Ky Kiske joined the Sacred Order of Holy Knights, yet found love and married a magical living bio-weapon. So can you.
If you sift through the dozens of listings each anime season to see what is about to come out, you know the trends. And what tags your eyes may threaten to glaze over, if only due to their sheer volume.
You have more than seen your fair share of seasonal show listings crowded with tales of everyday nobody teen protagonists falling into another world. Isekai stories are nothing new across fiction as a whole. But anime, manga, light novels, and the like have latched on to the genre in something of a gold rush frenzy for several years now.
Here is something I was wracking my head about when I was browsing the listings for Spring 2022 seasonal anime. The Executioner and Her Way of Life (Shokei Shōjo no Bājin Rōdo), is an adaptation of a light novel series. A story with an isekai angle, like many of its competitors, sure. But in particular, it is a yuri isekai series. While not alone in the light novel space, I could not think of many managing to land anime adaptations. Popular and well regarded titles such as I’m in Love with the Villainess (Watashi no Oshi wa Akuyaku Reijou) have yet to make such a jump. The very imprecise method of leveraging the advanced search filters on Kitsu.io only turns up the subject of this post, as well as Miyuki-chan in Wonderland (Fushigi no Kuni no Miyuki-chan) from 1995.
…Which still does not sound quite right in my head?
But at the same time, it should still illustrate how few opportunities yuri isekai have had. This is despite the genre cash cow isekai anime have been in recent years. As well as, by unfortunate extension, the business pressure such a show would be under.
The Executioner and Her Way of Life follows a priestess named Menou. As she is the cover girl of the series, and the title being what it is, I have no reservations about telling you: she has more than this one job. The world Menou has known since she was a child is one where teenagers from Japan have sometimes found themselves summoned. A plain enough fantasy world, by our standards, with royal families, magic, and so on. These visitors from another world even managed to help share their knowledge and augment various aspects of the civilization, resulting in things like ether-powered railroad networks. These otherworlders even tend to have special personal powers. Which, over time, became something of a thorny problem. Catastrophic loss of control, resulting in incidents like an entire continent reduced to salt, has led to folks who would otherwise fit the bill of isekai protagonists being seen as existential threats.
The first fifteen minutes of the first episode illustrate Menou’s practiced hand at what is considered necessary. Identifying and befriending a wayward young schoolboy. Playing up genre tropes she has learned anime loving teens to be into. Slaughtering them when she has been able to confirm their power. If the series was an episodic romp about a new isekai protagonist needing to be killed each week, like a new twenty minute Lupin the 3rd crime caper, I imagine the idea could carry a few books or a season of television.
Instead, the next target Menou encounters presents a particular struggle. A teen schoolgirl named Akari Tokitou, with her special power being control over Time itself. Menou can kill her, only for Akari to rewind events like nothing ever happened. This is the core relationship of the series, the professional killer and her target. Their world traveling journey together has the stated goal of finding Akari a way back home, as Menou considers ways to end her life once and for all.
Meanwhile, the bubbling thoughts of what if things could be different this time, in more ways than one.
To touch back on the notion of this being a series which would have various elements of pressure behind it: this is the first series where Kawasaki has enjoyed full directorial responsibilities. They have popped around doing storyboards and episode direction on various shows, perhaps most notable for Ascendance of a Bookworm (Honzuki no Gekokujō). Yasukawa has written for a number of successful series adaptations in recent years, from Food Wars! to JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. With plenty of more flavor of the day genre works like Hyperdimension Neptunia in their deeper wheelhouse.
The technical production aspects of the series I found to be stable, if often unspectacular or at least a slow burn. An early fight against a red dragon looks just like a coloring book version of a simple red dragon would look in your mind. A quasi-medieval low fantasy city shot of with a generic enough castle and church will look fine and work well enough for setting a scene. The show is often not pushing the fancy flair boat out for the first half of the series. But the scenes do move along and flow together in a certain page turner quality sense.
On the flip side, when the show does have a need to turn up the dial in the latter half, the presence of additional planning for these events is felt. The resources, be it in time, personnel, or otherwise, were present to give a feel of escalation. While this is always welcome to see, I do feel the series risks losing folks’ sense of imagination in the first half.
Like many light novels before it, the early stages of the series are also a bit too forward talking about its proprietary vocabulary and the rules of its magic systems. Terms such as “Four Major Human Errors”, “Noblesse”, “Faust”, “Pure Concept,” and more come fast out of the gate. Yasukawa does a commendable job aiming to smooth this over, rocky as it remains. Once the initial world salad has been set on the table, the series does not keep serving up more. You are full. You have had enough. But it still burns into the crucial initial setup time I would like to enjoy in a series. It takes longer to get to know the characters, which makes them feel flatter for longer.
For example, I did not have a particular fondness for Akari until, again, about halfway through the episode count. Which in the moment can feel like more than a bit of a problem. A more grazing seasonal viewer may have moved on before really getting a good bead on the goals and character of the lead partner.
These opening knocks are not unheard of or unusual quirks of light novel isekai adaptations, to be fair.
And to give credit where it is due: the production team navigated through and executed on the other side of this minefield better than many manage. In particular with a first time full series Director.
Something which aids the series is its rather tight central cast.
While they are never all working together at the same time in the same place as a complete party, we have four core characters. The cooler and more exhausted Menou and often airheaded Akari crushing on her are flanked in various ways by the pair of Momo and Ashuna. Momo is Menou’s petite priestess assistant. She investigates leads from the shadows, as well as harbors extreme jealousy and possessiveness streaks. She carries her own longstanding crush for her friend and boss. Ashuna, by contrast, is a tall and brash muscle princess. She has little care for her formal titles, is always ready to fight, and finds Momo endearing.
While stock enough archetypes, the characters come to fulfill their roles within the relationship matrix well. Their motivations and conflicts are clear, even if it takes a fair bit to demonstrate Akari’s full place in it all. The limited number of cast members means they are all always up to something, and it is easy to remember who is where. They have plenty of time to bounce off and around each other, in addition to their personal solo moments.
For a series with frequent fighting sequences and the commercial incentives of playing to the cheap seats, I was surprised by how reserved the series was about things like battle damage. This is not the kind of show with oodles of focus on torn dresses or the like. Akari may waggle around in a panic like a fully clothed water balloon a few times. But Ashuna’s abs are on more display than anything else on anyone else.
Not the highest of bars, I grant you. Plus, of course, the general anime fandom market for a tall and strong lady who can princess carry you is stronger than ever these days. This too is service. Each character is of course also designed to have a merchandise marketable level of appeal.
Yet, for a limited pool of yuri isekai anime, I can see a world with a less certain creative team trying to load it up with a more salacious fan-service angle.
The show does contain a reasonable amount of blood and other visceral shenanigans over the course of its run. It is still a 2022 television anime of course, not a direct to video tome from the 1980s. There are limits, though when deployed it also never feels out of place or irrelevant to the scene. This may have been something as simple as the production wanting to burn its targeted rating points on “substantive” content.
Bloodless but bouncy executioner antics must have been a topic of consideration.
In going by and large in the other direction, I feel the team made the stronger serving narrative choice.
I will be interested in seeing how much sustained word of mouth The Executioner and Her Way of Life receives in the months and years ahead.
The light novels only began publication in July 2019. When one considers complicating worldwide factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic, it has done well for itself.
At the end of the day, I can say I enjoyed the overall trip with these characters.
The series also has a satisfying enough conclusion for an ongoing novel series. The arc they were in resolves, while also stating what the top objectives of each character going forwards will be. Should those book stories ever be animated or not, ending well is an important sensation to walk away with.
If one held a hyper specific focus on looking for yuri isekai anime, then it is an easy enough recommendation. There is a dreadful lack of competition in this exact space. But the series does not outright take this for granted. If one can roll with general monster movie fare, then there is a decent fun time to be had here with the girls.
I would watch another season, if I saw it pop up on the seasonal listings.
But so much of this is carried by the back half of the show getting to stretch its legs. The ramp up time and making it over the opening half? It makes the one season we do have at the moment a tricky recommendation for others.
Perhaps as a nontraditional Halloween romp?
Something for folks looking for yuri horror camps across various genres, but might find something like the yuri horror mecha Fight! Iczer-1 more than a bit too extreme?
I could see such a future, I suppose.
Menou and Akari have plenty of time to think about theirs.