Balancing power and empathy, Rimuru isn't your average isekai protagonist
We all know the formula of the majority isekai: an unremarkable young man somehow ends up falling into a fantasy world where he is no longer average but exceptional. He becomes blessed with some sort of superpowers or talent that makes him incredibly powerful in this brand new world, and he uses it to his advantage, often to become a great hero. Sometimes in this new world, he discovers that a talent he thought was fairly useless in our world instead turns out to be revolutionary in the new one. Of course, beautiful girls are attracted to his deeds or his power, and our hero usually ends up with a throng of girls all throwing themselves at him. From ordinary to extraordinary, now equipped with unchallengeable power to be recognized by all, the isekai protagonist is what the majority of the audience invested in the show dreams of.
There are many fantasy shows airing this season, but in the case of one isekai, That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, our protagonist isn’t turned into a cool-looking action hero-- but a slime. It's moderately rare for isekai protagonists to end up being something weak-looking and inhuman, what makes Rimuru stand out among a collection of protagonists isn’t the changes done to his physical body, but instead his philosophy.
Rimuru enters the world somehow transformed as a slime, and one of his first encounters in the world is what would be a boss character in any other world, the storm dragon Veldora. Instead of deciding to fight against it, Rimuru decides to talk to it, and it works. He and Veldora quickly become friends, and Rimuru gains an ally instead of an enemy. This isn’t just a one-off thing, but fuels every encounter that Rimuru has. It’s not as if Rimuru truly is a slime, for he has an incredible amount of power and could easily hold his own in a fight against even powerful monsters. However, despite the massive amount of strength that Rimuru has, he never thinks of using it as anything more than a last resort. For Rimuru, his power is used for intimidation, instead of actual conflict. He’d rather avoid physical conflict entirely, and absolutely doesn’t want to kill anyone. Even with his raw magic as a formidable weapon, he chooses to keep it concealed and focuses on being kind.
Most isekai heroes would end up joining a band of adventureres to go on quests, embark on their own solitary journey, or become a final boss. Rimuru takes a different path, for what he first sympathizes with are not humanoid creatures, but monsters. You all know them from videogames; the low-ranking fodder used to levelgrind, the nameless monsters that pop out while you’re exploring the terrain. Rimuru not only doesn’t attack them, but opens a line of communication with them. He helps them with their problems, and it isn’t just a quest, but a long-term journey that he also participates in. Instead of leaving, he stays with them and gives them guidance on how they can establish a self-sufficient town. He seeks out trade, skills, and establishes rules that will keep this small settlement out of danger. Even as he adds more monsters to his following, his main goal isn’t to build an army, but a community that lives in harmony.
Most isekai protagonists seek to better themselves: more power to increase their own abilities, or sometimes to get the girl. There may be a character to defeat or a threat to vanquish to save the world, but rarely is there any sort of deep camraderie between the protagonist and the community, rather on the protagonist and the band of friends he keeps around. Rimuru does no such thing. He develops his powers of course, but that’s not his primary goal as much of it is a means to an end. In fact, most of the time he displays his power, it's as a last resort or meant to intimidate. He has to become powerful to better his position in negotiation, not because he must be the most powerful being out there, or because he must be a hero. Unquestionably, what Rimuru is doing is heroic deeds, but on a much smaller, long-lasting scale.
We don’t see much of Rimuru in his human life, but what we see a few hints as to why he is the way he is. The first notion is very obvious: as a human, Rimuru is a fully grown adult, instead of a teenager. He is jaded, dissatisfied with his life, and jealous of his younger peers and the kind of happier life he imagines them having. He's a pretty ordinary guy with a dull job in contracting, but is seen as a reliable mentor by his younger coworkers. However, when a crazed person appears and starts towards Rimuru’s friends with a knife, the first thing he does is push them out of the way and take the attack himself. Even if as he dies he claims that he’ll live his life to the fullest and be selfish, the actions he ends up taking are much stronger than words. Rimuru is at the core a person that intrinsically cares about others, and so what attracts people to him is that same care. Being transported to another world didn’t just give him superpowers, but amplified the qualities he already had.
What this makes is a wildly different viewing experience. Slime is still a power fantasy, through and through, but it sends a far different message than usual. Rimuru is equipped with a massive amount of power and wants to be around cute girls, but at the end of the day, he uses his strength for the betterment of the community that he built. He is no solitary hero, but one that directly inspires those that take up his banner. Achieving power doesn’t have to be entirely selfish; it can truly benefit large groups of people, not just by solving their short-term problems and then never seeing them again, but teaching them to be self-sufficient as well. Rimuru offers empathy towards those trapped in an unspoken hierarchy, proving that even in a world where power rules all, it doesn’t mean that even the smallest monsters can’t better themselves. Rimuru may be powerful, but at the end of the day, he believes in communication and kindness.
The isekai genre centers around dreams; dreaming of popularity, of power, of freedom. It's always fun to explore those fantasies, especially in worlds that are quite different from our own, but what should one do with all that power? There's nothing wrong with wanting to have fun, but Rimuru reminds us that there's more to power than just making yourself great. There's always the community that looks up to you as a role model, and how you use your immeasurable power to better the lives of those around you.
What's your favorite part of Slime? Let us know!