With three episodes aired, Shukufuku no Campanella is a competent show by many standards - it sports an impressive voice cast, decent animation and fun character designs. However, those elements outside of its production values tell a very different story. The setting, plot, characters and dialogue are all extremely simplistic and one-dimensional; but the way they are presented suggests not so much a lack of competence on the creators’ part but rather an active effort to excise all depth and conflict from the setting.
Escapism plays an important role in all art; fantasy, as a genre, makes particular use of it. But here Shukufuku does not simply weave escapism into its narrative, the escapism is placed at the forefront of its priorities. Shukufuku accomplishes nothing but escapism. The show’s denizens exhibit not the roughness of a writer without the inspiration or talent to write characters of substance, but rather a series of faces which have been perfectly sanded down to an absence of any unique personailties or ideas.
Leicester, the player-insert in the eroge Shukufuku is based on, is odd among self-inserts in that he is not, as in harems such as Clannad or Love Hina, made up of a bare set of traits and flaws which the average otaku is meant to identify with; rather, he lacks even the definition afforded to those characters, leaving almost no mental impression whatsoever.
The plot, too, is purified of any meaningful conflict or progression: the action scenes play out in such a way that the show appears to be constantly assuaging the viewer that everything will be all right - that there is not the slightest possibility of anything actually going wrong, and that there neither is nor ever was any real threat present.
But what makes this different from the swaths of slice-of-life and iyashikei anime on the market? These are shows which in many cases appear similar: little to no conflict, often one- or two-dimensional characters and so on. Still, for the most part, slice-of-life shows centered around real-life settings use that format as an alternative to classical narrative, still in pursuit of making some statement about life but via a new means of communication. Iyashikei franchises such as Aria and Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, similarly, use their otherworldly setting and eccentric pacing to communicate ideas about those parts of life not exciting enough to support a classical narrative.
In short, they still act as art, as attempts to explore and understand the human experience - a goal which Shukufuku sets aside from the start. It acts not as art, designed to provoke thought or entertainment, but rather as a kind of cheap sustenance for the mind. It stimulates the viewer in the way that shaking keys excites a baby - the sights and sounds are tailored not to engage the viewer in their world, but to distract the viewer from the one around them. It is, in a sense, the ultimate manifestation of Azuma’s “cultural database” - a series of images presented solely to sate the otaku’s craving for new tropes and memes to organize.