A Returner’s Magic Should Be Special – Episode 1

By: Chiaki Hirai October 8, 20230 Comments
A man with scars and green hair holds out his hands to cast a spell as he bathes in light

Content Warning: Mass death, classism, rote fantasy tropes

What’s it about? At the end of a phyrric war in The Shadow World, only six warriors survived. More than 150 million fought and died trying to defeat the dark and evil dragon, Boromir Napolitan (that’s actually his name) and 99 percent of the world’s mages are dead. Desir Herrman contemplates his next steps in life after a ten year war that cost him everything he has ever held dear when he realizes Napolitan isn’t quite vanquished yet. The six heroes perish in an explosion of mana as the dead dragon’s heart ignites. Desir suddenly finds himself 13 years in the past, back as a freshman at Hebrion Academy.

Returner’s Magic wants to be very serious about slaying a great evil dragon with swords and magic. Our heroes would look great in the most generic knockoff copy of Dragon Quest. There’s Rafaello, the shield boy who protecs! Priestess girl, she’s here to pray! Noble magic man, he wears glasses! Warrior guy, can’t actually talk in full sentences, has an axe! 

Combining their powers, they manage to strike down Boromir Napolitan (again, that’s really his name), and now that the dust is settling they are talking about their next steps to bury their dead, memorialize and pray for them. Desir has lost his lover and is overcome with hollowness knowing there’s nobody and nothing waiting for him. Characters talk about rebuilding the League of Western Kingdoms and the mages at the Magic Tower.

A blonde woman who is a knight, a middle aged mage man, a young looking pink priestess, a gruff warrior guy, a shield guy
Yup, that’s some heroes alright

None of this means anything to me. 

All I need to know is that Boromir Napolitan (I really will have to emphasize, that’s really his name) was in the shadow realm, and he needed to be beat up or the whole world was going to be overtaken by some kind of miasma. All the kingdom names, all the heartstring-tugging nods to lost comrades-at-arms and lovers, all of it comes off sounding trite and stereotypical as we spend the first half of a cold open acting like any of this stuff matters to anyone.

It’s like watching one of those really fake epic movies in a show like “Titanic in Space,” but it’s actually the show.

Desir, a scarred young man looking dejected: This hellscape has taken too much from us.
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And then halfway through, we get to the gist of it. Desir gets thrown back in time to the first day of school so that he can relive the next 13 years knowing the horrifying war that’s coming, and I’m guessing he’s now going to save all the people he cares about using what he now knows (primarily the big fact that Boromir Napoli—goddamn, that’s really his name—tan will literally explode and kill everyone when he dies).

The animation quality is… serviceable. There’s a bad 3D CGI dragon, which might be warning for what’s to come in terms of monster design, and many of the shots have a sparkle filter to spice up the framing. It’s fine.

Nothing is falling apart, but that’s mostly because the showrunners were able to recycle some cuts three or four times, which either points to them really wanting to emphasize Desir’s girlfriend is dead or that this wife guy really has nothing much else going for him aside from that.

A close up of Desir looking determined: I won't let that tragedy repeat itself.
Dear reader, save yourself. Don’t be like me. Watching something else.

Far as narrative issues go, Desir being a commoner in a world where nobles are given preferential treatment makes this story about classism, but will it actually say something? The classism angle can just as likely be just a convenient ploy to make sure Desir can’t just stand up at school and yell “Nobody panic, I’m from the future,” and gives him a measure of scrappiness in his fight for survival.

More than likely, the ingrained power structures are more likely going to be a convenient contrivance to the story more than anything. Give this show a few episodes and he’ll probably have mostly won over his classmates, including his noble-born girlfriend to be, with his unflappable charm of main character energy.

A blue haired noble ass hole seen from below: Man, you're a commoner?!
Man, you’re a snobby aristocrat rival/villain in an anime?!

The premise and characters are so melodramatic and rote, I can’t really say any of this is riveting entertainment. But hey, at least Desir isn’t reborn from modern day Japan or something. That would otherwise check off all the boxes.

I guess if you’re really, really wanting a high fantasy story about magic and swords that isn’t about some dude from Japan explaining why curry rice is miracle food or something, you could watch this, or you can have good taste and go watch something better.

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