How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom
Episodes 1-3

by Grant Jones,

How would you rate episode 1 of
How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom ?

How would you rate episode 3 of
How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom ?

I've seen and reviewed my fair share of isekai works at this point, and while I try to give them all a fair shake I would be lying if I didn't admit that any mention of isekai these days makes me hesitant. But as with any genre fiction, the real charm in watching or reading isekai stories is seeing which tropes a work leans into and what twists it adds to the formula. How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom seems to split the difference, and, at least for now, ends up as a decidedly average isekai with signs of promising potential.

In many respects, what's just so-so is fine or unsurprising. I have no issue with the generic fantasy setting of Landia; it is what it is and I enjoy plenty of comfort food series with elves and orcs and dragons and so forth. I wish the designs were a bit more interesting though, as many of them look really flat – bland colors, low detail, etc. In fact, the same could be said of most of the rest of the show as well. Nothing really seems to excite, other than a few daring camera movements (but those necessitate doll-like CG characters, detracting from those scenes too).

However, I do like the series' spin on the amazing isekai hero trope. Isekai has a reputation for being very overt about the power fantasy aspects, usually along the lines of the hero being irresistible to a cavalcade of paramours for whatever reason. Here though, the power fantasy seems to be “ah but what if we applied a bit of good governance to a fantasy kingdom.” Don't get me wrong – the idea that you can just look a spreadsheet of a nation then check a few boxes and adjust a few sliders to make it better is no less ridiculous than any other isekai harem bit. The only difference here is that instead of a dating sim, Souma is now in a game of Civilization or Stellaris, ticking off the governance boxes to get the right bonuses.

Case in point: the show assumes that a better society is simply a matter of realization. “The world would be a better place, if only people knew what they were doing wrong” is… an optimistic view of things, to say the least, and does not take into consideration the fact that many of society's cruelties and inefficiencies are purposefully designed that way to benefit one or more powerful parties. The issue with Elfrieden's inability to wean off a cash crop in the second episode is a prime example. Souma notes that the use of cotton as a cash crop is contributing to the kingdom's inability to grow food to feed its people, which sounds reasonable enough, but then his solution is a simple “we'll fix it and pay for the goods during the changeover” and that's it, problem solved. There's not a hint of pushback from those who might have a vested interest (whether it is money, political influence, or pride) in keeping things the same.

But like I mentioned, maybe that's the fantasy here. And there's nothing wrong with that! Games like Civilization are fun, and this is a fun version of the protagonist living his ridiculous fantasy. Besides, there are other positives to speak of. When the visuals do pop, they leave a mark: the transition shot in the first episode of the single leaf falling across the screen to indicate both Souma's grandfather passing and the passage of time was a deft touch. Also, the brief bit where Souma was very clearly imitating a Yu-Gi-Oh! character – with accompanying stylistic shift on his character and vocal delivery – was excellent and easily the highlight of the premiere for me. The fact that Souma idolizes Cao Cao gave me a big grin as an avid Romance of the Three Kingdoms enjoyer, and his efforts to build a meritocracy of sorts is endearing if nothing else. I particularly liked that he pointed out that judging someone based purely on their access to education means you are likely discounting many of the best and brightest individuals.

That said, Episode 3's plot of Souma scouting for exceptional individuals to work for him felt incredibly dull to me. It's a character gallery of five relatively dull character archetypes doing a talent show – and sometimes not even that. Most of the runtime is spent not so much showing off these characters as much as it is used to show how great/wise Souma is. The most egregious part, I think, was Aisha's section. I know I shouldn't think too hard about fantasy land make-believe with elves and dwarves and orcs or what have you, but the forest problem was a bridge too far. The dark elves are a long-lived people for whom age can be hard to measure, indicating their advanced lifespans, and they apparently have lived in this forest for some time… but don't know basic forestry techniques? I dunno, strikes me as odd that they would have zero knowledge of this until Souma arrived.

Still, even with How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom's middling visual presentation and well-worn narrative structure, there's a potential upswing here if the show manages to lean into the fantasy of good governance without pushing the suspension of disbelief too far. Toss in some good meta-humor each episode and the surprisingly good soundtrack (even the insert songs were jamming), and this has the potential to be a lot of fun.

Rating:

Grant is the cohost on the Blade Licking Thieves podcast and Super Senpai Podcast.

How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom is currently streaming on Funimation.


discuss this in the forum (19 posts) |
bookmark/share with: short url

back to How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom
Episode Review homepage / archives