Tate no Yuusha is a thundering disappointment for many fans of the isekai genre. And for those who would not have labeled themselves as such, Tate no Yuusha is a testament to their dislike or indifference, being yet another mediocre, soulless title lurching and tossing throughout a tired genre that is swiftly approaching its death throes. In truth, Tate no Yuusha doesn't please much of anybody.
If there is a reason Tate no Yuusha ever stood out in the first place, it is because of the protagonist and the appalling situation he is soon forced into. Though isekai anime taking a turn for the dark are hardly rare, the abject betrayal Naofumi faces is not the treatment one would expect for someone abducted from their world and supposedly re-branded a "hero". The corrupt, contemptible society he is forced to fight for is not what you might anticipate from a genre where the setting— the fantasy— is meant to be an escape from the monotony of the real world. Instead, it turns out things in Naofumi's new world may actually be far worse than they ever were in his old one. A fantasy turned nightmare.
The whole 'twist', I suppose— if you could call it that— was a success in the eyes of many. It turned another forgettable, run-of-the-mill anime into something a bit more engaging, and gave many a reason for the viewer to empathise with Naofumi, through joining in his hatred for society and his potential quest for revenge. Whether these themes were ever fully realised, or even handled well, may well be a different story entirely.
See, Tate no Yuusha never actually takes things further than 'corruption sucks' and 'I'm mad— grr, watch my flames of anger.' The king is inherently evil because of a small grudge. Myne is verminous scum merely because... wait, there is no actual reason. Motoyasu, the spear hero, is a gullible idiot who likes to womanise and that is all there is behind his punch-able little face. Raphtalia is a benevolent mary sue who will not utter or even think a bad thought, her almost immediately (and incomprehensibly) falling in love with Naofumi, thus existing as waifu material for those who like to rescue their damsels from distress. Filo is pure fodder for lolicons and a relentless annoyance for anyone who is not. The list goes on. The only one who still has potential is the Queen, but considering the path the show has trodden thus far, it would be illogical to assume a second season would fare her any better. Tate no Yuusha's characters, though they may initially show promise, are quickly cast aside and made merely to be fanservice or vehicles to drive Naofumi's hatred along, however the writer's whims may fancy.
Oh, you wanted to see the anime tackle issues surrounding the slave trade, and Naofumi's moral dilemma of having taken part in an evil system yet saved someone as a direct result of it? Sorry - I have disappointing news. Did you want to see the politics, heck, even geography of the world explored with more than two lines of dialogue? Nope. Not here. Everything in Tate no Yuusha is surface level. It has the facade of maturity, but in reality is about as mature as a 1999 Slipknot album.
Any fight scene, no matter how overwhelming and powerful the opponent, can, and will, be prematurely ended by Naofumi's anger turning him Super Saiyan. Whereas anime like JoJo will carefully construct the fights to be based on tactics and cleverness, Tate no Yuusha presents nothing except power levels. You can fast-forward through any climactic fight scene and have lost little to nothing of value, as all you ever need to know is that Naofumi got angry and won. Sure, there is a degree of self-awareness throughout the show, with characters remarking on how this power is essentially him "cheating". But when Naofumi attributes all his success to hard work and yet wins merely because of said mysterious power randomly appearing at the most convenient time— essentially a deus ex machina— you have to wonder what the hell he is even talking about.
If all you ever wanted to see was Naofumi take revenge against those who wronged him, then, I am sorry to say, but even that will lead you to much disappointment. On numerous occasions, when he is on the cusp of enacting his long-sought revenge, he takes the high road and proselytizes about how killing a bad person makes you just as bad as them, or whatever— the usual tripe you hear from lame, holier-than-thou anime protagonists. Since when was Naofumi ever supposed to be an idealistic person? Hadn't he lost all his faith in society, or even in morality itself after what he had experienced? Not only does this betray fans of the first several episodes, but it makes his character an inconsistent and incomprehensible mess. He plays hero when it is supposed to sound cool, and villain when it is convenient for him. By the time there actually is some sort of retribution for those who wronged him, it is too little too late, a thumbs-up, an "okay, cool" rather than anything deserving of applause. Tate no Yuusha surely and steadily loses its steam as the episodes blindly trudge by, and once its primary theme is lazily cast aside, there is no reason to care about what happens to a world where saving the day and being a 'hero' never even meant anything in the first place.
So there you go. Another trite isekai anime, popular mostly for its gimmicky nature, masquerading itself as mature merely because it has themes that are darker than is usual. Those who aren't fans of the genre will most likely have trusted their instincts and avoided this show, anyway, but for those who sit on the fence, and even for those who generally enjoy these sorts of shows, there is not much to be gained from Tate no Yuusha's feckless affairs. It makes me miss the flawed but ambitious Re:Zero, and Re:Zero is not an anime I had really imagined myself missing all that much.
And now I'm all out of words because I realise the next one of these— Arifureta— is down the corner, just a week's time away, with a premise that is almost word-for-word copy-paste of what is found in Tate no Yuusha.
It just doesn't end.