What’s it about? Hajime Nagumo finds himself alone in the deepest levels of a dungeon. Not long ago, he and his entire class were transported to another world and granted special powers. Hajime received the power of transmutation, which makes him useless in combat and a liability for his party on raids. Now, he’s at a low level and surrounded by powerful monsters. They are the predators, he is the prey. Is it truly hopeless, or will he find a way to survive?
You know, I’m starting to notice a pattern in isekai series like Arifureta: From Commonplace to the World’s Strongest, where the main character is isolated and hated by his supposed allies. These protagonists, thrust into a non-combative support class, end up treated as useless losers by their supposed teammates. However, any semi-decent MMORPG player will tell you that support classes are vital to any high-level party.
Series like Arifureta appeal to a certain group of people that really, really like to imagine that everything wrong in their lives is through no fault of their own. No, it’s all sabotage because no one recognizes how good and useful they truly are. It’s definitely not because Hajime is so utterly lacking in creativity that he can’t seem to figure out a use for his transmutation skill other than transmuting “solid rock” into “pile of rocks”.
If only they had watched Fullmetal Alchemist. All this tragedy could have been avoided…
Luckily for Hajime, he does have an innovative idea after he gets his arm bitten off. If the monsters are going to bite him, he’ll bite them back! And, for some reason that really makes zero sense, eating monsters gives him new abilities, because I guess he has to gain skills somehow.
Wait, isn’t that the setup of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime?
Okay, all cruel mockery aside, the first episode of Arifureta is pretty much a disaster. In fact, it may very well go down as one of anime’s more infamously troubled productions. The anime adaptation was supposed to premiere over a year ago, in April 2018, but was reportedly pulled because the original creator was dissatisfied with it. The core staff was almost entirely replaced, and all the work that had been done was scrapped.
Well, I hope the author was happy, because I doubt anyone else really is. The episode starts straight to Hajime alone in the labyrinth, eschewing any sort of exposition or rising action. Instead, it jumps around in time, offering glimpses of how Hajime’s relationship with his teammates deteriorated.
Which was, once again, solely because the Chads with the good combat classes hated him for being weak. It’s a really clumsy way to set up an emotionally fraught, desperate survival situation. I don’t know Hajime. I don’t care about him. Unless I’m projecting myself onto his victimhood, it makes no difference to me whether he lives or dies.
To the episode’s meager credit, the victim complex doesn’t seem to be rooted in misogyny. It’s the other boys in his party who hate him, because he doesn’t adhere to their expectations; in fact, the one party member who warns him about their plans for him is a girl. If it were better written, it could be a fairly clever meditation about the nature of toxic masculinity and the expectations placed on men to be physically strong.
But let’s be real – this isn’t what Arifureta is about. Hajime isn’t going to prevail by using out-of-the-box thinking and peaceful diplomacy like his abilities would suggest; by the end of the episode, he figures out how to use his powers to make Gun. You know, a dick metaphor. And considering the opening starts with the image of a prone, naked blonde girl, I doubt it’s interested in breaking apart gender roles.
The first episode of Arifureta is so wild, it honestly kind of dips into good-bad. Its poorly-realized edgelord aesthetic, ridiculous writing, and lack of anything truly offensive make it so there’s not much left to do but… laugh at it. But, in a season as strong as this one, there are enough actually good series that you really don’t need to spend your time on this one.