With it’s unnecessarily lengthy title, The Exo-Drive Reincarnation Games: All-Japan Isekai Battle Tournament is poking fun of isekai manga and light-novel tropes right out of the gate.
Written by Keiso and with art by Zunta, The Exo-Drive Reincarnation Games is a playful parody of the isekai genre which reimagines the now ubiquitous plot-device of being reborn into a fantasy world as a spectator sport!
When scientists discover that there are an untold number of alternate worlds linked to our own, everyone is thrilled. However, that excitement swiftly turns into horror when they realize that all these incredible fantasy worlds are on the brink of annihilation – unless a super-powered hero can rescue them, that is. Using advanced technology, a device known as a drive-linker is developed to allow people to be reborn into these worlds, and then return to our own once that world’s particular brand of evil menace has been defeated and peace restored. The brave souls who undertake these quests are even able to store their cheat abilities (a.k.a. the special powers they gained when they were reincarnated) in a device known as c-memory so that they can use them again during future isekai lives. The technology eventually becomes so readily available that people start treating it as a game. Thus the Exo-Drive Games are born. Now, people across the world compete against each other to see who can rake up the most points in their isekai lives and save the world first!
I generally enjoy isekai stories, but even I have to admit that the market has become flooded with them as of late. So, a title like The Exo-Drive Reincarnation Games, which puts a new spin on the concept whilst lightly poking fun of the genre, is a welcome change of pace. I enjoyed all of the gags about common isekai clichés, such as: how being able to amass a harem of cute girls is a useful cheat ability players can incorporate into their game plan, or how the contestants need to be run over by a truck at the start of every match. Each player actually has a truck driver who’s a part of their team and I found it hilarious to see the drivers give their teammates a thumbs up before plowing into them with their trucks.
While the humor is pretty spot on, the best part of The Exo-Drive Reincarnation Games manga is how it successfully combines the isekai genre with elements of the shounen strategy game genre. Each player in the Exo-Drive Games can have 4 cheat abilities active during a game and they devise different strategies for saving the world and one-upping their opponent around those powers. As an added twist, only three of those abilities are observable by the audience or other player. Meaning, both players have a secret ability in play that remains a mystery until the time comes to use it, adding an extra layer to their scheming! The way the cheat abilities are combined and used to power-up the players or thwart their rivals reminded me a lot of anime like Yu-Gi-Oh, or other series that revolve around games of strategy. It was fun to see how the characters managed to outplay each other, and I suspect this aspect of the manga will only become more exciting as I become more familiar with the possible cheat abilities the characters have at their disposal.
On the somewhat negative side, I did find the characters to be a bit generic. This, however, is by design. Sumioka Shito and Tsurugi Tatsuya, the Exo-Drive players whose matchup we follow during the course of this volume, are both representative of hero archetypes. Tsurugi is the very model of the energetic, earnest and cocky protagonist that used to be so popular in shounen anime, while Sumioka embodies the cool and calculating lead character that you see cropping up in isekai stories more frequently nowadays. Sumioka has a tragic backstory involving his father which caused him to get involved in the Exo-Drive Games, but other than that there isn’t much to his character, other than that he’s smart. Tsurugi, meanwhile, just wants to do his best and earn Sumioka’s recognition. They were both such clichés, I actually got confused over which one was supposed to be the main character of this manga for a while (Spoiler Alert: It’s the one that’s on the front cover. Probably shouldn’t have been such a mystery to me, now that I think about it.).
Since this is primarily a comedy manga, I don’t expect that the characters will get fleshed out much more in future volumes, but that’s okay. The Exo-Drive Reincarnation Games is a comical pastiche of the isekai/strategy game genres, so having some unoriginal characters fits it pretty well. In the end, I found this to be a fun read and a pretty clever twist on the isekai genre. I’d recommend this manga both to isekai fans and to people who are starting to find the genre a bit tired and who would enjoy seeing some of it’s sillier conventions mocked.
Final Score: 7 out of 10
For more information on this manga, visit Seven Seas Entertainment’s website.
What did you think of this manga? If you were a player in the Exo-Drive Games, what are some of the cheat abilities you’d want to have in your arsenal? If there was a super-luck ability, I think I’d want that.
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