WARNING: The following contains spoilers for In the Land of Leadale Episode 1, "An Inn, a Tower, a Bear, and a Banquet," now streaming on Crunchyroll.
The Isekai trend has been dominating anime and manga for years now, with every season bringing loads of new Isekai series. However, as with any fad, many people have begun to tire of the Isekai formula. Many fans have taken to social media to complain about the number of "by-the-numbers" series released each season. However, while the new Isekai series In the Land of Leadale uses the formula we've all come to expect, it has one refreshing element.
In the Land of Leadale started life as a series of light novels written by Ceez and illustrated by Tenmaso. It was first published on the Shōsetsuka ni Narō website. However, the series became popular, and it was picked up by Japanese publisher Enterbrain, who have helped the franchise grow, launching a manga and now an anime. In 2021 it was announced that this anime would be animated by Maho Film, the studio most known for its work on I'm Standing on a Million Lives. The first episode premiered in early January, with Crunchyroll bringing the series to American viewers.
The first episode started as regular viewers of Isekai would expect. There was a brief glimpse of a semi-modern city however, this city soon experienced a blackout. The show then cut to a fantasy location, where a maid woke up. This maid is introduced as Keina Kagami, the show's protagonist. Keina is confused by her situation, and viewers quickly learn why. Before the blackout, Keina was in the hospital, paralyzed, and hooked up to life support. This world she now found herself in, called Leadale, was the setting of the VR game she played to escape her troubles. Seemingly, when the blackout happened, her mind got trapped in the game.
However, something unusual is going on, as the world of Leadale isn't how Keina remembered it. In fact, it seems that 200 years have passed in the game world, and things have not been going well for the people of Leadale, and several of the old kingdoms have joined together. Keen to solve the mystery, Keina heads out into the world to get to the bottom of her situation.
On paper, In the Land of Leadale seems to hit every standard Isekai plot beat. It features a protagonist who dies, only to end up in a fantasy RPG. In this new world, the hero is extremely overpowered and is vastly more powerful than the people they encounter. In fact, after watching the first episode, fans might be forgiven for thinking that there isn't a single original idea in In the Land of Leadale. This even stretches to the animation. While nothing looks terrible, In the Land of Leadale doesn't have anything distinct about it. In fact, if you showed anime fans random stills from the episode, they likely wouldn't be able to guess which show they were from.
However, there is one refreshing thing about In the Land of Leadale and that's its cast. Most Isekai protagonists are male, and usually, these male heroes are surrounded by female characters who exist to deliver fan service. However, In the Land of Leadale sidesteps this trope. Not only is the protagonist female but most of the characters in the first episode are also female. However, despite this, the first episode was light on fanservice, and it treated all of the female characters with respect. It also gave them each a personality that goes beyond their physical characteristics.
It is refreshing to have a female-led Isekai that doesn't rely on fan service or sexual humor. In fact, having a generic but female-led show is a good sign for the industry, showing that the days of men being the default protagonist are starting to shift away. Hopefully, In the Land of Leadale continues this trend as the story continues, and hopefully, it can become a true standout series.