Isekai stories are, frankly, everywhere. In the eyes of some, they're too everywhere. Some light novel competitions have actually banned the subgenre explicitly in their rules, simply because it's become so prevalent in recent years.
So why are we here talking up Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody -- yet another isekai series? Well, saying it's completely different from the rest of the field would be unfair (and also untrue). But the title is bringing a lot of things to the table that are missing from other alternate universe jaunts.
So what does Satou's adventure have that others don't?
1. Something for the Gamers
Gaming -- especially MMOs -- is a major part of the fan experience anymore. So it's not surprising that gaming and anime have crossed over on a regular basis. Death March isn't even remotely the first time the two have met. Between game adaptations and shows about fictional games, it's not a new topic. Heck, lots of isekai shows model themselves very obviously on games, simply because it's what their nerdy heroes will have the most experience with.
But Death March puts an unexpected spin on it, meshing multiple versions of the trope. Satou finds himself in a world based on his game project, but he also has an interface. It might not be as slick as a smartphone, but it still allows him to interact with the world around him in a way that we, the audience, are already familiar with. It's a level of audience association that isn't often played with.
And really, that's sort of how we envision a trip to any of our fantasy worlds, isn't it? Or at least we probably should -- going into Azeroth without our spell bar just the way we set it up would be terrifying.
2. Music from the Girls
It would be unfair to say that OP and ED themes make or break a show, but they do go a long way toward our image of it. Death March as a unique pairing of groups singing the themes.
Handling the OP theme, "Slide Ride," is the idol group Run Girls, Run! And the ED, "Suki no Skill," is performed by Wake Up, Girls!
Fans of idol anime will recognize the two groups not only as anime theme performers, but also as stars of the anime series Wake Up, Girls! The groups are doing amazing jobs as idols in their own right, of course. But having them reunite in a way for this series is exciting!
3. And Music from Games
Naturally, there's more to a show's music than just its themes. For the soundtrack, music studio MONACA was enlisted. While they've worked on several anime titles, they're also notable for working on the RPGs Drakengard 3, NieR, and NieR: Automata. Sounds like a perfect fit for an isekai taking place in a video game world!
MONACA has also supplied music for -- surprise! -- Wake Up, Girls!
4. Something New to Read
The original Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody light novel has been available in English for about a year. While light novel fans may have spotted the title and already be enjoying it, the anime will give new fans a chance to discover the original! At present, the first four volumes are available in English, with Volumes 5 and 6 coming out in May and September, respectively.
You can also read four volumes of the manga adaptation in English, if that's more your style!
5. Familiar Voices Teaming Up
The anime adaptation features a lot of voices that will be familiar to anime fans -- especially if they've been watching really recent shows!
Black Clover fans will recognize our protagonist instantly -- Shun Horie may not be the voice of Asta in the TV series, but he was the first to voice the character in the special! He's also recently shown up as Shiki in Fastest Finger First and in JUNI TAISEN: Zodiac Wars as Nezumi.
You'll have heard a lot from Zena's voice actor, Rie Takahashi, too. In this season alone, she's playing two more major roles: Takagi-san in Karakai Jozu no Takagi-san, and Ena in Laid-Back Camp.
How many more familiar voices can you catch in Satou's party?
6. A Home Away from Work
Whether we're freelancing, working a day job, keeping house, or still in school, we all want to get away. A story like Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody presents a double-edged sword: would we really want to be transported somewhere that's so closely tied to what's been keeping us from getting a good night's sleep for so long?
Fortunately, it's unlikely that any of us will ever end up like Satoo, completely immersed in our latest project to the point of actually living it. (And for certain, there are probably some careers and disciplines you would not want to be surrounded by 24/7). But Satou is taking everything in stride, finding enjoyment rather than burnout and using the experience to help him improve. And, you know, to take a break from his death march.
Not only is it nice to take a break to join him on his adventures once a week, it's also a little inspiring to see someone who handles an unexpected situation this way. Wouldn't it be nice if we all could?
Kara Dennison is responsible for multiple webcomics, serves as community manager for (Re)Generation Who and PotterVerse, and is half the creative team behind the OEL light novel series Owl's Flower. She blogs at karadennison.com and tweets @RubyCosmos. Her latest stories can be found in Whoblique Strategies.