While Death March to The Parallel World Rhapsody debuted to intensely negative reviews, fans of isekai light novels have been trying to give it the benefit of the doubt. This week in anime, Nick and Micchy find out how much of this messy adaptation they can handle as they sleuth out where things turned sour.
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You can read our weekly coverage of Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody here!
Well Nick, it's finally time to ask the big question: what if a video game were actually real life and oh my god are we really doing this premise again...
Y'know, I guess this is my fault. I made a whole big deal about loving fantasy anime with big ensemble casts, so after discussing Grancrest War
and Black Clover
, this one was kinda inevitable.
In fairness, I'm the one responsible for suggesting this particular helldive. I'm so, so sorry.
So yes, we're finally discussing the latest addition to the isekai sub-genre.
Death Rhapsody to the World March Parallel is the riveting story of Satoo, your average potato-kun game dev who gets transported to a fantasy world where suddenly his game hacks are useful for something other than wrecking losers in MMOs. And after eight episodes of Parallel March to the Death Rhapsody World, I'm about dead of boredom and feel like I'm marching toward an early grave, if you catch my drift. Dear lord is this show terrible. It's so bad.
Yeeeep. Granted I've not been a particular fan of the modern isekai renaissance, but recent entries in the genre have at least made interesting attempts at developing the staples of their premise. Grimgar
took a look at the nitty gritty of living in a new world without the skills to survive. Re:Zero
tried to pick apart the power fantasy of the typical isekai protagonist. In Another World With My Smartphone
questioned whether or not anime should still be allowed to exist. And so on.
Isekai can be and absolutely has been done well! Unfortunately, Rhapsody World to the Parallel March Death is utterly rote and boring. There's not a unique bone in its body, unless you count the loli slaves.
Death March seems to be leaning on two major breaks from formula. The first is that Satou is an adult rather than a teenage otaku
, and he mostly treats his stay in the fantasy world as a chance to get away from his grueling programming job.
The second is uh...
So yeah, guess we gotta talk about the child slavery thing. Look, I get that sometimes fiction can be indulgent and a way to explore a kink or whatever, but Satou's supposed to having a fun fantasy vacation where he keeps buying people. And I'm sorry, but the only scenario where owning an 11-year-old makes for a good vacation is when you beat them in the finals of your cruise ship's DDR tournament.
The whole "child slavery is actually okay if you're nice to them" thread reeks of a misguided sense of chivalry, honestly; I struggle to see how Satoo thinks he's helping them. "Oh, this world has slavery, that's a thing I guess" is possibly the most uninteresting reaction a character could have to this situation, but that's all we get out of Satoo.
It's a really weird direction to take it too. A character with modern sensibilities being thrust into a world with much more regressive social norms is an interesting concept! How does a stranger in an unknown land cope with totally different societal mores? Do they buck against the system or accept it to avoid attracting danger? These are questions Death March doesn't seem even slightly interested in asking.
Which only gets more egregious when it introduces Arisa, who's her own can of worms.
I'm not sure who thought "adult woman in a child body brainwashes a guy and attempts to rape him in his sleep" was a good idea for a joke, but whoever came up with it deserves a slap upside the head.
Arisa is somehow both the best and worst character in the show. She's the worst because, well
Look, I like dom women as much as the next guy, but it'd be nice if they weren't 11, you know?
But she's the best because she's literally the only character besides Satou who expresses any personality, even if that personality is that she wants to bang Satou, I guess.
What, are you telling me "almost literally a dog" and "Saber but a slave" aren't interesting personalities?
Okay there is one joke where the cat girl nonchalantly kills a giant bug and shows it off.
as a cat owner, I Can Relate
But Arisa just raises so many questions with her backstory. She's an adult woman from the real world who was reincarnated with her memories intact into this world, then lived as a princess for years before being overthrown and sold into slavery. That's a fascinating premise, but the show never bothers to explore it to any extent. Like, how does she feel about living as a literal sex slave when she lived the majority of her life in the real world and then a significant portion of that as royalty in this one? Or how does she feel about her sister in this world having canonically been raped by their past masters?
Instead we get eight consecutive episodes of Sato
's Extremely Mediocre Daily Life.
Satooo Goes Grocery Shopping
Satoooo Tries New Cuisine
Satooooo vs. Real Estate Agents
This wouldn't be bad if the world and characters were remotely interesting, but they aren't.
Yeah, Satou's the only character with any real interiority, but even he's mostly a cipher. He takes nearly everything with a blank-faced thousand-yard-stare that works when he still thinks he's dreaming this all up, but it doesn't make any sense once he realizes it's really happening. I'm not opposed to the idea of having a chill-ass vacation-by-proxy in an interesting fantasy world, but neither the world nor the characters are thought-out enough to be intriguing.
For all the time World March to the Rhapsody Death Parallel spends on day-to-day happenings, we really don't have much sense of the people who inhabit the world, their daily struggles, or anything beyond Seiryuu. Instead we spend every minute inside Satoo's redundant internal monologue and god I could not care less what he's thinking.
especially when he tosses out lines like this
Honestly I kinda wish that part of him had stuck around. Being a dick isn't a likable trait, but at least it's something distinctive. After the second episode, he loses even that fragment of personality. Like we usually call MCs like this Potato-kun, but even potatoes have texture. Satou is more like a formless pile of starch sitting on a plate.
And he just gains skills and titles with little to effort at all.
There are no real stakes until the eighth goddamn episode. What are we even supposed to care about here? His romance with Zena, who's barely in the show? The legend of the holy knight, which gets told to us via montage and voiceover? Arisa's past?
TBH I think it benefits the show not to pretend to have a plot too often. It's obviously going for a relaxed hang-out vibe, and Satou is literally so powerful that nothing can really threaten him, just be a temporary inconvenience. So if there's no stakes regardless of whether they're buying jewelry or storming a dungeon, might as well be honest about it instead of wasting more time with Satou slowly deciding which skill slot to min-max to win whatever fight he's in.
Yup, Parallel Death to the March Rhapsody World is good at neither being a chill slice-of-life show nor being a fun action fantasy, and I wish it would commit to one or the other.
Instead we get more of this
it is also extremely animated
Yeah, on top of everything else this show kinda looks like a double-fried turd on a stick.
It never quite reaches abysmal levels of shortcuts, but it never gets a scene or moment that looks 100% finished either. And there's this weird filter placed over many scenes that make the background and periphery look out of focus. I can't tell if it's an accident or purposeful, but it looks like crud either way.
I too enjoy staring at town maps over lightly blurred titties.
Overall, Death March just feels really lazy. Even when there were isekai shows I hated, I usually got the sense that the creator was excited by their own world, at least as a way to imagine getting a harem and having an adventure. Death March doesn't even feel like it's excited about its slavery fetish. It's not even putting in the effort to be titillating. It's just barely there.
The series is just slowly dragging itself to its own grave week after week. It sucks on basically every level and fans of the isekai genre could easily do better. For instance, there's this little show called Escaflowne
that popped up on CR just the other day, you might not have heard of it—
Honestly, you could throw a rock in any direction and hit a better isekai harem show. There's no shortage of them. Unless you've run through all those and you're really, really hard-up for an isekai fix, I don't see anything here that hasn't been done way better elsewhere.
On the other hand, there are worse things to be than boring. It could've been a monsterfucker show.
Excuse me, I think the Academy disagrees?