Review

by Theron Martin,

Isekai Cheat Magician

Episodes 1-12 streaming

Synopsis:
Isekai Cheat Magician
Taichi was walking to school one day with his friend Rin when a summoning circle suddenly appeared under his feet, transporting both of them to an unfamiliar fantasy world. Adventurers rescue them from a harrowing initial encounter with a monster, so the two decide to become adventurers themselves while figuring out why they were brought to the world of Altia. When they are both discovered to have abnormally strong levels of magic potential, the prominent wizard Lemia takes them under her wing and trains them. Challenges await them once they do begin adventuring in the Elistain Magic Kingdom, from theft and monster attacks interfering with trade in the frontier town of Azpire to grander schemes which may affect the fate of the world. Shadow forces are moving to manipulate Taichi toward a grand goal, so he must use his "cheats" to seize control of his own destiny.
Review:

This light novel adaptation had the great misfortune to come out in the Summer 2019 season, a time so packed with isekai fantasies that it wasn't even the only series of its type to air on the same day. (It was most directly up against Demon Lord, Retry!) Even if it had not faced so much competition, I doubt that Isekai Cheat Magician would have garnered much attention or made any long-term impact. That's because it suffers from two crippling problems: low production values and a plot so generic that it does little to distinguish itself from the plethora of other isekai titles out there.

The one way that the series stands out slightly from competitors is in its basic premise. Rather than being transported solo, Taichi is accompanied by his female childhood friend, and she winds up being more than just baggage. Though Rin's magic potential is just a fraction of Taichi's nation-leveling power, it still puts her in the company of the most powerful wizards in Elistain. She also quickly shows an impressive creativity with magic, with the faint suggestion that a familiarity with modern chemistry gives her an edge. Even though Taichi usually takes the lead, Rin can stand well enough on her own in most situations and even gets some of her own action scenes. I hesitate to draw the comparison to Sword Art Online's Asuna, as Taichi and Rin are clearly friends before anything romantic (at least at this point in the story), but that's probably the closest comparison to their dynamic. The series also conspicuously features a number of other strong female characters, including the elf adventurer Myura (Muller in Crunchyroll's subtitles), who trains Rin and accompanies the two at times. There's also Lemia, the famous Mage of Falling Leaves, General Sumella, the Supreme Commander of the Royal Army, and a female barbarian Rin allies with on the battlefield late in the story.

However, the story is also careful never to stray too far from genre norms. Rin may be strong on her own, but Taichi is still the center of events and the linchpin of the story. Taichi is also eventually surrounded by a suspiciously high concentration of hot women, including the aforementioned strong characters, a gorgeous female assassin who he wins over by defeating in combat, an equally gorgeous princess, and an adorable spirit who eventually grows into a more physically mature form; the general character is especially interested in having Taichi father her children once she sees how strong he is. How much any of these might be romantic competition for Rin is unclear, as she seems uncertain about whether or not she wants to escalate her friendship with Taichi to the next level, and the potential romance aspect is never a focal point anyway.

The plot is also as generic as they come, with the only significant difference being a notably slower build-up; the series actually takes time to show Taichi and Rin being trained and learning how to master their prodigious powers, rather than the powers being available from the start. Both characters also increase their powers significantly as the season progresses. Somewhat surprisingly, Taichi is not infallibly powerful; he's quite vulnerable on at least one occasion past the first episode and has to work at subduing foes on others. That doesn't make him much more relatable, because he's still the generic good soul who's all about protecting his friends, whether it's Rin or the assassin girl he travels with for a couple of episodes. Rin also doesn't stand out much in personality, while Myura mostly just comes across as serious-minded. The setting of the story is also sparse on world-building, beyond some basics about how the magic system works. While Taichi and Rin are on their adventures, larger powers are manipulating select challenges before him for indeterminate reason. A later plot about the two getting caught up in a potential civil war also doesn't offer anything fresh or interesting beyond a little philosophical debate. Basically, there's little to the story that couldn't be found in a number of other isekai titles.

The series also doesn't have much support on the technical front. Ordinary character animation doesn't look bad, but the series consistently fails to provide much verve to its action scenes, which results in even the bigger set pieces being humdrum affairs. This weakness especially shows when CG effects are inelegantly applied to masses of soldiers being possessed by bloody frenzies—and then the soldiers are only as aggressive as a shambling pack of zombies. Magical effects and backgrounds aren't impressive either. Taichi's design is so lacking in distinction that he might be hard to pick out of a lineup of isekai series leads, while Rin stands out more through her odd combination of shorts with a wizard's cloak; she looks more like she's attempting a half-baked cosplay most of the time. Other outfits are fantasy anime standard, with Myura's more conservative dress starkly contrasting with the more revealing outfits of other female characters. Most of the series' mild doses of fan service come from various characters wearing cleavage-baring outfits.

The series also doesn't do much exciting on the musical or voice acting fronts. The soundtrack sounds like Generic Fantasy RPG BGM, with no numbers distinguishing themselves. That also applies to the more boisterous opener and the gentler closer, which exclusively features Rin. Major roles are suitably cast but there are no stand-out perfromances.

Some anime series seem destined to be quickly forgotten, and since its source novels have yet to be licensed or released in English, Isekai Cheat Magician is a prime candidate for this. The franchise is popular enough in Japan to warrant a spinoff manga series, and it isn't entirely without entertainment value, but it isn't good or distinctive enough to warrant a recommendation to anyone beyond hardcore isekai junkies.

Grade:
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C+
Animation : B-
Art : C+
Music : B-

+ Rin can stand on her own, some interesting and likable characters, good balance of small and large stakes
Weak production values, never strays far from being utterly generic

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Production Info:
Director: Daisuke Tsukushi
Series Composition: Takayo Ikami
Script:
Hiroko Fukuda
Takayo Ikami
Ayumi Sekine
Storyboard:
Yasuo Ejima
Fumio Iida
Katsuyuki Kodera
Hiromichi Matano
Hitoyuki Matsui
Takeshi Mori
Koji Sasaki
Daisuke Tsukushi
Episode Director:
Yasuo Ejima
Shige Fukase
Keishin Jo
Daishi Kato
Hiromichi Matano
Koji Sasaki
Daisuke Tsukushi
Original creator: Takeru Uchida
Original Character Design: Nardack
Character Design: Shuji Maruyama
Chief Animation Director:
Shuji Maruyama
Sakae Shibuya

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Isekai Cheat Magician (TV)

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