This adaptation of the same-named isekai light novel is pretty low key and comfortably paced. The focus seems to be healing, or iyashikei, but more so for the protagonist than the audience. Is that still iyashikei? I do think it provides a gap that allows some more, uh, spicy interpretations. By the Grace of Gods, Kami-tachi ni Hirowareta Otoko, or Kamihiro for short, is kind of lukewarm but interesting, to me anyways.
The setting more or less follow the bricks outlined by various video game mechanisms. I get the most vibes from World of Warcraft, but it could be many others in the same genre. What’s also notable is that the 11 or 12yo protagonist periodically checks in with the Gods in the isekai, who watches over him a bit like an idealized set of parents (all three of them), who doesn’t pester their son who live far away all the time with phone calls–wait that might be just me. The gods live in their own realm, and don’t physically manifest in this isekai.
The joke goes, though, that the child has a middle-aged worked-to-death salaryman’s soul. Instead of learning how to code, the child just have a very stable sense of what a functional and sustainable business looks like. He ends up being a manager of a slime-dry-cleaners and a part-time adventurer, taking odd jobs farming mobs in an abandoned mine or cleaning the sewers using the same slimes.
If you liked how Tensura has world building, in the good old MonHon style, Kamihiro just boil it down to how slimes can do everything, given enough of them, and enough different varieties of them. Later on, these slimes (which are tamed, a bit like familiars) are trained to run the laundromat and automate the cleaning process, while player-character types would handle the transaction and upkeep of the shop.
There are a few big “moments” in this show that comes down to the main character making some big decisions. One of them is the decision to join up with some adults who happen to be neighborhood big shots, letting our protagonist settle in the town that they run. Another is the one when he end up opening up the slime laundry shop. Let’s take a look.
As someone who started out living on his own as a 10-year-old, physically, he didn’t know what was going on in this isekai besides the initial guidance he got from the gods. Rest of the way, he figured things out through trial and error (and as per isekai light novel troupe, guided by pop cultural knowledge from anime, game, and light novels). He was able to tame and control slimes, which, in this world, is low level stakes. Noblefolks train their kids on them. What is different is that Our protagonist takes slime taming seriously and was able to figure out a few rare varieties, including the cleaner slime that will become the thing that runs the dry cleaners.
Running into these grown men, and learning that they were nobles, were a big deal. As someone on the receiving end of power harassment in the other world, and as a proper Japanese adult, the protagonist knows what could go wrong if the powers that be were not benevolent. By associating him with this new society, he will be relying on the graces afforded by the locals extended to this outsider. As you know, Japan is this kind of a society, and this is how the show approaches the protagonist’s standing and association.
The other big decision, starting his small business, spent a lot of time doing the logistics as a small-brain kind of stakes, which is a fun thing since that’s the appeal of something like, say, Animal Crossings. It’s like doing the thing many of us want to do with most of the complicated hardship removed. And as it ought to be–viewers don’t really need to spend that much time doing paperwork with our prodigious slime-cleaner. Instead, we see that he thinks through how his employees will be treated, how they’ll live as live-in workers, including even their treatment and meals.
And that is well and good. In that sense, as someone who thought about this show as not only about a flock of party parrots, or someone who runs a small business, but as something regarding our protagonist’s earthbound history–basically dying to a “black company” working him to death–isn’t this more about labor rights? Yet, this series takes on the view in the polar opposite–we are here to do our bosses/lords bidding, and we live and die as a result of these decision makers and the systems they empower.
It explains why it’s called “By the Grade of the Gods” because that’s the way this kind of naive thinking works. It’s not about personal or labor rights, or rather, it is the fantasy in which you don’t need such rights. Rules and regulations are not really necessary when there are no cheaters and people who would exploit things for their own profits at the expense of others. You might still need laws as guiding stars for a society, but if people treat each other as they would treat themselves, maybe it’s a lot less complicated.
That said, clearly this “other world” is not even that world–we know that there are monsters that will steal, kill and pillage from civil society–such as the goblins that were exterminated in the mines. We know that there are bandits that our protagonist has slain during his solo adventures based on his own recollection. We know our protagonist is enterprising and thinks about the edge cases. He is curious. But maybe not so much on the social science side.
Given all this I’m hesitant to call By The Grace of God anything like “good” but it doesn’t seem “toxic” or even “bad.” It nurtures a fantasy that is way, way too specifically asian in my opinion, and the other execution problems I omitted in this post probably dooms this anime series any kind of intrinsic entertainment value worthy of recommendation. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting hypothesis, as with many of these isekai light novel stories. It just took this show a while to develop that core idea.