What is it about the isekai (portal) genre that keeps fans coming back for more? All it takes is a single hook and somehow the familiar formula feels novel all over again, regardless of the fact that almost every example of the genre seems to take place in the same generic, D&D-based fantasy world. One of the new kids on the block is Skeleton Knight in Another World, and now that the manga adaptation of Ennki Hakari’s light novel series is available in English, it’s time to see how this one tries to stand out in an increasingly crowded room.
If the title didn’t already spoil it for you, the hook this time around is that the average guy transported to the fantasy world arrives in the form of a skeleton knight. The protagonist lands in his new world in a body that’s specced out almost to a tee to match his online avatar, Arc. The fact that he’s immensely powerful should come as no surprise, given the isekai trappings, but how is he supposed to get around looking like a massive, terrifying armored skeleton? Afraid that the locals might mistake him for a monster, he decides to remain in his armor at all times so as not to be targeted by gangs of bold adventurers.
Unfortunately, keeping the skeleton crammed inside a suit of armor kind of defeats the purpose of a series called Skeleton Knight in Another World. When the hero is actively attempting to disguise what is inarguably his coolest feature, readers are left with a fairly boilerplate fantasy yarn that, sadly enough, manages to step into some of the less appealing isekai territory in record time. It’s just a few pages before readers are treated to a scene that involves the skeletal savior swooping in to save some damsels from the threat of sexual assault. The story returns to this material later, and it’s no less unpleasant and derivative than it is when other isekai manga fall into this tired trope.
As off-putting as the opening material is, the rest of the volume is standard, harmless fantasy fare. Akira Sawano’s art does a solid job of bringing Arc and the world around him to life, with clearly depicted action and dramatic two-page splashes deployed thoughtfully and strategically. It’d be good to see future volumes play more with the skeleton angle that’s supposedly the basis of the story, and once we’re in a little deeper it’ll hopefully ditch the self-aware “I’m in a real-life RPG!” commentary that bogs down this and so many other like-minded series. Skeleton Knight in Another World has the potential to set itself apart, but the first volume has yet to pull ahead of the isekai pack.
publisher: Seven Seas Entertainment
story: Ennki Hakari
art: Akira Sawano