If you're going to give a show a chance, consider the story of Rimuru
When I started writing for Crunchyroll, it quickly became clear that I wasn't as well-versed in anime as my co-workers. If the show included dudes hitting other dudes' fists with their own fists, I had been an astute student, but other anime subgenres? I needed to study up, and this meant dipping my toes in a subgenre that's ridiculously popular these days: Isekai. It feels like every other show is about people being transported to an alternate universe and if I wanted to stop comparing literally everything to One Piece, I needed to familiarize myself with Isekai fast.
One problem, though: Isekai doesn't really sound like my thing. At all. And I held strong to this feeling until I watched That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime.
Most of this stubbornness was due to my fear of what Isekai could be: a sad mixture of lame plots, bland visuals, and teenagers yelling things like "I JUST LEVELED UP! LIKE IN A VIDEO GAME!" That sounded painful to me, even if one of my favorite shows, Digimon, could technically be described as an Isekai. But Digimon had talking lizard monsters that are covered in cannons, so they were in the clear. And what did most Isekai have? Skinny dudes with too much hair that embarrassed themselves around girls and were way too interested in fantasy. That's literally me, anime. And I know me. He's the worst.
So that's why, when I heard that That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime wouldn't center around a gawky teenager but instead around a tiny blue piece of Fruit Gushers candy, I got interested. That sounds cute, even if I wasn't sure how it would be interesting past the tenth minute. Then I learned that this slime was obscenely powerful and also obscenely nice, and I had to check it out. And by the time the first episode ended and Rimuru ran into the Storm Dragon, Veldora, and quickly became friends with him, one thing was certain: I dug this lil' blue dude.
It wasn't like a few of the other Isekai that I'd watched, where you spend the opening episodes getting used to the lead character and trying to figure out if they're interesting enough to like or whether they'll just remain a human-shaped glob of wish-fulfillment. Rimuru was genuinely kind, and not in a way that seemed like a few personality traits had been slapped onto him. "Nice and hardworking" seems like the default character customization options for a hero, but they work for Rimuru.
And this is ALL before the second episode, where Rimuru started acquiring and using new abilities to tear through beasts and spiders. And by the third episode, he was implementing battle strategies and then helping two different, warring species work together. Then, a few episodes later he's getting a human form and the side cast is getting filled out with a variety of rad characters. This anime wasn't playing around in terms of progress. Maybe it's due to the fact that Rimuru is a prodigy slime, but if there's one undeniable positive quality of Slime, it's that it never drags.
And that brings me to Slime's worldbuilding, which illustrates the fine line between "explaining the laws of a universe and how it works" and "fearing that your audience won't understand the laws of a universe and how it works." There are certain heavy moments of exposition in Slime, with the most offensive example being in the first episode, where it feels like the show works through its own encyclopedia in the second half. But after that, the world building becomes casual and breezy. It gifts you with an appropriate amount of questions, but these questions don't drag the pacing back.
In too many shows, the questions that a story leaves lingering cease to become pleasant mysteries at a certain point. Instead, they grab onto the show's ankles and hang on, forcing the show to trudge along, and leaving you unable to enjoy it in the moment. You're far too worried about the stuff that hasn't been revealed yet to invest yourself in the stuff that has. Slime definitely has a few loose threads, but it's so fun on a moment by moment basis that I'm comfortable with not focusing on them. Thus, by the time the show starts making consistent, active attempts to expand its own world, you're not left out of breath, gasping "But wait....we haven't....explained....who that one guy was....."
But I think my favorite thing about Slime is how it feels like a very specific feeling from a very specific type of video game. You know in an RPG, when you first get to experience the overworld map? You spend an hour or so milling about your starting town, being the only interesting living thing there and also the only person with the ability to walk more than four steps in any direction. And then you get exposed to a massive kingdom with destinations to travel to and places that you can't enter yet and suddenly the intricately designed town just becomes a tiny blip, a place of respite and comfort in a world of uncertain possibilities.
That's how it felt to get into Slime, and that's how it felt to find an Isekai anime that I liked. I was finally leaving my little Shonen hometown, and giving Slime a chance meant that I could fairly give anything a chance. It's because I let Slime become a part of my life that I gave in and watched SSSS.Gridman (which is great, by the way.) It's why I decided, at 2 AM, the binge half of Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san (also great.) The Isekai genre had proven me wrong, and now I had no excuse to not check out anything that I even had a partial interest in.
I turn thirty in April, and while there's never a bad time to enjoy new things, I figured that if I was ever going to expand my interest in anime, it had to be now. Because I don't want to be the guy that hasn't watched a new anime in ten years and just screams "NOT AS GOOD AS COWBOY BEBOP!" over every conversation. So if you're like me at all, and you don't know if Isekai is your thing, or you're unsure of where to go after you've finished rewatching Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood for the eighth time, consider That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime.
It may not get you into Isekai, and it may not get you to try other anime. But it sure is fun.
Daniel Dockery is a writer and editor for various websites, but his heart belongs to you. He has a Twitter and it's pretty dumb.