As a Reincarnated Aristocrat, I’ll Use My Appraisal Skill to Rise in the World – Episode 1

By: Caitlin Moore April 10, 20240 Comments
Young Ars imagining leading a charging army

What’s it about? In his previous life, Ars was an ordinary Japanese office worker who enjoyed playing video games in his meager spare time until the day he keeled over from a heart attack. Now, he is the first son of an aristocratic family in a politically unstable empire. At just three years old, Ars has a secret: he can see other people’s stats. Could his insight into other people’s talents and aptitudes be key to bringing his nation stability?

Strap in, everyone, because we have a lot to unpack here.

a shocked man

First off, I want to say that I enjoyed As a Reincarnated Aristocrat, I’ll Use My Appraisal Skill to Rise in the World (good lord that’s a long title) more than most series of its ilk. Its writing is decent, and it doesn’t lean too heavily on its gimmick in place of building a believable universe. The director, Kato Takao, has been in the game for a long time, and it shows in the presentation. The storyboarding and animation are both quite strong, with none of that detested glow filter that has been my personal nemesis ever since I first noticed it. The big fight scene at the episode’s climax actually has a sense of weight and physics, which is sadly remarkable in this day and age. Without investing deeper thought, this was actually a good premiere.

But around here, we invest deeper thought. Oh yes we do.

a grinning young Ars. "We've got wine and cake too!"
Wine, cake, and critical thinking!

First, let’s talk about the appraisal skill, which is a thorny concept in and of itself. As a teacher, I have mixed feelings about the idea of talent; it’s more or less impossible to fully suss out nature versus nurture, with how early certain things get set in the brain. Whether it’s genetics, early environmental factors, or a secret third thing, I believe that aptitude is a real element in human development. Most of Ars’ skill comes down to sniffing out aptitudes, as evidenced by him directing a spearman to become an archer when he notices that his score for handling a bow is much higher than for a polearm.

But that invites the question: what if someone’s “aptitude” doesn’t align with what they want out of life? Or if it’s an undervalued skill, like cleaning? The guy he finds picks up a bow and instantly hits the bullseye multiple times, but talent doesn’t work like that; even the most naturally gifted must put in work to build their skill. Plus, “archery” isn’t an ability in and of itself, but a combination of other, more basic skills such as upper body strength and hand-eye coordination. There’s also the potential for essentialism as well – Ars doesn’t appraise any women in the episode, and in fact, there isn’t a single named female character. It’s fraught with messy potential implications.

flustered young Ars. "D-don't think too much about that!"

Which brings us to Rietz, a 14-year-old former mercenary living on the streets who Ars encounters on a trip into town. Rietz is a Malkan, a dark-skinned racial minority, most of whom were imported as slaves from their native country. Because of his race, nobody will give him food or shelter, and he’s heading toward a slow death from starvation or exposure. When Ars examines him, he realizes that Rietz’ stats are exceptional, and tries to convince his father to take Rietz on as a retainer.

Rietz seems like a sweet boy, and I like him a lot as a character. I commend As a Reincarnated Aristocrat for having the guts to show a person who would still face discrimination in many parts of the world, including Japan, rather than a fantasy race with animal ears or whatnot. Still, it’s hard not to feel apprehensive about the racial politics here, especially when so many isekai regard slavery as totally swell and fine as long as you’re nice to the people you own like possessions. Maybe it’s partly because I’ve been rewatching Penguindrum, but my thoughts kept going back to wondering what would have become of Rietz if he didn’t have super-high stats. The idea that the excellent people within a marginalized class deserve to be elevated, without addressing the systemic problems that continue to affect those who haven’t been singled out for their talent, isn’t exactly the progressive ideal. Plus, he’s still in a position where he’s subservient to a light-skinned child, and in a butler outfit, no less.

Reitz explaning that he wandered the world before ending up here

There are a ton of wrong turns As a Reincarnated Aristocrat, I’ll Use My Appraisal Skill to Rise in the World could take. I want to give it the benefit of the doubt, but I’ve been hurt too many times before. However, if you want an isekai with racial politics that aren’t immediately noxious and strong visual presentation, this could be the one.

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