#1 Absurdly long title
#2 Basic isekai shenanigans
Death March is, as you might expect, an anime adaptation of a light novel. Its story stars a programmer called Ichirou “Satoo” Suzuki who winds up being teleported to the fantasy world of his company’s upcoming MMORPG; seemingly for no real reason. He just goes to bed, opens his eyes, and suddenly there is an interface and 300 lizardmen on his ass.
The setting is kind of a weak showing, considering 2018 is also giving us Goblin Slayer, two new seasons for both Overlord and Sword Art Online, How Not To Summon a Demon Lord, and that slime anime I still need to watch. It’s a busy year for isekai.
Death March takes the Log Horizon angle where main character Satoo has an interface and gameplay mechanics, while the world around him is very much real. For example, NPCs are actually alive and thus capable of complex interactions. It’s all fine, but nothing you haven’t seen a dozen times before in the last 5 years alone.
The escapist fantasy of living in a swords & sorcery fantasy world is inherently appealing, but so explored that I feel you need to do something special to still get by. You need an interesting world and characters, or interesting twists on the familiar formula. You could explore the isekai concept from a bold new direction or at the very least have some novel gimmicks to set yourself apart. Death March instead compiles some generic fantasy tropes and fills up the cast with simplistic stereotypes. It makes 0 effort to even seem like it might be a fresh story.
#3 Satou is Kirito, but worse
Death March wastes no time at all when it comes to establishing itself as a power fantasy. Satoo causes a bit of an accident early on that leads to him becoming level 310, maxing out every stat, filling up his inventory with rare loot, and earning enough skill points to effectively max out any talent he gets. Satoo is going to be the best and most powerful dude no matter where he goes. Combined with how quickly he picks up and masters new skills, he’s kind of a mix of Sword Art‘s Kirito and the protagonist from Re:Monster.
He’s also the most token nice guy around. He befriends a female mage who helps him get into town, where he then ends up freeing a bunch of female slaves that all stick around in his permanent party. The cast introduces new girls so quickly and often that it was actually overwhelming. Some of them are also just off-putting, like this 13-year-old with a bust size that is… problematic. And while not all these women are sexually available, the hunt for the protagonist’s penis is very much ongoing.
Satoo is just boring. His very presence immediately deflates the tension from the plot and the way he goes about picking up new skills makes him more suited for some kind of parody on isekai. Since this is a serious story, you might as well watch the first 15 minutes until Satoo hits level 310. You can then close the video content in the knowledge that the protagonist has overcome all the challenges he was ever going to face.
#4 Where’s my tension?
To harp on that point a little more, I want to add that Death March is really tame with how challenging it wants to make the world. It’s like a tabletop Game Master that is still throwing basic goblins at the players 7 sessions in. After that initial event that skyrockets Satoo’s level, everything he comes across is pathetically weak and often resolved without his input.
At one point he comes across a dragon, which is promptly killed by random soldiers an absolute fraction of his level. Or how about when the town is attacked by a mighty swarm of… ants. Most of an episode is dedicated to an invasion of level 3 flying ants, which Satoo hardly even acknowledges. Likewise, most of the heroes he comes across are like level 20 or 30; even a giant Demon said to be the buddy of the big, evil demon lord ends up being barely level 70.
Even non-combat challenges pose absolutely 0 threat because skills unlock when they become relevant and our Kirito look-alike has more points to invest than the game can actually count. A scene I took particular offense to happens when Satoo is locked in a conversation with a merchant, who rightfully points out that he needs a horse. In that very moment, MC-kun unlocks the estimation skill, glances a horse through the window, and immediately knows the price for it. This allows him to buy it for a fair price without looking like a rookie.
This even reaches self-defeating and childish heights. This could only be made interesting if the story had some revelation along the lines where Satoo is confronted with how recklessly he squandered his talent points. One of the slave girls he rescues knows how to control horses, for example. Instead of letting her do just that, he only has her do it for just long enough to pick up the skill himself. After that, she becomes so useless I honestly forgot she was even there.
The most childish example happens when one of the girls reveals that she can play music. At which point Satoo unlocks the musician skill and immediately maxes it in an attempt to outperform her. This is a grown man who seemingly has so little self-confidence that he can’t bear the thought of a little girl having a talent that he doesn’t.
#5 A lack of actual ideas
Death March distinctly feels like the author started writing at some point with absolutely zero planning and only the vaguest of direction in mind. I say this, because 12 episodes in—and with little chance of a continuation—there is no objective for the characters and the world itself feels poorly established.
A major point that confuses me still is that the world is first established to be that of the video game our protagonist was working on. Complete with bugs and recently-finished mechanics he literally just implemented. This very much suggests the experience is a dream, but later encounters suggest the world is real. In fact, it’s implied that those who pass away in the real world reincarnate into this fantasy world. These ideas appear entirely incompatible. If both apply, that means everybody that ever died reincarnated in a buggy WIP MMO that wouldn’t be developed until the early 21st century.
Besides that massive hurdle, there is the other issue of the characters not having much to do. It very heavily suggests that the protagonist must slay a demon lord preparing to resurrect into the world. If that is the actual intent, then this writer is playing the long game. We barely get away from the starting town throughout these 12 episodes. Most of the story revolves around distractions and standalone events, which only incidentally reference that there might be a Demon Lord coming… sometime.
The actual finale of the show is also bizarrely placed. It just has Satoo solving a minor problem for newly-introduced characters, which doesn’t even come close to topping some of his prior achievements. Then the show closes out and that’s a wrap for this anime. What a half-assed way to conclude a series that was already low on ambition,
10 thoughts on “5 Reasons To Skip: Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody”
I was planning on watching this soon, but after reading your post…I might skip it.
There are a few things to like in this show and I have to admit it got a few laughs here and there. The fact it has these occasional good moments just makes me wish all of the above was done better.
I actually stopped reading the light novels at volume 3 because it was fairly meandering and pointless. I get that this one is meant to be more of an isekai travel story with Satou and friends visiting the sites and solving problems rather than a driven story but there’s only so much pointless antics I can take and that lack of direction was hurting. I did try the anime and mostly just found it dull. They actually managed to make it less interesting than the books were (which is a shame because book 1 at least had some decent moments).
Anime like these always leave me curious if the books were better, yet also disinterested in actually pursuing them. Thanks for letting me know I am not missing much by skipping the light novels.
No question that this is an awful adaptation, stopping right before the main character is forced by his public actions to become a low ranked noble. The entire story is basically a JRPG, the party goes from town to town helping people and defeating the volume’s current villain and then moving on to the next town.
Actually it’s explained why the world’s interface looks like that, and it’s because the interface is something Satou’s mind came up with as thousands of his souls were combined into the body we see in the anime.
People can reincarnate into and be summoned to that world as well. So both exist. And the multiverse exists within that universe as well. There is not one single earth but thousands.
I also forgot that the story is just going around for an isekai vacation. The MC just stumbles into saving the world.
I’m not defending it, I think the series is a thing you would get into once and then after you’re done you realize how bad it really is.
It’s worth watching just because. But Satou is a prick. I can’t help but hate him even when he’s doing the right thing. That being said, I don’t know, I still like it overall and have watched the series at least 8 or 9 times. But come on dude… like most of these shows, I’d hook up with at least half of them. What’s wrong with him? Douche…
I think the Anime didn’t do a great job, but it was enough to make me, albeit only during COVID boredom, start reading the series.
As far as author writing skills / translation goes I don’t think Light Novels generally rank very high (with Ascendance of a Bookworm as a major exception) but this one actually ranks, from what I’ve read, on the higher end, better written than Arifureta, which has a good world but the author randomly drags things out needlessly, & around the writing quality of Didn’t I Say To Make My Abilities Average In The Next Life, which is one of the best written I’ve read.
The author has a well built world, with complex systems & dynamics that stay consistent & don’t “break the rules of the world” which is rare, especially in Light Novels, ESPECIALLY in Isekai. It’s something that really takes me out of stories like So I’m A Spider because they just change the way things work because they changed their mind or the previously established rules or events get in the way, or maybe the author just forgot & couldn’t be bothered to keep notes or check or get an editor.
As far as your assertion that they established that everyone who dies gets reincarnated there… They didn’t… At all… Not even close…
In the books, & even in the Anime they establish that there are 2 ways that people from another world, our world, end up there, they can be summoned, like the heroes, or they can be reincarnated as babies with their memories from their previous life intact. Both of which are rare. In the books more is explained about that at a later point.
Satou is strange because he doesn’t fit either category. In the summoned scenario people are sucked out of our world as they are, with their clothes & effects & body as it was when they left our world, Subaru style. In the reincarnation scenario they die, they know they die, & are reborn as babies. Satou was, instead, dropped into this world, that seems like a cross between the two games he was currently working on, with a video game like menu & a aged-down body that resembles him as a teenager. Did he get sucked into a world he created? Is the game resembling this world because the people who created it were shown glimpses of it by some God or godlike entity? Or is it the classic basis for reincarnation that has mostly been forgotten; the idea that there are only a set number of souls so when we die we come back as something else, maybe a fly, then die & come back as a goat, then some mold, then bacteria, then as a human again, the idea of remembering your past life has been attributed usually to there being not many steps between human lives or really strong personality that somewhat survived reincarnation.
I think the Anime was just okay, but the story gets more exciting as it goes, but we’d probably need another somewhat dragging, though not as much as the 1st, season before it was really marketable so I doubt it’ll get more
I have received other comments over the years clarifying that I am missing context from the original novels. This is strictly a review of the anime, as I still have not read the source material. Any comments I make about its story or the author are merely extrapolations of the impressions I got from this anime adaptation.
Take the reincarnation argument. The way you describe it sounds far more interesting than how it is presented in the anime. Your explanation suggests that the world resembles that of the games Satoo was developing, whereas the anime implies it literally is the world of his game. That’s why the notion of people being able to reincarnate into it felt absurd. If the books have a better explanation; great! A shame that this anime didn’t properly adapt it.