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Suicide Squad Isekai: Series Premiere Review

Harley Quinn smiles in the series premiere of Suicide Squad Isekai

In the Suicide Squad Isekai series premiere, Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Clayface, Peacemaker, and King Shark fly into a land of war and magic. What could go wrong?

Showrunner & Director: Eri Osada
Genre: Anime, Superhero
Number of episodes: 10, released weekly on Thursdays
Ep. 1-3 Release Date: June 27, 2024
Where to watch: Hulu & Max

The Suicide Squad Isekai series premiere. The first three episodes. ‘The Suicide Squad’, and ‘isekai’. Two terms that this time last decade I knew nothing of. But now? Well, nowadays I know that The Suicide Squad is a group of DC villains – Harley Quinn, etc. – that get brought out of prison to go on high-risk missions for the promise of sentence reductions, and that should they fail, or try to escape, the remote bombs implanted in their necks will explode.

Gruesome. And, nowadays, I know that the word ‘isekai’ can be used to describe narratives in which the main character (among others, probably) travels to a world not their own. Like Narnia. 

And so, being smart enough to have learnt at least these two things in the last ten years, and based on the title of Suicide Squad Isekai, I did have some preconceptions about this series premiere. I was expecting some DC villains – certainly Harley Quinn at the minimum – to be sent out on a mission, and whilst out and about on that mission, I was expecting them to step through some kind of glowing portal into a fantasy land. I reckoned that there would be some elves and big castles, and that they would then have to face off against an evil sorcerer or an angry dragon. I was thinking it’d be a bit like if John Wick fell down some stairs and ended up in middle-earth. 

And the thing that mainly stood out to me during this series premiere is that Suicide Squad Isekai seems to have precited my expectations, and was perhaps even banking on them. I feel that the show was hoping I’d be up-to-date on what the DC villains have been doing outside of the comics, and hoping that I then read its title, and thought: “that might be fun”. Because, sure, Amanda Waller (Kujira) has been experimenting with a portal to another world. Sure, the purpose of her experiments is to monopolise a world of natural resources that nobody else has access to. And sure, our suicide squad is only being sent in after something happened to the first group she sent in there. But, now that that’s in the back of our minds, let’s have some fun. 

Pretty quickly, Suicide Squad Isekai establishes Clayface (Jun Fukuyama) as being a character not unlike Randy from Scream (1996), in that he rapidly identifies himself and the group as having been isekaied, and begins ranting about what that might mean for them, now that they’re inside such a narrative. And it’s not just Clayface demonstrating this self-awareness, either. The whole damn show seems to know pretty well what it is – another, perhaps late crack at seizing upon a gaggle of suddenly uber-popular characters. And, apparently aware of that, Suicide Squad Isekai isn’t opposed to making a joke at its own expense. 

Five characters wear an orange suit on the beach in the series premiere of Suicide Squad Isekai
A still from the series premiere of Suicide Squad Isekai (Max / Hulu)

Harley (Anna Nagase) is in prison, eating pizza, and watching a cartoon hamster version of Joker (2019), upset that the guards turn up to take her away at “the best bit” – when the hamster is doing a dance on a set of familiar-looking stairs. Deadshot (Reigo Yamaguchi) says that well-known line: “what are we, some kind of suicide squad?”, and the characters smirk straight at the audience. It’s kind of fun. And, frankly, it so far feels pretty insincere, which I’m enjoying. Get rid of the grit and attempted self-seriousness of Suicide Squad (2016), get rid of the self-importance and attempted emotion of The Suicide Squad (2021), and what do you have? Well, just a big ole sandbox with lots of toys to play with is all. 

Having this ensemble of prisoners acclimate to a prison for orcs, frequently playing smile-generating music, montaging Deadshot’s many faux pas towards Ratcatcher (Youji Ueda) whilst in Belle Reve, lining the episode credits with Amanda Waller’s dance moves, and more besides, immediately establishes comedy as being a focus for Suicide Squad Isekai. And so, though I’ve just title-dropped the two live-action movies, when the comparisons to previous Suicide Squad outings start rolling in, they’ll likely be more aligned with Harley Quinn (2019) than anything else, for both are similarly amusing. 

But the Suicide Squad Isekai series premiere is not all jokes, either. There is some plot in there too. The squaddies crashland, and that’s their radio equipment gone. They kill a load of pig people, now they’re in a dungeon. They’re taken to the Queen of the kingdom, who blackmails them into helping her win a war. Oh, and they’ve not got long until those neck bombs automatically explode too – to vaguely surmise over an hour’s worth of story. 

Suicide Squad Isekai Trailer (DC)

So, there are a few reasons to check out, and continue watching, Suicide Squad Isekai so far. There’s the mystery of what’s happened to Amanda’s first squad – how did they remove their bombs, and who are they working for now? There’s the intrigue of how/if our squad might return to their home world – will they all make it, and will they all want to leave? There’s the familiar icons of a fantastical setting at war – look, there’s the knights on horseback, and over there is the empathetic princess. And there’s the comedy of it all – the characters and their dialogue, the fantastic music. 

But, for me, if Suicide Squad Isekai continues to take the p*ss out of itself and its fellow Suicide Squad adaptations, trading the usual egotism (“my adaptation is the definitive version of these characters”) for pure rib-poking and self-deprecation, then I’ll continue watching.

The series premiere of Suicide Squad Isekai is now available to watch on Max and Hulu.

Suicide Squad Isekai Episode 4 Review  – Loud And Clear Reviews
Harley Quinn and co. try to keep their involvement in the war for a magical realm purely casual, in Suicide Squad Isekai episode 4.
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