Coming off an episode where all signs were pointing up to Naofumi being able to use his new shield; everything takes a 180 turn as Naofumi, Raphtalia and Rishia reverts back to level one.
Recap & Reaction
In the previous episode, somehow Naofumi was able bypass the restriction and enter into L’arc’s, Therese and Glass’s world. Entering a world where there would be so many new mysteries, Naofumi’s party minus Filo end up waking up inside what looks like to be an opened jail cell.
With a higher intensity episode like the last, you can always bet that the next episode is going to highly contrast the last, setting up the next big climatic scenes down the line. The episode starts off showing a mysterious new character. You know what that means.. Character development time!
Naofumi, Raphtalia and Rishia figures out that they are trapped on an island as the ocean goes far beyond the horizon. Naofumi looks at their stats, only to realize that they are all back to level 1. As they are walking through the jungle, they end up running into a few low level monsters. For the time being, they used this opportunity to level up a bit.
The first half of the episode takes a little bit of time to show just how much weaker they are fighting all of these low level creatures. This seems to be like the introduction for the audience to experience a whole new world just as the characters are experiencing.
As they were taking a break, drinking from a river or lake, a “Kappa” monster comes out to attack them. Since they at such a low level, they struggled to do any significant damage to the creature. Things were looking grim as it looked like Raphtalia was going to get significantly whacked by this sea monster. This segues into the best character introduction of the season thus far, as the mysterious new character teased at the beginning of the episode makes her entrance.
A Way Better Way to Introduce New Characters!
I had my gripes about poor introduction to characters. So far, characters like Kyo Ethnina and Ost Hourai have had very poor and less dramatic introductions. Would you prefer a “hey, my name is..” or what we got here.
Keeping this blog as PG as possible, that blood splatter scene was so darn gory. I like how this scene was just done so nonchalantly. You can usually tell by the music and lead up that something more sinister or significant is going to happen. In this case, it was to ease in a new character by simply just letting her do something cool.
I wish this anime would have taken this approach with new characters like Ost and Kyo. It’s kind of like a first impression. You’re going to remember those first 7 seconds, so ideally you’d want to make it count! I hate to use a Dragon Ball Z reference, but I am always going to remember the exact scene when Future Trunks makes his entry into the “Dragon Ball verse,” when he sliced up all of Mecha Freeza’s henchman. These kind of scenes are very iconic, which really just leads into this next counterargument. Some of these characters are just meant to fulfill a role and not be as memorable as central characters like Naofumi & Raphtalia.
Judging by the way characters are introduced and utilized, you can get a pretty good idea of how important the creators think they are. Ost was just the ends to the means of getting Naofumi into the next stage of his growth. So far, Kyo Ethnina is shown to be your basic evil “four-eyed bookworm” trope, used merely as a plot device with the most basic of intentions. So, what is the purpose of this newly minted character? Will she be a memorable one or be thrown to the wayside as just another forgettable character?
Recap & Reaction Continued..
It turns out the new character’s name is Kizuna Kazayama. In this world, she is the “Hunting Hero,” one of the “Four Cardinal Heroes.” Once she takes down Kappa with a brutal string attack that severed the creature to bloody pieces, they head back to the jail cell to patch up a severely injured Naofumi. Here, we learn that Kizuna Kazayama is friends with L’arc and Glass. Immediately, Naofumi, Raphtalia and Rishia have a sense of distrust. Kizuna calms their distrust with an attack on Naofumi that Raphtalia tries to stop. It is revealed that Kizuna’s Cardinal Weapon doesn’t inflict damage on humans under ordinary circumstances.
Without our dearest Filo to signal a camping scene for character and plot development, Raphtalia takes her place by getting hungry. During this scene, we find out that they are trapped in a temporal prison called the “Infinite Labyrinth.” Kizuna has been stuck here for years, trying to get out. She goes on to explain how much it sucks to be there alone, but learned to cope. Eventually, she leads Naofumi, Rishia and Raphtalia to what seems to be the end of where “Infinite Labyrinth” stops.
Once they arrive at the end of the labyrinth, Naofumi soon finds out how to escape from this “bug.” Drawing comparisons of 2D & 3D games as a metaphor as to how to get outside of these buggy games, the scene quickly transitions to the party setting off Naofumi’s plan.
As all 4 make their way out of the “bugged” Infinite Labyrinth, they appear to be make it outside back into Kizuna’s world. Now, we get a bit of a dramatic scene as Kizuna, who was once trapped in the temporal prison for years has finally made it out!
Naofumi Can Be Too Convenient!
Almost every time there is a huge barrier to advance the plot, Naofumi has been used many times to be the character that has a plan to solve it. This can be a good and bad thing. It is a good thing that Naofumi isn’t your typical “dumb shonen idiot” protagonist. On the other hand, it can seem too convenient for him to come up with solutions without scenes showing the progression of him using his wit and genius. In this case, it’s somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. The scene dipping to black and randomly showing up with a “plant ball” thing was a bit sudden. Although, he did explain that this “Infinite Labyrinth” light area was a bug, showing his mental prowess. Naofumi as a character is kind of like being trapped in an escape room, but already having all the answers. What’s the fun in that?! Make him go through a little of those “shonen” struggles to find the answers!
New World, New Character & New Challenges
If you noticed from the first half of the season, the focus has been heavily on the newer characters, Rishia and Ost. Now, we have a new character to explore in Kizuna. Before the audience gets too bored of the same ol’ same ol’ Naofumi & Raphtalia specifically, it’s nice to see them in a newer refreshing challenge that they must overcome. At least for now, they aren’t able to use their true powers they’ve been cultivating all this time. Having characters be handicapped in some way has always been compelling to me to watch for any series. Having characters lose something and then regaining it back later is always going to be a winning formula.
Naofumi’s character arc has slowly been building in the background, while other characters like Rishia and Ost have gotten more of the spotlight. What the creators want us to buy into is his personality becoming more caring and loving. There hasn’t been any specific scene or moment until the previous episode that you can truly pinpoint that shift in his personality. Him being able to use the “Spirit Tortoise Shield” unlocking the “Blessed Series,” can now be used as like a marker point to signify that shift.
As I watch more and more animes, breaking down each episode, trying to critically think how and why the creators make the episodes the way they do—I totally love and enjoy the purposeful contrast from one episode to another. One episode can be very dramatic with lots of action scenes. The next can be all character development and building foundation for the next part of the plot.
I think we all undervalue the pacing from one episode to another. Each episode fulfills a certain purpose & goal. This episode shows our characters in a new setting with reduced capabilities. Then, they are acquainted with a new character who is likely a part of the bigger plot beyond Kyo Ethnina. This episode establishes new and refreshing life in the next mysterious part of the plot. Coming off the climatic highs of the previous episode, this episode starts to set us up for that next ride to climatic highs. Overall, I truly enjoyed this episode for what its purpose is. Episodes like the last may elicit the strongest emotions out of you, but episodes like this one make those previous episodes hit harder when those tense climatic moments do come.