Being Generic Is Not A Crime;
Being Generic and Boring However…
Isekai Cheat Magician is one of those shows where there is in fact truth in the label, though that seems to be a trend in isekai stories (light novels and anime) to simply describe the basic plot and use that as your title. I mean, I always struggled coming up with titles for stories but apparently if I got back into writing I could just put that concern to the side and write a brief synopsis and there we go – insta title.
In seriousness though, generic isekai is something I quite enjoy. There’s something quite relaxing about genre fiction that doesn’t really aspire to be anything beyond its basic label. While I do enjoy more thought provoking fare inbetween my binge popcorn meals, I happily return to these fairly routine anime with a regularity that kind of indicates that I’m getting something out of it.
Despite that, Isekai Cheat Magician ended up being one of those anime that started out looking like something I would truly enjoy despite its limitations, for instance Kenja no Mago, and yet ended up being one of the more forgettable viewing experiences of the year. Which is actually a pretty impressive feat given this year’s viewing also included that happily dismissed Grimms Notes.
However, just in case you have never embraced watching an isekai before, let me run through the basic plot here. Mr Ordinary-Nice-Guy gets summoned by a Princess to another world where he naturally has the biggest, baddest magic power around but of course he won’t abuse his power but rather he’ll help the first people who take an interest in him because they are of course good and everybody who opposes them must be bad for reasons. Our ‘twist’ such as it is in this instance, is that Mr Ordinary-Nice-Guy (Taichi) is with his female child-hood friend when the summoning circle appears and she, despite Nice-Guy pushing her out of the way, jumps back into the circle and gets herself summoned as well.
It’s fine. She also has super-powers and is actually smart so could probably have been the protagonist on her own but apparently the author wasn’t sure that his nicely written, well rounded female characters could carry a show and so tied them all inexplicably to the dead-weight and personality-less actual protagonist. Alright, he has a personality but largely it consists of being dense and being nice in equal measure before occasionally punching something.
And let’s consider that for a moment. Despite being a cheat ‘magician’, and boy do they remind us of that a lot as he calls himself one at least once every second episode, or Rin (the childhood friend does), he largely uses his power to strengthen his body and punch things. They could have called him isekai-wannabe-fighter and the story probably would have turned out much the same except for his whole connection with the spirits who actually help him use the occasional bit of magic. Instead of spells and chants and really cool combinations of ideas we get a guy who glows and punches things. Admittedly, it worked really well for Gon (Hunter x Hunter) but then again they weren’t trying to convince us that Gon was actually a magician.
Then we have Rin who actually does learn to use magic and carries a staff. At one point she uses a combination of magic spells to slow down an entire army and it is really cool to watch. She’s confident and self-assured, using her knowledge of science to combine with magical power to deliver some spells that are unknown in the world they’ve been transported to. When she’s paired up with Myura, one of the inhabitants of the world who works to train them in magic, the two are really great fun to watch. Both are powerful but not unbeatable and both are observant about their surroundings.
Which makes these two characters getting sidelined so the chosen one can save the day in the final battle fairly unpalatable. Somehow all their tough and strong personality traits get evaporated and they end up more or less just waiting around while Taichi mops things up. It is most definitely a disappointing direction for their characters, though clearly it was inevitable. Even in earlier fights where Taichi was around they found reasons to almost damsel-in-distress them or they found ways to separate the group. Because, they can only be strong and self-reliant if the protagonist isn’t on the scene. That inconsistency kind of hurt.
By the time we throw in villains who by and large aren’t even cliches they are so paper-thin in terms of the writing you almost have to wonder if there’s anything left to appeal about this anime. And the truth is, there are some nice moments between Taichi and Rin and then between Rin and Myura. Rin manages to bring out the best in the cast around her and when she’s bouncing off someone the scenes come to life. Yet, that probably isn’t enough to salvage a plot that just feels like they didn’t know what to do beyond summon two characters and throw stuff at them, and characters who don’t actually have a consistent personality but merely respond as the plot demands at the time.
With visuals that are adequate but certainly nothing note-worthy, music that is equally forgettable, and ultimately an unfinished story because while we have a fight in the final episodes the ‘true’ mastermind has yet to actually grace the scene, and honestly I’ll happily recommend dozens of other isekai titles before this one. That doesn’t make this one broken beyond repair and it certainly is watchable (at least if you’ve watched many other isekai stories). But there’s nothing here that makes this one something that needs to be watched and there are plenty of better anime that do more or less the same things.
A few glimmers of decent characterisation and a decent basic concept just can’t make up for the deficits in this show. Characters introduced only to show off the power of the main character or to drag out the watch time really weigh the mid-season down, and the absence of any real threat makes it hard to buy into any of the tension. Not to mention, when they are flailing about for a real fight at the end they resort to zombies… Like really?
As with many titles I’ll have to say the greatest problem here is wasted potential. The generic set up and storyline is used over and over because it is functionally sound, but only if the writers do something with it. Here it never went anywhere or kept trying to go somewhere but didn’t really know how to build up either the plot or the characters over a sustained period of time. So yes, I’d have to say Isekai Cheat Magician probably isn’t worth your time.