Kenja no Mago Anime Review

Kenja no Mago - Shin

Reincarnated Ultimate Magican Takes on Common Sense and Demonoids

Let’s get it out of the way straight up so that we can move on. If there was a generic list of points for your standard isekai story, Kenja no Mago would tick almost all of them. It is the story of the average Japanese guy who dies and gets reincarnated and naturally becomes a super powerful teen in a new world where pretty much everyone relies on him to save the day (how would any of these fantasy worlds function without reincarnation). If the standard isekai shtick isn’t your thing then there is nothing new to see here and you should just move on.

Kenja no Mago - Shin's Embarressed

For those who enjoy isekai, Kenja no Mago isn’t on the top shelf. It probably doesn’t even go into the upper shelves if we were physically stacking titles. No, Wise Man’s Grandchild is decidedly average within the genre. However, while it won’t be blowing you away, it is a pleasant viewing experience and one I certainly enjoyed during Spring. Undemanding and reasonably consistent content works and while I might have liked the visuals to be a little less cheap looking at times, there’s actually very little to get really upset about providing you’ve accepted that this is a generic isekai.

Kenja no Mago - Shin is mad at Aug

In saying that though, there’s one elements where this anime seems determined to distinguish itself. It decidedly put its foot down and killed any possibly idea that this might be a harem isekai where all the girls just fell head over heels in love with the bland protagonist.

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While Shin, our reincarnated protagonist, is reasonably bland to allow viewers to self-insert into the power fantasy being constructed here, he actually does make decisions and has aspects of a personality. The clearest way this comes through is that he genuinely gets smitten on the girl he rescues after moving to the city for the first time. At no point does the anime entertain the possibility that he’s undecided or leading other girls on unintentionally.

Kenja no Mago - Shin and Sicily laugh.

More importantly, the other female characters acknowledge that he’s smitten, and while they tease both him and Sicily, there’s no idiotic rivalry or jealousy, or girls just throwing themselves at the protagonist when they clearly have no chance at all given there’s a pre-established relationship.

I’m not actually anti-harem, but it was really nice to see an isekai story actually create a genuine love story. We even moved beyond just being smitten and wanting to protect the girl, to the awkward phase where they both know but don’t want to say anything, to an embarrassing confession, which somehow very quickly escalated to an engagement.

Wise Man's Grandchild - Shin and Sicily
These two are pretty adorable together.

The speed might be insane but the emotions are pretty solid and this isn’t something we see all that often in isekai stories. It is the one part that seems to genuinely distinguish this story and gives it a slight edge over the horde of very average isekai anime that gets produced each year. It still doesn’t make this one a must watch but it certainly worked for me.

While we’re pointing out some solid positives I should probably throw in there that the OP for Kenja no Mago is quite pleasant to listen to and the visuals are cute and funny. I certainly wasn’t planning on skipping this one any time during the season. Likewise, some of Shin’s facial expressions are pretty hilarious as he tends to over-react to fairly mundane things but has almost zero reaction to extraordinary things.

However, this isn’t just a praise fest. Kenja no Mago is lacking strongly in the visual department. Character faces disappear quite regularly when they aren’t in the foreground and even when we can see faces there’s a lot of off-model scenes within the anime. Likewise, the magic is actually really great in concept but the visuals mean that everything looks a little bland and dull, or it all just kind of becomes a blur surrounded by smoke and we’re left to surmise what happened.

Kenja no Mago - lacklustre visuals

For some this will be a deal breaker as the anime just isn’t that great to look at. While this isn’t a sticking point for me, even I’ll admit, it isn’t that great visually and particularly toward the end of the season it starts looking pretty rough.

What really manages to sell it though, outside of an actual romance that makes sense, is the cast. Merlin and Melida who are essentially Shin’s adopted grandparents, are fantastic in their supporting roles. The two were together in the past and while they are affectionate there’s some sharp exchanges between the two but they are always entertaining. The support they give Shin and his friends is fantastic as is their genuine relationship with Shin. While it is questionable why they let the teenagers run off to fight demonoids without supervision, we find out these two are about even if they are just looking over things. I really enjoyed them and their interactions within the story.

This is on prequel I’d actually like – I’d love to see Merlin and Melida back in the day.

August was also a great supporting character. He’s a prince but he’s also Shin’s friend and the friendship is genuine having been formed before Shin knew of Aug’s status. August really likes teasing Shin and pushing him out of his comfort zone. While August can’t compete with Shin’s power, he’s a lot more savvy when it comes to politics and social situations and so he compliments Shin nicely within the story.

Kenja no Mago - Aug gives a speech.

While there are quite a number of class mates that also act in support, I did find a lot of them fairly redundant as they had similar personalities and roles. Still, each character gets their moment  by the end and it would be nice to see where each of these characters go from here given Shin’s presence has literally changed their lives.

The one character I really wanted more from was Sicily. As the love interest she started as a damsel in distress, she uses support magic so ends up sidelined in most battles, and it really did look like they were setting her up to die during the final battle when they literally sent her away from all the other main characters. While she’s pleasant enough and I appreciate her relationship with Shin, as a character Sicily offers very little outside of being the cute love interest.

Kenja no Mago - Sicily gets embaressed.

Also, the villains were actually half-way interesting but we seem to have ended the anime about 20 episodes too early given it really feels like they are just finding their feet. We’d need another season to deal with that but I doubt we’ll get it (I’ll happily be proven wrong because I wouldn’t mind more).

All and all, Kenja no Mago is a mixed bag and your viewing enjoyment will very much hinge on your tolerance of things being average and the usual isekai tropes that crop up in these kinds of stories. If those things don’t bother you, you’ll end up with a pleasant viewing experience and one well worth the time but otherwise this will be frustrating to watch because it isn’t going to do anything more than that.

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Karandi James
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Kenja no Mago Review Episode 12

The Ultimate Magicians Do Their Thing

Wise Man’s Grandchild Episode 12

Prediction correct; this was most definitely an unsatisfying ending. Sure the beat off the demonoids who were attacking the neighbouring kingdom and decide that they are going to make an alliance with other nations for future safety, etc, but realistically this is the first skirmish in a larger war. Schtrom is now much more interested in Shin, the demonoids are still a major threat, and there’s the possibility that they are going to be able to make baby demonoids, though that is yet to be confirmed.

I may have watched too much Hitoribocchi this season, because I just kept thinking, ‘Do your best, beam!’

Stories that end with the heroes setting out on the next phase of their journey are incredibly irritating, particularly with an anime like this one that is so unlikely to ever return. And even if it does, it will be months before we find out what they get up to next.

Awesome visual (sarcasm).

As a final episode it was also lacklustre in that the fight sequence was all wrapped up by the first third and visually, Kenja no Mago has never been overly impressive. In fact, it is at best average and usually sub-par and you can really tell in some of these attacks and explosions just how ordinary it is.

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We do get a moment of crisis for Sicily, but they didn’t get anywhere near as dark as they could have, with it being more an emotional crisis than a physical one. No demonoid attack or kidnap, merely a loss of confidence when she isn’t able to heal one dying man (after saving dozens), and Shin is forced to heal the man instead. It is a little insulting to Sicily’s character but pretty standard for what this anime has done to date.

In case it seems like I’m suddenly turning on Wise Man’s Grandchild, I’m not. I actually really enjoyed it this season. However it is definitely lacking in some areas and almost all of those areas become crystal clear while watching this final episode.

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Kenja no Mago Review Episode 11

Ultimate Magicians Vs Demonoids

Wise Man’s Grandchild Episode 11

There’s no way Wise Man’s Grandchild is going to really give us a satisfying conclusion. Showy and climatic, definitely, but satisfying not so much. As the ‘Ultimate Magicians’, and yes even I’ll laugh at the name, take on the demonoids attacking the neighbouring kingdom this episode is broken into a series of small battles and while it is great to see the characters all in action, except Sicily who was sent to the aid station, this feels like a way point in a story rather than an ending to it.

Please don’t die.

Though, my theory that Sicily is being set up for a tragic death feels even more justified given she’s been separated out from the others by Shin and sent to a ‘safer’ location to provide medical aid. Also her warning to Shin to be careful just seemed so much like a farewell. Even if they don’t knock her off I’m seeing captured by enemy or caught up in some scheme coming her way and that’s just kind of mean. It is kind of like kicking a puppy really. You just shouldn’t do it.

Though Schtrom has no part in this invasion, and doesn’t show up until the end of the episode, the demonoids are pretty strong. The leader as well, despite seeming like an idiot, recognises the potential of the barriers the guards had and stole one. If he’d been just a little bit sharper, Aug may have had a very short stint as Crown Prince.

Well, he’s dead.

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There’s nothing really new in this episode though. It really is just the group splitting up and then in pairs confronting and defeating demonoids. There’s some plot development with the demonoid sent to evaluate Shin following him around and then at the end the more leaderlike demonoids get involved but really this is seeing the powers the kids have learned in action and it works well enough even if the anime just can’t compete with some more well known titles that have vast battles and magical attacks.

I did really like the appearance of the Wise Man and the Guru in this episode as it answered the question I had about why the kids were allowed to just take off and go fight a war without supervision. There were some comedic exchanges between characters that had varying degrees of success. We also had Shin, the destroyer of more or less anything in his path. Let’s hope nothing happens to Sicily because if Shin goes Demonoid I suspect there isn’t a single person in this anime who could stop him.

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Kenja no Mago Review Episode 10

Revenge Gained, Now What?

Kenja no Mago Episode 10

Early in this episode of Kenja no Mago I wondered whether or not we needed half an episode devoted to the antagonist’s back story. The answer is actually yes, though possibly we could have gotten the highlights of the story in a shorter period of time or they could have delivered the early part of his tale with a little bit more oomph. However, the back story sets up a villain whose primary motive was incredibly clear for once and his rage directed.

And he was so optimistic.

See, the terrible past and want to destroy the world villain is all too common. Schtrom is overcoming the standard expectations by having had a clear goal of bringing down the empire that allowed the other nobles to conspire against him and used the commoners, who had betrayed him, to do it. His goals weren’t exactly noble and his means weren’t valiant, but it was incredibly understandable.

As is his genuine lethargy after having accomplished a long strived for goal. He isn’t having ambitions of ruling or taking over. He was revenge for a specific act against a specific country and he got it. Those who follow him are understandably concerned by his apparent lack of motivation now that they’ve arrived at this point. It means that we’ll end up with a conflict between Shin and Schtrom, almost certainly unless they decide to talk it out, but the way we’ll end up there isn’t the usual Schtrom is evil and must die and Shin is the hero and must fight standards that we are used to.

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It is amazing how bothering to put motivation in beyond being evil can make something fairly cliché and trite seem somewhat more interesting.

Of course I’ve just brushed right past the point where Aug gets officially recognised as the Crown Prince and then they all fly off to fight some demonoids who are apparently attacking a neighbouring kingdom, but I suspect that will become more relevant next episode.

So while I still feel they could have done more with the back story to give it more impact, I’m pretty happy with this episode and what it sets up for the final couple of episodes, though I suspect the ending will be somewhat less than satisfying given we’ve only got two more episodes.

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Kenja no Mago Review Episode 9

Happy Times

Shin and Sicily - Kenja no Mago Episode 9

Kenja no Mago Episode 9

I genuinely don’t expect much from Wise Man’s Grandchild which is good because what we get has been pretty average even for those who like generic isekai fare. That said, episode 9 of Kenja no Mago needs a pat on the back for jumping straight past the blushing dating and confession episode and into an engagement. While I might in the back of my mind see this as setting up a sudden and tragic death for Sicily, the overall tone of the anime doesn’t support that so mostly this is just pleasantly forthright about their relationship.

However, we have plenty of training camp shenanigans still to go with this episode. Whether it is Shin learning float, or anti-gravity magic, the rest of his classmates getting suited up in even more over-powered protective gear, or taking on a catastrophe class demonoid, there’s a lot going on.

One thing I do need to point out is that visually this anime is getting sloppier by the episode. While the magic still looks great and individual expressions on characters or the characters in close up look relatively good, the rest of the anime, particularly group shots and distance shots, look at absolute best like they were hastily completed and more like they were deliberately cutting corners as facial features disappear entirely and heights between characters just suddenly alter. While some of this is played for comedic effect, some of it really just seems badly done.

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Then again, Kenja no Mago doesn’t seem to be trying to compete on visuals and it isn’t really trying to be more than an average isekai story. It remains fun enough each week, the main cast are engaging enough, and while I still think they are potentially setting up the death of a character as a trigger for Shin to go berserk (that would be an interesting change in tone) mostly this is pleasant and undemanding viewing.

At some point though I am going to have to write a post about how this anime has framed the majority of its female cast because to be honest there’s an entire post in that.

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Kenja no Mago Review Episode 8

The Beach Scene, The Confession, and The Incredibly Annoying Voice

Kenja no Mago - Sicily

Episode 8

The training camp continues and with it we get a boat-load of cliché type moments. Such as the introduced fiancé, the younger sister, the confession sequence, beach volleyball, and so on and so forth. This episode is actually packing in as many tropes as it can possibly fit in its run-time and it isn’t being particularly insightful about it.

I do like that Shin’s classmates duck and cover when he says he’s going to try something new.

However, unlike episode 7 of Kenja no Mago, episode 8 still manages to fall on just the right side of the line of being lame and generic but entertaining rather than just being lame and generic.

Nothing like some alone time.

As much as the blushing girl and the dense male protagonist is a trope that annoys me, and there spluttering about here should have rubbed me the wrong way, there is just something inherently adorable about Shin and Sicily as a couple and I just can’t dislike this sequence. The fact that they go from acknowledgement of liking each other to confession in the space of one episode helps because if they’d prolonged it any longer we would have gotten back into fairly painful territory.

Outside of that, the volleyball sequence was actually funny. Sure it is ultimately an excuse to get the girls and boys in swimsuits and throw around some ridiculous magic attack names but there was a genuine humour to the scene and an energy that made it fairly palatable.

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But, I’m not just going to give this episode a pass. The younger sister introduced has in one episode won my award for this season’s most obnoxious character voice and as she squeaks her way through inane dialogue I just had to wonder who thought any human being should make such a sound regardless of age? It is truly horrendous and will go on my list with Asta, Tanya, and the English voice for Molly in Sailor Moon as voices that just need to be re-recorded and dubbed over because wow that was painful to listen to.

Great – I’m a huge fan of never hearing this character speak, ever again.

While going into this anime with any expectations would be a mistake, I’m still finding it more entertaining than tedious and this episode of Kenja no Mago definitely picked things up a little bit. It also seems like we are still heading toward an interesting magical confrontation, so all and all I’m happy enough to see where this goes. Still, I’ll be shocked if I even remember I watched this show come the end of the year.

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Kenja no Mago Review Episode 7

Training Drills and Training Camps

Episode 8

Right from the start I was not particularly impressed with this episode of Kenja no Mago. I mean, we’d already gotten the gist of the relationships between the knights and the mages and mostly that Shin is awesome regardless of which side of the fence you are on. So stretching out this training drill and showing us the other groups interacting with much the same outcome over and over really didn’t add all that much and wasn’t particularly impressive.

The one point that might save the first half of this episode feeling like complete padding is that they do get into a discussion about the danger of militarising Shin’s magic and the danger of his techniques spreading. Which nicely sets up that this group of students are more or less now going down a very different path in terms of what is expected of them in the future than they would have if they’d never met Shin.

But no worries. The characters in Kenja no Mago are utterly fine with life altering changes and apparently the fact that this is likely going to land them on the front line of a war hasn’t quite sunk in just yet.

Then again, given the arrogance with which they deal with a threat on their way to their magic ‘training camp’ – because we’ve got to throw in the high school cliché moments even in an isekai – I guess none of them are overly concerned about coming up against someone stronger than they are.

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Which actually just made me want the demonoid army to stop fooling around in the empire and come back to the kingdom to kick these kids down a peg or two.

Okay, I’m a horrible person.

And yes, the training camp is just an excuse for a hot-springs moment. Here are the guys. I’m sure you can imagine what the girls are up to just fine.

That said, this is the first episode where Kenja no Mago hasn’t been overly enjoyable. It has never been particularly good or original but it has mostly been fun. Episode 7 just felt like a drag and I’m really hoping now that they’ve set up the few things they seemed to be setting up we can get back to having fun next episode.

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