In the kingdom of Earlshide, Merlin Walford was once regarded as a national hero, hailed for both his power and achievements. Preferring a quiet life however, he secludes himself deep in the rural woods, dedicating his time to raising an orphan that he saved. This orphan is Shin, a normal salaryman in modern-day Japan who was reincarnated into Merlin's world while still retaining his past memories. As the years pass, Shin displays unparalleled talent in both magic casting and martial arts, much to Merlin's constant amazement.
On his 15th birthday however, it becomes apparent that Shin only developed his combat skills and nothing else, leaving him with blatant social awkwardness, a lack of common sense, and a middling sense of responsibility. As a result, Shin enrolls in the kingdom's Magic Academy to hone his skills and mature among other teenagers. However, living a normal life is impossible, as he is established as a local celebrity almost as soon as he arrives.
Kenja no Mago follows Shin Walford's high school life in the capital as he makes new friends, learns about the world, and fights off the various forces of evil surrounding him and his city.
“The definition of insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.”
God, I’m tired.
I’m tired of all the carbon-copied isekai light novel adaptations like Kenja no Mago, but Japan keeps pumping them out because it’s what makes money.
I’m tired of the same ubiquitous ‘isekai truck’ killing some random asshole before he even gets a single character trait, all for the sake of reincarnating him in an otaku power-fantasy wet dream.
I’m tired of narcissistic overpowered protagonists, lacking any personality, only existing to be praised and loved by every cardboard cutout character in the show.
I’m tired of 12-year old level writing quality; the story
jumps from a violent nation-wide demon attack, then magic-school comedy, then two fanservice episodes back to back!
I’m tired of the boring magic-school settings with absolutely no plot other than finding ways to show off how much more powerful the protagonist is than everyone else.
I’m tired of potentially interesting plot development getting swept under the rug in favor of pointless unfunny comedy, meanwhile, everything relevant to the story happens off screen.
I’m tired of generic pandering character art, indistinguishable from any other isekai adaptation.
I’m tired of dozens of forgettable side characters sticking to the self-insert protagonist like flies on shit.
I’m tired of one-dimensional waifus, with no difference other than candy-colored hair and the incredibly important breast sizes; there is even a cup size ranking in the opening credits.
I’m tired of terrible squeaky-sounding waifu voice acting; like the raspy blue-haired bitch, her breathless and desperate voice made the other generic waifus sound decent.
I’m tired of sexual assault used as a threat to the waifu bait but simultaneously used as an excuse for gross NTR fanservice; which is how the two main female characters get introduced.
I’m tired of all the potato-tier artwork, cheap flashy effects and copy-pasted magic circles tossed in, rather than actual animation.
I’m tired of hideous off-model character animation from the very first episode until the last: eyes distorted like they are melting right off of people’s faces, body proportions constantly look off, and shading is non-existent.
I’m tired of carelessly tacked-on romance with no progression other than the writers forcing the characters together—like oil and water—until you accept it; neither of them put effort into their relationship, circumstances just push them together.
I’m tired of the same three stock background songs playing on loop for entire episodes; couldn’t they have gone one dollar over budget and added a few more?
I’m tired of overly audio-tuned J-Pop opening and ending songs all these shows use, they are indistinguishable from each other.
I’m tired of crappy ‘special’ ending credits worse than the original, like the CGI eye-trauma in episode 6; it’s like they watched the Chika dance from Kaguya-sama then tried (and failed) to copy it.
I’m tired of (anti)climactic scenes that try to make you empathize with a cast of cardboard cutouts who have no personalities; the only introspective character moment happened when the protagonist was MILDLY bothered by killing a person.
I’m tired of watching the same episode every week, always gaining nothing but boredom and frustration, then feeling like twenty-three minutes on the toilet would have been more eventful.
I’m tired. I’m tired. I’m tired… Kenja no Mago makes me so very tired. Watching the same anime with the same faults season after fucking season is driving me insane. One day it will end.
Simply put, this is garbage.
Kenja no Mago is a show with neither originality nor personality. Usually, I merely skip shows like this and just move on to shows that truly deserve my time, but this time, I was somewhat intrigued by the idea of Kenja, and that drove me to take the deep plunge and give it a try. The show is about a Japanese salary-man who gets hit by a car and dies, which in turn causes him to go to another world (haha yes, how original). He then reincarnates into a baby and ends up being taken care of by Merlin Walford,
famed for his powers and unparalleled achievements. Going into the show, that’s all I knew, and I saw huge potential of maybe seeing him slowly develop under Merlin’s wing, learn from him, then slowly become a warrior who hopes to live up to his grandfather’s expectations and become the ultimate fighter that he’s destined to be, while sprinkling in some comedic moments here and there. Hahaha, no.
Of course, a story like that is too much to ask for! So, let’s do a massive time skip, and make him overpowered afffff while lacking basic common sense! Then, we’ll make him save a girl only for her to go all blushy crushy over him and get engaged to him after a few bloody episodes, because who needs proper pacing and relationship build up?! Why not?! Of course, let’s also put as little into the animation as possible because that would actually take time, effort, and money! That would, unfortunately, defeat the purpose of making something as half-assed as this and getting as much money as possible! What about the side characters? Who needs good or at least serviceable side characters?! We’ll make all the side characters so boring and useless to the extent of rivaling the folks in One Outs! Yes, the same show that deliberately made most of its characters incompetent fools, at an attempt at making the main character look as intelligent and cool as possible. The setting? Let’s pick some random generic kingdom, and put the characters in a typical boring magical high school!
I think I’ll stop here. Why should I waste more of my time attempting to explain why this show is absolute trash when it never even tried in the first place. So, here’s my half-assed review, for this half-assed show.
After being killed for no reason whatsoever, an average salary-man is reincarnated into a fantasy world. Upon his reincarnation, he meets one of the most powerful beings in the universe. Entering a familial relationship with this being, the protagonist becomes extremely overpowered. Following this, every character who knows about the MC's awesomeness jerks off to his amazing powers. All the while, we have an insanely bland cast of side characters and really generic art, with barely any overarching plot.
Some dude from an insanely influential family enrolls in a magic high school. Turns out, this dude is the most overpowered creature in the universe. Not only
is he so overpowered that he can create whole new types of magic and magic gear (oh yeah, he's also literally invincible), but he is also absurdly good at hand-to-hand combat. Every side character, unable to even hope of competing with the MC's awesomeness, just kinda sits there in awe of his overpoweredness. The whole show is pretty much about how cool and OP the MC is.
I'm talking about TenSura and Mahouka, right? Well, fuck you, I'm actually talking about Silver Link's newest indistinguishable stream of visual diarrhea, pumped out for the sole purpose of turning a profit by pandering to insecure losers who seek escapism in the form of anime with insanely overpowered blank slate self-inserts MCs.
Special shoutout to my favorite joke of the show: some irrelevant side character tells the MC to hold back on his magic powers. The MC completely annihilates the room they are in, and then says "haha sorry I was holding back". Holy shit. Now this is truly the pinnacle of comedy, refined and perfected after centuries of studying such pioneering comedians as Aristophanes and Dante. How could the anime industry possibly hope to compete against such creative genius? Garbage like Yojouhan and Kaguya-sama simply can't compete with the intellectual titan known as Tsuyoshi Yoshioka.
Oh, and, I couldn't possibly end this review without crediting the greatest peak of creativity brought to us by the anime industry this Spring: that one episode where they told us about the main antagonist's backstory. Now, this was truly tragic. Indeed, as I sat in front of my monitor on that Wednesday, eager to watch the latest episode of Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni, I was not expecting to be hit with such tear-inducing drama. As I sat there and learned that the main bad guy used to be good, but then some bad things happened to him, causing him to turn bad, I wept.
In the words of Charles Barkley:
Okay, seriously, people…why does it have to be so GOD DAMN hard to write an actual good fantasy story nowadays? Where’s the sense of originality? Where’s the sense of creativity? Apparently as of right now, anime is under a mini-crisis, and it involves the all-too-familiar infamous genre of “isekai”. It’s not the genre itself that is bad, it’s just the endless supply of all these cheap knockoff shows, written and produced purely for the sake of easy cash grabs and light novel promotions. Now, in all honesty, I will not condone the lack of originality in a series as
long as it can be entertaining and creative with its premises. But oh my lord, this series, Kenja No Mago (or Wise Man’s Grandchild, Philosopher’s Grandson, or Magi’s Grandson) had absolutely NONE of the two.
To start off, I’m pretty sure we all know the drill regarding what constitutes as isekai (translated as “different world”). It’s actually a subgenre of general Japanese fantasy, and it usually revolves around a main character(s), usually normal humans from Earth, being transported to, reincarnated, or trapped in a parallel universe or an entirely different world, often a fictional one with notably more supernatural or magic-based premises. As much as the isekai is often criticized as a subgenre and concept, it still welcomes a good amount of creativity as there has been a good number of unique and alternative takes on it. The problem is that the general premises of isekai are just way too easy to establish, and it’s because of this that many writers will forego the chance at creativity for the sake of “quantity over quality”, whether it’s writing up a story with typical tropes and unengaging themes and plot elements, or just blatantly rip off a previously produced show’s work and tweak it a little bit to claim it as “original work”. In this sort of case, Kenja no Mago had committed both sins.
The story of Kenja No Mago is by no means anything complicated whatsoever, but I guess I can add a bit more details for “context”.
An unnamed Japanese salaryman gets killed by Mr. Truck-kun and is reincarnated into a fantasy world as an orphan, while still retaining his past memories. He is raised under the name “Shin” by a renowned elder magician and quickly displays his overpowered abilities in terms of both magic and martial arts, but apparently has a lack of common sense and social skills. On his 15th birthday, Shin is enrolled into a magic academy to befriend others and hone his already busted skills, but his raw talent makes it difficult to conduct a normal lifestyle as he quickly gained local celebrity status. The story is supposed to follow Shin’s high school life as he makes friends, learns about the world, and fights off evil that threatens him and the city.
Now from first glance, the story, while generic, doesn’t seem like something particularly bad. It seemed like just a typical, harmless, “dumb fun” isekai fantasy. However, there is a clear lack of creativity from the get-go. Already we have an elephant in the room: the case of the overpowered main protagonist. Now overpowered main characters can still be well-written and complex as long as there’s proper establishment to the overall story and character depth and development. However, Shin has nothing to really make him stand out as unique; he’s your typical Gary Stu, an artificially manufactured husk of a protagonist, a physical manifestation of conveniently written plot armor and plot devices. The nature of his existence in the series means that the plot basically revolves around him and prevents any chance of innovation or development for the story and the other characters.
But that’s not the only problem with the story. From what I was told, the original source material of Kenja No Mago is supposed to be more along the lines of slice-of-life fantasy. However, there is no sense of that in this adaptation, and the main culprit: a bad choice of PACING. The show apparently loves to speed through the events of the story so rapidly that it’s hard to really comprehend or understand what exactly is going on. What’s worse is that the show tries to hide those issues by inserting some awkward attempts at lighthearted comedy, which are basically hit-or-miss at best, and can come off as nothing but hindrances to the story as well as one’s enjoyment, depending on how one feels about the half-hearted “herp derp” gags. Most of these gags are, of course, revolving around Shin accidentally utilizing too much power and everyone getting shocked and sh**. Like, it’s literally one of those comedy skits where they have exaggerated faces and derpy character depictions…seriously, that’s not really funny at all after a while. It’s even worse in the final stretch when they try to utilize comedic gags in the more serious parts of the plot. They basically go to these gags where the baddies get all cocky and then get blown the f*** back, One Punch Man style. I would’ve been okay with this if the show was a parody isekai, but it really isn’t. The lack of innovation with the roles of the characters and the course of the story prevents that from being a possibility.
Now about the romance going on between Shin and Sicily, the main heroine (apparently) that was featured in the show. While many people may say it’s nice to see a romantic relationship in a fantasy series be straightforward to where they actually kiss, I find it really hard to comprehend the authenticity of it. Shin and Sicily’s relationship felt very superficial and too convenient; there is no sense of good dynamics or chemistry between the two that would make me really care about their affinity for each other. It’s mostly them doing all these mushy gushy gestures and cliché romance gags as well as having the other characters tease them about their relationship. It honestly feels…fake. Soulless. There is no effort implemented to really build a lot of appropriate content and structure to justify their implications of romance. There’s nothing to really make me feel like I should have any care about it as it seemed practically useless to the overall story, anyways.
When the series does reach its serious content, especially in the final episodes, it doesn’t seem like anything particularly tense or unsettling. The presentation of it feels half-hearted yet forced at the same time…like all attempts at tension are painfully cringe with the forced screams of terror and the typical cockiness of the antagonists. The construction and depiction of the main villains is by no means any good. It’s your typical bland “muhahaha I’m so f***ing evil I can c** on myself” sort of bad guy here. He doesn’t even feel like a genuine villain, just some salty boy tacked onto the story to let our Gary Stu flex his muscles on. It’s also a poor choice to have the show just really end in the most cliché and predictable way: having the MCs and co. face off against the villains in an overplayed climax (well, if you wanna call it a climax).
The animation in this show is subpar, considering that it’s coming from a studio like Silver Link. It's "potato quality" at best, if that's a proper way to put it. There were so many instances of where the sequences of the frames just feel hella awkward, especially during a lot of the action scenes. The comedy scenes, whether or not it’s done on purpose, had a lot of moments where the characters’ expressions look heavily exaggerated or derpy, to where they can seem somewhat like stick figure drawings. The designs of the characters and the settings are all very typical and not something that can really catch someone’s attention. In fact, I found out that the settings of the world look almost EXACTLY the same as in Konosuba. Even, Shin and Sicily share too many visual similarities to Kazuma and Aqua, and the former basically stole Megumin’s “EXPLOSION”. While it’s not technically plagiarism, it’s a definite case of a knockoff/rip-off. I don’t even wanna talk about the ending of Episode 6….just what the actual f*** was that CGI eye-rape?? All in all, at best, the animation quality is nothing particularly notable or commendable.
The soundtracks and sound effects are nothing worth of praise, either. The OP is so cheesy-sounding while the ED feels like a silly out-of-place impression that doesn’t really reflect the show at all. The voice-acting is unimpressive and at times hella annoying. I don’t think the VAs were even trying to implement any sort of genuine emotion. It’s more like as if they simply walked into the studio, read their lines without any notable expression, and leave on their merry way out knowing that the show is dismal but at least they can get paid just to show up. (P.S. Can I can please kill that Mary loli, please? Her voice is annoying as hell!)
The characters I can ramble about all day, but it’s like beating a dead horse. Shin Walford, being the Gary Stu he is, received no sense of actual character development or maturity; he doesn’t seem to have a strong opinion of his own, yet somehow has to overreact and get angry when the frigging generic-as-hell villain shows up. The whole thing regarding him “not having any social skills or common sense” and “having his past memories” have been made irrelevant. Like what was the point, anyway? You could’ve written him without the whole “common sense” and “past memories” shenanigans and the script for him would be almost exactly the same. His social awkwardness is an excuse, and only serves to feed the gags involving him, which would’ve been fine if the jokes actually hit their marks. There’s no extra depth or dimensions to him…the one case where he feels bad for having killed someone doesn’t have any significant sense of empathic value and is a weak attempt to get us as an audience to pity him making that choice. All the support characters get no sense of development whatsoever. The main villain wasn’t very compelling, either. Considering how rushed the show was already by the time they get to him for the final episodes, dropping nearly an entire episode featuring flashbacks of his backstory was a poor choice and attempt to try to get us to think he’s a competent villain we should been sympathizing with.
I would want to talk my enjoyment level more regarding this show, but I’ve already made it clear with the previous explanations. I tried. I really tried to enjoy this show. I tried to lower my standards and enjoy it as just one of those “fast food” isekai/fantasy seasonals. But the “fast food” delivered to me here was so stale that I can’t even savor it. Not even copious amounts of sauce or condiments could save the foundations of this one. Yes, I ended up throwing up all over the floor with this one.
Kenja No Mago is an exemplification of how to NOT write a fantasy show or adaptation. It’s extremely passable and forgettable due to its conglomeration of simplistic themes, regurgitated tropes, underwhelming to bad animation quality, and non-existent innovation and creativity. Whatever identity this show tried to be, it wasn’t a good showcase at all worth watching. It's just another copy-pasta cashgrab show and only succeeds from a business standpoint. You’re better off watching some other fantasy with actual competent writing and interesting characters. Trust me with this. You’ll thank me later!