Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?!
Episodes 1-3

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! ?

How would you rate episode 3 of
Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! ?

There's a certain irony to the premise of Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?!. Heroine Mile's only true wish is not to stand out at all in the stock fantasy-land she's found herself reincarnated into. However, being a part of the now massive crop that is anime's isekai genre (with this season in particular seeming to boast a higher-than-average number of entries) the series necessarily demands itself to be noticeable. It's a contrast that's certainly intended to be the driving appeal of the series, that its hero strives for merely satisfactory in what's quickly become the medium's most boilerplate genre. Fortunately for the show, and the viewers tuning in, the anime does set itself apart enough to be decently entertaining, still chafing as it does under the tropes of its setup that it can't help but follow.

The above-average points of Average Abilities (or whatever I end up calling it for short) start with its main character. Just from the beginning, Mile sets herself apart from slogging through so many self-insert high-school boys by being a reincarnated high school girl instead! Granted, this female-centered spin still isn't terribly uncommon in the realm of the light novels the series takes its source material from, but it definitely feels like we've seen it less in anime adaptations up to this point. Interestingly, Mile still has the otaku-knowledge background letting her make genre-aware observations as she rolls through her new fantasy life (something I'll touch on later), but there's an implication there that fuels the plot: Her elite abilities in her past life left her unable to connect and make friends with her peers, apparently leaving her to turn to these nerdy hobbies to occupy her time instead. So all the background noise of her commenting on game and anime tropes at least underscores Mile's motivation to leave that lack of sociability behind her and make friends instead.

That genuine earnestness frames a lot of what Mile goes through in these opening episodes to lend the show its distinctive, mostly-likable flavor. But it still runs into trite troubles along the way. Sure, the revelation that Mile's wish for ‘average’ powers got taken all-too-literally for the world's setting is one of the best jokes early on, and a great way to learn about statistical outliers (this show is fun and educational, kids!), but the net result is still yet another hero who's so overpowered as to not encounter any real opposition in her travails yet. Similarly, the friends she ends up making and partying up with are a pleasant-enough collection of characters, and there's a refreshingly believable arc to the way they initially only seem to get together with Mile because they're intrigued by her powers and what they could gain from them, only to end up becoming true friends with her over the six months that pass between the second and third episodes. But while a nice gesture, glossing over that development that quickly just means the motivations and personalities of these characters end up reduced to the same sort of base types we've come to expect from these shows. There's little depth to them beyond those opening motivations that haven't really been touched on again. Though the show at least shoots for other interesting uses of its setup, like Mile training her party members so they become surprisingly high-powered just by associating with her, to say nothing of thus-far eschewing the typical harem/romance pratfalls that come with more typical self-insert guy protagonists.

Other aspects of Average Life are similarly uneven. As I said, the broader idea of Mile's otaku leanings is one I appreciate, and at this point I just expect a certain amount of genre-aware jokiness from isekai in general. And some of the bits are pretty clever: Some isekai protagonists bring board games and guns into their new world, but Mile introduces her new friends to Super Sentai, and Nendoroids. But too many other times the references are simply trite declarations from Mile of what anime thing we're doing now. The first episode is especially guilty of this, winking and nudging so often it stalls and distracts from the story. The later episodes at least spin the references with amusing artstyle asides, but a lot of it still comes off as too glibly self-aware for a show that otherwise gets by so well on its more earnest tone. Similarly, some other choices in jokes fall flat, particularly yet another example of the ‘lesbian pedophile’ character that seems to have become all too common in anime in recent years. In general, Average Isekai can be extremely funny when it wants to be, but it just as often ends up extremely not-funny when it feels like it isn't trying as hard. On top of all that, the animation quality is itself quite average. There are a few standout cuts in the first couple episodes that sadly seem to stop themselves short, but so much of the show seems stiff. The colors are also oddly washed-out for an anime that seems otherwise so cheerful and upbeat (the opening theme at least sells this mood really well), and ill-befitting of a series that has some strong design work in places like the characters; even most of the background extras in this show have distinctive, appealing designs.

The Average Anime is fine so far, very cute and entertaining in places, even. In general, the second episode is a smidge better than the first and third. But for all the things I find endearing about it, it's hard for me to recommend as anything but a fluffy time-killer. It doesn't do enough different from other isekai shows in general to be seen as a strong alternative to the most generic of that genre, nor does it seek to deeply dunk on or deconstruct anything about its inspirations. It's just an amusingly aware entry from a slightly-different angle. But in a crowded anime field like this one, a mild spin like that still comes off looking pretty average at this point.

Rating:

Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.


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