In Another World With My Smartphone
Episodes 1-2

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 1 of
In Another World With My Smartphone ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
In Another World With My Smartphone ?

How does this happen? In a seasonal anime field that's increasingly crowded in general (and with isekai shows especially), a genre piece needs some sort of hook to even begin to stand out. In Another World With My Smartphone is about exactly what its title forebodes, but there's somehow even less to it in practice. It's a show that simply is but does nothing to actually justify its existence in these first two episodes.

What we do get is so by-the-numbers that I don't even want to use that phrase because it seems like a waste to point out the obvious. Criticizing Smartphone for being bland and predictable is played-out; the show's actually worse than just being cliche, because it fails at the few things it even halfheartedly attempts to do, starting with the central gimmick of the smartphone.

Main character Touya requesting to take his phone with him to the other world seems like a clever move to intentionally give himself a leg-up in his dealings there. If all his successes came from using the phone, that could be an interesting play on the situation. Instead, he gets a power, memory, and magic boost from God by default, and instead simply uses the phone as a map. For instance, the show never has him use the phone to exploit currency exchanges or get an advantage in understanding the economy, a merchant just happens to want to buy his school uniform for a ton of money, not involving the smartphone at all. These are easy ideas that would have justified the nominal gimmick of the show, but they're completely bypassed in favor of giving Touya the easiest way out to the next plot point.

When the smartphone in Smartphone is used for anything other than a map, it's not terribly exciting either. The first episode simply has him use it to teach some girls to make ice cream. The second episode doesn't even see it used at all, save for Touya snapping a picture of Elze at the beginning. Exploring the central conceit of the series should be its most interesting feature, but the titular smartphone is just an obligatory, utterly disposable aside.

If the smartphone feels like a tacked-on gimmick the author wasn't actually all that interested in, then the world's magic system seems to be the part they were actually into. The concept of people having inherent elemental affinities brought out by dedicated stones is something I haven't quite seen before, with a host of potentially interesting applications. If each person can only use one or two types of magic, it necessitates the party system we see at work in the world's guilds, bringing characters together to work to complement their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses. It could also lend an air of discovery to further characters, as heroes try to track down and convince those with a critical elemental ability to join their party.

So of course it turns out that Touya just naturally has the ability to use all elements at once. I'm almost in awe of this one: Smartphone sets up a clever idea with lots of potential, then dashes it within seconds. The second episode piles on miraculous abilities borne out of Touya's power to use otherwise user-specific ‘Null’ magic, including healing powers. Barely fifteen minutes into the first episode, and the main character of the story has access to all the magical powers of the world, along with the ability to teleport at will. By the second episode, he's cured the blindness of a member of the royal family and earned favor from them as well. If this is where he's starting, we can only assume he'll ascend to full-on godhood by the halfway point of the series.

But what about Touya and the other characters as personalities? Well, they aren't. Touya and the twins Elze and Linze have pretty much nothing interesting going on. Touya doesn't seem to have any goal in his new fantasy home other than “wander over to a town and see what he can do”, and anything the twins are after hasn't been revealed yet. Samurai girl Yae introduced in the second episode is at least marginally more interesting, but even her singular quirk is a tired ‘eats a lot’ gag. They all react to Touya's magic, abilities, and even smartphone usage with the same level of dull surprise, and there's really no driving conflict that they've had to engage yet. It's almost like a slice-of-life show, except those usually have jokes or dynamic character interactions or something.

Maybe this soulless void of content could be forgiven if the show at least looked decent, but it doesn't. Designs are flat and often jankily off-model just in the first episode (never a good sign), with even the battles in the opening theme looking pretty rough. Weird static interludes break up scenes throughout the episodes, seeming like cheap ways to fill up a little extra airtime and generally obliterating the pacing. The sole design element I like is Elze using big gauntlets as her primary weapons, but that hasn't actually led to any cool action yet.

If there's any uplifting thing that can be said about Smartphone so far, it's that it proves a series can be very bad without being outright offensive. There's almost no senseless fanservice or pandering material at this point, no terrible attempts at shock value either. It's just extremely poorly-executed blandness. Maybe that's the blessing in disguise: In Another World With My Smartphone has started with the bare minimum of ambition and hasn't even managed to fulfill that. From here, let's hope there's nowhere to go but up.

Rating: D+

In Another World With My Smartphone is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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