Handyman Saitō in Another World
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Handyman Saitō in Another World ?
Community score: 4.3
It certainly does feel like "The Dawn of a New Era" in this episode of Handyman Saitō in Another World. That is, it feels like this is where the actual show starts, after the drip-feed of character-establishing world-building punchlines across the first three episodes. Things are still fully sketch-based—it's not like the show has fundamentally pulled the rug out from under audiences in terms of presentation. But now it's more like when one of those daily newspaper comic strips has a storyline running through each day's entry. There's a unifying arc bringing everything together into the expanded labyrinth that Saitō discovered at the end of last week's episode, with most of the action and antics centered on that locale.
As such, the big expansive gimmick now is that all those one-off sketch characters get to interact with Saitō and the others, which in turn provides new vectors for comedy. On a base level that means our main party can observe these other people and remark on what most of the sketches already told us about them: They're very strange. But the writing also uses this to advance the main 'plot' (illustrated with a handy pop-up graphic) of which crew will be the last one working their way to the end of that labyrinth. For instance, we see the disembodied-head Demon Lord and his pal the King's Minister get taken out by the shadow-stepping ninja Kisirugi, who then goes after Saitō and the others by the end of the episode, only to be stopped at the last minute by Gibungle, that dwarven mage tank with the puppy in his helmet. Then Gibungle professes that Morlock is actually his long-lost master, who of course, has forgotten all about him. It's kinda like The Avengers, if Iron Man and all the other establishing movies were goofy 4-koma with intermittent boner jokes.
Maintaining that sketchy structure and offbeat, often off-color humor helps keep Handyman Saitō still feeling like Handyman Saitō even with this slight uptick in narrative ambition. So it still finds time for one-off gags like the Power Wizard not participating in the dungeon crawling simply because his staff doesn't fit. But there is a more surprising shift that impressed me with regards to the show's tone. Having so many of the new jokes based around the characters interacting with each other brings out a more good-natured element to things, compared to the more mean-spirited efforts I felt from some of the bits in the previous episode. A good example comes from Saitō meeting up with Monpui, the nepo-baby healer from the Hero's party, when both are lost in the Labyrinth. We see Monpui learning to maybe be more trusting of others and being surprised at his leader Cainz genuinely worrying about him, and I kept expecting the show to undercut that at the last minute. But instead it just plays out and ends on that genuine note, the "punchline" simply being the revelation that the designated "Hero" of this world perhaps really is good enough to embody that role, and that Saitō's good nature can impress itself upon people.
Similarly, an interaction over lock-picking a treasure chest simply winds up subverted with the revelation of Guivre, the burly thief, seeing Saitou as exactly his type. It's not played in any predatory or exaggerated gay stereotype, and instead just comes off as an adorably earnest attraction to exactly the type of desirable dude we already know Saitō is. It's sweet and amusing in the same chuckle-worthy manner Handyman Saitō has always aimed for. The show still has some iffier impulses, mainly in regards to Raelza. The revelation of her awesome activated light armor would have made a great follow-up on the previous joke about her armor getting involuntary slimed off, but of course she has to suffer a wardrobe malfunction a moment later, diluting that execution and short-stopping what had been a surprisingly cool animated fight scene for the show up to that point.
There is more cool action at the end of this one, and coupled with the honestly surprising reveal of a whole cache of isekai'd items in the labyrinth, keeps making the case for Handyman Saitō's increase in ambitions here. And it's nice that the show's dedication to subversion can extend to its story ponderings as well as its style of humor. Saitō's pursuit of the fantasy Roomba causes Raelza to question if he's searching for a way to ultimately return to his home world, which surprised me given how rarely such an idea is entertained in modern isekai. And I like the idea of where that could lead, since Saito seems to be genuinely enjoying how appreciated and fulfilled he is in this weird fantasy world, but we can fathom that many of us might end up homesick after a while. That's multiple hooks thrown out just in the fourth episode of this funky little series, which makes it interesting that I now feel driven to continue watching to follow up on those and maybe catch some more cool fight scenes, in equal measure to keeping up just for the next batch of dick jokes.
Handyman Saitō in Another World is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Chris is a freewheeling Fresno-based freelancer with a love for anime and a shelf full of too many Transformers. He can be found spending way too much time on his Twitter, and irregularly updating his blog.
Disclosure: Kadokawa World Entertainment (KWE), a wholly owned subsidiary of Kadokawa Corporation, is the majority owner of Anime News Network, LLC. One or more of the companies mentioned in this article are part of the Kadokawa Group of Companies.
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