In the year 3636, the world has been decimated by a black fog that kills every living thing it touches. Warriors, mages, priests, and other adventurers are sent to the Shadow World to defeat their enemy and stop the advance of the fog. But here at the end, with one final “boss” left to kill, only six brave souls remain—six out of 150 million. Desir Hermann is among these survivors, but even as he grieves for the loss of friends and comrades, he must turn his attention to Boromir Napolitan, a dragon and the leader of the Shadow World. Despite the dragon’s strength, the group is able to defeat their foe, particularly because of Desir’s ability to seal Boromir’s powers away. Yet, something isn’t quite right; the party hasn’t received the “cleared” message nor returned to their world (spoilers ahead for episode one). They realize too late that the dragon’s heart contains a massive amount of mana, which explodes and kills them. But death is not the end, not for Desir, and not for at least some of the others, it seems. He wakes up on the day of his enrollment in Hebrion Academy, more than a decade before Boromir’s defeat. And as he sees Professor Brigitte for the first time (again) and meets his sempai, Ladoria Doriche (again), Desir begins to realize that he has returned to his former life, where most shocking of all, he bumps into the person he most treasures and misses—his “future” comrade and perhaps the love of his life, Romantica.
A new, wonderful, and potentially great series has landed! While fantasy anime tend to focus on adventurers “out in the field” or students attending a school, A Returner’s Magic Should Be Special is a little unique in that it does both in episode one, starting at the end by spending its initial moments at the conclusion of the greatest adventure before doing the whole time leap thing back to year one of magic high school. It may sound gimmicky, but this not only frames the story, but it also sets the tone for the series, which much like another fantasy anime premiering this season, Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End, is more about treasuring friendships than it is about defeating the enemy (as important as that may be). But while Frieren is highly contemplative, A Returner’s Magic Should Be Special is more in your face and obvious in how it portrays the impact of all the death that Desir has endured, most primarily that of Romantica and the adventurers that were blown away at the end of the dragon quest. What’s really nice is that we get to spend a considerable amount of time with those five other party members before their deaths occur. In the webnovel, we do get a feel for their camaraderie, which is enough to carry over that sense of loss to us, but in the anime, the audience will feel that and more as they really get to learn about each character’s personality. Meanwhile, we rush through Desir’s first hours in his return state, but these scenes still work plenty well as they are bookended by two important elements: Desir’s state of distress upon realizing he has gone back in time, which feels like a very human reaction as opposed to a more trope-like “I get to relive my life!”, and his first meeting with Romantica, which we realize is going to be central to the story. It’s good stuff. Also strong are the character designs, which feature little embellishes that set them (particularly the adults) apart from typical fantasy characters, and the music score, which conveys a sadness without being excessive. Weaker, however, is the inadequate animation. It particularly stands out by way of the ED, which shows screencaps from the first half of the episode in these brilliant browns, whereas the original scenes came across more as dull. And don’t get me started on that terrible CGI dragon. But we’re now past that battle and onto the story and all the feels, and I don’t think these weaker aspects will affect the series that greatly. Based on what I know from having read the first two volumes of the webnovel, we’re in for a treat. And I can’t wait to return to this series week after week to see the story unfold.
A Returner’s Magic Should Be Special can be streamed on Crunchyroll.
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