Wise Man’s Grandchild is the epitome of a Gary Stu star and story. It’s been hilarious to me how the “Mary Sue” label has caught on so strongly and become such a bone of contention with many fans, reviewers, and critics over the last few years, especially when reviewing what comes out of Hollywood. Characters like Rey from the Sequel Trilogy of Star Wars are frequently labeled as a Mary Sue (and rightfully so, though not as extreme as this), but in many of those debates the core concept of how a Mary Sue is defined always comes up. And usually, it’s right around the same time that one person criticizes the other that they, “just don’t like female characters.” It’s funny because the whole joke behind a Mary Sue is that you knew one right when you saw one, and you could easily pick apart why. In more modern writing, some characters accidentally end up sharing a lot of Mary Sue/Gary Stu traits, which is what causes the debates because we might not be 100% sure whether the author intended the character to be so outrageous or not.
This is why Wise Man’s Grandchild is a wonderful example of a trashy anime story, character, and plot that can be explicitly used as a roadmap of a Mary Sue/Gary Stu at near full potency! There are a lot of characters that have Mary Sue/Gary Stu traits and story elements, but WMG has so many of them so blatantly, I’m finding it’s a great example of how NOT to write a good story and show exactly why many viewers like myself find the Mary Sue/Gary Stu trope so annoying. AND YES, that means male characters can absolutely be criticized and being male “Mary Sues.”
Wise Man’s Grandchild is an “isekai” (“another world”) anime, which is a sub-genre of anime that is usually rife with Mary Sue/Gary Stu characters and traits. The better anime in this genre simply have a flawed protagonist enter this new world and struggle inside of it. The worse ones bring the character over and make them overpowered (nothing is a challenge), saintly (the hero never makes mistakes or shows bad traits), flawless (they have no viable flaws or are given flaws that have no consequence), and everyone loves them. Even then, there can be a spectrum of better to worse on how this is executed.
Wise Man’s Grandchild gets a full, “BINGO!” by hitting ALL of these in the most extreme fashion! The protagonist, Shin Wolfard (who was a rank-and-file nobody in our world), is reborn into this new world as a god-tier protagonist where the world is his oyster. In this new world he becomes the foster grandchild to two of the most powerful wizards who ever lived (one is a battlemage, the other is an enchanter), which of course means he grows up learning how to do magic better than anyone else, INCLUDING the foster grandparents. He’s a genius fighter (because of course he is) who picks up how to fight in a flash and is trained by one of the best warriors ever, who now struggles to beat this kid now that he is 15.
S-Rank is the top rank for wizards and fighters, but of course, Shin is BEYOND S-Rank, and continually proves it by creating new magic that has never existed before and beating down the enemies of the show so easily that he says “he was surprised at how weak they were” or how he “was holding back.” Don’t worry though; he’s also an enchanter who can make any enchanted gear imaginable that is instantly a national treasure (not my words; that’s STRAIGHT FROM THE ANIME) and his mere existence can cause a world wide problem due to how strong and amazing everything he enchants is. Not to mention is nuclear-level magic spells, which not even the people who trained him match!
But of course, our boy isn’t just a fighter, he’s also a lover. It’s love at first sight for main female protagonist Sizillien, who has had lines of men trying to win her hand in marriage her whole life, but of course falls instantly in love with Shin as he saves her and her best friend from bandits the minute he drops into town. Why does she love him? Well, everyone does except the bad guys, so the real question is, “why should Shin love her?” In true Gary Stu style, it’s not because any real chemistry between them: it’s all about magical love at first sight. Honestly though, it’s actually because of the Gary Stu magic of, “she’s the best, so he gets the best, and she’s mostly just a hot accessory there to remind everyone how cool Shin is for landing her.”
In true Gary Stu fashion, the Gary Stu needs more ways to stand out from the normies, so Shin is enrolled into a magic academy (despite being better than all the teachers), trains all of his new-found friends in magic (better than the teachers do), and ends up with a very large pep squad of characters who are immediately forgettable because their only function in the plot is to point out how amazing and awesome Shin is.
I wish I was making this up, but that’s actually exactly what happens. None of the side characters do anything of real significance, because that’s Shin’s job to do everything. That school I mentioned? A few episodes in we never see him taking any classes; it only existed as a plot device for him to meet his entourage so HE could train them in magic.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “He’s has to have some kind of flaw, right?!” Yes, the author gave him the flaw of being “naïve.” What does this mean? He doesn’t realize how awesome he is but, thankfully, the entire story is loaded with characters who’ll let him know. Along with the Mary Sue trait of “being clumsy”, this version of being naive doesn’t actually cause Shin any problems with real, lasting consequences, and instead, is used as a doorway to show off how amazing he is. “I didn’t KNOW I was the only one who could do this kind of magic!” “I though EVERYONE could do this amazing thing that I do!” It’s laughable in the extreme, but an amazing example of how to give a character a flaw that isn’t actually a flaw at all; when debates rage about Rey in the Sequel Trilogy, this a core concept that a flaw or failure are meaningless unless the character suffers or someone else suffers due to their actions, or that their mistake is proven to have been wrong. If you don’t have that second part, it only shows a wrong intention, not a true mistake.
Needless to say, this anime was terrible. The main character is never in any danger, there is no point to most of the side characters except to point out how awesome Shin is, and the romance element to the story is boring, because both characters instantly fell in love with each other and are perfect people with no real flaws. Well, except for being clueless to each other’s feelings.
If you’re looking for a story that can give you everything you need to spot a Mary Sue or Gary Stu, then Wise Man’s Grandchild is a perfect pick. It’s a grade “D” anime, but it’s an “S-Rank” example of how to write the Gary Stu tropes!