Episodes 1-3 – Harem in the Labyrinth of Another World

You people need to have more respect for yourselves. Not for me, of course, no I get that part. “Oh, there’s a stupid new sexy anime out this season! Let’s make a critic give us his episodic thoughts on it, won’t that be good for a laugh!” We all had fun watching Steve review World’s End Harem, I understand. But I’m also capable of looking at user review scores here and seeing that a non-zero amount of viewers actually give something of a shit about Harem in the Labyrinth of Another World, and it’s like…really? Because I gotta start out my criticism of this show by being brutally honest with you: As a piece of targeted media, it has been a while since I saw something with as much contempt for its presumed audience as this show.

As of these first three episodes, Harem Labyrinth Seemingly sees you, the audience, the same way the story’s inciting slave-trader sees the main character whose name I keep having to Google: A sucker, a mark, a human resource ripe to drain time and metrics out of with a stringing-along a business plan. Time was, you’d get an anime like my beloved How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord, another series with ‘Slave Harem’ right there in the Japanese title, mind you, and that fool would be enslaving fantasy anime ladies right from the beginning of the show. But now we’ve already apparently advanced to exploitatively-structured entertainment practices, and arrived at Harem Labyrinth somehow conceiving to apply Netflix Pacing to a purely pornographic premise!

This is a show where one of the more heavily-advertised features was that there would be not two, but three different versions of it presenting descending levels of censorship. The cruel prank played on the audience then is that these first three episodes barely have anything worth censoring! I imagine the poor saps who went through the trouble of downloading the ‘uncut’ version of the second episode, only to come away with virtually no difference in the content of its red-hot stat-managing action. It almost feels like they’re specifically doing a bit, taking the piss out of the ol’ “Buy Our Blu-rays” censorship sales strategy. Except they’re also counting on you to inflate their streaming numbers by lurching through all the dredged setup of these first three episodes in service of seeing covered-up versions of some sexy anime girl pans which you could easily just go and find the uncut stitched -together images of on a ‘booru somewhere and save yourself a whole lot of time.

But okay, for all the parts of these episodes where there aren’t any sex slaves on-screen, which is amazingly Frequent, what can we evaluate about Harem Labyrinth? It is, as everyone knows by now, the most boring, bog-standard, bolted-together isekai setup imaginable. Our cipher of a slave-owner-to-be…*Googles*…Michio doesn’t even have the decency to amuse us by getting run over by a truck at the beginning, he seemingly just got locked into this maybe-VR setting by signing up for the worst TOS imaginable without properly reading through them first . He also does that thing that drives me insane about a lot of isekai protags, where absolutely no mind is paid to the life and potential loved ones left behind by their getting teleported into Adventure Quest. There’s some momentary panic from Michio as his displaced situation dawns on him, but then he just kinda shrugs and decides to keep playing anyway, never mentioning any family, friends, nothing. Even if his life was so unfulfilling and miserable that he didn’t mind abandoning it, smarter writing would at least mention that to inform his motivation for continuing on in this world. But instead he just carries on with little explanation, content that the audience he’s serving as a stand-in for is miserable enough to imagine themselves obliged to do the same.

That’s the highest irony of Michio’s place in the story at this point, that he actually feels like he’s got as little agency in the plot as those comely collared comrades he’ll be collecting. Simply surviving in the fantasy world here isn’t much trouble for him with his overpowered magic sword and stat-boosting job classes, so the driving goal he arrives at of “Save up enough money to buy a sex slave” after the slave trader guy paraded out in front of him, which he took on because…basically he had nothing better to do? The show can’t even utilize what few actual elements to his personality they’ve allotted him thus far. An early scene makes a point that Michio acquired the ‘Thief’ class for putting on someone else’s sandals, before a later explanation clarifies that people in this world are commonly sold into the slave trade as punishment for thievery. But thus far any usage of what should be an obvious thematic through-line there has gone unremarked on. Michio’s acquisition of Thief skills is just another on his pile of obligatory cool isekai powers, rather than anything that might, say, inform his sympathy or connection to Roxanne and her station. Roxanne, for her part, has had virtually no information on her personality or detailed situation so far, despite existing as the proverbial fireworks factory our hero only barely arrives at the end of the third episode.

That’s the point I’m trying to make about y’all being taken for a ride with this opening set of episodes. There really isn’t any content here to get you going, unless meticulous spreadsheet management is your particular kink. Which, hey, no shame if it is, but then there are so many better options out there. So I’m a Spider, So What? has the over-detailed dungeoneering and battle logistics element covered with more interesting fights and entertaining Aoi Yuuki narration, while the likes of BOFURI Lets you watch a character trip ass-first into situationally-overpowered level-ups with far more character and context driving them. You absolutely don’t need to subject yourself to some muffled YouTuber’s first-time Morrowind playthrough on the off-chance that at some point he might diddle his dog-wife’s dobonhonkeros. Is this what the books were like? Just pages of number-crunching plot padding out the length for readers to skim through to get to the spot illustrations and steamier stretches of text?

It’s not like Harem Labyrinth is devoid of ideas or potential. The writing teases a bit at the idea that our sluggish cipher of a lead is coming to understand the complexities of morals beyond what ‘laws’ and ‘customs’ of a world are at play. But then they can barely show him struggling to stomach his calculated murder of some bandits before he sleeps off any presumed guilt and heads out to pay off the sex-slave he put on layaway. There’s also the second episode’s fundamentally bizarre opening flash-forward to a ‘potential future’ where Michio apparently fathered a child with one of the starter town villagers wives, only to return nine years later with his colorful collection of compulsory and hand the kid a sword in lieu of any actual parenting. I was baffled by this segment at first, but towards the end of the third episode I was begging to have it back just because it was the only part of the show that had illustrated any actual long-form ambition thus far. Some sort of angle of genuine wistfulness may feel gallingly out of place in an id-driven sex-slave fantasy, but at least it held my attention better than the endless scenes of Michio tabbing through menus.

That is the ultimate joke in reviewing Harem Labyrinth here. I can tell there’s just enough investment in this show that I can’t just write it off as fodder for pure joke reviews. And episode-based as these write-ups are going to be, I’m going to have to pay attention to and evaluate its story steps on that incremental basis. You lot have the advantage, as in any bad porn, of just being able to fast-forward to any of the parts you’re really here for (of which, again, there are vanishingly few here in over an hour’s worth of television) , but I’ve got to go through the whole thing, so I could at least ask that it be interesting. The ending credits theme for this thing is an upbeat rap number by the slave-trader guy about the privileged joys of being able to own another human being for sexual purposes, which would ordinarily earn a scolding based on matters of taste. But instead I find myself calling that merchant out for false advertising, as there’s nothing that lively or outrageous in the show itself yet. The only reason I’ve already had so much to say about this show is because there’s already so much it’s absolutely failed to do.

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Harem in the Labyrinth of Another World is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Chris is a freewheeling Fresno-based freelancer with a love for anime and a shelf full of too many Transformers. He can be found spending way too much time on his Twitterand irregularly updating his blog.

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