Weakest Tamer Began a Journey to Pick Up Trash Anime Series Review – Review

Unfairly overshadowed during the Winter 2024 season by heavyweight titles Frieren and Delicious in Dungeon, The Weakest Tamer Began a Journey to Pick Up Trash is a surprisingly high-quality fantasy anime from Studio Massket – it’s their first full TV anime show. Adapted from the 2018 web-novel-turned-light-novel by author Honobonoru500, this animated version is a labor of love for all involved. It’s so beautifully presented, from the immaculate opening sequence to the heartbreakingly sad ending song, that it’s like an exquisitely painted fairytale anthology brought to life.

Like all fairytales, a dark, beating heart of trauma is at its center. In this world, much like with the Blessings in Banished From the Hero’s Party, every human being is born with an innate, God-given skill. Upon their fifth birthday, the church appraises each individual’s skill and assigns it a star rating – the higher the number of stars, the more powerful and useful the skill will be. Little Femicia has the “tamer” skill, and up until her fifth birthday, she lives an idyllic life with her parents and siblings. Then the priest announces she has “zero stars” and is, therefore, an accursed existence, rejected by God. From this moment, she becomes the target of emotional and physical abuse from her family and other villagers. On running away, she’s sheltered by Luba, a kindly, blind fortune teller. Following Luba’s untimely death, Femicia is driven from her home by villagers intent on killing her as a scapegoat.

The above backstory is related to the harrowing third episode of what was previously a mostly light and fluffy anime, albeit with some dark touches. We’re in real Brothers Grimm territory here, and the lead character, Femicia/Ivy, is little but a frightened child who’s forced to grow up quickly and flee for her life. Thankfully, the whole show’s not all disturbing child abuse, though Ivy’s reactions to the concerned adults she meets are informed by her significant trauma. She’s terrified that adults will discover her secrets, reject or even kill her. These fears are entirely justified, given her experiences. It takes her a long time to consider opening up to others.

Ivy’s wanderings are not dissimilar to characters in other shows like Kino’s Journey. She passes through various places, interacting with the residents and making friends, but she always chooses to progress onward to further adventures. She’s a resourceful girl who makes enough money to support herself by catching, skinning, and dressing the meat of small wild animals like mice and rabbits to sell. Adults often remarked upon how mature she seems for her age, though children who live through difficult experiences like Ivy often have to leave childhood behind and act more mature.

Weakest Tamer is nominally an isekai, in that Ivy hears a voice in her head – namely the voice of her previous incarnation, a young girl who died in a world much like ours. The viewer can’t hear this voice; it’s marked only by a ringing bell sound. It’s probably this voice giving Ivy advice that helps her to seem more mature. In a medium overflowing with repetitive, derivative isekai sludge, Weakest Tamer‘s subtlety and emotional resonance help it to rise above the torrents of generic power fantasy garbage.

Ivy doesn’t get stronger or “level up” per se – it’s probably because her tamer skills are so weak and underdeveloped that she can befriend her beloved slime Sora without damaging his fragile body. Ivy only moves up in the world because of her intelligence and reliance on Sora’s developing abilities. Sora grows by devouring expired healing potions – hence Ivy’s penchant for raiding the garbage dumps referred to in the title. At one point, she even uses a hidden Sora to tell which people are trustworthy or evil. That’s a little bit dystopian, I guess, especially as those she identifies as criminals are eventually punished by becoming slaves…

The first half of the show is undoubtedly the strongest, as the second half is taken up by a prolonged narrative set in one town driven by a few too many plot contrivances and coincidences. Most other characters seem to hang on to Ivy’s every word, and she mentally out-maneuvers multiple experienced adventurers. The main plot about cleaning up a large crime organization isn’t that interesting.

Throughout much of the show, perhaps because I was traumatized by the events of the third episode, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, for something else horrendous to befall the sweet, innocent Ivy. Maybe it’s just me, but the idea of such a young child traveling unaccompanied for such a long distance triggers deep parental angst. Once Ivy befriends a massive wild feline creature, that does go some ways to assuage my anxieties. I’m pretty happy to report that, following the early episodes, later instances of child abuse are mostly absent, a plot about child kidnappers notwithstanding.

For fantasy fans looking for a (relatively) chilled travelogue anime, Weakest Tamer is certainly one of the best in a long while, and it’s a shame such a lovely show seemed to fly under the radar for most people. It’s presented with gorgeous animation, profoundly affecting music, a compelling main character, and an excellent day-one English dub. I’d very happily watch a second season, and I’ll be watching Studio Massket with great interest in the future.