Isekai Quartet – More Than a Chibi

“Overlord, Re;Zero, Konosuba, and Youjo Senki were all great anime. What if we take their characters and transport them to another world (again)? This time though, they all have to attend a school together. Doesn’t that sound great? Huh? Why do they get transported? Well… That’s a secret- for now,” said someone, somewhere, maybe.

It reads like a badly written fanfiction. You’re putting together four different Isekai series, only one of which is mainly comedic, without any real rhyme or reason besides being under KADOKAWA. There’s absolutely no way it would work. 

But it did. Spectacularly. 

With Isekai Quartet’s second season now airing, it’s a great time to discuss the original season, how it managed to work, and what we can learn from it.

The original and second season’s episodes clock in at about 10 minutes of original animation, plus the OP & ED. Then, you have the chibi art style whose role is to make every character look similar to their respective designs while keeping everything uniform in the new setting. On a technical level, there’s nothing too blatantly important at first glance; however, the voice acting and animation really do elevate the series. It’s no surprise given that nearly every character is a main or otherwise staple of their show with all VAs reprising their roles, some even voicing multiple characters. You can feel that they had a lot of fun in the booth and I hope we get to listen in on some bloopers eventually. 

(In the case of Ram and Tanya’s squad, it’s a blessing to see them get more screen time. In the case of the latter, it actually flushes out a lot of their character. The world of Youjo Senki doesn’t have time for breaks or vacations so seeing them relax is nice, even if they’re not waifus!)

The animation is also deceptively simple. Its chibi style allows for incredibly fluid animation when the scenes call for it. Moreover, all the visual effects look gorgeous. Check out the energy Tanya exudes in this scene. The pulse, while brief, is nothing to scoff at.

It looks nice and it sounds nice, but what about the story? 

For the overarching story, the question of why and the specifics of how our characters have been transported go unanswered. This is actually the best thing they could’ve done. While explaining why and how is certainly important to the cast in-universe, for the most part, I daresay that it’s the B-plot to the audience. Their transportation is certainly a point of intrigue and all the allusions to a greater power inspire curiosity, but the audience doesn’t watch for that. We watch to see the characters react in circumstances that are somehow more crazy than usual.

Even if there’s only a loose connection between most episodes and arcs, it’s not a concern. The entire show is more akin to a series of skits and all aspects conform wonderfully to that concept. If the comedy doesn’t hit or your favorite character hasn’t shown up yet, it’s only a matter of time until they do. That of course stops jokes from running too long and leaving the viewer bored. I don’t believe there was any joke that didn’t land, but I recognize that the audience at large may not have watched every show. The delineation between good jokes and cheeky references is important. Luckily, they manage this well. 

Strangely enough, I don’t remember Isekai Quartet opening to much hype. It certainly made the rounds with a plethora of screenshots and memes though. No doubt season 2 will make the round also. The same can be said for the inevitable season 3. So long as the series continues to do well and doesn’t show its entire hand, Isekai Quartet has the potential for exponential growth. With the many isekai series that release each year, it’s only a matter of picking who to incorporate next. That does beg the question of how long the show is willing to skirt around the question of why they were transported there in the first place. Regardless, I do sincerely hope the series continues. 

Since we got this comedic collaboration, the prospect of a serious crossover did occur to me. Surely that wouldn’t work as well though. Having to scale powers and change tones on a whim- It’d be a headache. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t watch it though. It would make for a fun experiment. 

What can we learn from Isekai Quartet? 

(1) Restraint (2) Preservation (3) Delineation 

(1) As I said before, you never want to show your hand too early. 12 episodes of 10 minutes aren’t nearly enough to explore the larger narrative. By the end of the second season, they still shouldn’t be able to give a cohesive answer. There’s not enough time alloted for it and that’s not a bad thing. It all comes down to preplanning. 

This is also illustrated by the fact that the producers had a clear intent to add more characters in future seasons. As of now, only Naofumi and his party (from Rising of the Shield Hero) is a new addition. Those three characters alone will provide enough content for the season as they more or less need an introduction to every character already in place. Leave the audience anxious for what comes next, a basic tenet. 

(2) This is a problem when you start working with a large number of characters. The problem only compounds when they all occupy the same space but is still relevant when that’s not the case. Writing without a clear outline of your characters leads to an amalgamation of traits that are only true from moment to moment. Amateur writers tend to either swing one way or the other; either having a character stubbornly keep to one way of thinking or be far too flexible. To resolve this, remember to differentiate between personality and emotions. 

“This character is normally like [x]. So, if [y] happened, would that be enough to provoke them to act differently? Are they more vulnerable to [y] because of recent events?” Questions like that are essential to ask yourself. 

(3) References can be hilarious, but they in themselves aren’t necessarily funny. Moreover, they shouldn’t be funny to just those in the know (If said jokes are in the spotlight anyway. If they’re minor, you can get away with it, especially in writing. The eyes will glaze right over it). They’ll surely be more funny with background knowledge, but that shouldn’t stop them from being appreciated. It’s effectively similar to needing to have the joke be explained to you. Leave references as a fun tidbit to catch. For anime, maybe it’s something in the background you only catch if you’re actively watching or on a second viewing. 

My publishing schedule is still a mess… Surprise! There were two articles that were supposed to be finished and released before this one, but one is probably going to be 3x the average length and the other is a tad too subjective for my liking. I know that being subjective is normal and generally can’t be avoided, but I want to make sure it doesn’t detract from the article’s educational value. The site’s name is AniCourses after all. I’ll figure it out though, no worries there.

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