I’ve been wondering for awhile why so many trapped in another world stories have been using reincarnation as a vehicle for travelling between our world and another. The far easier option is just to throw the protagonist through a portal, summon them, cross over or whatever else is needed to get them there and then close the door behind them. Reincarnation creates a myriad of plot issues that a lot of the time just don’t need to be in the story at all and are seldom addressed in any kind of satisfying manner. So what are some of the problems I have with reincarnation as a story and are there any anime that get it right?
It Just Isn’t Necessary
Ernesti from Knight’s and Magicis a great example of a character who did not need to be reincarnated. He literally could have just been a born genius from the world he was on given the only bearing his past life had on the one we watched was that he was good at programming, and apparently designing robots. Both of these skills could easily have been acquired by a genius in the world he grew up in, and in point of fact given they offer an antagonist later on who isn’t quite at Ernesti’s level of over-powered brilliance but is still pretty good at developing mechs you have to wonder why they bothered.
Now I mentioned this in my review of the anime, but adding the reincarnation aspect does nothing for this story. All it does is eat up precious minutes of air time showing us a former life that will have no importance on the overall plot and isn’t necessary.
Ernesti brings no external knowledge of the world he is entering into the world. As he has been reborn in a new body none of his physical abilities have gone with him. He has no contact with anyone or anything from his former world where knowing who he was previously might aid the story. There is literally not reason for him to be a reincarnation and it is pretty easy to forget that this is the premise of the story.
And while I’m kind of bashing Knight’s And Magic, it isn’t the only story guilty of this.
Now if we look at something like Sailor Moon or Kyou Kara Maou, while the reincarnation is from their former life/world and into the modern one, the fact that the characters are reincarnated has an impact on every part of the plot. Neither one of these stories would be able to exist except for the fact that the main characters were reborn. Their former lives are completely intertwined with the events they are facing in their present life and the power they use is tied in with it as well.
Even In Another World With My Smartphone at least made use of his learned ability to use the phone and the fact that he chose to carry the phone with him into his next life. Then again, In Another World With My Smartphone created a whole other issue.
Have They Actually Been Reborn?
By its very nature, reincarnation requires you to be born again with the same soul in a different body. And that creates some interesting juxtapositions if you choose to reincarnate particular souls in bodies that just don’t match them, though this aspect of reincarnation is seldom explored. Nor is the influence of the body on the soul, though a light novel I’m reading at the moment, So I’m a Spider, So What seems to be getting into this issue by exploring the impact of having a male soul reborn inside a female and human souls being reborn inside of monsters so I’m kind of enjoying that aspect of it.
In Another World With My Smartphone just skips the whole rebirth thing. God just sends Touya to the other world, fully clothed and still fifteen years old, with all memories and learned knowledge in tact but with all his abilities boosted. I’m actually fine with this concept given it means we don’t have to watch the tedious growing up process or see his confusion with his soul memories and body memories colliding (assuming they bother to address that issue) but it kind of shoots the premise of being reborn or reincarnated in the foot. They might as well have just said he would be sent to or transported to the other world given there really wasn’t a reincarnation process here.
Does Entering a Game Count as Rebirth?
Now this one gets tricky because we’ve had a lot of characters transported into worlds based on game mechanics with levelling up and the like. The question is, have they really been reborn or is their soul simply trapped inside the game character. And if they can’t leave and the world operates as a world does it matter that it uses game mechanics at all?
I think starting That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime made me really think about how reincarnation works in stories. The first episode spends a lot of time in our world (comparatively) setting up a character that the episode then promptly kills and has him reborn. What I wanted to know was would any of the story later on be changed if we simply start with him waking up in his new body, realising he’s no longer human and moving on. Is seeing his self-intro as an ordinary guy going to make this any more engaging to watch?
And it isn’t just reincarnation. There are a lot of premises out there that get used to lead us into stories and then seem to serve no purpose. While I get that archetypes and cliches allow us to cut over a lot of fluffing about, I really do feel that narratives need to put more effort in sometimes and really use their premise. Otherwise, they just have me wondering, what’s the point?
However, I’d love to know what you think of reincarnation in anime. What are some of the best examples? What are some of the worst?
Thanks for reading.
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