This show is something else, and before this season of anime ended, I was going to chalk it up as probably one of the worst of the Isekai harem shows, and I actually quite enjoyed watching this as a guilty pleasure. However, with Master of Ragnarok now proudly taking its crown, I feel like this show deserved both an apology and a look at what it does right. With all that said, let’s dive into Patora Fuyuhara’s In Another World With My Smartphone after the cut.
Smartphone, is a show that could only be created in the era that it was made. The popularity of Isekai shows and Sword Art Online are so ingrained in the DNA of this show, that I’m surprised the author hasn’t been sued for copyright. Let’s get into the plot.
When Touya Mochizuki is accidentally killed by God. He’s given the chance to start his life over in another world as recompense. Taking only his smartphone, and gifted with enhanced magical, cognitive and physical abilities, Touya starts his life over in a fantasy world that will have him cross paths with many new friends and allies.
While Smartphone doesn’t have much going for it in terms of plot and character (we’ll get into that later) it does do two things quite well: its beginning and its ending.
Smartphone literally begins with our main character Touya in heaven talking to God who has just accidentally killed him. In fact, the entire first few minutes of the show is simply God explaining what has happened and setting Touya up to be reincarnated into the next world.
Let’s get it out of the way now, Touya is a mary sue character. Everything he does ends up working out, and his abilities and powers are leagues ahead of everyone else. There is not a single moment in the anime series where Touya is ever in any real danger or faces any challenge. Touya in a sense of a parody of SAO’s Kirito and the widely held belief that his character is a flawless hero. However, unlike other stories, Smartphone wisely explains this to the audience right the beginning. By having God and by extension the show tell us this right at the start, it helps ease the viewer into the world and what is about to happen. We know that he’s leagues above everyone else because we saw GOD HIMSELF literally give him these powers. While I may have dismissed this show for creating such a blatant mary sue, the fact that Smartphone admits and addresses this upfront pretty much said, to me at least: “We know this is bullshit, so just sit back and enjoy the ride.”
Other anime that have gone this route (Overlord, Death March) try to make the character’s overpowered nature part of the story and the success can be varied at best. The beginning of Smartphone just decides to go for it and not be ashamed of what it is, and I can’t help but admire them for it.
Smartphone’s ending is also something that is rare to see in the Harem genre. By the time the twelve and final episode of the anime rolls around, Touya has amassed a bunch of girls who are all deadset on marrying him. With polygamy being legal in this world (another thing this show is upfront and admits to), the girls want Touya to get off his ass and get married to them. However being from our world Touya has trouble coming to terms with it all, and the entire final episode is dedicated to discussing and resolving the issue.
I’ve talked about the Harem Status Quo before on my Tumblr, but it bears repeating here. When it comes to harem anime, the golden rule is that the status quo must be maintained right up until or even beyond the end. If the hero chooses a girl at the start then the entire premise of the females fighting for his affection, the very soul and heart of the harem anime falls apart. Hell even if the male leads decide on the girl he likes, many harem animes often have the other girls refusing to give up, or accepting that the one chosen is the “legal wife’ while the others basically remain his side girls, therefore maintaining the status quo.
By having Touya and the girls actually having to discuss the situation they are in, and Touya having to question if having a harem is something he can live with, Smartphone sets itself apart from other shows in the genre. Similar to events in Majikoi, I have yet to see a show that tackles the issue and tries to have the characters actually address the problem. Most animes often ignore the issue at heart, or it is simply played off for laughs, but for something like Smartphone, a show that feels almost made in a factory to sit down and dedicate a whole episode to it is something I won’t ever forget about it. While the resolution ends up maintaining the status quo, the characters have at least discussed and made peace with it all. Check out part of the scene below.
What then, could possibly happen that would warrant, Smartphone being so bad? If it has a good start and a decent end, shouldn’t be better received? Well, we have to talk about the middle and where I think the show falls apart.
Smartphone’s middle part is, quite simply, boring. It is mostly an episodic adventure that involves Touya going around solving problems and adding another girl to his belt. While it might be a nice change of pace from the more action harem shows or more comedic ones, there is no real meat or conflict for viewers to chew on. Smartphone really could have done with a better overall plot, or at least something resembling an obstacle for Touya to overcome. Instead, Smartphone seems content with just being a leisurely stroll through a male power fantasy, and that would be tolerable for some if it wasn’t for the second mistake. The second mistake that Smartphone commits is possibly the gravest sin that any harem anime can make.
Its female cast is absolutely forgettable
A harem anime lives on its female cast. Without a strong and memorable female lead, along with tolerable and fun secondary characters, the entire show will crash and burn. The female characters are what makes a harem, it is what brings viewers into the show, gets them talking on Reddit, and it is what drives fans to go out and buy merchandise that keeps the anime industry alive. If you don’t cute, funny and proactive female leads, you’ve got NOTHING.
Seriously, I have done most of these shows from memory and even now I can’t even remember the names of Smartphone’s female leads. I know there are two twins, two blonds and a “samurai” but that’s it. That is unforgivable in a show like this. Smartphone has next to no real fanservice, so it is unable to even fall back on tits and panty shots to carry it through.
I don’t know how else to really put it. You can’t have a successful show in this genre if your female cast is a pile of shit, and Smartphone has one of the worst I have seen so far. There is nothing special, nothing memorable, and nothing worth really discussing. It is a shame that for a show with such an honest beginning and a refreshing ending completely shits the bed in terms of it’s cast. I mean the females don’t even fall back on the classic dere tropes that would have at least been something.
In Another World with my Smartphone had the potential to be something great. Like Shinmai Maou Testament it had the blueprint and ideas to take the harem genre into a new and interesting direction, or at least try something different with established tropes and character archetypes. Instead, Smartphone is very much what I expected to be: a wannabe show trying to cash in on the Isekai and SAO craze. There are hints of goodness in Smartphone that I’ve discussed, but not even that can save it from the sheer boredom and unforgivable crime of uninteresting female leads. Give it a watch if you want something to turn your brain off to, but otherwise, give this show a hard pass.