A Multiverse of Slime: A Look at Tensura through all it’s forms
If you’ve ever met me, you probably know that I’m a Tensura (That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime) fan. I am VERY vocal about it, and pretty obvious. I’ve read all of the translated Light Novels, the entire translated Web Novel, all of the currently released Manga, both seasons of the Anime, and even religiously played the Mobile Game (which is just another retelling of the same story). I am, DEEPLY, knowledgeable about this story at this point. But something that has been interesting to me is how wildly different the story is between mediums. So I thought this week we’d take a quick look at what those differences are, how those changes came about, and what they do to the story.
Before we get to that though, I’d like to give a very brief primer to the Web Novel to Anime Pipeline. If you’re an anime fan, something you may have noticed recently is the deluge of Isekai anime that have been seeing release lately; in some way or another (death, transportation, summoning, etc.) a person is called from our world to a fantasy/sci-fi world. Sometimes they get super powers along the way, sometimes they don’t, but it doesn’t matter because they just have so much knowledge about how the modern world works that they seem like hyper-intelligent super-humans to the people of this new world. Well, I’m sorry, but this pipeline is to blame. Turns out when the world starts falling apart, a lot of people want to write escapist fantasy about going to another world. Who knew.
Now, in a lot of the western world, this would be the end of it. Someone would write some story online, some people would read it, and even if it got super popular it wouldn’t go anywhere unless that writer explicitly went out of their way to try to find a publisher. Japan has a different approach. Shōsetsuka ni Narō is a Japanese novel publishing website. Everything is published for free, and everything is free to read. However, whether by intent or happenstance, many major publishers keep a close eye on the things published on this site. Over it’s lifetime, over 100 stories (a drop in the bucket compared to what’s posted) have been picked up and given the support needed to see professional publication. Log Horizon, Tensura, Overlord, Re: Zero, and many other wildly popular works got their start on this one website. And so, a major publisher picks up the series, gives the writer an editor, an artist, and a deadline, then gets them started on cleaning up their web novel into a light novel. If the light novel is popular, then a Manga publisher reaches out to the writer, and the story gets translated to a new medium. If the manga gets popular, then from there the story is picked up by an animation studio, and a one season anime is commissioned (with potential to see further seasons in the future). It’s a pretty direct route from “writing a story idea I had for fun on a public forum” to “directing my story across 4 different mediums, half of which I’ve admired my entire life,” even if the odds of success are similar to being struck by lightning in a crowded room.
This is the exact pipeline that Fuse, the writer of Tensura, found themself in (Note: it is considered polite to refer to writers in Japan as [Name]-sensei. Because English does not use a Name-Title connection to refer to people, you will rarely see this translated in any way in western coverage of such things, and so it had not been included here). Plucked from obscurity and given a budget, Fuse took to cleaning up their fun little side project into a professional work. And then things started to balloon. We’ll get to that in a minute. First, let’s talk about the Web Novel.
If you haven’t read the Tensura Web Novel, or do not want to know of potential upcoming plot points for the Light Novels, Manga, and Anime, then you may want to stop reading at this point.
The Web Novel for Tensura is, and I mean this as respectfully as possible, an absolute mess. While it sets all the major plot points and various arcs for what would come after, it is incredibly bare bones and discordant. This is just how a lot of writing is on the internet. You don’t have an editor, so the only people to tell you what’s good or bad about your story are random people who are emotionally invested in what you’ve already done. If you’ve ever made anything online, you know that those people come in three categories: The Fanatics, the Hitmen, and the Lurkers. To the Fanatics, everything you do is perfect and wonderful and cannot possibly be wrong, and anyone who says otherwise must be fought tooth and nail. To the Hitmen, everything you do is terrible and awful and the worst thing ever done, and anyone who says otherwise must be fought tooth and nail. The Lurkers are just here to read something neat they found online, and are generally silent about the entire affair. Obviously, none of these groups are terribly reliable for feedback. This leads to writers trying to play to one group or another as they release chapters day to day/week to week/month to month, and it can cause the writer to meander into narrative hazards they wouldn’t have otherwise. Case in point: Yuuki Kagaruzaka.
Let’s look at the arcs of the web novel, an a brief summary of what happens in them:
- Empowerment Arc: Satoru (Rimuru, pre-slime) is stabbed to death. He reincarnates in a new world as a slime. He makes friends with a sealed dragon, Veldora (who renames him Rimuru). He eats him (it’s complicated). Then he helps out some goblins who are in trouble because he ate the dragon. He goes and grabs some dwarves to improve the quality of life for the goblins (now Hobgoblins after Rimuru named all of them. Names are important to monsters).
- Forest Disturbance Arc: Rimuru finds out that, because he ate the dragon, the forest has gone NUTS. This is where we meet the majority of the main Monster Cast, the Ogres, Lizardmen, and Orcs. Rimuru eats a human, Sizue, and gets a human form (it was consensual, it’s complicated). He kills and eats the Orc Disaster that is trying to conquer the forest. And finally, he founds the Monster Nation, the Jura-Tempest Federation, or Tempest for short
- Life in the Royal Capital Arc: Rimuru tries to live peacefully in the Tempest. Demon Lords find out about him because he beat up their pet Orc Disaster. Rimuru quickly makes friends with the strongest of them, Milim, then goes to help out some kids at the dying request of Shizue.
- Birth of a Demon Lord Arc: Arguably one of the darkest in the series, but not until the light novel. While Rimuru is out helping the kids, a neighboring kingdom, Farmus, sees that the Tempest is starting to get rich through trade, and decides to kill them and take their treasures. Rimuru gets attacked by Hinata Sakaguchi, a prior student of Shizue and an unreasonably powerful Paladin who absolutely hates monsters. Rimuru manages to trick her and barely escapes with his life. While this is going on, Farmus teams up with the Church to attack Tempest, weakening all the monsters in it before sending in their soldiers to indescriminately slaughter anyone they can find before announcing that Tempest is an abomination and that they would be back to burn it to the ground in a week. Rimuru manages to make it back, only to find his city burning and many of his loved ones dead. He responds by single-handedly murdering the entire 10,000 man army of Farmus with sky lasers, consuming their souls and evolving into a demon lord. This makes him and his skills crazy powerful, and allows him to ressurect all of the monsters who died. This messes up the plans of a different demon lord, Clayman, who intended to use the human souls to make himself stronger. Rimuru finds out Clayman was responsible for his friends’ deaths. Clayman tries to frame Rimuru for killing a demon lord he’s never heard of or met before, Karion. Rimuru responds by beating the shit out of him, and then eating him. Rimuru is accepted by the other demon lords, and they decide to call the eight remaining demon lords The Octogram.
- Saint-Demon Confrontation Arc: Rimuru lets Veldora out of his stomach after freeing him from a seal. Hinata grabs some paladins to come wreck Tempest. Rimuru and friends, thanks to Rimuru becoming a demon lord, are now absurdly powerful, and easily wipe the floor with the paladins. Like, so much so that the monsters are literally playing with the paladins. Rimuru and Hinata have a weird dream moment where they find out that she’s been being manipulated behind the scenes by Yuuki Kagaruzaka, another student of Shizue’s, who used a special pseudo-mind control power on her. Shizue shows up in the weird dream and fixes Hinata. Because the monsters didn’t kill any of the paladins, and because Hinata is no longer being mind-controlled, they reconcile with the monsters and manipulate church doctrine to make the church stop hating the monster nation specifically. Someone off-hand asks which of Rimuru’s friends is stronger. Things escalate and a tournament is planned.
- Founding the Demon Capital Arc: Rimuru finds out that, because The Octogram declared him the ruler of the ENTIRE Jura Forest, which roughly doubles the amount of monsters and territory Tempest controls. Since he needs to meet with all the monsters, and they were going to hold a big tournament anyway, Rimuru decides to make a big festival out of it. While preparations are being made for the festival, Rimuru works with another demon lord, Ramiris, to make a big Labyrinth under the arena they are going to use for the tournament, in which they team up with Veldora to make… well, basically a dungeon crawl video game where no one can die. The tournament happens. The leaders of other nations that have stopped by see the tournament, and are immediately terrified of the absurd military strength of the handful of Rimuru’s friends who fought. Then they showcase the Labyrinth. Everyone has a good time.
- Devil’s Secret Maneuvers Arc: Yuuki, who has been secretly behind every bad thing that has happened so far because he is just so incredibly genius that he can have schemes on schemes on schemes just to reach his as yet unstated goal, is outted by Rimuru and The Gang. Hinata tries to rescue the kids, runs into Yuuki’s Super-Powerful-Unnamed-Henchmen. Loses fight, then accidentally fuses with one of the kids and goes back in time. Kids are saved, but Yuuki escapes. Runs away to the Eastern Empire, who has been preparing to invade the West during the events of the rest of the story, and has basically missed everything that happened in Tempest. Mind controls one a demon lord’s henchmen, just in case.
- Empire Invasion Arc: The Empire invades. It does not go well. One Million super-soldiers invade with tanks and airships. Tanks and Airships are destroyed by like… 20 dudes, and 2 demon girls. 750,000 remaining soldiers march to The Labyrinth because they heard it was loaded with treasure. Ramiris turns off the feature of the dungeon that keeps people from dying. 500,000 soldiers march into The Labyrinth and are absolutely destroyed without any hope of making a difference in the war one way or the other. The remaining 250,000 collectively shit themselves, before being completely annihilated by an Ogre, A Demon, and about 1000 undying goblins. Tempest does not suffer a single casualty throughout all of this. As a test, Rimuru pseudo-revives every single enemy soldier that wasn’t completely atomized upon death. Succeeds in reviving them without giving them their full souls (its complicated). Yuuki tries to take over Eastern Empire. Fails miserably. Is revived by Super-Powerful-Unnamed-Henchmen. We find out it’s Chloe, the kid that Hinata fused with, then went back in time. Hinata has since (somehow) gone back to the Church. Mind Controlled Demon Lord Henchmen is suddenly not Mind Controlled anymore. Goes home.
- Clash of the Dragon and Demon Arc: Rimuru rewards his friends who fought in the war by casually making a bunch of them into demon lords. Guy, the current (second?) strongest demon lord, ask what the hell he’s doing. Rimuru placates him by making a couple of his servents into demon lords. Veldora’s sister, Velzard, follows Guy to Tempest, and when Veldora finds out he flees the city. While running away, he runs into his other sister, Velgrynd, and the remaining Empire soldiers. Velgrynd and the Empire fight Veldora until he’s distracted enough for the Emporer to mind control. When Rimuru discovers this, he immediately teleports to the area, summons a demon army to annihilate the empire’s soldiers, casually shuts down Velgrynd, eats Veldora again, ascends to a… demon dragon slime? (Fuse throws around the word Demon a lot, it gets confusing). Becomes even more powerful, casually eats Velgrynd, goes to fuck up The Emperor. Yuuki shows up, mind controls Emperor, makes him open the Gates of Heaven to force an invasion from Angels, steals The Emperor’s power, fucks off to Heaven for a month.
- Great Tenma War Arc: Final Arc. After a month, Angels start invading places. Mostly Demon Lord territories, but also some human places. Rimuru and the gang go around and systematically fuck up their shit. Rimuru plays dead for awhile. Angels try to invade Labyrinth. Get their shit kicked in, because obviously. Rimuru stops playing dead. Chloe and Guy engage in deathly mortal combat. Both go back and forth stopping time, and it becomes difficult to tell exactly when and how the fight takes place, but it somehow affects another fight on the other side of the world. Because reasons. Yuuki appears to be mind controlled by Emperor’s power that he stole. Emperor’s power finds out that Rimuru had a super power that he wanted, but then got rid of because he got a better one. For some reason, this depresses Emperor’s power so much that Yuuki takes control back, but apparently this was all just as planned and he totally meant for literally every single thing that has happened in the story to happen exactly the way it has so he could ascend to godhood and destroy the world because, and I am absolutely serious about this: Before Yuuki got summoned to this world, his parents died, but he didn’t care because he was mostly just bored with the world because he is so impossibly smart. When he got summoned to this world, he got super powers, and decided to use him impossible smarts and powers to destroy the entire world because he was bored and thought it would be fun. Yuuki teleports Rimuru to the end of Space and Time. Rimuru wakes up to find he’s been at the end of space and time for a few millenia, and has absorbed enough Universe Juice to ascend to godhood. Does that, then teleports back in time to just after Yuuki teleported him to the end of time. Eats Yuuki. The world is saved. Rimuru reality hops over to Earth, heals the version of him that died in a way that lets him live in both worlds at the same time, and one of his friends goes off to grab the dude that stabbed him and torture him for eternity. Rimuru teleports back to Tempest and has a grand ol’ time doing shenanigans (Fuse goes back every now and then to write a silly after story for kicks).
I’ve ommitted some specifics, but I hope I’ve gotten across just how much of a mess this story is. While all of it is mostly connected, and very few plot points are outright forgotten, a lot of them prove to be narrative dead ends that are effortlessly resolved. Even some relatively important plot points are resolved effortlessly, with little to no fanfare. And Yuuki. I’ll admit, I do have an irrational hatred of the way Yuuki was used in the Web Novel. He has what I refer to as Xehanort syndrome. He is so impossibly intellegent that he can make backup plans for his backup plans for his backup plans, but not impossibly intellegent enough to make any of them actually work. Meanwhile, as part of those plans, he is secretly in control of everyone all over the world, either literally or figuratively. He’s just fucking around with an impossibly genius level intellect to no end, except literally his own. Meanwhile, Rimuru and friends are so absurdly powerful that its difficult to consider anything a threat until the final arcs of the story.
Well, this has ballooned beyond what I expected. I guess we’ll come back to this next week and go into the differences as they appear in the Light Novels.