The Master of Ragnarok & Blesser of Einherjar Series Review: Inept Isekai Harem Story

The Master of Ragnarok Episode 10

I wasn’t planning on watching this show this season but with an incredibly small watch list and some small number of factors introduced early on in the show that might have developed into something interesting, I ended up sticking with The Master of Ragnarok & Blesser of Einherjar. I probably regret that decision now but let’s get into the review.

Review:

There has been a very low bar set for isekai stories, particularly isekai harem stories. And that bar for the most part works in the genres favour because people expecting some deep and intellectual story don’t bother at all and those who are just wanting something to casually watch and maybe be entertaining are happy enough to jump on board and hand wave the occasional clunky bit of exposition, slight character breaking moments and definitely dismiss plot armour as just a staple of the genre. That isn’t to say there aren’t some great isekai stories out there and that harem stories can’t be well told, but the majority of the genre should definitely be taken into account.

Yet, even by those dangerously low standards, I would find it incredibly hard to recommend The Master of Ragnarok & Blesser or Einherjar. The sheer number of things this anime does to shoot itself in the foot along the way is nearly mind-boggling and that is before you get to a final episode that just left me shaking my head and wondering why on earth I’d just given the show three months of my life in episodic reviews. This story of boy from the modern world travelling with smartphone to the past and somehow becoming the biggest thing ever is hardly original but that wouldn’t be a problem if it managed to be competent.

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That isn’t to say there is nothing good about the show. I did in fact watch it every week for three months so there was clearly something about the anime that caught my eye and kept my attention even as  I dropped the likes of Holmes of Kyoto. So we’ll start with some positives before I tear this less-than-middling story apart.

One thing  I did enjoy initially about this anime is that it didn’t start the story with Yuuto arriving in the past/other world (it is very unclear if he is on Earth even though he thinks he is – the people with seemingly magic powers kind of makes it hard to swallow). The story begins after he’s already been in the past for a number of years and has already risen to the head of the Wolf Clan. This by itself made the story stand out from so many others in this genre because we didn’t get the standard five to ten minutes of his everyday life before the confusion of landing in another world and befriending the cute girl. Nope, he was already there and established with the many cute girls by his side. The novelty of that, and the fact that it allowed this story to get straight into the fights between clans, gave it a little bit of a lift.

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I also liked that despite Yuuto being a complete push over to pretty much every female character, he did insist on the no marriage thing because he had someone he loved waiting for him in the present. He stood by this right until the end and I kind of respected that because at least we didn’t have another harem protagonist who couldn’t make a choice. He’d made his choice but just couldn’t really act on it because she wasn’t in the same time/world as him and all he could do was talk to her on the phone.

Finally, I actually liked that Yuuto did draw on real tactics (researched on his smartphone of course) and used these in the various battles he fought. I also liked that he seemed to be making a genuine effort to lead his clan into a more economically stable position. These ideas if properly fleshed out could have more than carried the show as maybe something of a mix between the likes of Lord Marksman and Vanadis and Maoyu. Tragically these were decidedly tagged on ideas that kind of got thrown at the audience one minute and promptly forgotten the next.  On that note, go watch either Lord Marksman or Maoyu instead, either one is far superior to anything you’ll find here and you’ll even get a decent amount of good looking anime girls wearing skimpy outfits in Lord Marksman if that is what floats your boat.

Master of Ragnarok Episode 5

However, these positives are not enough to offset a lot of the issues this anime has. The first I’ve already touched on and that is that the anime introduces ideas but does nothing with them or at least doesn’t give them enough time to develop. We don’t know why Yuuto went to the past (other than magic mirror and summoning) and we don’t know how his smartphone manages to work (I can’t even get internet access in my backyard so I’d love to know how his phone actually works across time and space). They introduce economic reforms, agriculture reforms, new technologies and none of these are given any real weight other than isn’t Yuuto awesome. We have an episode that for some reason focuses on school bullying but is resolved with shockingly little care for the lingering impacts of bullying. And finally we have an ongoing war with some conspiracies by the church and ultimately this goes absolutely nowhere. You won’t ever see the guy who originally gets the Lightning Clan to attack the Wolf Clan ever again. No one will mention it and nothing will be resolved.

So if they aren’t developing any of this what are they doing in this anime? Poorly animated fight sequences would be one answer. While I won’t say they are dreadful, they aren’t exactly impressive. Then on the other side of that we spend a lot of time with the girls in bathtubs, hot springs, and generally just trying to get as close to Yuuto as possible. Keep in mind the girls are quite aggressive in their affections and it is set up on a number of occasions where it seems clear that Yuuto has been assaulted off-screen by his harem on mass despite his protests. It isn’t exactly comfortable viewing if you try and insert any kind of moral reality into the viewing experience (then again that probably isn’t the best mindset to watch any harem with, but I can’t help but think how unforgivable such a scene would be if a male harem pounced on a protesting female – and what makes it unpalatable for me at least was somehow this was supposed to be amusing).

The Master of Ragnarok Episode 6

Also, the sheer lack of explanations about the runes and powers some of the characters have is frustrating. It is like the world we’re in is never fleshed out and we still don’t understand it even as the season ends. There are more questions then answers but the desire to ever see more of this is pretty minimal (so if they were aiming for a sequel please just say no).

However, the worst is the final episode where mid-episode they seem to legitimately just toss their own plot to the side and meander on with some rubbish before throwing a parade celebrating Yuuto. There is legitimately no explanation for what happened to the armies and the whole conflict that was going on. Just throw a parade, have a kind of wedding and hope no one notices that all the conflict that had been set up just kind of vanished for no good reason. This was a truly frustrating way for the show to end.

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I very rarely insist that my opinion is correct about a show and normally I believe that there is an audience somewhere who will appreciate what an anime has to offer, but in this case I’m simply going to tell you that this one is not worth your time even if you are mad keen on harem stories in isekai settings. There are simply so many anime that do similar things but so much better that there is no reason to watch this one.

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Get Your Tomatoes Ready Because Here We Have the Worst Anime of the Summer 2018 Season

If you missed it, earlier today the best of the season came out so if you would rather celebrate the successes of the season than wallow in, or jeer at, the misfires I recommend you check it out. In the meantime, a reminder that worst anime of the season is still an anime good enough to be watched through. Voters are asked not to vote for shows they haven’t watched. So while the anime in the list below and as the voters choice are problematic, there are most definitely worse anime out there.

Without any further ado, let’s get into the list.

Worst Story – 100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams

100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams

I almost gave this to The Master of Ragnarok, but then I realised there was a show that did even worse with its premise. Despite the set up being that the Princess has to wake up the princes, other than the very first prince, none of the princes are actually sleeping. Couple this with the fact that I got to the end of this and still have no idea what the overall goal is given the characters just seem to wander around and react to stuff, and basically the story is all but missing in action. A thin excuse to encounter various ‘prince’ types so that fans of the game can get all excited to see their favourite character for the two seconds of screen time they get before the main characters move on.

Worst Visuals – Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion

Angolmois Episode 10 Teruhi

The filter is hideous. There’s no way to sugar coat it. When you have ugly character designs, a bland colour palette and then over the top of the lot you put that filter that just makes everything look like we’re watching it through smudged glasses that keep moving, this anime well and truly deserves the label of worst visuals for the season. While there are some good moments in the story, you do have to accept it is just going to be truly disgusting to look at.

Worst Opening – 100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams

100 Sleeping Princes Episode 4

Seriously, this one is a thin excuse to pan over the cast of various princes we’ll encounter. The music is dull and borderline put me to sleep and the slow pan with almost zero animation over various characters, most of which we’ll encounter once at best throughout the season and then never hear from again, and to be honest I skipped this opening more often than I watched it.

Worst Character – The Cast of the Master of Ragnarok tied with Mineta (My Hero Academia)

Mineta had to be here. Seriously, if someone could just go through every episode of My Hero Academia and erase the bug from existence, I’d be really, really happy. There isn’t one scene he is in that is actually necessary and he contributes nothing. However, he does eat screen time on what I’m guessing someone thought were comedic moments but mostly I’m just left disgusted with his presence and he’s becoming increasingly annoying as the franchise continues. That said, it would be a mistake not to mention the incredibly bland and undeveloped cast from The Master of Ragnarok. And yes, I know that is two seasons in a row where I’ve given the title of worst character to an entire cast, but trust me, they earned it.

And now…

Worst Anime of the Spring 2018 Season – The Master of Ragnarok

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Yep, there were plenty of shows I liked less than this one, however I dropped them and didn’t finish watching. That just left this one on my list to leave as the worst of the season. Angels of Death got an early drop, Holmes of Kyoto hung in a bit longer but bored me to tears and so I gave up. Other early drops include Island and Lord of Vermillion (which definitely deserves a mention). Still, Ragnarok set up what could have been an interesting enough story, did absolutely nothing with it, and then totally flubbed its ending. It really deserves this placement.

Finally, Reader’s Choice

With 103 votes, making it the most votes ever for a worst of the season, the competition was pretty much won early on, but a last minute rally behind a show that really stuffed its ending brought us to a tie (won’t they be so proud). Anyway, the results of the readers poll:

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And so we have a tie between Angels of Death and The Master of Ragnarok.

Angels of Death took a very early lead in the poll. I think the disappointment factor may have played a role given how hyped up the show was before it began airing. Then, after the final episode of Master of Ragnarok, its votes took off and it caught up. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who felt that I’d held out hoping the show would get better only for the final episode to kick me in the teeth.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to vote.

Summer 2018 was definitely not the highlight of the anime year, but we still had some fun titles to watch. As we move into Autumn, let’s keep our fingers crossed for something amazing, and if not, we can always vote for it being the worst of the season.


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Friday’s Feature: The Importance of the Final Impression

It seems an appropriate time for me to turn my attention to how audiences receive final episodes given the Summer anime season is rapidly drawing to a close. As much as we think about first episodes and how important it is to grab the audience and draw them in, for me, once I’ve decided to watch a show, how it ends becomes incredibly important. No matter how much I’ve enjoyed watching something, a poor ending can really sour the whole experience, or at the very least make me not want to rewatch an anime. While some viewers won’t mind whether something has rewatch value or not, for me that’s the whole point of falling in love with a show. Watching it again, and again, and again.

As I am discussing final episodes, please note that there will be spoilers.

What makes it hard with anime is the sheer number that just don’t end. They leave themselves open for sequels that may or may not ever exist or they deliberately stop where they do because they want you to engage with the source material (whether it be a game, manga, or novels). These shows automatically make it hard for me to recommend them because they aren’t a complete story in and of themselves and if they haven’t even taken minimal steps to leave the audience at a satisfactory resting place in the story it just doesn’t feel like it is worth the effort starting something that decidedly doesn’t end. Other people may feel differently about it, but my primary  focus with watching anime is the story so an unfinished story is more or less the kiss of death no matter how great the journey to get there was.

That said, not every single loose end needs to be tied up and just because there is sequel bait doesn’t mean we can’t get to a satisfactory resolution for the immediate issue or problem faced. There are plenty of good examples of anime that manage this kind of ending, though from the Summer season I’m going to look at How Not To Summon a Demon Lord.

How Not To Summon A Demon Lord Episode 12

While the overall complication of Diablo having been summoned into a game like world is not resolved leaving the story open to plenty of sequels and the overall story is clearly not complete, the final episode of How Not To Summon a Demon Lord managed to bring the audience to a decent climactic point and resolve the current drama. They did this through the sub-plot of Rem carrying around another Demon Lord inside of her that was going to be reborn. This wasn’t suddenly thrown at the audience in the final episodes to give an excuse for a fight. It was introduced early in this season and we revisited this point multiple times throughout the series before it became the central focus of the final few episodes.

The rebirth of this Demon Lord and the subsequent fight felt satisfying because there had been build up to this issue, it was directly tied in with the main characters, there was a genuine sense that this was dangerous enough as a threat, and the immediate danger/issue was solved by the time the final credits rolled. This is a great example of a narrative that wants to continue giving the audience enough of an ending that even if no sequel ever occurs, we’re all still pretty satisfied with the season as it aired.

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Alternatively, we could look at the obvious comparison of The Master of Ragnarok (though making fun of the ending seems kind of pointless given how many other things went wrong with the series) and realise how it utterly and completely dropped the ball. Midway through the season we were still introducing would be antagonists and powers and rules to the story so very few of them felt like they meant anything. The main character was returned to his original time which should have been the end, only he felt bad about abandoning ‘his’ people in their time of need so opted to be summoned back. Also fine enough, except for the part where I am still not sure how his coming back actually fixed the dire situation his people were in. They never did explain how he overcame any of the challenges. Not to mention he took his childhood sweetheart back with him (admittedly she asked to go) and I just have to wonder if she knew what exactly she was getting into.

This ending just didn’t satisfy or even make a lot of sense and while there is clearly sequel potential, I’d have to wonder who is actually hanging out and waiting for a continuation of a show that just kind abandons fights midway through because clearly they don’t have a solution for how the protagonist is going to get out of the situation they dumped him in.

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Moving away from isekai stories though, we had another great example of a story ending in Steins;Gate 0. Now I am not the biggest fan of this particular spin-off story and yet the way it concluded, bringing itself nicely back into line with the events in the original series provided an incredibly satisfying end to the overall narrative that had been established by this series. Okabe had given up on trying to save both Kurisu and Mayuri and had let Kurisu die. He was now going back to save Kurisu. It is as complete as it needs to be and while there are definitely loose ends and I’m still curious about the whole war thing, there is little to complain about in terms of narrative closure.

However, there are times when we get an ending that does in fact conclude the story and yet still feels like it isn’t particularly satisfying. This season I got that feeling from Phantom in the Twilight. I really enjoyed that series once it got going and there is a lot to like about how it builds up the world and story throughout. The final episodes bring us a conflict between the established antagonists and the protagonist and her friends and the fairly predictable good guys win the fight ending occurs. While there is heaps of room for a sequel, this particular chapter is wrapped up nicely.

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Yet, there was a lot lacking from these final episodes. My biggest issue will be with the villains as I still didn’t really care about them or their motives and they largely came to lame ends that served no real purpose. The monsters the group were fighting were very samey and didn’t really seem to put up enough of a fight so even though there were lots of enemies you didn’t really get an overall sense of danger. Basically while the story worked the execution let it down and while it is still good enough, it leaves an impression that the story was somehow less impressive than it might have been and while I still enjoyed the series overall these final episodes certainly left me with a weaker impression of it than I had at about the midseason mark.

Basically, I really wish more anime actually ended well. So I’ll turn it over to the readers and ask you which anime you think have the best endings and which ones have the worst and why?


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The Master of Ragnarok & Blesser of Einherjar Episode 12: Um… What Just Happened?

The Master of Ragnarok has been a fairly average to poor series throughout but it could have ended reasonably. Instead we get this, episode 12. An episode so inept it plunges what should have been an average watch into something that just cannot be recommended unless you really want to watch the hot spring episode.

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While I’ll save a lot of my issues with this anime for the series review, episode 12 does a great job of showing why there just isn’t any reason to watch this show for the actual plot. Last week Yuuto got sent back to the future and this episode spends the majority of its time with Yuuto and Mitsuki reuniting, shopping and flower viewing. It is really riveting viewing. Like seriously, who cares about the Wolf Clan and the war going on or any of the other characters when there’s shirt shopping to watch? (Oh, I should probably reign in the sarcasm a little.)

The few glimpses we get of Felicia and the other characters shows them all kind of freaking out because Yuuto is gone and both the Lightning Clan and Panther Clan are marching upon them. It is a pretty dire situation and one which could be a great dramatic conclusion.

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Then Yuuto gets summoned back. And Mitsuki goes with him. As his wife, because he proposed. Then there’s a parade. The end.

Um…

So the war with Lightning guy and the older brother who went crazy went where? And all the people who died when the Wolf Clan lost the fort? And just what was that?

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It was like this was actually a forty minute episode but someone just slashed the middle out of it and said, ‘done’. What it makes for is a really unsatisfying mangled mess of a season ending and to be honest it actually just made me mad that I’d watched this show. It didn’t need a brilliant ending, but it could have at least remembered its own plot.

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The Master of Ragnarok & Blesser of Einherjar Episode 11: Unstuck

The Master of Ragnarok Episode 11

After last week’s effort things looked grim for the Wolf Clan and that continues for a fair chunk of this episode of The Master of Ragnarok. Still, in the grand tradition of protagonists, Yuto is going to somehow turn this around.

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Sometimes I wonder about Felicia’s title of bodyguard given she mostly seems to exist to ask questions and give the occasional pep-talk. This week she did momentarily draw a sword in defence of her Patriarch but was pretty quickly shot down and taken out of the fight leaving Yuto to fend for himself. Fortunately, as he says, he hasn’t been slacking on his lessons because otherwise this would have been over pretty quickly.

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Still, this episode does show us that there was a bit more to the initial plan then met the eye with reinforcements joining the fight. Then with Yuto taking to the front lines and raising the morale of his troops (even if I question the logic of them standing with their back to the enemy and cheering for seemingly as long as they did) the fight was turned in the Wolf Clans favour. That by itself would have been reasonable for an episode but the Panther Clan is not willing to accept defeat (even if Lightning Clan boy does a runner – fairly sensibly after Rune has taken a slice out of him).

The Master of Ragnarok

I think more villains need to take a page out of the book of the Panther Clan’s book though. Killing the patriarch of the Wolf Clan means victory for them regardless of whatever else happens and with Sigyn’s magic that should have been plausible. It didn’t work out because protagonist plot armour is strong, but I at least admired the attitude.

But, the episode ends with a final twist and Yuto is sent back to his time, though he has left his smart phone with Felicia which I guess means he’ll be calling her next episode and who wants to bet on him being re-summoned?

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The Master of Ragnarok & Blesser of Einherjar Episode 10: Whoops

The Master of Ragnarok Episode 10

Someone possibly should have warned Yuuto that it is dangerous to underestimate your opponents. Particularly when one is an overpowered idiot and the other has an intense grudge against you.

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The first half of this episode pretty much picks up with Yuuto finding the Mitsuki look alike who turns out to be the divine emperor or whatever. About the only useful thing that comes out of this (save for the new year’s banquet that more or less ends with the girls all getting drunk, naked, and then attacking Yuuto off screen) is that she points out that Felicia couldn’t have been the one to summon Yuuto to the past because she doesn’t have enough magic. I don’t know what I was supposed to be getting out of that exchange, but I kind of decided that meant that Mitsuki is maybe this divine emperor reborn and maybe his own girlfriend is actually responsible for sending him back there. That would at least be an interesting twist.

Skipping that, we get to the second half where Yuuto is informed the Lightning Clan are attack again. He sets his strategy and off he goes, but in the nature of over-confident protagonists he’s overlooked a few things. By the end of this episode he has broken the first attack by the Lightning Clan but at least one of his strongest fighters has gone off the edge of a cliff, Rune is in a dire situation, and there’s the Panther clan marching in with an army of 10,000. It isn’t exactly a good position for Yuuto to be in.

The Master of Ragnarok Episode 10

Then of course the episode ends and now we’ll have to wait until next week to figure out whether or not Yuuto has yet another clever ploy to deal with this or whether he really has been caught off guard this time.

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The Master of Ragnarok & Blesser of Einherjar Episode 9: Seeking The Truth

The Master of Ragnarok Episode 9

This week we spend most of our time in the modern world with Mitsuki (Yuuto’s childhood friend/crush) as she tries to figure out where he actually is in history. Wondering why it is episode 9 before this happens, but why not?

The Master of Ragnarok Episode 9

One of the reasons I ended up following along with this show (other than the absence of obvious competition for my attention this season) was because I was interested in the time shift aspect. It is set up as such a standard harem/isekai story except it seemed that the protagonist was in the past rather than a different world. Then of course we have characters running around with seemingly magic powers and I couldn’t help but wonder where they were going with this.

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Turns out Ragnarok isn’t in the title just because someone thought it sounded cool. Seems they intended to actually take a look at some of the Norse myths they’ve kind of referenced even if they are stepping outside of the original stories (you know because stories don’t always stay the same over time so the actual events are allowed to be a bit different). It’s actually a reasonably clever premise and a fairly solid setting for the story. Where I would criticise it is that its taken 9 episodes to even explain this much and a lot of what has happened in the meantime hasn’t really felt like it has contributed a great deal toward some mythological battle between gods.

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That said, I was happy the story is finally addressing the premise it set us up with, even if they segue through girls comparing breast sizes because that’s a universal no matter what time period we’re in, at least according to anime.

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