In Another World With My Smartphone
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 12 of
In Another World With My Smartphone ?
As a critic, you're supposed to give everything a fair shake. I won't pretend I didn't come into reviews of Isekai Smartphone immediately thrown by its worn-out concept and too-simple gimmick, but I tried to offer the series as clean a slate as any to start from. Being immediately greeted with its astoundingly blatant pandering and almost impressive lack of effort cemented what I was getting into though, but now that it's over, it's time to take stock of the series. After running this anime through the wood-chipper week after week, I'm going to actually sit down, drop the pretense of exaggerated anger, and try to make sense of the show. At the end of the day, what is In Another World With My Smartphone?
These past couple of episodes have mostly dropped the fantasy-world Isekai plot into the background to be a harem series instead. It's a dubious turn, given that only portions of a few previous episodes were dedicated to exploring the alleged romance plotline, but that's where we stand now. The major problem is how startlingly lacking in personality and conflict these characters and their relationships are. At one point in this episode, Elze and Yae actually admit out loud that they have the same personality. I'm honestly not sure how we're supposed to regard Touya's relationships with the girls. He says he likes them, and he's treated them like decent friends throughout the series, but aside from getting excited at the prospect of seeing them molested by monsters, he's never really indicated any feelings of love or lust towards them.
Saying how they feel becomes the sole crutch this last episode can rely on to communicate the characters' feelings. Yumina point-blank asks Touya if he likes Linze, and when he says he does, it turns out that she was listening in the whole time. Then Elze and Yae take him aside, they also say they love him, and he says he likes them back (we do at least get a momentarily decent fight out of the deal). I honestly hadn't noticed how limited the facial expressions of these characters were until this episode, as their feelings are solely quantified by blatant dialogue, but the characters can barely emote beyond faces of ‘dull’ and ‘embarrassed’.
A harem story needs to be a collection of substantial romances to succeed. There needs to be serious emotional conflict, ups and downs of chemistry, and some sort of driving factor in each connection the hero makes with all the potential romance options in their orbit. Isekai Smarphone has none of that. The characters have just sort of pleasantly existed in proximity to each other until this episode, where they decide to arbitrarily hem and haw when the time comes to actually quantify their relationships. Their love confessions are treated less with the gravity of forging a serious connection with another human being and more like extra boxes ticked off on Touya's list of cool stuff.
The general pointlessness of this so-called conflict is what renders it so flat. The rest of the episode sees Touya visiting a procession of higher advisers, including a holographic representation of Cesca's professor master. She's seemingly incapable of dispensing information that would build up the world of this fantasy realm (meaning Isekai Smartphone fails at the isekai portion of its story as much as its sudden attempts at romance), but she does give Touya the same obvious advice as everyone else: you like these girls and they all want to marry you, so go for it. Then Touya visits God (remember him?), who introduces him to the God of Love just to make this easy choice all the more potent. For what it's worth, the God of Love is a pretty alright character, an amusingly knowing embodiment of clichés whose nuanced advice to Touya almost sells the idea that he has a hard choice to make at all.
In the end, Touya just decides to stick it out with the girls and just put off actually marrying them for the time being. It seems fitting for a series like Isekai Smartphone to wrap by avoiding resolution for a conflict that should be easy to solve. The series concludes by threatening cameos of future characters from the novels, while foreshadowing that Touya will be adding even more girls to his harem. Honestly, there's no harm if that's the direction this story ends up taking; at least it's actually trying to do something after so much purposeless meandering. Harem stories can be the same type of escapist fun that isekai series are predicated on, but they need driving conflicts to actually work as a story. If what follows in the (thankfully not yet anime-fied) future Smartphone volumes is more of the indecision-sold-as-conflict established by these last two episodes, then we'd only be in for a whole lot more nothing anyway.
In a fit of tremendous irony, the final post-credits scene is probably the most interested I've ever been in Isekai Smartphone. Touya happens upon a mysterious new traveler, who thanks to the show's unsubtle shifty-eyed-dog way of communicating character, we can tell is an antagonistic fellow. This new guy also appears to be an inter-world traveler like Touya, so the idea of a rival to our previously unstoppable hero is genuinely intriguing. It's not enough to make me hope for another season, mind you, but it's amusing that In Another World With My Smartphone only stumbled onto a spark of creativity at its very end.
In Another World With My Smartphone is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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