Tensei shitara Ken Deshita I became the sword by transmigrating, TenKen 転生したら剣でした
Reincarnated as a Sword begin a nameless sword wakes up to discover he has been reincarnated from his former life as a human. With his power of telekinesis, he moves around this new world, acquiring several skills and abilities. When the sword comes upon a forest filled with monsters, he meets a young girl fleeing from a beast. Grabbing the sword, the girl easily defeats the monster. After introducing herself as Fran, she names the sword “Shishou” and officially becomes his wielder.
The two set out to become adventurers, but unfortunately for Fran, she is a member of the Black Cat Tribe—a Beastkin group with a bad reputation. No member of this tribe has ever evolved into a mightier beast, but Fran plans to be the first and achieve her parents’ dream. As Shishou promises to remain her sword until she attains her goal, they form an unstoppable partnership of impressive strength.
Tensei shitara Slime Datta Ken a.k.a That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime. That’s quite innovative for its time, plus Ranga as a huge but lovable doggo.
Jidou Hanbaiki ni Umarekawatta Ore wa Meikyuu wo Samayou a.k.a Reborn as a Vending Machine, Now I Wander the Dungeon. Though the anime adaptation is coming soon, it’s unironically the pinnacle of fiction that I’m so awaiting its eventual arrival.
Kumo desu ga, Nani ka? a.k.a So I’m a Spider, So What?. Despite Millepensee’s horrid-but-tolerable CGI, I can understand why the LN is highly praised for its originality.
But what about Tensei shitara Ken Deshita a.k.a Reincarnated as a Sword? If I have to describe this show in the now oversaturated Isekai Reincarnation sub-genre, it is neither here nor there in the overall sense, only backed by wherever the plot that the original source novelist Yuu Tanaka wants to head towards directionally, and that direction is inconsistent at times. The best way to see this show is through reception, and as an example: ANN’s Theron Martin, in reviewing Volume 1 of the LN, praised the character interactions with the action, and the little-above-average writing skills that showcase a somewhat limited world-building, but criticized the story’s lack of originality, which is why you see those 3 sources right in the review’s opening messages, being a copy-paste, jumbled mess-up of a concoction. The TL;DR is that Tensei shitara Ken Deshita is good in spots, but it’s often a hit-and-miss affair, and it’s down to your perception on how you are going to see this.
And honestly, my review of the show could’ve just ended like this, but let’s take a dive into what’s really going on in this premise.
The story (or the plot rather) is truly one of the epitomes of a lackluster setting of someone getting reincarnated from death in the real world, only to find themselves being an object of some strange kind. Could be a slime, could be a spider, heck, even a vending machine! But in this show, the typical MC instead becomes a sword that awaits its master while it does its own things to kill off time, defeating monsters and levelling up in OP-ness like who gives a shit about that.
Eventually, it (or he) gets a new master in the form of a nameless Black Cat, said to be a beastkin group that has nothing but bad vibes and a reputation to boot, being the inferior race amongst all beastkin. After the sword repeatedly lunges towards its enemies slicing and gobbling up the equivalent of magic stones to store up mana for its self-sustained levelling up skills, it provides assistance to this Black Cat, shackled in slavery and torture to defend and attack against both monsters and its user’s oppressors.
And once it’s freed from all of the torture that this Black Cat has been suffering for all her life, the nameless gets a name from it, and the student-teacher relationship of Fran and Teacher is born. And true to honest, I can live with this kind of setting as it presents a coming-of-age story with Fran as she deals with both her past and her present, proving that her lowly Black Cat race isn’t one to be trifled with with the leading character being Fran alone to represent and stop the racism and bullying of her fellow tribespeople.
What happens thereafter is just a string of coincidences. Both Fran and Teacher a.k.a Sword Dad have that relationship that feels like a daughter-father dynamic, it feels satisfying to see Fran really grow up from her shackles of life to one that’s constantly growing under Sword Dad’s guiding rhetoric to lead Fran the correct way and not just to learn of what if right or wrong, like say, upholding one’s own justice, for example.
Fran’s dishevelled look in the beginning may look rough, but as she turns from the dirty and unpresentable to a more fitting representation of a confident adventurer and gaining the attention of people from all walks of life, it’s there that she becomes more attractive and attention-seeking in both good and bad ways, plus Teacher who is able to help her discern what she lacks, and makes for a character that you earnestly want to root for, becoming stronger by the day. The somewhat large character cast that serves as Fran and Teacher’s waypoints, I’ll just take or leave it, except for the exceptional few.
One of them is the Rank A half-elf adventurer Amanda, whose both an ace and a philanthropist to an orphanage, taking care of orphaned children in great numbers. And likewise, she’s the mother character when it comes to Fran, though the Black Cat herself vehemently denies her affection from time to time. But regardless, Fran’s living her life alone without her biological parents who’ve been killed by humans, and it wouldn’t hurt to have parental figures tagging along for progress, as she drives towards her goal of evolution, a feat that no Black Cat has ever attempted before.
Despite being produced by almost relatively the same staff team as Tsuki ga Michibiku Isekai Douchuu a.k.a Tsukimichi -Moonlit Fantasy- over at studio C2C, the glaring similarities are obvious at first sight, with the only difference being of the source material’s writing quality.
And as mentioned earlier, novelist Yuu Tanaka’s writing is a touch above average…though come to think of it, it feels like it consistently needs plot movers to ensure it’s always heading in predictable fashions, which explains the rather hit-and-miss feels of the show overall. But when you examine the production quality on its own, C2C has done a respectable job maintaining the feel of the LN that’s translated onto the small screen. And for that, it gets a commendable pass.
The OST, depending on your taste of music, can also be hit-and-miss, as per the case for Sword Isekai here. For the yearly seasoned anime watchers, you will come to know that this is not the first time that both Kishida Kyoudan & The Akeboshi Rockets and Maon Kurosaki are paired together for a rockafella-like OST. In fact, both music artistes made their debut all the way back in 2010 with Highschool of the Dead, and in the years since, have made a name for themselves right in their own respective genres. For the former, having their songs be titled after respective anime that they have made their appearance on is the unique signature, and Sword Isekai is no different with the standard-ish J rock n’ pop that the rock band is known for being decent in spots in every regard. For Maon Kurosaki, the last few years haven’t really been so kind to her, with the last major hit being Toaru Majutsu no Index III’s OP themes back in Fall 2018. And now with her ED theme song, she has finally hit her stride to produce yet another banger of a song that showcases Fran’s journey from slavery to redemption. Really though, I have grown to love the ED more than the OP, that’s for damn sure.
At the end of the day, we should already acknowledge that we’re in a time where most of the Isekai sub-genres have been explored for seasons now, most being borrowed ideas with a few unique ones that stand out. Ultimately, it does and doesn’t matter if your work sounds generic, all it matters is if the execution holds up to be worth of its enjoyability and recommendation.
For Sword Isekai, I can’t help but be like Humpty Dumpty sitting on the fence about what is/are good and bad about it, and my TL;DR is that while the main characters i.e. Fran and Teacher are a treat to enjoy, the rest of it just comes off as uninspired, something that we the audience have been a dozen times over, and are practically begging to see what makes this show (and its source material) stand out, only to face an eke of disappointment that the simple fact is practically in your face: a generic title that can be explored much, but severely limited by its potential for tendencies around the “Isekai Reincarnation” sub-genre.
If you’re the kind of person who is willing to take a sacrifce for some enjoyment, I would say: Go for it. Sword Isekai is good, but not great. But if you’re otherwise, then this show is going to bore you to tears by the time you’re getting around the halfway mark. It’s such a shame that the potential is squandered to stick to tried-and-true methodologies that work best, and while this does not look like an ugly duckling, it certainly is no swan.