I’m Standing on a Million Lives – Episode 1

By: Vrai Kaiser October 2, 20200 Comments
A witch and a warrior looking toward the camera

What’s it about? Three teenagers—athletic model Shindou Yuu, sullen loner Yotsuya Yuusuke, and nervous wallflower Hakozaki Kusue—have been summoned to a mysterious RPG world and given a quest they must complete before they can return to Tokyo. If one of them dies it’s only a few seconds until they revive; but if they all die, it’s game over. Unfortunately for them, they’re not great at this adventuring thing.

I just watched fifteen minutes of entertaining television. I know, I’m as shocked as you.

While titles like the uneven but often clever Last Period and the “frankly unreasonably good, considering” Princess Connect! have found success with video game-inspired fantasy settings, the subgenre of video game fantasy isekai is painfully overplayed. Its ranks are glutted with titles swollen with self-importance even if they claim to be telling jokes. I cannot tell you how refreshing it is just to come across a title that’s willing to let its newbie heroes suck at their job rather than automatically being level 99 death machines.

Yuusuke squinting and swiping at the air. subtitle: You can control it like a smartphone
Yuusuke mid-attack, a goblin breaking his sickle with a club. subtitle: Ah! It broke!

Male lead Yuusuke (who gets classed as a farmer by a roulette spin) also has an advantage over most of his genre contemporaries in that I am not actively rooting for him to die in a gruesome manner. He’s bitter about living in Tokyo and spends day after day playing games in the dark while looking sadly at an old photo of friends he presumably moved away from.

His disaffected attitude feels grounded without dipping into the misogynistic proto-incel traits that have been all the rage lately. He’s a depressed teenager who’s been offered the chance to literally escape into a video game, and he’s kind of a jerk, but I like him enough to want to see him overcome those flaws.

The two female leads are also interesting, if somewhat stock at the moment. We get a few hints of their fairly new friendship outside of their relationships to Yuusuke, and while I can’t exactly say Yuu having a floor-length sorcerer dress is practical, there’s no fanservice double-standard in the costuming. My biggest concern with them crops up in the other five minutes of the episode.

Yuu and Kusue talking with a text box on the bottom of the screen. subtitle: This is impossible. I can't fight anything.

Million Lives seems to have a bit of a tone problem, you see. Its comedy scenes clip along at a lively pace, poking fun at all the clunky annoyances of RPG design and occasionally just throwing something weird at the wall to see if it sticks. But then the end of the episode introduces a monster that bites off Kusue’s arm and eats Yuu, leaving her unable to regenerate outside of it and rejoin the party.

The sudden swerve into horror is jarring, and while it’s not gory, the fact that only the show’s two girls get victimized left a bad taste in my mouth. It also marked a shift in the episode from fun teamwork dynamics to Solo Manly Hero Yuusuke going off to power up and protect the Wimmenfolk.

Yuusuke kicking toward the camera against a bloodred moon

It’s still entirely possible that the show intends to push back against his misanthropic tendencies and keep encouraging the team to work as equals, as Kusue clearly wants to help even if she’s also scared of fighting. However, the genre’s track record has left me broken and cynical.

I’m gonna give it two more episodes to turn things around and balance its shenanigans-to-edgelordery ratio, but part of me is already bracing to be disappointed.

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