I’m sure it will come as such a great surprise when I say, “This post is inspired by the latest crop of anime.” 😉
In all seriousness, it’s nothing special to note that the entire library of stories which we humans tell is, in fact, the collection of all of our fantasies. We face the darkness with horror stories, we aspire to bravery with adventure stories, and we dream of love with romance stories.
And yet some stories rise above others in the public light, and in our own personal lives as well. Some of them linger with us longer than others. Some of them become blockbuster hits. Some become so popular that they influence how we talk and what turns of phrase we pluck out of our brains. Somehow, on some level, they simply appeal to something in ourselves in some way which others do not.
Anime is no exception to this. It was only a few months ago that I posted about some recently recurring ideas which seem to be developing into repeated tropes, and this post follows a similar line of thinking. However, in this instance, I want to talk about these not only as ideas being repeated and reused within a short amount of time, but as questions which help us examine ourselves. What do these really mean? Why do they appeal? What is the real fantasy here?
Mind you, I think we can skip over some of the most obvious fantasies as they are shown with some of the most longstanding and prevalent tropes. Isekai stories let us imagine leaving our world for another, more wondrous. Harems let us fantasize about easily getting lots of attractive members of the opposite sex. Overpowered protagonists let us dream of being strong, so strong that no one in their right mind would mess with us. And every instance where a game becomes real, because who hasn’t fantasized about that? That’s all rather standard fare at this point. Let’s talk about some of the newer fantasies which are on the rise, eh?
He Gets Fired, and Then…
One of the latest (and longest) anime titles is Chillin’ in My 30’s After Getting Fired from the Demon King’s Army. Which shall hereafter be referred to as Chillin. The premise, as explained in the title, is that the protagonist gets fired from his high position in the army of the demon king. He joins a human village after saving the mayor’s daughter, who is extremely well endowed and quite obviously has a thing for him. He quickly becomes a pillar of the community and probably the heir apparent, all because of how competent and capable he is.
Meanwhile, the demon army is falling to pieces without him.
This immediately reminded me of two anime I’ve seen fairly recently. And not just because of the absurdly long titles.
Banished from the Hero’s Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside – hereafter just Banished – follows a protagonist who seems to be the weakest member of the titular hero’s party. As many people do, he underestimates his own crucial importance, so when a wizard with a poisonous tongue tells him he’s dead weight and puts the party at risk, he decides to leave, to retire and live a peaceful life. He settles down in a small town out in the country, and soon runs into someone he knows, a most beautiful, gorgeous, and voluptuous elf woman. They move in together, become pillars of the community, run their little shop, and practically have their happily ever after even before crap hits the fan again.
Meanwhile, the hero’s party completely falls apart without him.
And then there’s Beast Tamer, which is short for The Beast Tamer Who Was Exiled from His Party Meets a Cat Girl From the Strongest Race. Here, we have a third protagonist who worked hard and did good for the people he worked with, but they were blind to it. They expel him from their group, unaware – as he, himself, is – just how extraordinary he is. He immediately meets a number of very cute girls who are of other species and as he forms mystical bonds with them, he grows much, much stronger, and is soon a beloved member of the community.
Meanwhile, the hero’s party which fired him completely falls apart, including how the tamer and his new party completely surpass them in every possible way.
The pattern is so painfully obvious that it reminds me of something I saw in a movie. It’s just a quick moment where this one character gets fired from his cushy, successful job. As he storms out of the building, he comforts himself very loudly as he says something to the effect of, “Just see how fast this company sinks without me!”
Many of us, I think, have been in a similar situation. How many people these days go their entire careers without being fired even once, eh? I’m sure there are other situations where people are excluded for one reason or another, like getting thrown off a sports team. Even for the best of us, it’s easy to feel angry. Not only do we lose something, but the worth of everything we’ve done or could do is dismissed, which is a powerful blow to the ego. In that moment, it’s not uncommon to want to see the people who expel and hurt us suffering for our loss, and to envision ourselves succeeding wildly, in every way possible. On some level, we want to win while they lose, if only for revenge.
Someone very wise once said that the best revenge is a life lived well. In this case, this includes the ultimate measure of triumph: the interest and loyal affection of cute girls!
Does it strike anyone else as being a bit like every time a villain ever said, “I’ll show them! I’ll show them all!” Or is that just me?
Fantasy, With Food
Much like isekai rose to oversaturate the market and become joined with harems and with overpowered protagonists, there has also been a rise in anime which deals with food. The famous Food Wars is but one example. And now it would seem that it is creeping into fantasy stories as well, especially those which can use the isekai trope.
Campfire Cooking in Another World is among the latest anime to bring modern food into a fantasy setting. It follows a young man who got swept up into one of those classic hero summoning adventures, but where the hero and the two girls at his side get cool, combat-based abilities, this guy gets an “online grocer” skill. He uses this to feed himself and those around him, spending gold, silver, and copper in exchange for access to all sorts of foods and goods from this world. To him, it’s normal food, but to the people around him, it’s the best food they’ve ever had. It’s so good, in fact, that a divine wolf – with abilities that I absolutely see descending from Monster Rancher’s Tyger of the Wind – becomes his familiar so he can get a steady stream of this delicious, otherworldly food. I imagine the slime and even the goddess which come to be in his company will be attracted to the same thing.
Side-note: the wolf and slime setup also reminds me of My Isekai Life.
Restaurant to Another World inserts modern-day food into a fantasy world as well. Quite literally, as the entire premise hangs on magical doors appearing all over the place in this other world, allowing its denizens to visit a restaurant in Japan, there to feast upon such delicacies as they cannot find anywhere else. Perfectly normal food for us is all but godly for them, which lends credence to how every one of them lingers on describing every delicious bite in every delectable detail.
Not only did the show get a second season, but it was apparently popular enough for someone to practically copy and paste it in the anime, Isekai Izakaya. I haven’t seen that one past the first episode, but it was quite obviously the same thing: Japanese restaurant connected to a fantasy world.
Somewhat different in approach, but eventually involving a similar idea, is another of the more recent anime, Farming Life in Another World. Someone dies in Japan and is transported to a fantasy world, but the special power they chose was farming. They have a magic tool which lets them easily grow anything they want, and they make good use of it. Soon they have all kinds of fruits, grains, vegetables, and more. As a community begins to coalesce around the magic farming, they grow more things which they could easily get back in Japan, including rice. It’s a bit more roundabout in getting there, but soon enough the protagonist is introducing his companions to food he remember from Japan.
It’s not a new thing for us to dream about going to these romanticized fantasy settings. Fans are always talking about how much they wish they could live in a fantasy world, and every so often some snide fool – you know the type – comes along, wanting to show that they are superior, and ever so smugly lectures the entire crowd about how much it would really suck because of diseases and outhouses and blah blah blah. Food tends to come up quite often.
Not only do these shows cater to the foodies in the audience, but it’s like the writers are responding to all of that narcissistic criticism by saying, “Ok then, you self-superior idiot. You want to play that game? Then we’ll just come up with fantasies where we can take our food with us! Hah!”
And it certainly doesn’t stop at food. We seem to be taking the modern world into the fantasy world more and more.
Fantasy Meets Modern
I remember two movies from my childhood. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and A Kid in King Arthur’s Court. Similar concept, though vastly different application, where someone from the modern world gets transported back to Camelot, and with their knowledge and their modern gizmos, they are able to outwit their enemies and save the king and his court (and his daughter). That sort of thing seems to be happening a bit more often now in anime.
There have been a few titles, like Log Horizon or Overlord, where people find that they are now fantasy characters in a fantasy world, and are able to use their modern knowledge to their benefit, but, to be clear, I am talking about literally taking things from the modern world into a fantasy world.
Gate is an outstanding example of this, as two worlds meet in a collision that is both bloody and transformative. Especially for the fantasy world. After all, you take a modern-day army and pit it against a medieval army, even one made up of goblins and dragon riders, and the resulting one-sided slaughter is a foregone conclusion. Again and again, the Japanese army demonstrates its superior might and methods to the people of the other world, and though there is resistance, it is already too late. The superior side not only wins, handily, but the losing side is changed for the encounter.
That, however, is an example of violent confrontation. A more peaceful example is one of the most recent anime, in the latest crop, entitled: Saving 80,000 Gold in Another World for My Retirement. It’s about a girl who, by chance, gains the ability to walk between worlds at will. Seeing a golden opportunity to provide for herself, she opens a shop to sell modern goods, goods she can purchase cheaply in Japan and sell in the other world for an obscene profit, because even common, ordinary, everyday items we use here are absolute luxury items there. Add in a little clever networking, and soon this girl is not only selling modern merchandise but also consulting on various revolutionary endeavors. For a fee, of course.
Handyman Saitou in Another World, another of the most recent crop, follows a man who brings only his knowledge and his tools to another world with him, and his expertise is quite valuable. He can do things that typically require thieves or artificers, and he finds passages which other parties have overlooked for decades. (hang on, was this another one where the protagonist gets fired and then succeeds?)
To mention Restaurant to Another World again, that anime depicts how merely encountering modern food can change a world, by giving its people something new to enjoy, and desire, and strive for. Not to mention bringing disparate people together to form bonds which transcend borders.
Parallel World Pharmacy shows the ramifications of applying modern medical knowledge in a fantasy world, turning the course of history as royal lives are saved, populations are spared, and financial institutions which rely on dominating the field of medicine are overturned.
Heck, there was one anime I didn’t even watch where the protagonist was able to bring his smartphone with him, and being able to use it was practically a superpower.
Contrast that with Uncle From Another World, where a man is able to return from another world with all the magic he had there. It’s fun, powerful, and useful, but the most effective use of it is in making YouTube videos, apparently.
Knowledge is power, and there is no question that we know more than our ancestors did, and that we live better, more comfortable lives than they did. But, that said, this all reminds me of how so many of us, living modern life in crowded cities, keep talking about retreating and retiring to a cabin in the woods, getting away from the modern while still enjoying modern amenities.
Saving the Villainess?
Endo and Kobayashi Live! The Latest on Tsundere Villainess Lieselotte…
…why, why, whyyyy must they insist on such ridiculously long titles?!
So, Endo and Kobayashi Live follows its two titular protagonists as they follow the protagonists of an otome game, a dating sim set in a fantasy world. All at once, they find themselves actually communicating with the characters in the game, actually influencing things in this fantasy world that is somehow very real. Naturally, their aim is to guide the characters through to a happy ending, one which saves everyone from the impending threat of the villain. This involves saving the game’s tsundere villainess from being possessed by said villain.
It’s an interesting concept, and very meta, like with Fantasia and The Never-Ending Story. It’s also at least the third anime to focus on saving the villainess of such a game.
The first one I recall is My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom. I didn’t watch much of that one, but the idea is that a young lady aristocrat suddenly remembers that she’s been reincarnated, and that she is now in a real-world version of a game she loved in her previous life. Worse, she’s the doomed villainess! So she goes about doing all sorts of things to try and change her fate, to survive as best she can. In the end, she succeeds, at least partially because the people around her can honestly disbelieve any claim that she has committed any crimes.
The second one is an anime I just reviewed because it aired just last season, is I’m the Villainness, So I’m Taming the Final Boss. The protagonist here remembers pieces of her previous as well, including how she is now the villainess in a dating sim, doomed to die in any number of ways. She decides to evade all of them, especially the final one, by marrying the demon lord. That part goes fairly well, as she uses her ingenuity to get in with the demons and soon earns their respect and affection. Of course, after that’s done, the plot goes all over the place, including turning the heroine of the game into the true villainess.
I look at these three, especially the most recent, and I find a couple of fantasies in here. The most obvious is how the redemption of the bad girl, so doom does not befall a beautiful woman. It’s not that surprising, really, considering an overall trend of late where we seem to be fascinated by the bad guys, a’la Venom, Suicide Squad, Deadpool, every vampire romance in the world, and other classic anime like Death Note. Even more, we’ve been interested in bad girls, specifically, for a very, very long time, not least including every time anyone has ever thought, “It’s a shame that someone so good looking is so bad.”
There’s also the usual fantasy about a game becoming real, but this explores that a bit more in depth, I think. I mean, it’s not just finding oneself in the game world, or even being part of the game itself. It’s the chance to change the game, to influence it in ways which the developers never intended to be possible, to truly alter the outcome. Who hasn’t wanted to improve a game in some way? Or a movie? Or their life?
Yes, I think the desire to change the game may be rooted in a desire to change one’s own life in some way. To make things better, more fair, or more advantageous at least. To help the poor villain figure who is going to their doom like the prodigal son. Who doesn’t want to change that person’s fate, especially when it might theoretically be one’s own?
Great points (and rants!)
First off, that revenge mindset is definitely me as well, but nothing malicious, simply the desire to prove people what they said was wrong, and live the life well, as you mentioned. Because the better your life is, the more you enjoy it, the greater it feels! Isn’t that right?
True that the line between fantasy (isekai) and modern world gets more blurrier in anime than before, GATE was quite a great example of dealing with this in military and political viewpoint while Restaurant to Other World just wants to introduce those dreamy delicious Japanese food (in a mesmerizing way, to add). But, is it not refreshing, to add a tinge of fantasy into our mundane lives?
There was a theory that males tend to love a female more if he can portray his “hero side”, which is to protect her in any forms, and that love like this is more fulfilling to males. So, who wouldn’t want to protect and be there for a badass villainess that can do the same (maybe more) to you?!
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Well, what man doesn’t want to prove himself useful to the ladies, especially the dangerous ones, eh? 😉
There’s adding fantasy into out mundane lives, and there’s also taking what is mundane to us into a fantasy world and showing how marvelous it is. It’s sort of like… remembering what we have to be grateful for, ya know?
Heh, I don’t know if you’ve seen Arcane on Netflix, but there are moments where the protagonist and the villain each say that they’ll show everyone, albeit in very different ways. It’s interesting how hero and villain can have such similar motivations and end up doing such vastly different things.
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True that, both. 😆
Yes, I’ve seen Arcane and it was freakishly awesome with the fighting choreography and contrasting colours in visuals. But definitely the main opposing characters Vi and Jinx take the cake! It’s kinda scary too, like in different circumstances, a hero can be an ultimate villain, so gotta give much credits for that fine portrayal! 🔥🔥
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