©Kazutomo Ichitomo, KADOKAWA/HANDYMAN SAITOU IN ANOTHER WORLD PARTNERS
Handyman Saitō in Another World is an odd show. Comedy-based Isekai is nothing new. But Handyman Saitō’s approach takes a very different direction from the insane weirdness of something like KONOSUBA or Cautious Hero, seriously embodying the structure of his comic source material through isolated sketches with restrained punch lines. It gives the whole thing an atmosphere, unlike other animes about world-spanning heroes and a lot of comedy anime overall.
Part of what makes Handyman Saitō unique is that while the nominal gimmick is someone with a specific job being summoned into the fantasy world, rather than some simple cipher, Saitō’s handyman character isn’t the source of much of the humor of the series. It’s not about how weird it would be to have a handyman in this world; The point of the show is that the fantasy world itself is pretty weird on its own. Entire scenes can play out in episodes that don’t even involve Saitō and his friends, such as an entry in the second episode where a king defeats his demonic enemy but keeps him with him as a living, severed head because he has his actually enjoys company. Much of what is written here is built on top of this Subversion, introducing us to a standard fantasy class, character or situation before we retreat to reveal the punch line at the end and hopefully elicit a laugh.
Of course, this unconventional approach means Handyman Saitō is as hit-or-miss a game as can be. Many parts are funny or cute entertaining, such as the eccentricities of Saitō’s party members, such as the greedy fairy healer or the senility-stricken wizard. But other parts don’t work so well and are on the verge of exhausting their effectiveness. In particular, the series has a penchant for wicked humor that you might not expect. Some of it helps evoke this appealing weirdness, like the delicacy of tail-shaped mushrooms, or the debut of a warrior-healer combo composed only of a few oddball perverts. However, the last part is an example that lags a little too long and awkwardly. Other sketches along these lines didn’t pan out either, like Raelza taking off her armor in the second episode, or a lengthy build-up in the third episode about a team of streaming adventurers who keep their fantasy webcams on while the action heats up , which is ultimately only justified comes across as mean.
Handyman Saitō is at its best when it feels like it builds on those parts through the characters and the world it gradually introduced in the first three episodes. So the part about Raelza’s armor wasn’t great, and when in the third episode an electric trap that requires removing the armor appears, I braced myself for a repeat of that kind of forbearance. But then the show turns things around by having Saitō lend her his clothes so she can cover up. Instead, we catch a glimpse of a Saitō service and see Raelza rocking his jumpsuit. This is a win-win situation!
This uplifting approach applies even when the show isn’t about humor. Just because Handyman Saitō is short and understated doesn’t mean it isn’t ambitious, too. A common thread running through these first three episodes is that Saitō feels he needs to prove he is capable of helping the group, stemming from feeling undervalued in his world. This plays out in storylines spanning several scattered sketches, showing Saitō’s struggles in a few instances of dungeon battles and how he connects his feelings with people in the pause between those adventures. This is cool because it makes the group feel like a real group of comrades and not like a story-structured JRPG team. Additionally, the sketchy structure allows Saitō’s handling of his emotions to be more realistic, chaotic, and cyclical, causing the show to move toward more consistent jokes. As chilled as it often feels, it never comes across as lazy, which I think befits a series about a working man.
Handyman Saitō’s ambitions also seem to extend to an ongoing story, despite its structure. This culminates in episode three when Saitō discovers a dungeon and revitalizes the local adventure business by uniting many of the faces seen in these disparate sketches. Of course, only such an irreverently weird series would attribute this development, and the promise of more, to the mystery of a Roomba in the fantasy world, but it’s compelling nonetheless. I’m excited to see how these connections and advancements will play out in the upcoming episodes. But I also feel like I’m going to have a lot of fun hanging out with Saitō and all these other weirdos every weekend.
Handyman Saitō in Another World is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Chris is a Freelance Freelancer from Fresno with a penchant for anime and a shelf full of Transformers. He spends far too much time on Twitter and updates his blog infrequently.
Disclosure: Kadokawa World Entertainment (KWE), a wholly owned subsidiary of Kadokawa Corporation, is the majority owner of Anime News Network, LLC. One or more of the companies mentioned in this article are part of the Kadokawa group of companies.
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