I'm Standing On A Million Lives (Season One, part 1)
Yuusuke Yotsuya is dragged into what seems to be a game world by two female classmates. A misanthrope who hates people but loves gaming, Yuusuke is pretty happy with the idea at first, but he finds the game more challenging than expected- and the consequences for failure (or perhaps even for success) may be very grim indeed.
After Isekai crap shows like In Another World With My Smartphone, here we have a show with all the trappings of such an Isekai show (including a bit of harem-ness), but with a male protagonist who, rather than being a perverted slacker like Smartphone's, is instead an anti-social, but analytical, sort who's trying his best to stay ahead in a "game" in which some of the most important rules- and, indeed, its very nature- are only available piecemeal, as "rewards" for successfully completing quests. You have to get them from "The Gamemaster", a strange figure who's missing the top of his head, and who always cuts short the last word in his sentences. (Later in the show, the Gamemaster appears in perhaps a more agreeable guise. Yuusuke's reaction to this is priceless.)
Yuusuke has a pretty terrible time of it; the "game" keeps throwing him curveballs. The first couple of roles it assigns him leave him hilariously ill-equipped to even deal with such minor-league monsters as goblins. (The show has a wickedly dark sense of humor at times, which inspired my choice for one of the Recs.) But through a combination of cleverness AND sheer desperation, he not only gets by, but gets a more varied set of character roles (and tools) than the girls do. (They are, quite justifiably, not at all pleased about that.)
Oh, yes, the girls. The one who seems the most competent is named Lu Shindou. She's pretty, popular, and athletic, but she's been emotionally scarred by the loss of a beloved senpai. While you could say you get much more of her backstory than you do for the other girls in the cast, that's an awfully low bar, since you get almost nothing about them. (On the other hand, the girls reason their way out of a trap at one point WITHOUT Yuusuke's assistance, so I'll give the show credit for SOME feminist sensibility.)
Kusue Hakozaki is a sickly girl lacking physical strength in OUR world, though that might not apply in the "game" world; but violence is simply not part of her nature- so she's been (mis)cast in the role of Warrior. (Obviously, she'll have to go through some changes to make that work.)
We also have Yuka Tokitate, our major female otaku. She's usually bitterly complaining about everything, but her other mode is about as hard to take, in which she giggles and salivates while contemplating various shoujo scenarios between Yuusuke and the others. She also seems to have a shota thing (fetish for little boys), but at least she's trying to resist that. I usually couldn't stand her, but the show does the logical thing to make an obnoxious character more acceptable, namely letting HER be the one who saves the day at one point. (Of course, NOT introducing such a character would have been better...)
I should probably also mention Kahvel while I'm on the subject of the ladies. She's apparently not a player, but belongs to the "game" world. She's a knight who has a fetish for "slicing flesh". (I guess I should mention that this show is quite violent at times.)
The game has some rather distressing rules. Among them is one about player "deaths": our heroes will quickly resurrect under normal circumstances, but NOT if they'd instantly die again under the circumstances; and if, at any time, ALL the players die- then they'll all die in OUR world as well. (Shades of Seven Senses of the Re'Union! ANOTHER resemblance between this show and that one is that the players' powers in the "game" may ALSO work in OUR world.) Poor Yuusuke may start the game with arrogant confidence, but these disturbing rules, various unexpected twists, and one assignment where nobody's quite sure what they're even supposed to DO, all work to deflate Yuusuke's confidence- and THEN he's presented with a shocking, and thoroughly nasty, surprise. I was curious how he'd deal with the moral dilemma involved, and was maybe a little disappointed with our hero there- as the person accompanying him at that point may have been, too. (It raises the interesting point of how much blame should we heap on someone for actions based on incorrect assumptions.)
A Second Season is planned, which is apparently going to introduce several new characters. I'd MUCH rather get more background and character development on the characters it already HAS, the girls in particular.
The show is obviously trying to get all clever and creative, but it's still stuck within the rather restrictive framework intrinsic to this genre. (In other words, it WANTS to be different, but it STILL has to honor the clichés.) The shortage of character development for the girls irked me, particularly with Shindou, who struck me as falling just short of being a solid, interesting character in her OWN right. (She's the rare instance of a "harem" female character who could carry a show on her own, with just a little more development.) Yuusuke's moral dilemma at the end, and his discussions about it with what is effectively a "deity", reminded me a bit of the first Rec- though at least Yuusuke doesn't seem to have TOTALLY embraced his own dark side. In fairness, the show's also not full-blown harem (YET), since only one of the girls has fallen head over heels for our morally ambiguous hero so far, but I'm sure that's subject to change. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Strong violence; a couple of bad guys get rather cruelly dispatched by our "good guys". Mature situations. There's one scene of a girl being molested (including being partially undressed) in a restroom by her (female) classmates. And that "shocking" scene really IS. Crunchyroll doesn't give this one an age rating; I'd definitely go stiffer than 13+ though. I'd lean toward R (16+).
Version(s) Viewed: Crunchyroll video stream
Review Status: Full (12/12)
I'm Standing On A Million Lives (Season One, part 1) © 2020 Maho Film.
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