Sometimes when I watch isekai anime, I feel like I’m just watching a dream of the creator’s disturbing fantasies. The author of the Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody light novels, which the anime is based upon, is apparently really into underaged slaves.

But he’s choosing not to sleep with them despite their lust for him!

Uh okay, but why did the writer make these prepubescent kids lust for him in the first place?

The story is about a 28-year-old programmer who finds himself in a game world resembling some that he helped design. He quickly becomes overpowered and builds a seven-person harem with a median age of twelve.

Is the MC, Satou, a worthy male lead? No.

Do the female characters have unique and interesting personalities? No.

Should you watch this anime? Probably not.

Death March isn’t so terrible that you can’t get through it. The worldbuilding is, in fact, better than average, as are the skill and video game mechanics. And aside for one or two god-awful-is-that-the-FBI-knocking-on-my-door? moments, the ecchi scenes aren’t overdone.

But the series boils down to this: Everything comes easily to Satou and everyone thinks he’s the best. The end.

If that’s the escapism you want, go for it. Otherwise, try something else.

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Think you’re ready to start your own web fiction series? Make sure you know these four web fiction writing guidelines before you start and save yourself some headaches.

I learned these the hard way by starting a series an realizing that I had serious foundational issues. That story is on hold now, and I plan to go back and fix things before I move any further with my story. But for now, here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Pick a world you find fascinating and characters you enjoy spending time with.

Whether it’s ancient China, Middle Earth, an alternate universe, or Kansas City, you’ll be spending a lot of your time in the world you create, so make sure you like the place.

The same goes for your characters. You might have a hot idea for a certain main lead, but are you certain you’ll be interested in writing about him or her for potentially several years? Is there personality and backstory that will keep you interested enough to watch them evolve as your story progresses?

As an author, you don’t only need to keep your readers interested, you need to keep yourself interested.

2. Know the rules before you start.

One of the biggest pet peeves of any web fiction reader is when the rules change later in the story without rhyme or reason. This might be how the magic works, or someone’s reputation, or even a character’s personalities.

Don’t write yourself into a paradox that you can’t get out of.

Know the rules that govern your world inside out before you start writing. You don’t need to reveal the rules from the get-go (or ever, necessarily), but they need to be set in stone.

For example, if you’re writing a wuxia story and a certain martial arts move took years for a smart and capable character to learn early in the series, it shouldn’t be a cakewalk for some idiot 300 chapters in. Readers will pick up even on small details like this, and it’ll rip the veil of your story’s reality.

3. Have an ending or at least a direction of where you want your story to go.

No one wants to spend twenty hours reading an epic masterpiece only to find out that you had no idea how to bring it all together in the final act.

Many popular stories have suffered from this. Think of the TV show Lost or some of Stephen King’s novels. Hell, look at George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series and even the Game of Thrones TV show.

The reason the midsections of these stories are better than the endings is because they didn’t have an overarching plan going in.

Sure, sometimes the writer(s) get lucky and it all works out in the end, but why take the risk?

This is your baby, you don’t want it to grow up to be a failure.

If you’re someone who doesn’t like to know the details of their stories before they write them, you should at least have a direction you want to go in.

Eiichiro Oda’s manga One Piece is a great example of how to do this properly. There is an ending planned, and we, the readers, generally have an idea of what it will be about–Luffy finding the One Piece treasure–but in between Oda can take as many detours as he likes doing story arcs related to the overarching plot or just one-offs.

When he’s good and ready, he can return to an ending that ties everything together.

4. Pace yourself.

Writing a web fiction serial is an endurance test.

Worm, arguably the most well-known English web serial, is 1,682,400 words long. That’s roughly equivalent to 25 full-length novels.

If you manage to build up a following, you’ll have meet deadlines and the expectations of excited fans. Don’t promise too much, and don’t overextend yourself.

You’re running a marathon, not a 100-meter dash. So don’t burn your creative juices to the last drop each and every day, save some for the next day and the next.

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Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari (Rising of the Shield Hero) is an isekai anime, where the main character is transported to a fantasy world, and in this case, it’s a semi game-based one.

Just with this information alone, you can probably guess the entire plot. He’s a loser in real life, super overpowered in the game world, the ladies love him, there’s a mysterious yet uninteresting bad guy to defeat, story logic is constructed by toddlers, and a fantasy world backstory as bland and generic as dollar canned soup.

Yet, as of today, the series has a score of 8.36 on myanimelist (anything above an 8 is typically decent).

So I checked it out. It went like this:

It’s fascinating to me that this run-of-the-mill cookie-cutter series is, in fact, rather addictive, and I think it boils down to this: Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari is a rags to riches story. Hollywood loves this trope, especially in gangster movies—this is the anime equivalent. Instead of impoverished immigrant to mafia boss, this is more along the lines of fun monkey boy to alien Super Saiyan.

Without spoiling the story too much (although let’s not kid ourselves here, there’s little to spoil), Tate has a few other quirks going for it.

The main character starts at what appears as a disadvantage—stuck with only a shield instead of a legendary weapon — but this turns in his favor, which we’re all expecting, but unfortunately, it happens all too quickly.

The story also plays with the MMORPG “party” concept a bit—where you’ve got one character that’s a tank and one that’s the DPS hitter.

Oh, and of course, our MC has slave girls.

Let’s be honest, this is a major draw for male anime audiences, myself somewhat included if I’m honest.

But from a prefrontal cortex point of view, I can’t help but feel bad for the voice actresses that have to spout the most ridiculous and embarrassing lines imaginable.

What makes it worse is that Naofumi, our honorable “Yuusha” (hero), is a grade-A emo whiner (it’s actually one of his shield skills), so the girls have to continuously hold up his ego or else he gets all sad and insecure.

I have an uncomfortable gut feeling that this aspect is actually what a lot of aforementioned male audiences enjoy.

I don’t get it myself, but it seems like there’s some kind of mental masturbation and wish fulfillment going on here, where the guy acts like a huge immature dick and the girls love him anyway.

Will I finish the series?

Meh, maybe.

It would be a done deal if every episode were out already. But I don’t know if new episodes are wait-able… as in, there’s a good chance I’ll start something new and forget all about the sniveling shield hero.

I hear it’s interesting to be reincarnated as a slime…

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