First Impression: Handyman Saitou in Another World

Opening the door of a magic dungeon—accompanied by an old wizard, a fairy healer and a female knight—Saitou, level 8, feels accomplished. He used to be another disposable locksmith and handyman whose clients would simply refuse to pay 7,000 yen for “just a minute of work.” But now, he opens locks and chests better than any thief, and is a proud member of an adventurers party of four. Sure, Morlock the Wizard is getting senile, and despite his legendary abilities, he often forgets what he is doing, or where he is. For her part, Lafanpan the Fairy has a strange philosophy for her healing power: she will charge for every service, big and small, with a smile. And Raelza the Knight, the warrior with a scar on her face, is so shy that her attempts to establish connections with others have hilarious results. Yet, somehow everything works. But when Saitou falls into a pit and breaks a leg, things suddenly turn serious.

What a nice little show! Combining parody, slice-of-life and fantasy adventure, these snippets from the past and present life of Saitou are at once hilariously subversive and pretty moving in their own right. How subversive, you ask? Well, enough. Of course, SAO parodies and clones are legion nowadays, but I feel that this one has a heart. It uses the genre conventions cleverly, setting things up and subverting expectations, and jumps gracefully from point to point. The characters are fun enough to be compelling and interesting enough to allow for exploration. The art is pretty great; the way an underappreciated job is brought to the spotlight is a nice touch; our protagonist feels vulnerable; and so far there’s no fanservice to speak of. Kudos for the change of tone in the “serious” scene: that’s a well-done subversion, and it caught me totally off-guard. This episode was good, undiluted fun, and if I keep watching a show week after week this season, it might very well be Handyman Saitou.

Handyman Satou in Another World can be streamed at Crunchyroll.

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