Review: The 8th Son? Are You Kidding Me?

           

I have decided that, when I review shows, I can’t just review ones that I know are popular or critically well-received. I should also review recent shows that are not talked about much or may even be middle of the pack. This will ensure that I can truly highlight the good shows and contrast them from the bad shows that people shouldn’t waste their time with.

Speaking of which, I decided to watch “The 8th Son? Are You Kidding Me?”, which is a show that aired last cour during the Spring 2020 anime season. This show is in the isekai genre, which means that it features a protagonist that was plucked from our regular person world and placed into a magical world in a similar vein as Sword Art Online, Re: Zero, Konosuba, and many other shows.

Our protagonist is a 25-year-old Japanese office worker who was, without any stated reason, transferred directly into the body of a 5-year-old in a magical medieval world. This 5-year-old is the 8th son, hence the title of the show, of a rather poor family who holds the title of “Noble” and seeks to maintain this status. As the 8th son, people frankly don’t give much of a shit about him, because in this world, your societal rank and nobility are absolutely everything. Due to the practice of primogeniture, the younger children in a family inherit less property and influence in the world compared with their siblings.

I have a lot to say about this show. First off, I just called it an isekai. It was supposed to be, but in actuality it isn’t. Our protagonist, named “Well” in this world, never ever references the fact that he comes from another world. At all. In fact, if you took out the first part of the show where we learn that he isn’t originally from this world, you could literally watch the rest of the show without knowing that fact. He never brings it up to anyone, and the only clue that you would have is the fact that he, over the course of the series, occasionally makes traditional Japanese cuisine for people who don’t know what it is. By not at all mentioning that he was from another world, this show ruins the entire point of the isekai, which is that we as viewers get to insert ourselves into the protagonist’s position and feel his sense of wonder as he encounters a strange new world much different than the one he is used to. We are supposed to sympathize with Well as he desperately tries to adapt to his new situation and watch with interest as he brings his knowledge and culture from our regular world into this foreign environment. Well does not do those things. He sometimes makes soy sauce, seaweed paper, or sake, and simply acts the exact same as if he had been born here.

Along with the fact that this is a failed isekai, the show also barely sticks by the premise that it seems to be getting at. The title of the show expresses exasperation at the fact that Well is the 8th son of his family. The characters occasionally express their frustrations and sadness with a world in which your lot in life is determined by your birth. However, Well himself does not actually experience any hardship as an “8th son” because he just so happens to possess a degree of prodigy-tier magical ability which seems to be unparalleled by nearly everyone we know of in the world. He takes care of nearly every obstacle with ease and immediately is catapulted to immense fame, status, and wealth. Although near the end of the season, Well is forced to deal with his older brother’s jealousy and mismanagement of their family’s territory, this is sort of shoved in near the end. I don’t think Well was given enough adversity due to his status as an 8th son, and I think this part of the story was ruined by how powerful he was.

I mentioned that the protagonist was powerful. He is, in fact, so powerful that the side characters in the show often feel like they serve next to no purpose. Well goes to school early in the show, and formally parties up with three, and later four, other people who are also around his age (12). These youths become his friends, and consist of a swordsman, a woman who punches, a woman who uses a spear, and a woman who uses religious-based healing and purifying magic. Although these people are supposed to be in a party with him, and thus are meant to be relying on the strength of one another to overcome obstacles, nobody else aside from Well is honestly doing a whole lot. They spend a great deal of time just hanging out with Well as he easily destroys his adversaries, and they do not even function as a party in any significant capacity until we are past the half-way point of the series (and then, just barely). They are his friends and houseguests, but serve no other purpose, which really makes you wonder why they are there at all.

Wait, actually, there is one reason why his party members are there. Well, somehow, accidentally becomes engaged to the aforementioned girl in his party who wields healing/purifying magic. If you’re wondering how he did this by accident, I’m actually still wondering that too. At this point, you might be thinking to yourself: “Wait, dude, wasn’t that guy 25 when he got sent into this world? And didn’t you say that she was 12?” I did say she was 12, which leads to a huge and rather obvious criticism I have with this show. If Well was 25 when he came to this magic world, then by my math, he was 32 at the time he got engaged to this 12-year-old. It goes without saying that that is seriously messed up. But, not to worry, there is a timeskip of three years and they are both 15 later in the story (Well is then mentally 35)! Oh no, that didn’t help at all did it? Creepy and weird.

You know what else is creepy and weird? It didn’t stop there, because two or three other women in the series, the other female characters in his group of adventuring friends, decide that they want to be his “concubines.” Well is cool with this, which means that not only is Well a creep, but now he is a creep with several different women at once who are definitely too young for him. I don’t know why anyone thought that this was okay at all.

I’m going to move on to another subject, which is that the fights in the show were absolutely awful. For one, the odd CGI animation for the undead creatures that they fought was extremely poorly done and looked very out of place when compared to the rest of the animation. The creatures did not look or move like they should, and it was just very jarring and not at all the cool aesthetic you want from a fighting scene. The fights that were shown possessed no detail or strategy. If they weren’t immediately decided by some bullshit magic, there was otherwise no degree of complexity or depth to the combat. The rest of the party were supposed to be skilled with swords, spears, and fists, but we didn’t see them use any sort of unique abilities or fighting moves.

Even worse, many of the fights weren’t shown at all. There was a tournament episode where the main party was supposed to fight, but nearly all of the fighting was done off-screen except for the main character’s fight which ended in a single boring blow. The show built up the swordsman character’s internal struggles with the tournament and then did not even show him battle. All of the characters simply were shown walking up to Well afterwards and announcing their result in the tournament. That’s so disappointing for viewers looking forward to some exciting action. Further, there was a big battle episode, and the combat was again just entirely not shown. All they showed was Well’s fiancée healing people who were injured in the combat. I don’t know why they did these things, but all I can say is that somewhere down the line, someone must have decided that they absolutely did not want to write/animate/pay for any fighting in this series at any cost. The series is based on weapon and magic-based combat, and to not show us that makes no sense whatsoever.

I’m not done lambasting this show, and I can feel my rating for it going down as I write this sentence. I have a few more various criticisms. The series started out alright, and I felt as if I might even give the show a 6/10. The set up was interesting. This was a world where nobility and family mattered a lot, and there was a cool focus on the intrigue of kingdom politics. It looked his he was going to go to school, form an interesting party, make friends, and hone his magic against undead foes with the help of his mentor. His previous mentor had died after imparting his knowledge to Well as a last desire before passing on. Great.

But then, the series just seemed to flatline. First, his party displayed itself to be useless, as mentioned before. Then, the weird harem shit with the women who were way too young for that. But even aside from that, it lacked focus and jumped from one thing to another. Well develops his relationship with his fiancée. Oh, now there’s a war. Suddenly there’s a tournament. Wait, now they get trapped in ancient ruins. Okay now Well’s brother is being a dick. It needed to focus on less and let the plot flow naturally from episode to episode.

Aside from jumping around, there really wasn’t any overarching goal or plotline, it was just Well hanging out with his party and doing what people tell him to go do. He didn’t really have any ambition, and there were no clearly defined antagonists. Well himself was rather boring personality-wise, although that is not uncommon for anime protagonists, but he was also a bit inconsistent. For example, Well stated that he didn’t want to fuck with his eldest brother’s territory or be forced to take care of more land. Shortly after, he reverses course and decides it’s okay to fuck with his brother’s territory and take it for himself. He openly undermined his brother in front of the villagers under his brother’s control and basically paid off his brother’s friends to abandon him. If Well really did not want to control this territory and fuck over his brother, it would have been better to just give his brother some of Well’s mountain of cash in private to take care of the village’s issues and then leave him alone.

I’ve been pretty harsh on this show so far, and to just mention the bad points would be unfair and inaccurate. To be honest, the show had a lot of promise, as mentioned before. The world itself and its focus on familial social status and politics was genuinely interesting. The main characters had likeable aspects and had some fun banter from time to time. Some of the side characters in particular were actually very enjoyable whenever they were in a scene. For instance, Brantack, Well’s mentor, was your typical drunken and grizzled, but wise, mentor. This is a character type that I enjoy, and his character’s physical appearance was cool. His character had added emotional weight because Brantack was originally also the mentor of Well’s first magic teacher who died in the first couple of episodes.

There was also a dude who begged to be hired as a bodyguard for literally three years by spinning his spear and yelling at Well whenever he saw Well in public, which was funny. Eventually, Well hired the spear spinning guy, and he turned out to be smart, loyal, and a very good fighter. Finally, there was a side character named Armstrong who was good at magic and punching and seemed very similar to the character also named Armstrong in the Fullmetal Alchemist Series (Alex Louis Armstrong) in terms of his bold, jovial antics. Everyone loves Armstrong from Fullmetal Alchemist, so getting vibes of that character is unquestionably a good thing.

Despite this handful of small strengths and a decent early start to the series, I became annoyed and bored with the series as it went on. The main supporting characters are neither interesting nor useful, the premise of the show was done clumsily, the fighting aspect of the show was garbage, and Well is actually a pretty creepy dude if you think about it.

There are worse shows, but I wouldn’t recommend wasting your time here. Ultimately, I rate the series a 3.6 out of 10.

Final Rating: 3.6/10.

-Gray