Mochizuki Touya is the unfortunate victim of a bolt of lightning thrown carelessly by God. Because he really wasn’t supposed to die at fifteen, God is willing to cut him a deal – Touya can be reborn, or rather, re-placed, at his present age in a new world in order to continue living. To sweeten things, the world will have magic, which Touya will be able to use, his physical abilities will get a boost, and he can bring any one thing with him. Touya opts to take his smartphone, which God kindly equips with the appropriate maps and translation functions for his new life. And that life looks like it’s going to go pretty well – within moments of awakening, Touya has been paid for his other-world clothes, formed a party with twins Elze and Linze, learned he can use all seven forms of magic, and introduced his new world to ice cream – and this is only the first day.
Source: Anime News Network
If you’ve been watching anime at all these past five years, you’ve seen this series before. A teenage boy dies and gets sent to a fantasy world. He meets some cute girls around his age and they go adventuring together. There’s a bunch of world-building about Guilds and magic systems. Our protagonist turns out to be Very Special And Talented. Okay, sure, the kid gets to use his smartphone to help people invent ice cream, but beyond that this is a straightforward, by-the-book, boilerplate isekai light novel adaptation.
I, uh… kinda liked it?
Amid a sea of isekai LN adaptations featuring genre-savvy protagonists and cynical meta wink-wink storytelling, Smartphone is almost alarmingly earnest. Leading dude Touya isn’t a creep or a jerk; he’s just a decent guy, a bit boring but pleasantly so. He’s also self-aware enough to know his Very Specialness has nothing to do with him personally, since God pretty much set him up to be awesome and powerful in this world, which keeps him humble, at least.
The story is an uncomplicated, cheerful “let’s hang out in a fantasy world” affair, with bright and simplistic art to go with it. The characters are all basically nice people basically being nice to each other. Scene breaks contain cute chibi eye-catches. There are Guild sign-ups and monster quests and magical aptitude tests, and it’s all played completely straight. It’s like Smartphone has no idea it’s part of a genre that’s done this a million times before, and that oblivious, sincere enthusiasm makes it far more charming than it has any right to be.
Best of all, the series doesn’t treat its female characters like perpetual damsels or sex toys. I watch every LN adaptation permanently on the defensive, ready for the inevitable accidental groping, panty shot, zoom-in boob jiggle, or at the very least some ridiculous revealing costumes. This premiere contained none of that. (Pardon me while I weep with both joy and sadness, because we really need to raise our bar a little higher than this.)
Twins Elze and Linze are capable, friendly adventurers, and both Touya and the camera (mostly) treat them with respect. Touya does enter their lives by helping them out of a tight spot, and they appreciate it, but it’s also pretty clear they didn’t need him to step in, either. When they go adventuring, all three contribute to the battle and hold their own. The most fanservice-y element in the premiere is an eye-catch where the girls are looking through a Gate portal and Touya blushes because their butts are sticking out the other side, but the chibi art style isn’t sexualized, so it’s more silly than skeevy.
Of course, Smartphone is still an isekai LN, so it’s jam-packed with alarm bells and future concerns, like the cover art that shows Touya surrounded exclusively by women, or the fact that he’s Super-Special-Awesome at magic, like golly gee, all the ladies are soooo impressed, you’re sooooo amazing already, there’s just no way any of these capable women around you could possibly hold a candle to you! There’s also a fashion-obsessed older man who’s a little creepy, and while he isn’t exactly queer-coded, I could still see it making folks uncomfortable.
There are other concerns as well from a narrative perspective. As much as I appreciate a story about nice people being nice to each other, you really need to have strong characters or a particularly unique atmosphere to make that work for a full series. So far Smartphone is pleasant but flat, with little to make it stand out beyond its sincerity and general friendliness. Still, if it can develop some proper story arcs for its characters or expand its world into something more than run-of-the-mill European FantasyLand, it could wind up being an enjoyable watch.
If you’re bored to death by the isekai genre, this one isn’t going to do anything for you. But if you’ve always liked the idea of it and just couldn’t get into previous series because of all the rampant sexism or jerk protagonists, this premiere might be worth a try. I’m thoroughly jaded by LN adaptations (I got snookered by the WorldEnd premiere last season and am still recovering from that particular disappointment), so I don’t know if I’ll come back for the next episode. But the fact that I’m even considering it speaks more highly of this one than I’d ever expected. Color me pleasantly surprised indeed.
Read the ANN Preview Review Guide.
Dee (@joseinextdoor) is a nerd of all trades and a master of one. She has bachelor’s degrees in English and East Asian studies and an MFA in Creative Writing. To pay the bills, she works as a technical writer. To not pay the bills, she devours novels and comics, watches far too much anime, and cheers very loudly for the Kansas Jayhawks. You can hang out with her at The Josei Next Door, a friendly neighborhood anime blog, and support her work through PayPal.
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