Having an extensive cast of characters isn’t normally a problem. Especially not in long-running fantasy epics. If done properly, it can make your world feel diverse and lived in, and it can give the audience many different perspectives from which to view it.
But in anime, it tends to be a problem more than a benefit. So many shows have character rosters so extensive that you couldn’t possibly hope to remember them all. Older characters can find themselves swept under the rug for new characters who boil down to nothing more than a background extra with a name and the occasional line of dialogue. Just look at shows like Naruto or My Hero Academia or Sword Art Online.
Slime Incarnation is a show that very much suffers from this issue. Its first season alone introduced dozens of named characters. Then season two came along and said “How about a few more?!” Rimuru’s little country is so jam packed with different people that the average viewer couldn’t possibly hope to remember them all! And poor Rimuru has to remember, since he’s the one who named them all!
Yet, somehow, this has turned out more to the show’s benefit than to its detriment. Because Slime Incarnation does something different than other shows of its type: it makes that extensive cast of characters the entire point.
At its core, Slime Incarnation is very much another isekai power fantasy. Sure, our protagonist is a slime. But he’s also got overwhelming power, a whole herd of women fawning for his attention, and he’s the literal king of a country. And he can take the form of pretty much anything he wants, including a buff dude and a hot chick. So… I’d say he’s balanced out being a slime pretty well.
I keep calling Rimuru a he. Does Rimuru have an established gender? I just assumed they were a dude because they were in their previous life. Am I wrong?
Getting back on topic: Slime Incarnation isn’t about Rimuru going on a power rampage, like a lot of other isekai. Rather, it’s about the establishment and development of a country. The problems Rimuru is faced with are about infrastructure, political meetings, and potential disasters to their lands and people. Rimuru has had to spend a majority of the story up to this point making alliances and establishing a social order.
To put it simply: most isekai are like a playthrough of Skyrim or some other RPG. Slime Incarnation is more like a game of Civilization. Only that Rimuru’s little Civ country is actually populated by a large, diverse group of characters.
Yes, the characters are introduced rapid fire and often have very simple and flat personalities. If you can find one member of the cast who isn’t just a typical anime archetype, you’ll have found a diamond in a coal mine. Having a cast as large as Slime Incarnation’s doesn’t give much room for originality.
However, having this many characters around plays well into the themes of the story. Themes of unity, cooperation, and societal growth. Each member of the cast brings with them some little piece to the puzzle that is the kingdom of Tempest. You’ve got hardened warriors training the kingdom’s defensive force. You’ve got bulky muscle machines helping pave the roads and make new houses. You’ve got wood dryads helping with the gardens. Ninjas running the spy and intelligence networks. Each person adds to the whole.
Not only that, but they actually stick around and fulfill the purpose they were given! The characters established as the military generals are shown to lead Tempest’s forces into battle whenever Rimuru isn’t around. When a political alliance needs to be struck, we see the country’s various diplomats step into action. So on and so forth.
In all actuality, Rimuru doesn’t actually do that much. Sure, they’re the ones to deal with the big unstoppable threats and they’re the ones to make the massive political decisions. They’re still the main character and the leader. But in terms of the actual actions taken, it’s more often than not left to the side characters. This isn’t a one-slime show here!
Well, it is, but that slime isn’t doing all the work!
And to top it all off, we have the Slime Diaries spin-off show! In this cute little slice-of-life comedy, we get to see the various denizens of Tempest just chilling out. Living life and having a good time. It’s a simple thing, but it adds an extra layer of realism to the cast. They’re not just the one archetypal role they were introduced as. When they’re not doing that, they’re chilling out and relaxing in their own little ways.
Take Geld for example. He doesn’t show up often in the main series. But in the Slime Diaries, he actually gets a fair amount of screen time. We learn more about the hardships he and his people endured before Rimuru came along and we get to see his softer side in his interactions with the goblin children. This simple side character who only shows up once every few episodes (if he’s so lucky) is fleshed out and humanized in a way that most other shows don’t even bother to attempt!
All of this combines to make Tempest a setting that we the audience are truly invested in. We got to see as it was slowly put together by the people who were pulled into it bit by bit. The kingdom feels like a living, breathing place, populated by thousands of people, several dozen of which we’re very well familiar with. We know who they are and what their role is in the kingdom. It feels like the kind of fictional setting that you can just casually walk into and explore!
And the story uses that to perfect, and often brutal, effect. But I’ll save that for my eventual review of season two.