Mikako KomatsuYusuke KobayashiKaori IshiharaMinami Takahashi
Apparently, Disillusioned Adventurers Will Save the World
Also known as: Ningen Fushin no Boukenshatachi ga Sekai o Sukuu Youdesu
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2023
Writer/director: Itsuki Imazaki
Original creator: Shinta Fuji
Actor: Kaori Ishihara, Mikako Komatsu, Minami Takahashi, Sayaka Kikuchi, Sayumi Watabe, Shun'ichi Toki, Yusuke Kobayashi
Keywords: anime, fantasy
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=24632
Website category: Anime 2023
Review date: 2 January 2024
ningen fushin
...or, as Crunchyroll calls it, Ningen Fushin: Adventurers Who Don't Believe in Humanity Will Save the World. Perhaps it's some kind of weird compromise between the English and Japanese titles, since Crunchyroll (unbelievably) don't let you search on a show's Japanese name.
This isn't a particularly great show, but it's quite an interesting one. The problem with many fantasy/isekai anime (and plenty of others too, frankly) is that they're empty comfort food about wish-fulfilment protagonists who get world-breaking superpowers in ep.1 and never face a serious threat thereafter. These shows are just soothing marshmallow nonsense and of course all the girls fall in love with the hero.
This show is the opposite of that. Its heroes are messed up, initially bitter and not always particularly likeable. They all got betrayed before the show began. They think their lives were ruined. They meet each other by chance and form a party on the grounds that at least they're all in the same boat and aware of each other's extreme trust issues. Thereafter, the show keeps drawing comparisons between them and the show's antagonists, who will usually have had similar experiences and disillusionments. The difference is whether or not the paths you choose are merely self-destructive or harmful to others.
Our four heroes are:
1. NICK, an orphan whose parents were killed in front of him and got adopted by an adventurer. He then got kicked out of his mentor's party, whereupon his girlfriend dumped him because she'd only been pretending to love him and had only been treating him as an income stream. Nick now spends all his money on idol fandom and merchandise. He's extremely good at almost everything except magic, but I can't remember him ever smiling again and he's downright insulting in his determination to look all gift horses in the mouth.
2. TIANNA was an aristocrat at magic school until her fiancee dumped her and had her disgraced and expelled. She's not a bad person, but she's a bit chilly and shows absolutely no signs of trying to fix the gambling habit she's picked up.
3. SEM used to be a priest until he got defrocked after a false accusation of paedophile assault. He's now a womaniser (while being scared of underage girls). He still has a priest's outlook, though, and he's the party's most principled, thoughtful member. He's also the only one with social skills.
4. KARAN is the warmest, nicest member of the party and the only one who never does anything questionable. (She goes around harmlessly eating in lots of restaurants. She's also a bad drunk in ep.1, but I don't think that ever resurfaces.) She's a super-strong but slightly stupid dragonkin who believes it's her destiny to support a hero. She thought she'd found one. This went horribly wrong... but this hurts twice as much because part of her still loves him, even after what he did.
In principle, these people's stories could be called heartwarming. They're helping to heal each other's emotional damage. In practice, though, we're seeing a lot of evidence that the world is shitty and that people will hurt each other.
The worldbuilding is distracting. In principle, it's a standard fantasy environment with adventurers who form parties to go dungeon-bashing and defeat monsters. They have character classes like fighter, cleric, magic-user, etc. In practice, though, it's a grab-bag of whatever the writers feel like. Sometimes we're in a high-tech environment with lost technology. Sometimes we're in the American Wild West. Sometimes we're in a completely modern casino. More often than not, it's indistinguishable from today's Japan, e.g. its copy-pasted idol industry and quintessentially Japanese idol fandom. Theoretically, the show has a justification for this. (Its world used to be much more advanced, but that civilisation fell and we're seeing the more primitive society of centuries later.) I'd have liked this more if they'd made any effort whatsoever to portray this, e.g. hints of a post-apocalypse environment in the background of day-to-day scenes, or forgotten relics on the horizon.
In practice, to me it just feels like laziness. I'd go so far as to call it a category error to try to tell fantasy stories without some kind of setting that supports fantasy. That needn't exclude urban fantasy, magical realism, etc. What I dislike is letting the fantasy genre get worn down through overfamiliarity into a bunch of RPG/gaming cliches that can get bolted on to even a kitchen sink. (These days, that's often specifically "online/computer games", to the extent of pop-up stat screens, characters knowing their own skill and stat numbers, etc.)
Also, the mathematics bare-knuckle challenge felt a bit contrived to me. It's distinctive, though, and leads to interesting story beats. I'll give it that.
Basically, though, I approve of this show. I like the way they don't forget about their own premise, but instead keep digging away at it via the antagonists. I also like the fact that the show's setting out to make the audience feel a little uncomfortable, at least from time to time... but I can't imagine it becoming a runaway hit and I don't expect it to get a second season.