We all know that a lot of isekai anime have come out over the past decade and while some of these anime are actually quite good comedies or action stories (or cooking adventures or whatever) a large number of them feel very much like an excessively lazy effort to cash in on a current trend. The usual signs of an isekai anime putting in no effort are forgettable characters, either limited plot directions or an overly trite plot that we’ve seen a million times before, and world building that feels like a paint by numbers vaguely medieval society usually populated with humans, elves, and cat girls.
That said, my list today isn’t actually made up of what might be the worst offenders in this category as in order to find a place on my top 5 list they had to at least be interesting enough for me to watch them through to the end. And also, due to these anime being so dull as to be pretty forgettable the minute they end, I’ve probably missed a few that were particularly dull. Which means I am certain my readers can throw at least a dozen more titles up in the comments of isekai anime that have the distinct dishonour of being bland, generic, and ultimately fairly forgettable.
Please note: There will be spoilers below.
I’m fairly convinced that Maou-Sama Retry could have been an interesting anime if it had been presented in a better manner. While the basic plot is same-old with a normal human finding himself transported into another world which suspiciously resembles a game he was working on and he’s in his in-game character and completely over-powered from the start, there were a few things that could have made this anime stand out. However between the protagonist’s low rumbling dialogue and the general lack of effort that seems to have gone into the visuals I just never found Demon Lord Retry to ever really engage me as a viewer.
For those who appreciate the humour of this series, perhaps it doesn’t come across feeling as bland and empty but for me I very much felt that my time spent watching Demon-Lord Retry really could have been better employed else-where (then again I wouldn’t know that if I hadn’t watched it in the first place).
The only anime on this list that actually features a female protagonist however that’s probably not overly important given she has about as much personality as wall-paper. Unlike Demon-Lord Retry, 100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams is actually a very pretty anime. The animation isn’t great but the character designs and backgrounds are truly gorgeous and if you are just looking for some eye-candy in the form of the various princes you might get something out of it. The heroine (who doesn’t even score a name during the anime) does nothing but walk the viewer through what little story there is and honestly I think they should have stuck with the notion of her finding and waking up sleeping princes because that would have been a more interesting story.
The conclusion I came to when reviewing 100 Sleeping Princes was that the anime wasn’t dreadful but it was without substance and the title I gave that review stating that it was ‘meandering fluff’ remains the best way I could sum up the experience of watching it.
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How do you make your generic isekai anime stand out from the rest? Drag not one, but two characters into the fantasy world. Or at least that seemed to be the logic of the writers behind Isekai Cheat Magician because literally everything else about the story is so ordinary. I mean firstly, other anime have carried more than one character into fantasy land. No Game, No Life did it beautifully. And plenty of stories have added to the number of characters transported with entire classes getting vaporised and reincarnated. So why couldn’t they handle making two characters just vaguely interesting?
This one is largely inoffensive, other than first building up the female character and then side-lining her during every actual encounter, but also fails to make any kind of actual impact. Like a lot of isekai stories, both our main characters are really strong so the average threats of the world they are in have no impact on them which leads to increasingly ridiculous scenarios in order to put them in some kind of danger, including idiotic decision making of their own. Seemingly realising how little there was in this series that was memorable, there’s a final throw in of zombies to fight in the final battle of the series. They kind of came out of nowhere, didn’t fit with the rest of the story, and were defeated as easily as everything else so basically other than remembering that this particular plot point made me roll my eyes, it didn’t save Isekai Cheat Magician from landing on my list of bland isekai anime.
This is one of very few titles where I’d actually read the light novels prior to this series being given an anime so I went in knowing that this wasn’t an action adventure isekai anime but would turn more into a travel show style story with our protagonist largely just wanting to see new sights in the fantasy world and try new food with his harem. Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody still managed to fall below my expectations as it more or less plods through the novel’s content without really considering the medium change and basically you’d get more out of listening to an audio book version of this story then you will from watching the anime.
Death March also remains one of my shortest whole series reviews ever. Largely because other than it wasn’t good and it wasn’t particularly terrible there wasn’t anything really to say about it. Which, as usual is perhaps the worst criticism I could give an anime. It was utterly forgettable.
The Master of Ragnarok actually had an interesting premise given this one seemed to be more set in the past rather than an actual fantasy world, the character had some connection to his home still and the potential of maybe getting back there, and if the fantasy and military aspect was going to bore you they did at least have a really substantial harem forming around a protagonist who other than being able to search for military tactics from the future to give his clan an edge really has nothing going for me. Ultimately though, The Master of Ragnarok introduced a lot of potential ideas including the harem, economic reforms, agricultural reforms, educational reforms, military tactics, and time travel paradoxes and still manages to do almost nothing with these ideas other than slowly drag the viewer along through them.
There is just nothing to recommend watching this anime as none of the characters ever really seem to develop beyond a one line description, the battles are more or less over after a bit of exposition and some poor animation, and by and large any other interesting idea that is introduced is not pursued to any consequence. Basically a case where the writer seemed to be trying to avoid being generic by packing in a whole bunch of ideas, but still ended up producing an incredibly bland story because of poor execution.
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