I honestly watched this show because I knew Chiwa Saito was playing Kahabell (the sadistic knight if you’re not super familiar with the names yet). I have some mixed feelings about it. Anything she touches I’m going to like usually. Overall I’ve enjoyed this show. I wasn’t quite sure after S1 ended, but S2 pleased me in a lot of ways. The characters are pretty good, the story has potential, and the artwork is good. The story isn’t finished, so I hope S3 is in the works!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Characters

Rating: 7

On the typical side, most of the main characters are middle school age. I usually don’t like this, for any number of reasons, and a lot of that shows up here. S1 showcases a lot of emotional and moral and ethical confusion. While that can add tension, it’s all but guaranteed with immature characters pressed into complex situations. It gets a little tired as a theme as well. However, for only twelve episodes, the characters get a decent amount of development, and you can get some connection to them. Yes I like Kahabell (Kahaberu? there’s some confusion English to Japanese apparently) because of her voice, and her desire to slice stuff is fun.

Yuusuke has the most potential. Mostly, the title combined with his attitude towards his homeworld gives a great opportunity to add depth to him. His difficulty dealing with the fact that he killed someone is a tired theme, though understandable given Yuusuke’s age (part of my issues with characters this age, the inevitability of these dilemmas). But it does lend itself, in this case, to Yuusuke’s development. He finds himself in a similar place to Light Yagami (you know it, Death Note), where he’s faced with a choice of judging humanity and acting on it or not. While that theme is (obviously) not new, it remains to be seen how he could possibly undertake such actions, either way. He’s in an “alternate reality” (another tired theme, but we’ll go with it here), so does his hatred for his own world extend into the alternate version of it? And if so, why and what form will that take? He’s already witnessed the similarities to what he hates in his world in the other. I do hope this develops in an interesting way. If it takes the same route as Death Note, it will automatically be overshadowed by that, making a very difficult uphill climb to become great. Not impossible, but Death Note is a fixture in anime, no matter your opinion of it. Comparisons to it, in this type of theme, are inevitable. Ooh, maybe inevitability will be the theme, hence the Death Note similarity? Just a thought.

The reaper depiction and the mass of bodies adds to the mystery. Interestingly, the final episode of S2 brought us the first bit of clarity about the title, as Yuusuke mentions “standing on a million lives” in his last bit of dialogue. We’ll see where all this goes in S3.

Kahabell.

My favorite VA of all time, Chiwa Saito (Senjougahara, Monogatari), plays Kahabell. I noted Kahabell’s slicing fetish, which makes her kind of quirky and interesting. Saito-san isn’t spectacular here, but her powerful voice does impact her scenes, a few times more than others. I thought Kahabell wouldn’t return to the series after S1, and we wouldn’t get to hear Saito-san anymore. I was most happily wrong. Chiwa Saito returned as Kahabell for one heartbreaking episode in S2. Yuusuke and his team had returned to the other world, but quickly realized more time had passed there than in the real world. They confirm this with Kahabell, who is now a young mother, no longer the slightly crazy, sword-wielding knight from before. This was a little sad as it was, but the sadness erupted when Kahabell shared a private (or so they thought!) moment with Yuusuke and confessed she had loved him before. This was so sad on so many levels. I was so happy to hear Saito-san once again, and on top of that all this sad material was added, and I was very, very happy. My love for this character has been well rewarded.

I like Iu and the otaku girl Yuka. They didn’t get a ton of development during S1, and S2 saw the arrival of a lot of new characters, so they got overshadowed just a bit. Still, they’re decent feely characters, and they still have good impact on the show in their roles. Keito was added from the end of S1. Nothing really became of his real-world troubles in S2, something we were introduced to in S1. He’s fun, adding some swagger to this otherwise odd set of misfits. My favorite addition in S2 was Glenda Carter, probably an Amerikanji who initially arrives speaking English. Who else enjoyed hearing the wonderful Saori Hayami speak a bit of English? Those are usually fun moments for English-speaking audiences, and she didn’t do terribly like some instances of this we see. She does a great job with this character once again, and once again abandons her cutesy voice that she’s known for (think Jabami Yumeko, Kakegurui).

Speaking of prolific VAs, Aoi Yuuki makes another appearance in the world of anime. Who else could she play by Aoyu? I know this is sourced from a manga, but isn’t it a little too coincidental that Ao Yuuki is playing someone named Aoyu? Anyway. She’s a fun addition always.

While I wasn’t super excited about the characters in S1, S2 really made me feel better in this regard. The beautiful scene with Kahabell and Yuusuke and the new additions to the cast, plus some noticeable dialogue, all contribute to raising my estimation of this set of characters. I look forward to where S3 takes them.

Artwork

Rating: 7

It’s good. It’s an “A” for sure. Nothing super special. The quality is quite good, but the design is not exceptional. As typical of isekai, lots of competing colors and flashy scenery. It’s a little darker than some isekai, appropriately so given the themes and circumstances. Nothing jumps out at me particularly about any of the characters either as far as design goes. Detail is somewhere between very detailed and not enough at some times. It doesn’t quite scream “isekai” or drama, but falls in between sort of. Perhaps it adds to the tension they seem to be attempting to build.

The Kahabell-Yuusuke scene was very pretty, emotionally and visually. There’s that “game” quality to the artwork, particularly in the characters, almost like a Persona series or Danganronpa, but the rest of the art is fairly normal. That scene was nicely sunlit and very pretty. Then there’s the monsters–nothing exceptional there. In fact, the orc or goblin queen thingy was kind of dumb actually. But there is also a dragon, and it seems decent for the little we’ve seen of it in the volcano and the premonition Yuusuke keeps seeing.

I sort of feel like the artwork improved from S1 to S2. But without going back over both seasons with a detailed eye, I cannot confirm this. Still, my impression was that a lot improved from S1 to 2, so perhaps this is true. Or I simply imagined it given the other things I felt improved.

Story

Rating: 7

As mentioned, there’s some tired themes running through this one. Some of them reveal themselves fairly late in S1, but happily most of those seemed to subside in S2, and the story became less dependent on themes and more on the interest factor of the story. And it was more interesting in S2 than in S1.

I like this interesting twist on isekai. Completing quests like its a game, yet it’s actually a parallel reality, all under the watch of some powerful futuristic being. It has that same feeling as Tower of God in that way, but it’s different in the game aspect. The tension created in the last two quests of S1 was well done, even if they felt a little unsatisfying and bizarre at their resolution. Uncertainty is a bit of a theme, perhaps unintentionally. If it is intentional, it’s nicely done, as this iteration of isekai does seem to be dealing with death themes heavily. Death and uncertainty around what comes thereafter are powerful themes, particularly in anime and Japan in general. So I don’t mind “uncertainty” and the suspense that goes with it being present in isekai.

S2 emphasized feels and adventure more than overarching themes, and this show found its niche a little bit better. S1 tried to fill in deficient areas, i.e., a lack of characters (only the three to four main characters by the end of the season), by getting philosophical and trying to develop those characters. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it gave the show a strange feel, as I’ve implied throughout this review. A lot of that disappeared with the increase in main group characters in S2 and the reemphasis on the story itself, and we didn’t miss any of it. In fact, it seems like distant memory at this point, and I’m simply happy with the development of the story and the loose ends that continue to string out from the beginning all the way to now.

What I hope is that this show doesn’t keep resolving all those loose ends with weak or blah resolutions, and that the authors don’t simply seek to resolve all loose ends just for the sake of resolving them. Again, the uncertainty, the lack of answers, can be a useful theme here, whether the anime continues or ends. I do not, not, not want another Code Geass situation where every little unknown gets resolved, and sometimes in ways that are downright silly. Hey, Code Geass and Death Note make an appearance together again!

Overall: 7

When I wrote this review following S1, I noted that interesting resolutions to some open-ended storylines, etc., in S2 would likely raise my rating for this show. And fortunately that was the case. Though the Kahabell thing wasn’t exactly a loose end, things like that are a good example of how this show transitioned nicely from S1 to S2. Oftentimes in anime you’ll see a S2 downgrade from S1, but the opposite seems to be true here. S2 definitely improved my opinion of this show from just above average to respectably having my attention. I definitely went from just catching up on the latest episode whenever I had time to being like “There’s a new episode of I’m Standing on a Million Lives today!” and watching it immediately. That’s a good thing.

This anime could become lots of different things. I don’t think it can become a great, but it could become really good depending on what happens in S3. But I also think it could become very vanilla and ordinary. After S1 I was concerned how this show would manage the addition of a new character for every quest. I.e., by quest number 12, we’d have 12 characters on the main team. That’s AoT territory, and it even has trouble handling all that. The possibility that a character might be sacrificed somewhere along the way still remains, but that would take this anime into new territory, and the writers will have to be careful. Right now, the threat of everybody dying by failing the quests (or all dying and not reviving) hangs over everyone, but there’s been no hint of a single character dying in the real world. Of course, they could just change the rules of the game and not continue adding new participants every new quest. That would be too convenient and I would start to lose interest. Lastly, of course they could just limit the number of quests, either by ending the “game” or by making the quests take a really long time. Either of these wouldn’t be great choices, as the former would kind of be a letdown (only 6 levels? huh?) and the latter would make the series drag too much.

However, following the conclusion of S2, I can’t say I’m unhappy with how this is being handled. The new characters didn’t bring a bunch of drama, and added nicely to the cast. Sure, screen time got split up a little more–Iu, Kusue, and Yuka all get significantly less screen time in fact in S2–but it’s okay. The characters are all easy to keep up with individually, so the writers are doing a good job with handling the increasing number of characters.

It’s rare that my opinion of an anime will improve from S1 to S2, but that certainly was the case here. I’m genuinely interested in how things are going to resolve for this series. I’m pretty sure S3 is a given now. I was uncertain if the series would be continued given the lacklustre S1, but since S2 seems better and was made after an ordinary S1, surely there will be a S3. I will look forward to that.

A million lives, desu ka?

2 Comments »

  1. I haven’t seen this anime, it’s piqued my interest though. It’s a good review, that doesn’t spoil too much?. I read your about page, go for it if you want to just focus on reviews. Nothing wrong with that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yeah unfortunately “reviews” often entail spoilers. Though they are kind of aimed at those who have seen the show. I should put more cautions upfront for those that haven’t seen these shows yet! Hey thanks for the encouragement! Not a lot of people have been through here yet, so you are one of the first few.

    Like

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