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Handyman Saitō in Another World
Episodes 1-3

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Handyman Saitō in Another World ?
Community score: 4.0

How would you rate episode 2 of
Handyman Saitō in Another World ?
Community score: 3.9

How would you rate episode 3 of
Handyman Saitō in Another World ?
Community score: 4.1

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©Kazutomo Ichitomo, KADOKAWA/HANDYMAN SAITOU IN ANOTHER WORLD PARTNERS

Handyman Saitō in Another World is a weird show. Comedy-based isekai is nothing new. But Handyman Saitō goes in a very different direction with its approach compared to the madcap zaniness of something like KONOSUBA or Cautious Hero, earnestly embodying the structure of its comic strip source material through sequestered sketches with lower-key beats of punchlines. It gives the whole thing a vibe, unlike other anime about world-transported heroes and a lot of comedy anime overall.

Part of the uniqueness of Handyman Saitō is that even though its nominal gimmick is someone with a particular job being summoned to the fantasy realm as opposed to some simple cipher, Saitō's handyman nature isn't the source of much of the show's humor. It's not about how weird it would be to have a handyman in this world; the series is about the fantasy world itself being plenty odd on its own. Whole sketches in episodes can play out that don't even concern Saitō and his friends, like a second-episode entry where a king defeats his demonic enemy but keeps him around as a living severed head because he actually enjoys his company. Much of what's here is structured on that subversion, introducing us to some stock fantasy class, character, or situation before pulling back to reveal the punch-line at the end and hopefully elicit a chuckle.

Of course, that offbeat approach means that Handyman Saitō is about as hit-or-miss as it gets. Plenty of bits are funny or cutely entertaining, like the eccentricities of Saitō's party members, such as the money-grubbing fairy healer or wizard struck with bouts of senility. But other parts don't work as well and come close to wearing out their welcome. In particular, the series has a propensity for horny humor that you might not expect. Some of this helps dial up that appealing weirdness, like the delicacy of dick-shaped mushrooms or the debut of a warrior/healer combo who are just a couple of weird perverts. However, that last bit is an example that lingers just a little too long and awkwardly. Other sketches in this vein have also don't land, like Raelza getting her armor slimed off in the second episode or a drawn-out setup in the third about a team of streaming adventurers leaving their fantasy webcam on while getting steamy, which ultimately just comes off mean-spirited.

Handyman Saitō is best when it feels like it's building on those bits through the characters and world it's introduced piecemeal in these first three episodes. So that bit with Raelza's armor wasn't great, and when an electric trap necessitating armor removal comes up in the third episode, I braced for a repeat of that sort of indulgence. But then the show flips things by having Saitō lend her his clothes so she can cover up, so instead, we catch a glimpse of some Saitō-service and see Raelza rocking his coveralls. That's a win-win!

That building approach applies even when the show isn't going for humor. Just because Handyman Saitō is structured on short-form and low-key vibes doesn't mean it's not also ambitious. A running theme through these first three episodes is Saitō feeling like he needs to prove his adequacy in helping the group, stemming from how underappreciated he felt in his world. That plays out in plot lines that progress through several scattered sketches, seeing Saitō's struggles in some dungeon battle instances and how he relates his feelings to people in the downtime between those adventures. This is cool because it makes the party feel like an actual group of comrades rather than a story-structured JRPG team. Plus, it works with the sketchy structure to make Saitō's navigation of his feelings more realistically messy and cyclical, which lets the show wheel around to more consistently-connected jokes. As chill as it all often feels, it never comes off lazy, which is appropriate for a show about a working man, I'd say.

Handyman Saitō's ambitions also seem to extend to an ongoing story despite its structure. This culminates in episode three when Saitō makes a dungeon discovery and revitalizes the local adventuring business, bringing together many of the faces glimpsed in those disparate sketches. Of course, only a show as irreverently weird as this would predicate that development, plus the promise of further ones, on the mystery of a fantasy-world Roomba, but it's compelling all the same. I'm curious how these connections and progressions will play out in forthcoming episodes. But I also feel I'll have plenty of fun just coming to hang out with Saitō and all these other weirdos every weekend.

Rating:

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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