I have to admit that I expected a lot from you, Arifureta. It took some time for me to reflect on your first season because I haven’t felt this disappointed in a long time. I mean, I rooted for you throughout the entire summer season, and you just flamed out in the end.
Yet, despite your failures, you somehow managed to pull off what many anime titles can only aspire to do: you landed a second season. I can only begin to speculate as to whether you had this planned out from the start, or if your producers and fans believed in you enough to will it into reality. Nevertheless, you’ll be getting a second chance. So, please, try not to blow it this time.
Still, I’ll readily admit that I was entertained every week. In fact, I looked forward to seeing what happened next to Hajime and his harem of cute anime girls.
It led me to wonder, though: Is it weird to love and hate yet another carbon copy isekai anime in this day and age? Definitely! But, like many things in life, it’s complicated. After all, guilty pleasures are things that simply can’t be ignored. With this in mind, let’s break Arifureta down a bit to see why it’s a “so-bad-yet-so-good” kind of show.
Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest follows average high schooler Hajime who, through some totally unpredictable twist of fate, is transported to another world with his classmates. While fighting a dungeon monster and protecting his crush (and class idol) Kaori, he’s attacked from behind and sent plummeting to the depths of the dungeon. After getting an arm bitten off and fighting tooth and nail to survive, he frees a young vampiress from captivity, whom he names Yue.
Along the way, Hajime encounters a ditzy bunny girl named Shea, who’s hopelessly smitten with him after he saves her colony. After joining Hajime and Yue, they travel to a nearby village where Hajime bumps into his former teacher and some of his classmates. He reluctantly helps them in dealing with Tio Klaus: a dragon woman who embodies the “M” in masochist. Much to his chagrin, she falls in love with him too and joins the party on their journey.
In short, Arifureta tells the tale of an average high school student who’s bullied, and ultimately betrayed by his classmates. After adapting to his new surroundings and magical skills, he and his classmates learn of their purpose in the world and set off on their first mission. As they are about to escape a dangerous dungeon boss, Hajime is hit from behind and sent towards his death.
He returns with a badass attitude and immense powers, which he uses, in turn, to save his ungrateful classmates from certain doom. With the day saved and great power at his disposal, the boy is motivated to defeat the gods of this new world. With a new challenge in his sights, he rides off in an SUV, with a gaggle of women in tow, for a very long journey
Why Arifureta Sucks
In mid-2019, news stories began to arise, which hinted that the production for the Arifureta anime had run into problems between the staff series creator Ryo Shirakome. While the show was originally slated to premiere in 2018, unexplained circumstances initially pushed it to Summer 2019.
This was a sign of things to come.
The first thing that most viewers will notice about Arifureta is precisely how unimpressive it looks. There’s no denying that the CG effects are poor and aren’t as consistent with the show’s animation. Many of these scenes make the CG too noticeable and are supposed to be seamless, or at least not as noticeable to the naked eye. As a result, much of the show’s animation looks out of place sometimes because of how the images look mismatched with each other.
Beyond the show’s visual failings, it becomes apparent as to how badly it stumbles in crucial ways. Some isekai and VRMMORPG anime often give the protagonist an easy time in their otherworld adventure. Rather than showing their hard work and development, the plot basically hands them easy wins and skips to glorifying them as heroes. They’re anime power fantasies either used as a form of escapism to make us envious of the character. This ultimately comes at the cost of character depth and interesting story building. There are ways of twisting this trope around, with shows like That Time I Got Reincarnated into a Slime and Bofuri demonstrating how the formula can be reworked with unique characters and perspectives.
Arifureta primarily sticks to its edgelord guns. To be fair, many of these issues stem from its original light novel incarnation, upon which the show is based. Arifureta begins in medias res, and fails to really step back to deliver a coherent summary of the events so far until midway through the season. As such, viewers are left completely in the dark as to who Hajime really is, and how he dropped into the dungeon, to begin with. The result is a frustrating mess, which invites confusion and disrupts the general narrative flow.
While Hajime’s past life is revealed in later scenes, these moments come too little too late, which utterly ruins the emotional impact of Hajime’s journey. To add insult to injury, this could have been mitigated, had the team used the manga adaptation as a base, instead. RoGa, who wrote the manga, opted instead to begin with Hajime’s origins as a normal high school student. This allowed readers to better connect with him, and better appreciate his journey from average kid to gunslinging badass. Hajime’s worldview is better fleshed out, as a result, as more of his struggles are shown to the viewer earlier in the series.
Why Arifureta’s Also (Kind of) Good
Despite my misgivings, there’s a part of me that genuinely digs Arifureta. Well, kind of. It’s complicated.
The plot, while fairly basic, is the stuff of fantasies for every former gawky teenager. It’s a simple, satisfying revenge fantasy about the bullied becoming a badass gunsmith, who saves the world while being a total edgelord. As a result, Arifureta becomes a juvenile power fantasy that makes the protagonist look good, while embarrassing the characters that wronged him.
In short, it’s the type of stuff that fueled hundreds, if not thousands of LiveJournal screeds and Tumblr rants over the past twenty years. I realize that this may be just immature mean-spiritedness on my part, but there’s a side of me that wants to see Hajime succeed and go beyond everyone’s expectations of him.
He’s not a character you can root for entirely because of how crass he can be sometimes, but it’s satisfying to see him stand his ground, stick to his resolve, and help people out in their time of need. Though he does this to his own benefit, the anime shows that he still has a conscience to guide his morals after his life-changing experience. He grows as a person (slightly) as he learns to regain his trust through the new friends he meets. I can definitely respect this development.
Did I also mention that Hajime gets most of the girls in the end? Because he totally does.
That’s to say nothing of the show’s main theme song, FLARE by Void_Chors feat. Lio. It’s equal parts catchy and exciting, and really helps to set the tone for this gunslinging edgelord’s epic adventure. Or, in the common vernacular, it’s “a banger.”
What to Look Forward To
The announced second season may still be off, but Arifureta has given me time to think about the series as a whole. Perhaps I’ll check out the manga or light novel to see what Hajime will potentially face with his crew of cute girls. While the anime isn’t at all perfect, I can still accept it as a fun guilty pleasure to watch with the other shows I’m catching up on.
On the surface, Arifureta is another by-the-books isekai anime with another protagonist who charms every girl he meets. If you give the anime a chance, however, you’ll find an awesome story worth looking into and characters you’ll want to know more about.