Ever thought that maybe “Truck-kun” is an isekai protagonist that got killed and reincarnated as a truck? And his job was to kill more protagonists for more isekai stories? Oh, how the meme never dies. The self-indulgent trappings of the sub-genre comes in to play when an “everyday” otaku or salary-man (occasionally both) who is practically an audience stand-in, dies and is transported into another world, given a unique skill that allows him to become the greatest of all times, where he can walk on water, heal the sick, turn water into wine and depart the Red Sea.
Kenja no Mago (Wise Man’s Grandchild) shows just how low standards have been lately for the peculiar sub-genre that is wish-fulfillment isekai. Weirdly positive depictions of slavery are absent, overused arbitrary RPG mechanics are nowhere to be seen, etc. It is pretty strange to see things like this conspicuously missing. Which is a good thing in this shows case but it is pretty generic. And that flaw is also the show’s strength when considering isekai—it lacks ways of really failing that make it somewhat decent, which is pretty sad in itself. Shin, our main protagonist, was fully reborn and grew up anew in this other world, albeit with memories of his previous life (Shin was killed by Truck-kun). He was a baby whose parents (in this world) are killed by a demon. A famous and powerful wizard named Merlin finds him inside a carriage and begins training him in the ways of magic.
And long story short, he becomes so insanely powerful and famous enough to make the most overpowered Marty Stu’s blush. He is also handsome, popular with the girls while being a total goofball. The whole point of the story is to take an audience stand-in, put him (the audience) into a video game-esque world and give him baddies to destroy. With friends, a harem, and a love interest to fawn over him at every step of the way. So, for those who aren’t successful in their own life, can feel a lot better imagining a fantasy in which they are a demigod? Shin is the perfect blank slate. You can already guess where this is going since isekai is a dime a dozen. But Kenja no Mago has that “dumb fun” to it. It knows exactly what kind of story it is. It doesn’t try hard to be something it isn’t (generic isekai), a pretty light-hearted series that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
And that is the charm of the series. Apart from that, there are a few things that take it down a notch from being a pleasant weekly distraction. So here is a quick dirty laundry list of that: lack of tension, inconsistent tones in the very few serious moments, a large portion of the cast not mattering in the bigger picture, antagonist(s) feel unimportant, not doing much with clichés and tropes to increase hilarity, and flat writing, etc. A lot of time was wasted on high-school hijinks and training arcs, not enough of the main plot and main conflict. I sensed halfway through that Kenja no Mago was simply going to run out of time. Studio Silver Link’s art is standard for the sub-genre, some character designs are eye candy (looking at the waifus) while background art looks reused and recycled from other series. The animation is 50/50 you just don’t know when things are going to be beautifully animated or not. The soundtrack is forgettable.
What else is there to say? Kenja no Mago is an average show that had potential to be a good, fun time-waster of sorts for the 2019 Spring season. Sadly, some flaws and the story’s direction in the second half prevented it from being something to the likes of “Fairy Tail” (that dumb fun I am talking about). But to its credit, it steered clear from all the unwanted baggage that isekai’s like “Shield Hero” carry. If isekai is your thing, this show is the perfect wish-fulfillment with some fanservice and a few laughs. Just go in with low expectations. If you suffer from Truck-kun trauma, then run, run away and never return.