OP: 「スライドライド」(Slide Ride) by Run Girls, Run!
“The Catastrophe That Started with a Death March”
The Banality of Daily Life
Welcome to the corporate world, a mechanical instrument of production fuelled by the anguished souls of its slaves. Enter Suzuki Ichirou (Horie Shun), a programmer who spends sleepless nights tirelessly working on two concurrent online games. Feel his despair, as colleagues push various problems onto him, expecting him to fix them all. A brief reprieve comes in the form of a little girl, crying for her mother, who Suzuki hopes to help. But even that interaction is fraught with potential misunderstandings where he might have seemed like a pedophile. Now, where is the truck destined to take our protagonist away from such a horrible life? Well, the answer may be rather unexpected…
Escape to a Magical World
I’m not sure if Satou died in his sleep, or whether his consciousness seeped into the video game. But either ways, he wakes up in a different world. Perhaps they met with an unfortunate accident, who knows. But there is no standard god to greet him either, or grant cheat powers. I repeat, you heard correctly. Not that he needed it anyway, after summoning a meteor shower wiping out half the valley, instantaneously boosting him to Level 310. And that’s what Death March is establishing. We’re already being reassured that this won’t be a story of significant stakes, where characters will fight life and death battles, because our main character’s strength is quite literally off the charts. Hundreds of arrows bounced off a dragon’s scales, but Satou pretty much made it flee by casually throwing a pebble and puncturing its wings. Seriously?!? At least without having to worry about survival, we can focus on enjoying his journey through an unknown fantasy world.
I maintain that most anime of an other-world nature (isekai) do not properly make use of graphical user interfaces borrowed from video games. A big part of the fun is seeing equipment, inventory, stats, skills, abilities, etc. Death March should theoretically satisfy this itch of mine, considering its detailed menu system. Unfortunately, most of the interface isn’t getting translated! I think it’s absolutely inexcusable and am really sad that we ended up missing out on so many interesting things. Crunchyroll, pleez.
Moving onto another criticism, as people could probably tell from the OP/ED, Satou will most certainly amass a harem. This episode, it’s already started. He even manages to save a damsel in distress! I wouldn’t blame people for walking out at this point, because in all honesty, Death March’s approach to female characters is extremely lousy. However, there are things worth sticking around for, which would mainly be the world that the series succeeds in building up – which you will slowly find out about as you continue watching.
Isekai is a genre profoundly rooted in escapism, and I won’t even deny its the biggest pull for me. Many people are attracted to the romanticised ideal of restarting from a clean slate, because who hasn’t done stuff they regret, and would like to change if they had the chance? Satou’s life doesn’t seem like it’s worth living, and I suspect if most people found themselves in that position, they would want away. In fact, most adults could probably relate with it. Seeing a corporate worker being run into the ground is remarkably different from your regular schtick involving school, which comes across as petulant whining in contrast. As such, I would say the anime has done a fantastic job of instilling the sensation of a ‘death march’ – this notion of a torturous and empty journey that only ends with the final breath. But past this final breath exists another world free of old sorrows. What will Satou choose to do in the face of this new reality?
ED: 「スキノスキル」(Suki no Skill) by Wake Up, Girls!