The other day I had an exchange with a friend about whether anime production should be unionized. Our conversation was in response to an article on Crunchyroll about how Japanese voice actors are paid the same regardless of how popular an anime becomes.
My friend agreed that wages should increase, but expressed concern that it could result in studios going bankrupt. It’s true that some productions wouldn’t be able to handle the increased cost of a union contract. I stressed that worker’s rights are more important than how much anime we get each season, but wondered if I was being too militant in my approach.
Shortly after our conversation, I watched the first episode of Suppose a Kid From the Last Dungeon Boonies Moved to a Starter Town. When it opened with the Universal Studios logo, it reinforced my stance. Anime is a multi-billion dollar industry, and the companies financing these productions have a lot more money than they lead on.
Lloyd Belladonna is the weakest person in his village, so he goes on a quest to the capital to train and become stronger. Little does he realize that his town is adjacent to the most dangerous dungeon in the world. While he may be a weakling in his hometown, he’s exponentially overpowered compared to everyone on the outside.
Last Dungeon Boonies is interesting because it has video game sensibilities despite not taking place in a video game. At least, not yet. Similar to Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear, it asks what would happen if a maxed-out RPG character started over without resetting their stats.
The first episode doesn’t do much other than establish its setting and introduce the cast.
After a decade of christening anime with a naming scheme reminiscent of 2000s era emo, you think we would have moved on to a new trend. The premise-as-the-title bit was cute at first, but it’s been run so deep into the ground that this once clever nomenclature can now push people away.
Suppose a Kid From the Last Dungeon Boonies Moved to a Starter Town is such an unequivocally stupid name that it soured my expectations. Timing is the only reason I watched it. If the first episode premiered next week after more shows had their debut, it might not have made the cut.
This is unfortunate because it’s actually quite charming. The setup is nothing special, but the approach feels fresh — perhaps due to veteran screenwriter Deko Akao’s expertly crafted script. For a show that relies heavily on shouting as humor, I laughed harder than I should have. Maybe I lost my edge after being locked in my apartment for eight months.
I say this because I’m struggling to articulate why I liked this show. Nothing special happens. We are introduced to the main characters, and that’s about it. What Last Dungeon Boonies really excels at is pacing and blocking.
Many first episodes feel like they’re double the length. This is because they spend so much time setting up the story they forget to do anything interesting. Last Dungeon Boonies does use half its runtime on exposition, but it does so in an interesting way
That feels like such a low bar to set to find something entertaining, but TV anime is so regularly flat that it makes me question what a director’s job is. A sight gag like pulling a mug out of nowhere and pouring a cup of coffee mid-conversation shouldn’t be that impressive, but I’m still laughing about it.
The characters move around the set and interact with props. It actually feels like time is passing. It’s not just two people statically talking for ten minutes in an empty room. I’m looking at you, Konosuba!
When I started working in film, a writer told me that if you can’t get your point across in 2-3 pages, you’re wasting the audience’s time. Scenes with large page counts should be saved for massive events, like when the villain reveals their scheme at the end of the movie.
I don’t fully agree with this stance, but it’s something I think about every time I watch something with a pacing problem. A lot of anime has pacing problems. Many shows rely on cute character designs that check off a list of tropes to do the heavy lifting. Storytelling often takes the backseat.
While I don’t expect Last Dungeon Boonies to tell a groundbreaking story, I appreciate that they’re not phoning it in.