Anime has been riddled with series based in the “isekai”, or “different world” genre. They’re a dime a dozen, and each of them explore a character being transported to live in a different time and place, usually a fantasy world, while they figure out a way to get back home. There are so many these days that it can be difficult to wade through what’s out there.
That’s what makes the latest Netflix original series Uncle from Another World so intriguing. It’s a complete reversal of the formula. Instead of following someone who’s in another world aside from our own, it examines what happens when the person comes back, and it’s just as interesting as it sounds. This may be one of the best twists on the genre yet.
Opening Shot: After a flyover of a bustling city, we see a young man on his way to a convenience store in the fall of 2017. A truck passes, and we see the scene has changed to the same young man walking into a multi-level hospital before going inside to see his uncle. He had been hit by a car, and has been slowly recovering. But there’s something off about the older man here, and we’re about to find out what it is.
The Gist: College student Takafumi Takaoka (Jun Fukuyama) goes to pick up his uncle, Yosuke Shibazaki (Takehito Koyasu), from the hospital after he awakens from a 17-year coma. After being hit by a truck and falling into said coma, he’s able to use magic spells and speak a different language. He claims to have been living in a world called Granbahamal the entire time. Of course, this doesn’t sit well with Takafumi. Annoyed, and frustrated by the toll Yosuke’s absence has taken on the family, he’s ready to get his uncle back to the real world and out of everyone’s hair. But not so fast: Yosuke can use magic.
Yosuke, who is usually only referred to as “Uncle”, proves he’s a magic user right there in his hospital room. Not only can he summon elemental magic like wind and fire, but he can store things in an interdimensional pocket and share memories with DVR-like screens that allow you to reposition an invisible camera for better views. He truly did live in another world for almost two decades. And Takafumi must come to terms with this while helping his uncle get used to the real world. Culture shock? Yeah, to say the least.
Together, the pair share a living space while Takafumi works to make YouTube videos based on his uncle’s magic usage and other experience in the parallel world. Meanwhile, Yosuke has to come to terms with the fact that Sega no longer makes video game consoles, and the cell phone he wants to use won’t make calls in the modern world. These things and more come together to make a reverse isekai that’ll put a grin on everyone’s face.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Though the story is a reversal of typical “whisked away to another world” shows, it’s hard not to think about all the other series in the genre. Re:Zero comes to mind, which has plenty of comedic moments, as well as KonoSuba. But there’s nothing really quite like this show, both a parody that plays it straight and respects the conventions of the genre.
Our Take: There are far too many isekai series in the wild. While there are some that make great use of the genre’s tropes to tell compelling stories, a good portion of them are little more than drivel with fantasy elements. Uncle from Another World proves there’s still originality left in this type of series by flipping the script and bringing the uncle home from the parallel world he found himself in, then forcing him to get acclimated to everyday life once more. And since he has magical powers and other fantastical abilities beyond compare, it’s a little tougher than it might have been otherwise for some of the protagonists in his situation from other series.
The premise is strong, and the show plays it up for laughs extremely well. Despite the fact that there isn’t even a dub available, the humor translates well even in its pure, subtitled form. Yosuke is hilariously out of touch, obsessed with classic games from two decades ago because he has no idea what’s changed in the tech world, and finds it difficult to assimilate back into society. He even tries to use a sliding phone with 2G capabilities because that’s what he knows. It makes for hilarious viewing, and you never know what situation Yosuke and his nephew are going to be put in next. It’s well worth sticking around for the next episode to see how this man, with nearly 20 years of experience as a magic user, can ever possibly hope to get used to the real world again.
Sex and Skin: None here. It’s mostly humor at Yosuke’s expense and his dark descriptions of the misfortune he often experienced in the other world
Parting Shot: Takafumi and Yosuke head out for a walk through the city after filming their latest, most successful YouTube series yet. Takafumi looks up into the sky and ruminates on the wacky situation he finds himself in. His uncle really was in another world for nearly two decades. What’s life going to be like now?
Sleeper Star: The unnamed Elf in Yosuke’s visions of the other world, is voiced by Haruka Tomatsu. She does an absolutely fantastic job of channeling the type of hot then cold nature she’s described as having. She’s obviously into Yosuke, but doesn’t want to show it, a sentiment that Tomatsu brings out in an expert fashion.
Most Pilot-y Line: While Takafumi prattles on about how his uncle is going to have to adjust to his new life, Yosuke has other plans: “Let me prove to you that I lived in another world,” he beckons, and proceeds to do just that.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Uncle from Another World is the cure for the common isekai. Instead of taking us to yet another fantasy world and dropping us off to watch a hapless young man or woman struggle to make a life for themselves, we get to see the reverse happen. And the person who’s back from the other world has everything to show for it, including literal video-like visions! Yosuke’s video game knowledge, mournful thoughts about the other world, and his arsenal of magical powers make this series a weekly pleasure that you won’t want to miss.
Brittany Vincent has been covering video games and tech for over a decade for publications like G4, Popular Science, Playboy, Variety, IGN, GamesRadar, Polygon, Kotaku, Maxim, GameSpot, and more. When she’s not writing or gaming, she’s collecting retro consoles and tech. Follow her on Twitter: @MolotovCupcake.