What’s it about? Akira Oono is about to start a new chapter of his life. After developing and supporting INFINITY GAME, his own MMORPG, he has finally decided to put the project to bed. As he takes the servers offline at midnight, he gets transported into a fantasy world and finds he’s taken on the appearance of Kunai Hakuto, the demon lord boss of INFINITY GAME. He befriends Aku, a downtrodden young girl from a nearby village, and sets out for an adventure.
CONTENT WARNING for man-handling, NSFW screenshots
Dude on his computer at midnight? Check
Playing an MMO? Check.
Overpowered strength and magic from level 1? Check.
Contrived world mechanics based on PC gaming? Check.
A waifish sidekick? Check.
This sure is an isekai anime.
Demon Lord, Retry! doesn’t bother hiding its pedigree at all as Kunai summons up the very fantasy-world skill “Administrator Privileges” and proceeds to use “skill points” to enable his abilities in-world. Also not helpful is the very obvious keyboard he summons whenever he navigates menus to source his newfound powers.
But generic elements aren’t necessarily that bad. What matters is what Demon Lord does to make itself stand out, and for better or worse, the show does so in some very obvious ways.
Starting off, Kunai’s character design is kind of refreshing. He’s not some punkass kid granted a wealth of unending power–he’s a gruff-looking, chain-smoking mob boss with a penchant for magical throwing knives. He’s unbelievably extra and exactly the character a 12-year-old would like to be when they grow up. Most interesting, Kunai’s “Demon Lord” powers could pose a danger to his humanity.
Unfortunately, that’s about the only good way this show stands out.
The most glaring issue Demon Lord, Retry! faces is just how low budget it looks. While it’s yet to be the worst thing I’ve ever seen, I’ll at least say My Sister, My Writer at least looked kinda alright the first episode before it became a wild exercise in animated abstract art.
Here, starting with the typographical choices used for the fake title screen of INFINITY GAME and the bare bones UI that Kunai navigates in-world, there’s just a veneer of cheapness to everything about this show.
When he faces off against the Greole, a low-resolution behemoth with a complete lack of characteristic aside from “big and bad,” Kunai blasts him off with a series of swift magical blows and sends him flying like he’s on a zipline.
When Kunai runs through the forest, he runs like the road runner. His feet are a blur as he runs in place, the poorly drawn forest background passing by. And why do they do it twice in one episode? Is this going to be a thing?
The biggest reason why Kunai and Aku run so much in the episode is because the two talk as they travel. With so much first episode exposition, Demon Lord appears to have needed some filler animation while the two yakked it up, but all it did was set a surreal tone to the animation and foreshadow some clunky storytelling ahead.
I’m further frustrated by the fact that we know the animators are capable of drawing him running normally, as the two run on into the night at the end of the episode.
What’s more distressing is Akira and Kunai’s voice actor. Though Demon Lord, Retry! cast Kenjiro Tsuda (the voice of Seto Kaiba in Yu-Gi-Oh!) for the main role, his acting seems rather forced. He sounded relatively normal as he played Akira, but once transformed into the Demon Lord, Tsuda’s acting becomes forced, gruff, and kinda wooden. It’s as if he was asked to overplay his “bad boy” voice once transformed to sound older and edgy, but he isn’t quite there yet.
All of this leaves me wondering if Akira was a one-man developer for INFINITY GAME and his game looked and sounded just as bad as this animation. Is this all some elaborate joke to say his game looked and played like a PS1 bargain bin game?
Kunai has thus far been courteous to Aku and doesn’t seem to be hampered by any kind of debilitating social awkwardness to feed into his antics. The show’s opening, however, alludes to Kunai manhandling an as-of-yet-unintroduced character, so that was an immediate flag to warn of what might be to come.
Though I am not totally familiar with this show and the light novel it is based on, I also checked to see if Kunai ends up marrying his child companion and I see no such reference, so viewers are in the clear for that so far.
Aku, who has a limp, has so far been a determined, but overall helpless, character. She survived on the margins of society until Kunai came to literally scoop her out of her hard-knock life. She’s been nothing more than a fount of expository knowledge for Kunai so far, but you can’t help but root for her to hopefully find and live her best life, whatever that might end up being
Character designs also appear to be on the conservative side in terms of fan service, at least for all except Mikan, but there’s a distinct lack of theme to unite the main cast. Individually they wouldn’t look so bad, but line them up and you can’t help but feel this is going to be a hot mess.
With all that can potentially go wrong, Demon Lord, Retry! faces a Sysphean challenge to being “a good anime” by my measure, so I’m not really going to stick around to see where it goes