Isekai manga and anime have always been on shaky ground for me. There are admittedly a lot of very good series that I love, but also a lot of very bad ones that tend to use the same concepts over and over again. I love seeing new ideas and innovative ways to use the isekai genre, but there are many more series that become popular because they feature the same overpowered main characters, semi-harem relationships, and unimaginative settings. The predictability of a series can be good sometimes, and I even wrote a post about it, but there is only so much I can take before I start rolling my eyes.
However, I am human, and with that comes some instances of loving things that may not be conceptually “good.” That brings us to Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest, an isekai light novel, manga, and anime series that is still ongoing. I got into it when the anime came out, needing something interesting to watch, and then got more into the manga when I realized it was so much better. The anime is pretty bad, there’s no real argument there, but the manga I think makes up for what the anime lacks in visuals, storytelling, and worldbuilding. I can honestly say I was impressed when I started reading it and comparing it to the anime. Now, it has become one of my go to trash reads.
Arifureta is about a group of students from modern-day Japan who get transported to a fantasy world where him and his classmates receive magical abilities. Only, his abilities put him at the very bottom of the class, not to mention the attention of the most popular girl in the class draws the jealousy of his other classmates. One day the class goes on a dungeon raid to train their abilities, but something goes wrong and Hajime is thrown into the dark depths of the dungeon. Now he must fight for his life, get stronger, and find a way out of the dungeon and back to his home world. And anyone standing in his way will become his enemy.
One aspect that impressed me about the series was RoGa’s art throughout the manga. My biggest problem with the anime series was how they tried to animate the monsters inside the dungeon. They looked way too stiff and did not have enough detail. RoGa, however, put a lot of work into making all the monsters very detailed, giving them a dark and sinister appearance that really worked with the feeling of the manga, especially that first volume where he’s trapped and struggling to survive in the lower depths of the dungeon. The line-work is awesome throughout, giving a sketchy and angular appearance to many of the monsters, as well as super dark motion lines and detail lines that add to their horrifying appearance. The anime did not inspire any sort of horror in me when it came to the monsters, but I loved seeing RoGa’s interpretation of them and how he made them pretty terrifying.
The character designs that Takaya-ki created can be a bit problematic, but they are also fairly typical of the genre, especially one that overlaps so much with the shonen action genre. Stories like these tend to lean into the harem genre as well, with one strong main character periodically picking up more and more women to join his crew. Arifureta definitely does this, and each volume tends to find Hajime with a new woman who becomes attached to him. Takaya-ki has designed these characters to be appealing to the typical audience of fans: a small moe vampire with long hair that often covers her bare breasts, a very busty woman with bunny ears, and an elegant dragon-woman to name a few. Some of the designs can definitely be in your face a little bit, which can be seen the clearest in volume three with the introduction of our bunny companion. Her super short skirt, bare midriff, and busty breasts definitely capture your attention right as you get into the volume. Now, sometimes these kinds of blatantly sexualized character designs would turn me off from the series, but for some reason I don’t really find myself too upset about them. Maybe it’s because other aspects of the art, design, and story make up for some of the shortcomings overall.
Arifureta’s main strength in terms of story is that it is just so over-the-top, and I think that’s why I can easily overlook a lot of things. The characters, the situations, and the story all go overboard, tipping the genre into comedy many times. It was really interesting, reading through the manga, to see the series move from a horror-isekai into a more comedy-isekai as Hajime got stronger and met more people in the world. Ryo Shirakome, the author of the original story, really plays with this idea of an overpowered lead, coming up with interesting ways to give his originally weak character more power and creating ways that he might use his original ability to play with the magical system of the series. With the added boost of powers and abilities he gets from eating monster meat in the first two volumes, it allows him the well of power to play with his transmute ability. Originally the bottom of the class, now Hajime is one of the most powerful people in this new world.
Some of the ridiculousness of the series stems from how Shirakome plays with Hajime’s transmute ability, allowing him to make all sorts of modern weapons in a very medieval-fantasy type world. It creates a pretty hilarious contrast when Hajime pulls out his pistol and just shoots a sword-wielding soldier in the face rather than directly engage with him. He creates so many things that just look out of place in the world, like a Hummer, a motorcycle, pistols, a laser cannon. I loved seeing how his creation and use of these objects just completely changed the playing field for him and caused so much shock among both his former classmates and the people of this world.
The comedy keeps increasing as Hajime takes on more and more people into his group. The addition of Yue didn’t add much comedy, but when Shea comes along we begin to see a lot of really funny banter as she tries to win Hajime over and compete for his attention with Yue. Her bubbly personality just adds another layer of energy to the manga and the layer of horror that the manga originally had starts to lift and change into comedy. Shea just seems like she was designed for this role as the ridiculous character. Her breasts threaten to bust out of her clothes, she’s constantly trying to get intimate with Hajime, and has a generally argumentative personality even though she is a bunny-girl. I love seeing how the dynamics of Hajime’s group change as a new person is added to the group.
So far there are only five volumes of the manga out in English, published by Seven Seas, but I think I’ll be buying more when they come out. There are also a couple spin-offs, like a 4-koma gag manga and a prequel manga out, which I have not had the chance to read. If anyone has checked out the spin-offs, please let me know what you thought. I don’t think I’ll be watching any more of the anime, but the manga has definitely become one of my trash reads this year.
~~Thanks for Reading!~~
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