A few new isekai series, like Farming Life in Another World, are now available as part of the Winter 2023 anime season. Another self-explanatory isekai anime, where protagonist Hiraku Machio, thanks to the favor of the rebirth god, is prepared to develop fields of food and raise cattle in a new fantasy world.
Hiraku has a smart, inventive mind that is necessary for any isekai star, and he is doing his best to create a new life for himself after passing away in Japan at the age of 39. All of this is incredibly evident in Episode 1, yet Farming Life may quickly run out of concepts, or at the very least, its plot will produce some subpar entertainment for anime viewers to enjoy this season.
Farming in the Forest: Hiraku's New Way of Life
The opening scene of Farming Life in Another World shows Hiraku Machio on his prosperous farm with plenty of help, including attractive females and a lizard man. It then flashes back to Hiraku's initial entrance in isekai land. Hiraku is gratefully given a second chance at life in greater health by a bright god who gently tells that Hiraku died unjustly in Japan at the age of 39. Hiraku accepts gratefully and soon finds himself in a jungle holding the powerful farming implement. He must create a new isekai life from scratch without the aid of any special abilities other than that agricultural implement. With this set-up, Hiraku will be presented as a sympathetic underdog who lacks Momonga or Rimuru's OP skills or even Subaru Natsuki's checkpoint system. On some basic levels, it works, and Hiraku is mildly compelling as a smart but humble hero trying to build a new life with his own two hands.
Episode 1 depicts Hiraku cutting down lumber to build an outhouse, a small home and even a ditch and fence to keep herbivores away from his crops. Along the way, he meets and befriends two wolf-dogs, with the pregnant female soon giving birth to four healthy pups. It's a heart-warming and relaxing way to start Farming Life's story, but Episode 1 isn't much more than that. Even with the promise of a larger, more developed farm with a full staff of farmhands, Farming Life is off to a slow start in Episode 1, with Hiraku saying and doing very little out of the ordinary.
The episode does have some charming iyashikei elements with the quaint forest setting, Hiraku's constructive goals and his easygoing personality, but this isn't a "cute girls doing cute things" anime, nor should it be. Farming Life has only planted a few story ideas so far -- it needs more robust crops to become a standout in the Winter 2023 season.
What Other Isekai Anime Do Better in Project-Based
So far, Farming Life in Another World has set itself up to be an upbeat, comforting isekai anime where Hiraku is more likely to build things than destroy his enemies. By now, isekai anime can be roughly sorted into two categories: action-based and project-based. Action-based isekai such as Overlord, Shield Hero and Trapped in a Dating Sim are about fighting enemies and gaining skills or powers, while project-based isekai or partial isekai anime series are about the hero building things in a new world. This creates a "sandbox" narrative where heroes like Hiraku Machio, Rimuru Tempest, Senku Ishigami and Myne can use anything and anyone to make something new, from a book to a light bulb or an entire nation.
Based on Episode 1's events and the anime's trailer, Farming Life is the latter isekai type. It's all about Hiraku's inspiring efforts to build a farm and create jobs for the locals, which is a noble endeavor. The problem is that so far, Hiraku's adventure feels routine and predictable, from his dull personality and appearance to the obligatory harem of beautiful girls to yet another meeting with the isekai deity and a lack of a clear end goal.
Isekai fans shouldn't necessarily ditch Farming Life right away, but its first episode falls short of a compelling goal and main character. Ascendance of a Bookworm started with a bang, with a little girl aiming to create books despite her family's poverty, and Dr. Stone set ambitious goals for its scientist protagonist, Senku Ishigami, right away. Farming Life needs its own answer to that quickly, as harvesting tomatoes and meeting elf girls certainly doesn't make for an isekai of the year. Farming Life can and should expand the scope of its storytelling and come up with another, more memorable plot twist soon. Fortunately, there are still 11 episodes left to go for that.