What’s it about? 20-year-old office worker Sei finds herself suddenly transported to a fantasy world, summoned as the “holy maiden” who will save the world. Except the mages accidentally doubled their order, and summoned two young women from Earth… leaving Sei declared as the spare who must now make her own life in this new, magical world.
Isekai series have become associated with power fantasies, usually of the teen, cis, masculine variety. Saint’s Magic Power, with a listless twenty-something as its heroine, represents a different kind of fantasy, but it is one nonetheless: the power fantasy of getting a job without qualifications or a complicated interview process, of having a “knack” for a new skill and picking it up quickly, and not having to tie your hair back when you do lab work.
This is valid, frankly (except maybe that last one. Practice lab safety, even if it’s magic!), and I wish I could have enjoyed seeing Sei learn and thrive in the new gig she picks up at the magical research institute. But this premiere doesn’t do much to grab you. It tries, with slick atmospheric opening scenes and a snappy and sudden inciting incident. But any other sense of tension or engagement slips through its fingers. The pacing is erratic, swinging between swift montages and long scenes. Sei is flung into the new world and then cast aside unceremoniously, left to sit awkwardly while the mages infodump at her (and, by proxy, the audience). Two weeks sitting in a glorified hotel room flash past in two seconds, without the faintest glimpse at Sei as a character or the new place she inhabits.
Who is Sei, apart from an archetypal trodden-down young salaryperson? She doesn’t seem too distraught that she’s suddenly stuck in an alternate dimension, which raises some questions about her life on Earth. If she was distraught at any point, it’s breezed over in the flash-forward. We find out, a little haphazardly, that she likes herbs and gardening, a fun fact that gets her a job at the research institute but doesn’t really provide much characterization. I love the idea of watching a woman learn potion crafts and hum her way through her day job as a mage, but I’d love to actually understand and enjoy that woman as a character first.
I would have also liked to see more of a progression arc where Sei has to learn the ins and outs of potion-brewing, but of course, part of that power fantasy is that Sei is instantly good at magic. Better, even, than some of her co-workers who have been there for years! I understand the purpose of this, but from a storytelling point of view it’s… just kind of dull watching a character who doesn’t have to practice, learn, or fail at things.
Sei’s supernaturally good at potions, Sei’s supernaturally good at her new job. Maybe she is the saint of legend, and it was her they truly ought to have put in the spotlight as the holy maiden who will save the world! The end of the episode poses this as an intriguing twist, and I wish I cared enough to want an answer.
It’s good to see more lady-led isekai entering the anime scene, and it’s cool to see healing magic celebrated here rather than more traditionally badass strengths and art forms. I’d love to say that this is a case where “women’s work” is put on the pedestal, but all of Sei’s colleagues are dudes. Aside from a maid, Sei doesn’t speak a word to another woman all episode—and certainly not to her rival “holy maiden.” It’s disappointing, and I can only hope the dynamic between the two summoned saints—who, after all, have the most in common out of anyone here!—is explored further down the track. This first episode is underwhelming, though, so unless I hear that there’s some real magic happening, I probably won’t be coming back for another episode.