I’m Standing on a Million Lives – 1st Episode Review
Synopsis: Aloof and logical middle school third-year Yusuke Yotsuya is transported to a game-like alternate world. He becomes a third player and takes on a dangerous quest with his classmates Iu Shindo and Kusue Hakozaki, who were transported there earlier. The cold Yusuke eschews emotionalism and examines all elements with detachment, sometimes even toying with the lives of his companions. Can he protect his party from attacking monsters, difficult incidents, and powerful scheming enemies and win the game? (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: I’m Standing on a Million Lives could’ve been just another typical power fantasy Isekai, but manages to carve out some novelty by having its cast teleport back and forth between worlds rather than permanently teleported or reborn into this new fantasy world. The series also boasts a somewhat unusual male lead, Yusuke Yotsuya, who isn’t all heart of gold nor is he proficient or special within the span of a single episode. For once, our hero truly must use his wits and sheer perseverance to defeat the starter monsters he encounters. Thanks to these developments Million Lives avoids some of the worst Power Fantasy tropes Isekai are littered with. That said, it’s frustrating that in order to accomplish this the show severely dumbs down and handicaps both its female leads so as to give Yusuke a chance to shine, even though the girls have interacted with this fantasy world longer than him. I’m only further soured by Million Lives insistence on abrupt switches between comedy and exposition/action, making this first episode almost manic in its execution. There’s no breathing room between jokes and serious content and the constant jumps in tone are bound to give some viewers whiplash, especially if the comedy isn’t really landing for them.
Tom: As someone who’s read the manga I can say that there’s both flaws present from the source material and those introduced by this anime adaptation. Shindou and Kusue, Yusuke’s two female companions, are indeed quite useless, even in the manga. There’s no escaping that I’m Standing on a Million Lives isn’t great with its female cast, even later on. But the anime’s propensity for snap-switching between comedy and action isn’t nearly so egregious an issue in the manga. The anime takes quite a few liberties across the board. For example the first five minutes are near entirely anime only. Comparatively the manga transports our heroes to the fantasy game world much, much quicker. The direction of this first episode also lingers on comedic sequences for far longer, stretching them out or bolstering these moments of levity with goofy sound effect cues, making mole hills of comedic charm into obnoxious mountains. Altogether I think the presentation here actively detracts from what makes the series intriguing.
Linny: My other bone to pick with I’m Standing on a Million Lives is its continued portrayal of Yusuke, even if I praised aspects of his character before. His calculating and cold personality undoubtedly grabs the viewer’s attention, such as when he makes it abundantly clear to his unskilled, cowardly party member that he’d rather not have her around as she’d only be a burden and threat to his survival. There’s no admirable and self sacrificing shounen hero to be found here. But then the episode goes in hard on depicting just how much Yusuke loves this new world/lifestyle he has found himself in, with close ups of him grinning like some evil villain as he talks about how much he prefers this new world to his life in Tokyo. However, for all the extra anime-only footage at the start, the episode doesn’t really show us what was so wrong about his life in Tokyo. He just seemed like an average, detached teenager who enjoys gaming, doesn’t really connect with his peers and isn’t all that motivated about his future. It makes him come off as some bratty/psychotic teen who’s happy because now he can be the sick, twisted killer he’s always wanted to be. The opening credits seem to hint at maybe an early childhood tragedy but the first episode itself has not even a whisper of it. Including said incident could have been useful in setting Yusuke up further as a unusual and dark lead with a complex past, especially if the incident was told well or was creative by nature. As it stands now, Yusuke might win fans over with his matter of fact attitude to survival and his clear deviation from the more typical Isekai hero, but how the show develops his character and depicts his journey is also going to determine how long the fans actually stay invested.
Tom: Yusuke is undoubtedly a tough character to like as presented in the anime. Not only is he cold, but he feels actively psychotic, as Linny said. Again though, there’s adjustments here from the manga’s presentation. In the manga Yusuke’s portrayal of appreciating this brutal fantasy world has more to do with his frustration and lack of interest in the real world, and less because he’s actively a psycho-path, though there’s some of that. There’s a nuance to his character that the anime has been unable or unwilling to capture, doubling down on Yusuke’s more sociopath tendencies. He feels so much more edgy a lead here than he ever did on the page.
Linny: Despite all my criticisms, I do think I’m Standing on a Million Lives has potential. There’s plenty of unique aspects about not just the lead himself but the setting and the rules governing our casts’ new double life. Throw in some zany characters and elements like the welcoming party depicted on the right in the image above and it’s highly likely that I’m Standing on a Million Lives is going to leave a mark on audiences. If you’re looking for a show with a bit of an edgy lead but also a lot of random comedy, then you could be the intended audience for I’m Standing on a Million Lives, as long as you are forgiving of the issues discussed above.
Tom: My appreciation for I’m Standing on a Million Lives has a lot to do with how much of Gantz I see in it. You’ve got a mysterious being who bestows power/weapons upon unsuspecting kids and transports them off to combat horrible monsters, leaving the audience with plenty of lingering questions. Add on top Yusuke being a less likable hero and I think you’ve got the makings of a ‘Gantz-light’ story, one that never gets quite as brutal or puts its characters in nearly so much certain danger. There’s undoubtedly flaws even in the manga, but the anime makes them so much more pronounced, as well as adding whole new ones right on top. If a ‘Gantz-light’ Isekai sounds like your kind of thing I’d urge you to seek out the manga instead, because right now I’m Standing on a Million Lives’ anime feels like it’s only bringing out the worst of the manga.
I’m Standing on a Million Lives is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.com