I’ve been a pretty big fan of the Isekai genre. I’m writing my own story in the genre and having a blast with it. It seems that I’m not the only one out there, since every season there are numerous anime coming out in the genre. I’ve got a post I’m working on exploring the genre as a whole, but there’s a separate issue that’s been coming up lately that is kind of becoming a problem. Some of you might already be catching on to it, but in case I’m being too vague, let me just explain. I’m talking about slavery.
Now, slavery is a horrible thing from our history that is definitely a common trope in fantasy stories throughout the years. And I think it’s something that can work in a fantasy setting if executed well. I have a world in which slavery exists that I’m writing about although with how poorly it’s being done in anime lately I’m definitely reconsidering that plot point. This season alone there’s multiple series that have slavery in them. Why is this such a problematic topic? Let’s take a look at one specific show that I can’t believe I haven’t dropped yet:
The reincarnation of the strongest exorcist in another world.
Yifa is a slave of the Lamprogue family. Seika is someone who reincarnated into this world. He treats Yifa mostly as a friend, but she’s still a slave and will have to obey his orders. There was just a story beat in this anime where a rich prince wants to buy Yifa. If Seika wasn’t the powerhouse monster that he is (because he’s an Isekai protagonist, of course he is) the prince would have probably just thrown Seika in jail and added Yifa to his harem. It’s extremely weird that these anime just treat being “a good slave owner” as making you a morally good person. That is very wrong and should not be portrayed in this way. You could argue that them treating their slaves well makes them less evil than those who treat their slaves poorly, but that still makes them bad people. All the way to the bottom of hell with them. And there’s so many shows who do this.
A show that does this trope particularly poorly was Legend of the shield hero. There one of the characters went back into slavery after a while because she wanted to be of use for the main character. Never before have I seen a show so blatantly glorifying slavery. It’s really weird how it’s being treated and I wonder if light novel authors are okay. It’s one thing if slavery was a common thing in fantasy worlds but everyone agreed that it’s bad no matter who does it, but to show characters as good slave owners is so jarring that it really takes you out of a story.
There’s shows that pull off this story a lot better. Vinland Saga comes to mind. The slaves are still treated as sub-human, but the slave owner in that story is a master at making his slaves more productive. A slave working for freedom is going to work a lot harder than someone who has nothing to gain. And if the end result is letting go of your slaves that’s a small price to pay. But a lot of shows don’t portray it this way and instead almost glorify it and that feels very icky to watch. I know I’m not the only one who’s getting real sick of this plot point, but what do you guys think? Please let me know in the comments down below if you think of any series that do the topic well. Because I don’t expect a lot of people to die on the hill of “there’s good slave owners too.” But that’s just me.