A power outage cuts off the life support of a patient in a hospital. She dies while sleeping and wakes up in a fantasy world identical to the game she was still logged into at the time. Where she was once an invalid, she is now a beautiful high elf of unmatched power, in the world of a game made real.
…And that’s pretty much it.
In the Land of Leadale follows the high elf Cayna, who was a crippled human before her death in our world. She only really lived through her games, and with literally nothing else occupying her time, she clocked in a huge number of hours, becoming one of the strongest players in her favorite game. This leaves her as a literal figure of myth and legend suddenly awake and active again, but without anything really happening. She’s nice and helps people, so they like her, but she’s also extremely volatile, with unpredictable mood swings of an extremely violent nature. She easily handles everything that comes her way, and she doesn’t have any urgent business or quests or anything that demand her attention, so she’s basically just wandering around, having a good time.
I knew after the first episode that, whatever else could be found in this anime, “tension” would not be one of them. After my experience with By the Grace of the Gods, I learned that this isn’t entirely a bad thing. However, in that anime, there was still at least something driving the main character forward, and said character was fairly well-developed and consistent. By contrast, Cayna and Leadale fall quite a bit short.
Take, for instance, when Cayna learns that she seems to be the only player in the game. She falls into a bit of depression, very sad and alone. Shortly after, she has an experience where she realizes that now, in this world, killing someone really kills them. Then she stumbles onto another player who is killing what he thinks are NPCs with no regrets, and she’s willing to kill him without a second thought. No hesitation, no mercy, nothing. Not exactly consistent with either her earlier loneliness or her recent realization at how serious killing someone is now, is it?
There’s a lot of bits and pieces here which could be fashioned into a proper story, but they don’t bother.
Cayna has family in the form of children she fostered while the world was just a game, but she interacts with them only on occasion, there’s nothing wrong with them, and she tends to be her most volatile around them
She meets a royal prince and princess along the way, and they clearly admire her, but nothing really important happens with them.
There are a couple of potential romantic entanglements, both for Cayna herself and for her son as well – a princess likes him – but nothing at all happens with either of those.
There are players getting routinely trapped in this game-made-real world every few years, but, again, nothing is done to explore what’s causing it or why.
There are thirteen legendary dungeons around the world, crafted by Cayna and her friends, and Cayna sort of decides to find and revive each of them in turn, but there’s no real reason for that, and certainly no sense of urgency.
A mermaid got mysteriously transported and trapped in a village Cayna frequents? Eh, she just settles in, perfectly welcomed and perfectly happy within days.
But what absolutely has to take the cake is when Cayna finds an orphaned girl in a town overrun by the undead, and not only does she deal with it easily, but she adopts the girl, who is perfectly fine and happy with it, with not even a bit of trauma from being witness to the deaths of everyone in her town.
There’s “having very little tension in a story,” and then there’s “having practically no story at all.” Everything is easy, there are no stakes, and nothing matters. There is never any real sense of danger or peril, not physically, mentally, emotionally, or any other way. It’s all good and cozy and everything happens just because. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it rather fails to be an interesting thing for very long. This is not a show for bingeing, despite its brevity at only twelve episodes.
All that said, the show isn’t entirely without its charms. I mean, there’s a reason I watched each new episode, after all. It’s kind of sweet, really.
It has it’s funny moments, my personal favorite being in the first episode, when some robbers try to sneak and steal from Cayna as she sleeps, only to be met by one of her guardian beasts appearing out of nowhere. Their panicked flight is hilarious to behold!
It has some sweet and tender moments, too, my favorite being when Cayna reveals in secret to a little girl that she is actually a “witch” of notorious local fame. I liked seeing Cayna with that little girl quite a lot, actually. She was much more motherly to her, rather than being absolutely fearsome and terrifying as she tended to be towards her own children (and grandchildren). I mean, I know from experience that grizzly mothers are not to be messed with, but that’s supposed to be directed at those who would harm their children, not the children themselves, ya know? It was a touch disconcerting to see her fly off the handle on her grown children so much. It was much nicer seeing her with pretty much anyone other than her family, really. That’s where there were some good talks and happier adventures.
It made me smile, and sometimes made me laugh, and often made me wonder what was wrong with Cayna. It wasn’t great, not by any measure, but In the Land of Leadale was, well… it was ok. It was good.
Rating: 6 stars out of 10.