and I was overjoyed to realize that the premiere Quality Assurance in Another World isn't just good — it's great. The fact that Haga is actually a regular guy who is stuck in a videogame isn't itself all that surprising; the whole “Another World” part of the title wouldn't make much sense if there wasn't some kind of isekai element to the story. Rather, what makes QAiAW so striking is the confidence with which it executes this premise. Instead of going through the motions and sticking to all of the cliched story beats that we see play out multiple times a season, this anime trusts its audience to go along with it and pick up the pieces as they come along. The reality of Nikola's situation, the explanation for why Haga is going so far out of his way to protect these random villagers, the ominous cliffhanger that the episode ends on — it's all just so damned fun and intriguing!

I always say that my ratings for Preview Guide aren't necessarily a measure of a show's overall quality, because there is only so much we can go on after watching a single episode. Rather, I like to think of that score up there being indicative of how good of a job a show's premiere does at making me excited to watch more. I wouldn't call the first episode of Quality Assurance a masterpiece or anything, but it gave me virtually nothing to complain about, and I cannot wait for next week to come around so I can find out what's next for Haga and Nikola. That sounds like a five-star premiere to me.


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Rebecca Silverman
Rating:

I normally love it when fantasy worlds take the idea of something and twist it a little. The horses from From Far Away are my favorite example of it – they're called “horses,” but they bear little to no resemblance to what we know by that name, although they fill the same purpose. But Quality Assurance in Another World may be taking the concept too far with its dragons that start out looking like tadpole/slug hybrids before morphing into what looks rather like female genitalia. It's hard to unsee.

Bizarre monster design choices aside, this episode takes the tried-and-true “trapped in a VRMMOPRG” narrative and attempts to do something a little different with it. While our hero is, in fact, stuck in a game, he's not there as a regular player, but as a debugger who got trapped, although whether that was on purpose or not remains to be seen. He's still able to send his bug reports, though, so my suspicion is that it was done deliberately, either as a cost-saving measure or as part of a horrible psychological experiment. The why doesn't really matter, though, because Haga is still dutifully sending reports while slowly becoming far too acclimated to his new life. He's been in the game for a year when the story opens, and although he's still doing his job, he's also clearly come to the point where he can't just treat it as a game anymore. Case in point, he's currently trying to subvert a game event that has an entire village annihilated by the dragon, because he feels sorry for the villagers. Is it because he's gotten to know them as he tries to stop the event? Or because the world is now all too real to him?

We don't know the answer yet, and in part that's because this may not be Haga's story. Up until midway through the episode, the character whose point of view we're in is Nikola, a villager. Nikola is trying to figure out who Haga is and what his deal is, something she more or less does manage, which makes Haga question who she is right back – because if she breaks from the confines of her programming, that could make her a reportable bug. And that could tap right into Haga's moral quandary of what, precisely, he's meant to be doing in this world.

The plot is hampered by artistic choices (besides the dragon) that don't make for a particularly attractive viewing experience, although the look is largely faithful to the manga art. There's something clunky about the animation as well; it's not terrible, but it still lacks a sense of fluidity, and the spaces between the action are largely filled by people just standing or sitting in a group. But despite these issues, it's an interesting premise, and one that tries to change the story we more typically see. It may not be wholly original, but it is different enough to merit at least a second episode.


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Nicholas Dupree
Rating:

I spent a good amount of this episode waiting to figure out the point. It was clear that there was one, but it takes a good bit to get there. For the first 15 minutes or so, this premiere is a relatively straightforward fantasy story, if a little offbeat. We meet Nikola, the spunky village girl who yearns to see the outside world, and Haga, the strange “Seeker” who clearly knows what's going on with the weird frog dragons tearing up the countryside, but won't give away his secrets. They share some small talk, bond, and Haga uses some weird strategy to stun lock the dragon until he can slay it. It's all fine enough, and bolstered by strong art direction, but nothing much to write home about. More than anything, it was clear that there was something more going on, and it took until the big reveal for this show to start clicking.

You can probably guess the twist from the title – this isn't a real fantasy world and Haga isn't a normal resident. Rather, this is all a VR video game and Haga has been working as a bug tester, which is how he knows the overall trajectory of the dragons, and the perfect min-max strategy to beat them. That alone wouldn't really be interesting, but it's what the episode does with that twist that makes it engaging enough to come back for another episode. Without going into full-on spoilers, the way we learn about the twist, and all of the history and implications around it, immediately makes Haga a more layered and compelling protagonist. It immediately brings up some strong questions for the narrative to explore, along with at least a few mysteries to keep you coming back. I'm generally not a big fan of shows keeping their most interesting aspects a secret for most of the first episode, but here it's just competent enough to make that balance work.

That said, I am still a little wary here. Haga is a likable protagonist in an interesting position, but her personality itself isn't all that engaging right now, and for obvious reasons we don't really have any other characters for him to bounce off of. It's also not clear what the overall trajectory of this story is going to be. Those aren't bad problems to have, but I've seen enough shows pull out interesting twists only to lose all that momentum once they have to write a story for-real instead of an elaborate setup for a surprise. I'd like to hope that this show has a plan, or at least a solid idea of what it wants to do from here, and at least I'm curious enough to find out.



Disclosure: Bandai Namco Filmworks Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Bandai Namco Holdings Inc., is a non-controlling, minority shareholder in Anime News Network Inc.

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