What’s it about? Childhood friends Taichi and Rin find themselves transported to a fantasy world, where they vow that they’re going to survive together. With magic potential off the charts, they’re conscripted as apprentices to the powerful witch Lemiya. Elsewhere, sinister forces are on the hunt for the two teenagers.
“This show feels like a throwback to when the isekai genre didn’t suck” is, I’m informed, not a sufficient review. But damned if it doesn’t pretty much sum up my feelings about Isekai Cheat Magicians pretty well. The show is rough around the edges visually, complete with big hair and wonky eye-to-face ratios straight out of 2004, but the story is fresh air after season after seasons of noxious incel pandering and slavery apologism.
For one thing, it’s great to see an isekai with a female (co)lead, something which fell by the wayside as shoujo isekai fell out of fashion. While Taichi is clearly the story’s Chosen One, Rin also fits into the wish-fulfillment role with her own off-the-charts magic potential.
That would be enough for me to call this a step above a lot of offerings in the genre right now, but the show actually caught me off guard by going a step further: after Taichi tries to sacrifice himself in a show of macho protectiveness, Rin gets angry and makes him promise that they’ll work together instead.
It’s a good sign of the show’s dedication to actually treating them as equals, and I started to warm toward the two’s give and take. They seem to harbor a mutual but awkwardly unspoken crush, and they tease each other without it tipping too badly into two-dimensional tsundere antics.
Childhood friend romances are extremely played out, but the understatedness of their bond and the fact that Taichi doesn’t fall on any women’s boobs as a cheap conflict generator made them come across much more endearingly.
We’re also introduced to several cool ladies besides Rin before the episode is over: pint-sized fire mage Mejilla, sword fighter Myura, and their magic teacher Lemiya. The last is dressed in a decidedly cheesecakey outfit, and the episode’s cold open shows a warrior in absolutely ridiculous titty armor, but the other three women are all wearing practical outfits that make sense for what they do.
It at least gives the impression that the designers thought about where it would make sense to put their fanservice in, and if you’ll excuse me I have to make the seasonal trip to the underground caverns to retrieve the much-battered bar.
There’s still a lot of expositional clunkiness, with Taichi making the standard “wow it’s just like an RPG” comments and bystanders conveniently calling out a character’s name when they appear onscreen for the first time, but by the end of the episode I was charmed enough to stick around for another episode–slightly stiff design and all. Ten years ago this would have been a dime-a-dozen series, but right now it’s an appealing fantasy comfort food.