Isekai fantasy series have become incredibly common in recent years. This isn’t a bad thing however as the genre does fill a particular niche which isn’t dissimilar from “slice-of-life”.
By the Grace of the Gods is a new series for the Fall 2020 season that reflects the recent trends in the isekai genre. The genre has been slowly shifting from shounen-esque fights and power creep to more casual wish-fulfillment; which will definitely appeal to a certain type of fan.
By the Grace of the Gods
Studios: Maho Film
Director: Takeyuki Yanase
Premiere: October 4, 2020
By the Grace of the Gods began as a fantasy novel series by an author known under the pen-name Roy in 2014. A light novel series and manga premiered in 2017 with the aliased artists Rinrinra and Ranran respectively.
The light novel series is localized in English by digital distribution service J-Novel Club. The manga series is published in Japan and North America by Square Enix.
The series follows the adventures of a young boy named Ryoma Takebayashi who has spent the last three years living alone in the forest. Originally Ryoma was a middle-aged salaryman working for a “Black Company” (a term which refers to strict companies that border abusive).
However Ryoma died in his sleep and was met with three gods from another world, Gain the god of creation, Lulutia the goddess of healing and love, and Kufo the androgynous god of life. It’s there that Ryoma is informed of his passing and his new opportunity to be reborn.
The gods explain that when a soul travels to a new world it creates a temporary passage that allows them to siphon Earth’s unused magic power. Which to be frank is one of the best justifications I’ve heard for an isekai reincarnation; this is an exceptionally low bar but it deserves praise all the same.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an isekai series if Ryoma wasn’t granted a boon in the process. Due to his simply wanting to enjoy his fantasy life, the gods bless him with an aptitude for magic so he can try all of it at his leisure.
Rather than be reincarnated from a newborn, he’s given a body created by Gain the god of creation which is about eight years old. While his magic abilities are entirely new, his skills and attributes from his real life were amplified.
It’s unclear if this was an oversight or intention by the gods as it’s given him absurd resiliency and strength. In the real world, Ryoma was a stalwart and large man who endured parental abuse, practiced martial arts, and dealt with more abuse at his workplace.
When his top abilities are discovered, there aren’t actually any combat skills among his highest abilities. Instead his strongest skills are Housekeeping, Mental Pain Resistance, and Physical Pain Resistance; though this should just emphasize how resilient he is because his other attributes are strong.
However he’s now free from the abuses and rigors of the real world, and with his newfound freedom he decides to pick up a hobby to freely spend his time on. Thanks to a chance encounter with a slime, he decides to practice taming magic and research the slimes as a way to pass the time.
It’s from here that three years pass, Ryoma’s new body is now eleven years old and he has a menagerie of slimes. The slimes have had conductive research performed on them and he’s learned they evolve based on what they eat.
His use of slimes as a focus of taming research is part of where By the Grace of the Gods deviates from conventional isekai. The slimes are the star of the show as much as Ryoma is, and moreso than his strength, his modern day knowledge and innovation takes precedence.
By the Grace of the Gods is more about wish fulfillment than action-packed battles and overwhelming strength. It’s easy to consider the series may be boring if his strength can trivialize most things, but that’s also the point.
This series is about struggling, defeating powerful foes trying to harm your loved ones, or getting into a magical arms race with a rival. It’s about wish fulfillment, it’s about feeling pride vicariously through Ryoma’s accomplishments as he’s appreciated by those around him; it’s about comfort, not excitement.
A chance encounter with a traveling duke changes Ryoma’s life as he offers them medicine and shelter after they get injured in the forest near his home. No longer able to live completely isolated, Ryoma’s adventures in the world at large are just beginning with him and his army of slimes.
By the Grace of the Gods features a standout voice cast with Azusa Tadokoro voicing the reincarnated Ryoma. She’s known for her roles as Azusa Sasaki in Sound! Euphonium, Symboli Rudolf in Uma Musume Pretty Derby, and Kaoru Seta in BanG Dream!
Yuki Kuwahara costars as Eliaria Jamil, the daughter of the duke who becomes indebted to Ryoma thanks to his help in the forest. She’s largely known for her role as Tohru in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid.
Eliaria is posited as a potential love interest for Ryoma as they’re the same age, and also as an impressionable youth to reflect Ryoma’s positive influence on the Jamil household and world at large.
Other voice cast includes Daisuke Ono as Eliaria’s father Reinhart Jamil, Saori Hayama as his wife Elise, and Takehito Koyasu as Eliaria’s grandfather Reinbach.
The opening theme Yasashii Sekai (ヤサシイセカイ) is performed by lead actress Azusa Tadokoro. The theme is a laid back and light song with aspirational imagery montaged throughout.
The ending theme BLUE ROSE knows is the debut single of Thai YouTuber MindaRyn who was previously known for her covers of anime themes. BLUE ROSE knows has a heavier rock sound than the opening, and follows a comedic montage of beastkin adventurers who will likely premiere later in the series, one of them had already made an appearance by the end of episode three.
The art direction is cute and easily separates it from more action-oriented series. That isn’t to say cute art can’t be actiony or serious, but the art style suits the comforting tone that By the Grace of the Gods tries to set.
The largest complaint is (I know I say this a lot) the overuse of 3D animation where it’s jarring or inappropriate. One scene has Ryoma and the ducal family traveling by carriage, and the horses look like they were ripped from an early PS2-era game.
Ultimately By the Grace of the Gods is a comforting isekai series that will appeal to fans of the genre who like the cliche of an overly powerful protagonist; while also appealing to fans of fantasy and slice-of-life who want to experience a new world through Ryoma’s eyes as he leaves his mark on it.
The series doesn’t bring much new to the table that hasn’t been done before. But perhaps that’s what has kept the isekai genre so resilient: that even if it’s been done before, it’s entertaining nonetheless.
Images: Official Site