Inverse Recommends

Suicide Squad Isekai Shouldn’t Work as Well As It Does

What are we, some kind of suicide squad stuck in a fantasy realm?

Wit Studio
Inverse Recommends

When you hear “Suicide Squad” and “Isekai” in the same sentence (or the same title,) there’s a chance that you might imagine what can only be described as the most annoying thing in the world. Though the comic book team was partially redeemed by 2021’s gleefully bonkers The Suicide Squad and a handful of solid animated films, there is still a bit of a cultural hangover regarding the abysmal 2016 film. And the Isekai anime genre, which is a subgenre where a character is transported to a fantasy world, is often a mass dumping ground for uninspired power fantasies and needless fantasy realms. Combine the two and you’d probably get something with the amount of artistic grace as, say, that eternally bizarre Suicide Squad tie-in where Skrillex and Rick Ross hung out with Jared Leto’s Joker on a boat for some reason.

But despite the odds, Suicide Squad Isekai is not only watchable, but consistently fun. It combines the best of the inherent joy of the concept (“Can a few psychopathic weirdos get along, save the world, and not be killed/kill each other?”) with a fantasy world that has just enough intrigue to keep it dramatically compelling. The world of superhero animation is running hot right now, with shows like X-Men 97, My Adventures with Superman and the upcoming Batman: Caped Crusader all receiving popular notice and critical praise. Suicide Squad Isekai is a fitting addition to them.

The story concerns the titular squad (You get the requisite “Wait, you mean we’re some kind of…SUICIDE SQUAD??” line in the second episode) being sent by perennial DC Comics antagonist/mega boss Amanda Waller into a fantasy world. There, the team of Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Clayface, King Shark and Peacemaker get mired in the politics of the new world’s royal government and eventually sent on a mission by the Queen to help in their current war. With time running out (Waller had bombs implanted in the squad’s necks that will explode in 72 hours,) they have no real choice but to just comply and try to swiftly get the job done.

Even if we’re used to most of the assortment of “villains” here, their chemistry is wonderfully spirited. Harley Quinn remains DC’s Murder Pixie Dream Girl, and, when she’s not paired in scenes with the Joker (a relationship that had a Looney Tunes vibrancy back in 1992 but is now pretty exhausting), she’s funny and charming. Deadshot seems like the series’ straight man at first but gains depth as the show goes on. Peacemaker doesn’t have the likability of the John Cena incarnation, but he’s fittingly deranged, and King Shark is a goofy, gory, hungry brute. The surprise standout is Clayface, imagined here as an “unpopular” movie star who’s absolutely thrilled to be playing his greatest “role” in an Isekai. Together, they banter, argue, and baffle one another in a way that makes them feel like more than just international DC branding icons.

Suicide Squad Isekai sends its titular team into a fantasy world, where they adapt better than expected.

Wit Studio

The world they inhabit seems like a fairly generic fantasy landscape at first, with monsters fighting medieval-esque knights galore. But little details, like the royal class being more obsessed with winning an endless battle against the creatures of the world rather than feeding their own people, make for an interesting complication. Especially since these are the folks that the Suicide Squad have to fight for, for the time being. And fight they do — the action scenes are often elaborately staged and gorgeous to watch. Littered with bits of comedy, they manage to retain the favored tone of the comics rather than switch to bored “wish fulfillment” Isekai sequences.

This adept approach should be no surprise, considering that Suicide Squad Isekai is produced by Wit Studio, the company behind recent hits like Ranking of Kings, their co-production of Spy x Family, and the first three seasons of Attack on Titan. Its head director, Eris Osada, is a veteran of such genre-blending fare like JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and Jujutsu Kaisen, and thus a prime choice for Suicide Squad Isekai’s frantic action and frequent comedy. And not quite as important (but still a good addition to the package) is the meme-able ending theme, with a song by vTuber Mori Calliope that features Amanda Waller absolutely breaking it down.

The first three episodes of Suicide Squad Isekai are currently on Max and Hulu, with new episodes set to come out every Thursday for a 10-episode series. And throughout the upcoming weeks, the series looks poised to deliver even more crazed denizens of the DC Universe, including the return of folks like the mysterious Katana and the pathetic Ratcatcher. So jump aboard the latest triumph in animated adaptations of comic books, one that treats its source material with just the right amount of endearing lunacy. If the live-action efforts of the Suicide Squad felt like your own death mission to endure, this one might be worth a try.

Suicide Squad Isekai is streaming on Max and Hulu.

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