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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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 23: The End and The Beginning

One final attempt at sending Mayuri and Suzuha into the past to change everything (or rather get Okabe back into trying to save Kurisu which the audience already knows happens so I’m not entirely sure if there was any point to this or not) and then we have a few loose ends to tie up but otherwise we’re done. Okay, there’s still an OVA to go so I guess there’s more to this story but I think for me, I’m done.

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If I’m brutally honest, the few points I got out of this spin-off probably could have been covered in about six episodes rather than 23, however it has been kind of fun rejoining these characters. I’ll save further thoughts on this for the whole series review and focus more on episode 23, an episode that brings things together and links us back to where we needed to be for Okabe to make the choice he needs to make.

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Seeing the roof-top scene, yet again, even with the slightly modified role for Kagari, wasn’t exactly thrilling but at least we finally get some closure on this scene. The phone call from Mayuri to Mayuri was probably the stand out moment of the episode and did exactly what it needed to and then watching Suzuha and Mayuri accept their fate was one of those moments that made me remember how good Steins;Gate could be.

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That said, this episode was much like this series has been. A series of good ideas and great moments surrounded by moments that we perhaps could have done without and ideas that aren’t fully realised. It works in the moment but on thinking back there just isn’t enough here.

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 22: Farewell Amadeus

Steins;Gate Episode 22 - Daru and Miho

Okabe may have returned to the past after 3000 time leaps with new found determination but that doesn’t mean the obstacles he was facing have gotten any smaller. Episode 22 of Steins;Gate 0 has some serious brainstorming taking place before the characters face an incredibly tough choice.

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 22 Okabe Rintaro

Not a lot physically happens this episode. There are no mad dashes through time or characters running frantically from here to there. Yet, the episode is stronger because of it. After the marathon 3000 leaps back in time, Okabe is forced to stop and contemplate his next move and the decision the characters arrive at isn’t an easy one. Rather than rushing this process, the anime chooses to slow things down with Okabe taking a night stroll with Amadeus before making a decision with the morning. A decision that has to be made because time leaping further just isn’t possible.

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However, despite the strong focus on Okabe and his issues with the decision, it is ultimately Maho who is forced to pull the trigger via Daru and you can see it breaks her heart. While less screen time is given to her farewell and contemplation, Maho really steals the thunder at the end of this episode with an emotionally wrenching sequence that actually hurt to watch. For a character I hadn’t really connected with during Steins;Gate 0, I have to say I had no complaints about how this moment played out as it really brought maximum emotional impact to the scene.

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 22

And with this episode we’re one final episode from seeing how this all ends and how Okabe Rintaro figures out how to keep both Kurisu and Mayuri alive. I’m just hoping we don’t have to watch them both die one more time before we get there.

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 21: I’ve Missed Hououin Kyouma

Steins;Gate 0 Okabe Rintarou

Right, as much as I kind of feel Steins;Gate 0 has been overly drawn out for the amount of content it has and that about half the characters in it haven’t been needed for much of anything, I cannot deny the pure joy I got out of this episode. Hououin Kyouma is back.

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 21 - Hououin Kyouma

There’s been some fairly solid narrative reasoning for Hououin Kyouma to have been missing in action for the majority of this season of Steins;Gate and yet the pure joy at his return, the way the whole show seemed to spring to life with his presence, and just how much more entertaining everything was just made me realise exactly what I’d been missing this whole time. And I get that the contrast is there for a reason, but all it did was emphasise that I haven’t really enjoyed spending time with a defeated Okabe. It might be argued that the long wait makes the return even sweeter, but for me it just makes it clear I don’t plan on rewatching this particular branch of Steins;Gate ever again. Once has been enough and there just wasn’t enough fun in the journey for me to do it over.

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 21 - Okabe and Amadeus

That said, I’m very keen on seeing how it finishes at this particular point in time. There’s been some interesting ideas along the way and some solid plot work weaving a parallel narrative that hasn’t undermined the original series. While I personally didn’t end up enjoying the characters as much as the original, I can’t deny the effort to make this fit in with the larger story.

So other than the resurgence of our favourite mad scientist, what did this episode do?

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 21 Okabe in a lab coat

Well, Okabe completed over 3000 time leaps to make it back to the lab in time to try to save Mayuri yet again. This was impressive given how many times he might have wanted give up and how many things could have gone wrong with the plan along the way. Yet it really does show us just how committed Okabe is to his new resolve to no longer accept that there are fixed events that cannot be overcome. Which makes the end of this episode even more affective because just when it seems our hero is thing control of the situation fate or time or whatever decides to mess with him for one more round. While I don’t feel this will break Okabe’s spirit again, it is definitely not the outcome he was hoping for.

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 20: It’s The End of the World

You know when things go wrong and there’s always that person who tells you not to worry because it isn’t the end of the world? For Okabe that moment isn’t coming because in this episode he really is seeing what happens after the failure to ‘fix’ the future back in 2011.

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 20 Okabe

I’ve made no secret of the fact that a lot of Steins;Gate 0 hasn’t quite hit its mark for me, but credit where it is due, the decision to skip the OP this week and to deliver us muted dialogue and a scene of us looking down on a very small Okabe on the hand of a clock was the perfect one to make. It set the tone beautifully for an episode that was going to be grim in its content and it also set the scene for the transformation Okabe was going to undertake throughout this episode.

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 20 - Okabe runs

Throughout the whole first third of this episode we’re either looking down on Okabe or he is deliberately placed to seem small and insignificant against the destruction around him. As we come into contact with the other lab members in this version of the future we start seeing him trailing behind characters or being supported by them. We aren’t looking down at him so often but that is usually only because the other character in the shot is being framed as strong and steady. Finally, Okabe faces another death head on and then we see him close up and we see his decision.  It’s some excellent decision making in how this episode has been directed that really draws you back into the narrative even if the content here is not exactly exceptional.

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 20 - Future Daru and Suzuha

That said, the notion of printing his 2011 memories over his future self was an interesting twist and if Okabe hadn’t already made a decision to change the future no matter how many times it took, this trip has certainly cemented the necessity of changing the future into his mind. However, that’s where I’m wondering why we needed this (other than we finally get to see this future world we keep getting told about)? Okabe had already decided to use the time leap machine and find a way to change things. Reinforcement of a motive is fine and all but I can’t help but think this was less a narrative choice and more an opportunity to pander to fans who wanted to see the other lab members as gun wielding soldiers in a dystopian Akihabara.

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 20 - Ruka
Then again, who didn’t want to see future Ruka on the front lines?

Still, fairly solid episode and certainly one that made me pay attention even if on reflection the payoff wasn’t as great as I’d have liked.

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 19: Okabe the Hypocrite

It’s all well and good for Okabe to suddenly gain a sense of urgency and a desire to right wrongs and ‘fix’ things; however as Daru correctly points out, it is Okabe who has been ignoring them and stalling progress on the very machine that he’ll now rely on to ‘save’ everyone. Even then, the consequences of his choices are unknown so he can’t really assure anyone that he will in fact succeed.

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Steins;Gate 0’s Okabe has really kind of bothered me. Admittedly seeing him at the beginning as a slightly broken shell of the mad scientist persona he used to lug around was intriguing, however the moping went on far too long. More importantly, after Okabe’s repeated rants to pretty much every character who sat still too long and didn’t run away about the importance of not messing with time because of the grave potential consequences, it is really hypocritical of him to now declare he doesn’t like the outcome of his choices and that he now wants to undo it all.

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 19 - Okabe and Maho

Passing the motive onto Kurisu doesn’t make it any better; in fact it makes me feel even more distanced from Okabe because he isn’t even willing to admit that he is the one once again making the choice. Claiming Kurisu didn’t sacrifice herself for Mayuri to die anyway is all well and good (probably true too), but eventually Mayuri would die so if it happened in twenty years time would that still be good cause for Okabe to suddenly decide to jump world lines again?

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 19, Okabe Rintarou

Despite my overall feeling of disdain toward Rintarou Okabe (a character I previously quite liked and enjoyed watching), this actually was a pretty packed and fun episode. Still, I’m thinking I’d have been happier leaving these characters after the first season. The only thing this season has added for me is a general feeling of disappointment in a protagonist who was amazing. Well, that’s a lie. I actually have a far greater respect for Daru than I did after the first season, but I’m not sure if that’s enough to justify 19 episodes of a series.

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 18: Even Knowing The Future Won’t Help You Make a Better Choice

Steins;Gate 0 - Episode 18 - Okabe

While there are some things that can be known about the future, and some choices that once made that will set things in motion, but without experiencing it, there is no way for the characters to know the outcomes of changes they make. Okabe experiences the disappointment of this first hand when he realises his choice to stay in this world line didn’t guarantee a happily ever after.

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 18 - Okabe

Steins;Gate 0 finally got around to revealing that the professor who has been overly interested in Okabe since the beginning is actually the guy behind a lot of what has happened. And really, what else did anyone expect, particularly given we knew the Americans were one of the factions at play, and there’s literally no other reason for the professor to have been so incredibly interested in Okabe and then Daru. It’s one of those reveals you see coming a mile away and yet it still is kind of satisfying when the show gets around to rolling it out and even his mad scientist laughter, before being pummelled in the face by Suzuha, kind of worked in context rather than sounding cartoonishly over the top villain like (Okabe did pretty much set the tone in Steins;Gate for mad scientist laughter to be accepted as part of this story).

Steins;Gate 0  Episode 18 The Professor

Outside of that, we finally get the full story on Kagari and while this works well enough and fills a lot of the gaps, it overall seems really messy as a way of getting a message to your past self. And how detailed were her brainwashing instructions? How did the future professor know enough about what the characters would be doing and when for it to be affective? And while she might be brainwashed that doesn’t really explain beheading a guy with her hand – something about her suit maybe?

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 18 - Kagari

Overall, this episode does an excellent job of continuing the escalating tension, bringing plot points together, and if the objective of this series is to watch Okabe disintegrate as a character we definitely saw him take some damage emotionally, but as usual I’m left wondering if any of this was necessary and whether it has added anything to my original enjoyment from the first series. I’m still coming up empty on reasons why this was a needed series, and yet it isn’t as though I dislike it and it does seem to be setting up for a big finish. Here’s hoping it nails the execution.

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 17: Choices and Consequences

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 17 - Mayuri

Okabe may have made his choice but he can’t speak for all of the other lab members and this week it is their choices that will dictate the path the future will take. I guess the question we’re left with is whether there was ever a ‘right’ choice or whether all there ever is are different consequences to be experienced.

Steins;Gate 0 - Episode 17 - Suzuha, Maho and Mayuri

Under normal circumstances it is impossible to second guess yourself. Should you have turned left or right? Would things have been better if you’d chosen B instead of A? While we might speculate we can’t know. Steins;Gate has always had the interesting benefit of being able to not just speculated but to experience the consequences of making a different choice or pointing things in a slightly different direction. Unfortunately, it is never as simple as option A being better than option B given there are some definite down sides to every choice available.

Steins;Gate Episode 17 Mayuri

Last week Okabe made it clear he was standing by the decision made by himself and Kurisu; the decision that kept Mayuri alive. What he didn’t factor in, mostly because he hasn’t been paying attention to her, is that Mayuri doesn’t want to just exist. It doesn’t matter to her if she goes on living if Okabe is the walking shell he’s been for the past 17 episodes. She’d rather face the possibility of death than continue in her current reality. It’s an interesting choice and one that would probably have had more impact if Mayuri had been given a bit more focus in this series, but it does mean that Okabe has to face the reality that his choice wasn’t final and it isn’t the end.

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 17 - Mayuri

The fact that Suzuha and Mayuri’s journey is hijacked before it even begins when the guys with guns show up and the show ends on yet another cliff-hanger, is almost inconsequential. Just by making a choice these two have already changed the direction things were heading and forced Okabe into action whether he wants it or not. He can no longer pretend things are fine and that this is the final destination of his journey.

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 17 - Okabe

That said, killing Mayuri again would be a pretty cheap emotional ploy at this particular point in time… Cliff-hanger endings.

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 16: The World Or Mayuri?

Steins Gate 0 Episode 16 - Mayuri

Have we ever seen Daru angry before? Have we ever watched Mayuri so absolutely devastated? It’s taken a while to get here, but this feels like the kind of episode I was hoping for all along.

Steins Gate Episode 16 - Okabe and Banana
It’s a green banana. Obviously.

This alternative time line has relied a lot on the knowledge of the audience to fill in the blanks. We entered this series knowing what had happened in the original series and knowing what Okabe went through the choices in front of him. And while we’ve seen the fall out of the choice he made to get to this world line, we haven’t heard from his own mouth just how he felt. It was quite obvious that he’s been holding so much back but this episode, as Daru and Maho are busted trying to duplicate the phone microwave (temporary), he just explodes.

What I loved about this was that everything he said was justified and could be understood by the audience because they’ve already been with him on his journey through countless failures. But at the same time, everything Maho and Daru said was also justified. They aren’t ready just to accept world war three nor are they ready to accept that there is no solution (of course without the memories of other time lines and not carrying that emotional baggage, their decision makes perfect sense to them).

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And just in case this episode didn’t hit us with enough emotions, we get the flash back to see Mayuri’s first demise. It hits with all the impact it did right back when I watched the original series the first time. Of course, it also reminds me that most of the moments that have resonated emotionally with me in this series are throw backs to the original series. However, this episode actually does a fine job of taking the characters in a direction that wasn’t explored in the original series and is interesting. For perhaps the first time while watching this I am eagerly awaiting a decision I don’t know the answer to because it is quite likely that Daru and Maho can succeed without Okabe’s help, however it is infinitely more likely that after Okabe’s conversation with Mayuri he is finally going to accept that this world he has created isn’t the best outcome even if Mayuri is alive in it.

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One thing I found particularly interesting early in the episode was the distance between Mayuri and Okabe. It’s been pretty palpable all season, but as they walk together and talk, we see almost no shots where they are on screen together, instead jumping from one to the next. It is really only when Mayuri pulls out her phone to show him a picture forcing him to move closer that the two end up in the frame together and even then Okabe looks distinctly uncomfortable. The conversation that follows is stilted and unnatural to the point that Mayuri excuses herself and essentially flees the scene leaving Okabe to go to the lab alone.

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The point that Okabe made the choice to commit to this world line to save Mayuri and yet there’s more distance between them than ever, is well made without being hammered home. And this makes Mayuri’s confrontation of Okabe in the park at the end of the episode so much more powerful as she calls him on all his excuses.

While this episode doesn’t undo the fact that I’ve felt this series has been a bit plodding, I certainly enjoyed this week’s fare.

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Steins;Gate 0 Episode 15: I Just Wanted To…

Suzuha is playing with fire, or at the very least time lines, when she decides to be more aggressive in her approach to seeing her parents together. However, what does this mean for the future?

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It’s probably inevitable given Suzuha’s young age and tragic life that eventually she was going to act on an entirely selfish desire. While mostly her actions are compelled by her desire to make the future war not happen, everything this week was pure child missing her parents and it made for an emotionally compelling story-line. And yet this desire to see her parents together may very well have been the catalyst for breaking them apart if Daru hadn’t finally taken action on his own. Then again, maybe this is what was always supposed to happen given it seemed unlikely the relationship would have progressed without these events. Isn’t time travel fun?

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Stepping aside from that part of the narrative, and I mean that literally given other than a couple of texts he literally never appears in that narrative at all, Okabe is meeting with Leskinen and getting very friendly over a report. Maybe I’m too suspicious but I just have to wonder why Okabe trusts an American professor who conveniently keeps turning up and has ties to Kurisu, Maho, and everything else, when it has already been speculated that maybe the Americans were the ones involved with the raid on the lab. I mean, he might just be a well-meaning guy who wants to take on Okabe as a new student, but really his ongoing appearances, his obvious desire to keep Okabe close, and everything else just screams that he is up to something.

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I did have some fun this week with the episode even if I still feel overall that this series is lacking something. However, it felt more like things were getting ready to move forward and I’m hoping we do see some progress soon.

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