Gimmick Isekai can be good: Saving 80,000 Gold in Another World for My Retirement
Ach ja, I can’t be the only one thinking about how a certain type of Isekai kind of keeps cannibalizing itself to the point of parody. I remember how “Reborn as a Vending Machine” was used as the pinnacle of joke about how stupid some of the deviations of the classic Isekai tale are (as well as light novel titles in general), but it is receiving an anime adaptation, so who is laughing now? It also doesn’t help that the majority of these kinds of Isekai tend to be rather lazy with their premise. In Another World With My Smartphone somehow breached containment and made people outside the classic anime circles aware of this trope, by just how simple to digest this idea is. Seriously, having the “Smartphone Isekai” randomly pop up where I least expect it, followed by how stupid it sounds, will never not be an out of body experience.
While I am definitely not an expert on the subject of Isekai, given how few I actually watch, I like to think of Isekai in three different “types”. I first thought about calling these “waves”, but considering how they are not really separated by time, I think “types” might be a bit more appropriate. I basically differentiate the many Isekai by how and in what way they are using their premise.
- Type A would be the use of your other world as a normal story vehicle. It is not solely defined by being an Isekai, but using the fact that it is one as part of the narrative. Imagine your Mushoku Tensei, Overlord, Re:Zero and while its label as an Isekai is up for discussion, Sword Art Online would also fit the bill.
- Type B Isekai exist more in reference to other Isekai, the works that inspired them or general fantasy. They play off, at least in part, some of the elements of the Type A Isekai, may it be in a satirical or subversive sense. KonoSuba and Shield Hero are the first ones that come to my mind, but I would also sort So I’m a Spider and “Otome game Villainess” anime like My Next Life as a Villainess into it.
- Type C just are Isekai with their premise primarily revolving around the fact of them being an Isekai. With these, it feels like the Isekai part came first with any semblance of plot and original ideas coming in second place. These stories are often a lot more playful with the Isekai premise, often twisting it fittingly in a way that goes along to their thing. If it is named similar to [Activity or Concept] in Another World, there is a good chance it will fall into this type.
In conclusion, Type A plays the Isekai idea straight, Type B plays its ideas under the assumption of the reader’s at least partial knowledge and assumptions of such stories and Type C is kind of an Isekai for the sake of it. The lines between these three types can be pretty blurry, but I guess you could put most Isekai somewhere in here. I also don’t want to imply any type being inherently better than another. I can name you good and bad anime in all three categories. However, I am probably not the only one being a lot more critical about a certain specific type.
My problem with Type C Isekai is that a lot of them tend to be incredibly gimmicky, as there are only so many ways of doing the classic fantasy journey without being either repetitive or a functional clone of another work. This leads to a lot of Isekai casting an incredibly wide, but at the same time also weirdly specific net of ideas and potentially building on something that might not lend itself to that interesting of a story in the long run. Incidentally, I had a very short discussion on this exact topic with a friend when this concept came up. There is a reason why I have kind of stopped gauging my interest in new anime based on premises and synopses alone, as they mostly matter not beyond their initial episodes. Novelty can only get you as far as you are able to keep introducing new interesting concepts. From there on, you have to deliver on execution alone and good writing tends to be a rarity in this genre, unfortunately.
Hansi, you are already over 700 words into the post, get to the point!
Well, turns out these gimmick Isekai are a lot more bearable as comedies. Introducing Saving 80,000 Gold in Another World for My Retirement, a fun Slice of Life-eqsue Isekai about a girl gaining the ability to teleport freely between two worlds and is now using this power to get rich and outsmart the NTA in the process. A good chunk of the entertainment comes from seeing Mitsuha navigate the different situations she winds herself up in and abusing her ability in the most amusing way possible. What started relatively calm with using her brother’s slingshot and a kitchen knife to fend of a wolf, eventually escalated in her social engineering her way into nobility and commanding a modern mercenary group against you typical fantasy monsters.
How much you enjoy her shenanigans, will greatly depend on you, but I would argue the anime itself has a lot of fun and tries to get the most mileage out of the premise. It also deliberately doesn’t take itself to serious. As someone in the comments said: If you really want to get rich quick, you would go to a port town and sell all the spices you can get you hands on from your local Konbini, instead of playing store and getting invested in your customer’s affairs.
However, it is the last part that makes it go down all smoothly for me. The scene that decisively sold me on the series (more than it already had) is in episode three: Tricking a noble family into accommodating her for a few days, she actually starts getting a long with them and when making up a fake background story for her circumstances, she opens up and accidentally trauma dumps her way into their heart. You can basically spot the change in the mothers eyes going from sympathy and interest to pity and “you are basically our daughter now”. Funny misunderstandings and solutions are fine and dandy, but the heart put into those situations makes them have genuine and lasting impact.
You can see this the best with Mitsuha spending most of the time helping the people around her, instead of acting in the self-interest of maximizing profit. She almost exclusively sells convenience products, that would make normal life in a medieval society easier for the average citizen. For her first customers, she prepared a three-course meal and personally gave a hand-on demonstration of shampoo and washed their hair. For the debutant of a soon-to-be noble girl, she straight-up closed shop, organized the whole party and even taught the whole kitchen staff how to cock different kinds of foods to make it the best debutant there is. When randomly encountering the staple of every Isekai, a party of adventurers, she asked if she could accompany them to see what they would need. And lastly, when the kingdom was about to be invaded by monsters and enemy forces, instead of ditching the place and setting up camp somewhere else, she brought over a private army and defended it, as if it were her duty, despite nothing to gain and maybe even going into the red, because she has found a new home in this world and its people.
I may sometimes come of as the kind of guy, whose focus of interest tends to lie in the less spectacular and more detached parts of the premise, instead of of what makes a series unique, but with these kinds of Isekai specifically, I think this is what they should fundamentally be judged on in the long run. Again, just try to imagine how long you are invested in the premise and for what you actually keep returning. Coming back to the mini-discussion with a friend, he has noted that most crime dramas tend to lose focus on their specific “thing” and begin to spend more and more time on the cast’s characters and relationships. And while I can totally understand this feeling of disappointment in not getting something you were initially invested in, I would also ask into question how good something truly is, if your enjoyment is solely dependant on such a fickle aspect, as what is literally happening on a specific micro-level instead of a macro one.
When in doubt, always ask yourself if you would continue watching something, if it were to suddenly turn into an idol show. The anime basically pulled a GATE at its season finale and I enjoyed the modern military mowing down wyvern and orcs with a 20mm autocannon, because Mitsuha was at her literal best, channeling up her cringey chuuni persona to its fullest potential and protecting the one she loves in an honest display of her character. I wanted her to succeed, even when there weren’t really any actual stakes to the battle. Take away all the charm and you end up with… well, you end up with GATE.
Saving 80,000 Gold in Another World for My Retirement shows, how an anime doesn’t have to solely rely on its gimmick and instead can enhance its ideas by writing fun and solid characters that keep you coming back, even if the main premise has lost its spice or abandoned it entirely. In the same way, I want to always be open for any kind of story, no matter how nonsensical the premise may sound like, because it may turn out very good in spite, or rather regardless, of its catch. In other words:
“Don’t judge an anime by its premise.”
– A guy literally judging an anime by its cover
Saving 80,000 Gold in Another World for My Retirement is available on Crunchyroll.
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