Content warning: Graphic violence, slavery
What’s it about? A nameless man dies and is reincarnated… as a sword! After spending some time slaying monsters with the power of telekinesis, the nameless sword finds himself stuck in a forest until a slaver caravan gets ambushed by a monster nearby. Fran, one of the slaves in the caravan, manages to pull the sword out and kill the monster along with her captors before the two agree to strike it out on their own.
The start of Reincarnated as a Sword is a rushed exposition dump, and it’s unfortunately probably what this premiere needed. While it could have perhaps been done with a little more finesse, Ishihira Shinji of Heybot! and Talentless Nana fame managed to get the ball rolling with a taste of what’s to come in this adaptation of a somewhat popular isekai light novel.
Reincarnated as a Sword is one of those stories you hear about in concept and go, “yeah, okay, that sounds wild,” but it only takes a minute to realize it needs to do something more before people will inevitably get tired of the gimmick. What? The dude is a vending machine? Oh I see, he’s a dog. So she’s a spider, so what? Oh, they became a slime. Why do I care about this Sword?
This is a major flaw with the light novel, wherein it spends a good 100 pages in this 300-page first volume talking about
whale hunting one sword’s journey trying to level up by killing a bunch of monsters and absorbing their abilities with the power of telekinesis.
Yes, this story is about a dude who is now a sentient sword. But no, this is not remotely interesting, especially in an anime that’s going to be a full cour long. And even still, this inaugural episode devotes some three quarters of itself to showing how our plucky sword learns the ropes of being a living weapon in a whirlwind of violence against a myriad of monsters.
And while the monster slaying itself could have been summed up in a flashy montage, the monsters the blade kills also have some relevance to the plot eventually, as the sword absorbs skills and abilities that will come into play later in the series. Thus we are entreated to status screen after status screen of abilities, stats and menu settings that describe all the cool things our cool sword is learning and gaining as he slaughters increasingly impressive monsters.
That is to say, if staring at charts and tables weren’t annoying enough, Reincarnated as a Sword makes them hardly legible in the first place as the text whizzes by on screen. I feel like I’m supposed to be impressed by everything that’s going on, but really all I actually felt was the show runners trying to check off a list of plot relevant nods before running out of first episode.
And really, does any of this really matter at the end of the day?
No, no one cares what your sword’s attack value is, as long as the numbers are bigger than before. And as chipper as our protagonist sword is, it’s still kinda boring sitting through this for 15 minutes of screentime.
So why is Reincarnated as a Sword any good? Why do people want to watch this show?
Yes, I’m AniFem’s resident rabid catgirl-liker, but even putting that aside, Fran is precious and I love her and I think she’s the real reason why anyone would watch this show. And that is because the show immediately picks up once Fran is united with the sword and engages in expert battle as she twirls around and hacks and slashes a giant two-headed bear to death.
That said, it’s worth noting the fight scene is fairly gory, so if you can’t stand dismembered limbs and a bunch of defenseless slaves getting slaughtered, this show might not be for you.
Still, what I actually appreciate most about this show is its unabashed commitment to showing how easy it is to say “slavery is bad actually” in an isekai fantasy. It is a statement that has become increasingly rare and perhaps even refuted by a recent spate of shows that have protagonists happily forking over coin to buy women because, I don’t even know why.
Instead, we’re simply entreated to the slaver getting his neck snapped and having the contract burned to ash in the blink of an eye.
It’s that easy folks. No mealy-mouthed apologia. No epic quest to figure out how to free your slaves. No divine intervention. All it takes is just a swift sword of justice.
Only other thing I’ll flag is that the sword takes on kind of a fatherly relationship to Fran as her guardian, and his wish to protect the little catgirl sometimes borders on the obsessive in the novels. The anime seems to have toned that down a bit, but it might still be an issue as the series goes on, since the episode ends with him proclaiming no one will get close to Fran unless they go through him first.
And so, I have modest hopes for this show. I want to see cool battles, cute catgirl moments, and some decent comic relief from a mouthy sword. It’s just too bad this first episode feels more or less skippable due to the extended preamble on the sword. Here’s hoping that the rest of this show will make the cut, if you get my point.