Reviewby Nick Creamer,
In Another World With My Smartphone
Limited Edition BD + DVD
Awakening atop a fluffy cloud, the young Touya Michozuki finds himself in a situation he never expected: actually talking to God himself. Unfortunately, it turns out God is kind of a screwup, and accidentally got Touya killed somehow. Touya cannot be returned to his own world, but in repayment for his own mistake, God is willing to grant Touya a new life in another one - a world of magic and dragons, where fabled warriors cross swords with magical beasts, zombies, and all manner of other strange creatures. Oh, and there's one more thing - Touya gets to keep his smartphone, with which he will learn to master this strange new world.
The recent ascendancy of the isekai genre has resulted in an absurd glut of trapped-in-another-world anime of all shapes and sizes. Some of these, like Log Horizon, take a thoughtful approach to their own genre, prioritizing things like the unique intersection of economic theory and game design mechanics. Others, like KONOSUBA, are content to revel in the comic potential of fantasy worlds, constructing witty takedowns of arbitrary fantasy mechanics. Still others play the genre extremely straight, like Sword Art Online, which offers a relatively straightforward fantasy drama in a new world. And then there's In Another World With My Smartphone, which in twelve episodes failed to offer basically any hook or reason for its own existence whatsoever.
The problems with In Another World With My Smartphone start even before we actually get into the show; by title alone, this is clearly not an inspired property. Most isekai shows hinge themselves on some specific unique hook, but Smartphone's hook is literally “our protagonist Touya can look things up on his smartphone and use Google Maps.” Watching other people look things up on their smartphone has never struck me as all that thrilling or dramatically interesting, but I was still willing to keep an open mind walking into this one. So, how does Smartphone actually use its conceit to facilitate its drama?
As it turns out, it doesn't - in fact, the exact opposite happens. As in many isekai shows, our protagonist Touya Michozuki has essentially been granted his isekai life as a gift from God, a gift that also included a general boosting of all his physical and magical attributes. Unfortunately, God apparently went a little overboard with these boons, as the combination of Touya's magical potential and his readily available smartphone mean essentially all of Smartphone's conflicts are over before they began.
The show's conflicts pretty much all follow one specific structure. Touya is wandering around town with his harem of cute followers, when suddenly they run across some new cute girl in some kind of peril. After hearing the girl explain this peril, Touya nods thoughtfully, and says “I think I can handle that.” Then he uses either one of his endless spells (everyone in this world tends to have one signature spell, except Touya, who has all of them) to instantly solve the problem, or looks up an immediate solution on his smartphone. Then his whole harem claps and says “I knew you could do it, Touya,” the new girl joins the harem, and Touya is bequeathed a castle or something for his brilliance.
Smartphone's appeal should theoretically lie somewhere in how Touya uses his combination of diverse magical spells and ability to look up information in order to arrive at some clever solution to people's problems. The issue is, Touya's solutions are never clever, never require any effort, and always work immediately, resulting in the best possible outcome and all nearby women falling for him. When presented with a murder mystery, Touya will do something like “cast spell: highlight the killer.” When faced with an army of zombies, Touya will simply shoot them all with holy magic, because only he has unlimited magic ability. Eventually, Smartphone gets tired of individually introducing new spells for Touya, and so he instead just gets the power to create spells in a basic programming language. From then on, he basically just shoots all of his problems with his magical spell-gun, which always solves everything and makes everyone happy.
Many isekai shows revolve around a fantasy of personal greatness, but Smartphone is so wholly dedicated to making Touya awesome that it essentially lacks conflict, rising tension, or stakes whatsoever. There is never any threat to Touya, because he always wins instantly. On top of that, all of the characters around him essentially act as extensions of himself, and possess no personalities beyond “loves Touya, but Touya is oblivious, so they're sneaky about it.” Touya doesn't have friends, he has color-coded haremettes - after we open with a pair of demure/boisterous twins, he eventually acquires a samurai girl, ninja girl, gothic lolita girl, cyborg girl, maid girl, and two princesses, all of whom love him, all of whom lack any personality beyond loving him.
Smartphone also lacks anything you could really call a narrative structure, or dramatic arc. Each episode is basically just composed of isolated victories by Touya, where his ability to teleport anywhere and do anything means he snaps his fingers to solve the problems of various kingdoms one by one, adding their princesses to his gallery along the way. There's no real worldbuilding or sense of this world as a convincing place - as the combination of goth lolis, cyborgs, and samurai might indicate, this show's world is just a grab bag of things the author thinks are cool. None of the characters grow as people, there's never any sense of urgency, and the show never leads to any larger conflict that pulls its pieces together. It's just default harem shenanigans and Hail Touya from start to finish.
The show's aesthetics unfortunately aren't much better than its writing. Smartphone's character designs are as generic as their personalities, and the background art is consistently underwhelming. The show is heavy on blocky CG buildings, and its world doesn't really possess any visual identity beyond “generic European fantasy.” There's also basically no fluid animation to speak of, and the direction doesn't really convey any sort of dramatic tone (except for when it's zooming in on character's breasts, I suppose). The fight scenes are brief and underwhelming, relying heavily on stills and speed lines, and generally resolving as soon as Touya gets a word in. Smartphone is probably more successful as a harem than a fantasy, but even there, the lack of expressiveness and low energy of the direction mean it's never a particularly engaging watch. And even harems need characters you can care about.
In Another World With My Smartphone comes in a sturdy chipboard case housing the blurays themselves along with a small booklet dedicated to individual character portraits. My collection also came with a second cardboard case that, as far as I could tell, was pretty much just an extremely oversized container for a small Kohaku (the show's cat mascot character) keychain. The on-disc extras are fairly limited; there's a gallery of the show's eyecatches, but aside from that, it's just the usual textless opening/closing segments, some trailers, and a couple episode commentaries by the show's dub cast.
That dub is absolutely one of Smartphone's greatest strengths. The whole cast commit as well as they can to their roles, and the adaptive script actually adds a lot of punchy conversational gags that offer at least some energy and camaraderie. Even if the actual dialogue is lacking in personality, there's a solid chemistry between the dub leads that helps sell this group as a bunch of actual friends. And the show's music also helps, offering an array of woodwind and brass compositions that nicely match the almost slice-of-life medieval tone of the production.
On the whole, I don't really know what to say about this one. Smartphone isn't a slice of life show, but it still seems to be designed for an audience that doesn't actually want their shows to contain conflict. As a fantasy drama, it fails because there are no stakes, the fantasy world is unconvincing, and the characters are non-beings. As a harem, it fails because it's not funny, the animation and character designs are lousy, and again, the characters are non-beings. The only thing Smartphone really excels at is showing Touya solve problems without any effort. If that sounds compelling, maybe give it a shot - outside of that, there is nothing to grab onto here.
Overall (dub) : D
Overall (sub) : D-
Story : F
Animation : D
Art : C-
Music : B-
+ Soundtrack is pleasant enough, dub cast does their best to inject some personality into these characters
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