5 Reasons To Watch: Isekai Ojisan

#1 Fresh ways to subvert the isekai genre

17 years have passed since Yousuke Shibazaki fell into a coma. His family has largely forgotten about him, with only his nephew Takafumi showing up to visit him in the hospital. However, Yousuke has not wiled away those years asleep. He reveals to Takafumi that he was actually transported to a fantasy world where he had many adventures. A familiar setup, but Isekai Ojisan is not your ordinary fantasy isekai.

PHOTO: Takafumi visits Yousuke in the hospital.

There have been many attempts to “subvert” the isekai genre since its boom in popularity. Mostly by taking familiar tropes and storylines, but filtering them through edgy cynicism. The heroes are terrible people, the worlds miserable, violence and rape everywhere; you know the drill. Isekai Ojisan is not like that. Its world is as traditional as you can get, down to shamelessly plundering ideas from old RPGs. Yousuke is just a terrible match for this world and so they mutually reject one another.

Yousuke’s biggest problem is that, in the world of fantasy, everybody is always absurdly handsome. Sexy fantasy girls and bishounen heroes are the standard, so an everyday dude from Japan looks comparatively ugly. So ugly, in fact, that Yousuke is mistaken for a monster wherever he goes. People discriminate against him—even assault him without provocation—and have to be beaten up before they’ll even consider hearing him out. As such, Yousuke became wary of other people.

PHOTO: Yousuke in the fantasy word, holding two swords made of glowing energy.

This is a trend throughout the series. The tropes of fantasy anime and games all apply here, but either work directly against Yousuke or he fails to comprehend them. So much of the fun in Isekai Ojisan lies in how obviously wrong Yousuke’s decisions are to anyone who is even slightly genre savvy. It is painful watching the series set up these entirely typical scenarios with obvious hints scattered all over, only for Yousuke to miss every one of them. He blows off allies, ignores quests, brute forces puzzles. It is hilarious.

Worst of all is his obliviousness to romance. This being a trope-y isekai, Yousuke attracts quite some female interest over the course of his adventure. Except he doesn’t understand what these girls want from him because he fell into a coma before their archetypes were popularized. He doesn’t understand what a tsundere is, so when he meets one it just feels like incomprehensible bullying to him.

#2 Unconventional Slice-of-Life

Another interesting touch to the story is that it has already concluded. Yousuke awoke from his coma, he is no longer in the fantasy world. He and Takafumi now live together in a simple apartment, enjoying a mostly normal life. Except Uncle still has all his magical powers. Rather than slay monsters with these, he now uses them to generate ad revenue through flashy YouTube videos.

PHOTO: Yousuke tries to attack Sumika.

These magic powers are also the medium through which we experience the isekai story. Yousuke can just show his memories to people almost as if they are videos. Complete with player controls and alternate audio tracks for instant translation. How very convenient.

This effectively cuts the anime into 2 parts. We get plenty of slice-of-life content as Takafumi and Yousuke just live together. They deal with YouTube drama, talk about their pasts, there is a bit of budding romance between Takafumi and his childhood friend Sumika. It’s not what you’d usually expect from a slice-of-life anime, but it is very fun.

Eventually the cast gets together, breaks out the snacks, and watches more vods from Uncle’s time in the fantasy world. Pausing occasionally to react to everything that is happening within it. It almost feels like a group of friends watching a long-running TV series together. Except one of them was in said TV series and fucking hated it.

#3 Great characters, great performances

The cast of Isekai Ojisan is unconventional to say the least. Yousuke, Takafumi, and even Sumika are a lovable bunch of oddballs, whose personalities develop a lot over the course of the anime. Then there are all the fantasy characters from Yousuke’s time in the fantasy world. Oh boy… there are some colorful individuals there.

PHOTO: Mabel awkwardly insists on being praised after doing something useful for the party.

I don’t want to ramble about every character and what I liked about them, but some of the standouts are the oracle turned jobless NEET Mabel, Sumika’s little brother, and the anime’s iconic tsundere Elf. It’s hard to definitively pinpoint an absolute favorite from among the cast. The girls especially have delightful personalities and get a lot of screentime. Much of which revolves around them feuding over who gets to be with Yousuke; even as he himself remains borderline-antagonistic towards them.

Our main characters also benefit from some truly spectacular performances. Yousuke and Takafumi are played by Takehito Koyasu and Jun Fukuyama respectively; legendary voice-actors whose years of experience shine through in their work on these characters. Takehito especially captures the perfect tone for Yousuke. It’s a performance only matched by Aoi Yuuki‘s work as Mabel. A truly astonishing performance that perfectly covers all the extremes of Mabel’s erratic personality.

#4 Sega Love

Prior to falling into a coma, Yousuke was a devout gamer. A loyal Sega fanboy, who is understandably devastated when he awakens to the news that Sega no longer makes consoles. This does not shake his resolve, however. As he moves in with Takafumi, his nostalgia for Sega comes up in countless different ways. Even when looking back on his isekai adventures, Yousuke’s love for Sega is inescapable.

PHOTO: Yousuke stares in shock at a Sega Saturn box.

Being as nostalgic gamer myself, this resonated with me a lot. I loved all the gags and references, I loved listening to Yousuke recount old gaming myths and trivia. None of this is obscured either. Sega let them freely use names and content from across their brand’s history. There have even been cross-promotions that kept the mutual hype alive, even as Isekai Ojisan landed in development hell.

If you care about gaming history, then this anime is a blast from the past.

#5 Fantastic expressions

Last but not least, Isekai Ojisan excels in the expressiveness of its characters. I have an absurd number of screenshots of this anime because it is chock-full of adorable scenes where characters look cute, goofy, or weird. The only reason I don’t have even more is because I watched it during a groupwatch and couldn’t rewind for the shots that I missed.

PHOTO: Yousuke is distraught after reading a YouTube comment section.

The characters are already very likeable, but these adorable expressions complete them. It makes the girls that much cuter and helps jokes land perfectly. Especially the harem antics, where the girls are often left baffled by just how indifferent Yousuke seems to their advances. Yousuke himself has a lot of great expressions also. Though frequently mocked for his “ugly” appearance, he gained cult appeal because people loved his expressiveness. He is adorable in his own way.

More like this…

Good Orc Day: Cute elf is deeply in love but not making any progress.

Hyouge Mono: Anime centered around an older protagonist with a goofy side.

Konosuba: Typical isekai story becomes a trainwreck.

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