The Fall 2019 Anime Preview Guide
Cautious Hero: The Hero Is Overpowered but Overly Cautious
How would you rate episode 1 of
Cautious Hero: The Hero Is Overpowered but Overly Cautious ?
What is this?
Young goddess Ristarte isn't sure if she lucked out or not when she's chosen as the goddess in charge of finding a hero to save S-ranked world Gaeabrande. She's only summoned five heroes before, and never for a world of this difficulty. Because of the prevalence and popularity of isekai novels in Japan, she decides to summon a Japanese hero to help her, and eventually stumbles across the stats of Seiya Ryuuguuin, who stands out not only for his unusual name, but also his high starting scores. Rista quickly summons him, but it turns out that she really should have read the fine print – Seiya may be powerful, but he's also overly cautious to a fault, refusing to even set foot in Gaeabrande until he's exercised his way to a higher level. When he won't even eat the food Rista makes for him in case she might be trying to poison him, Rista realizes that she may be in trouble with this guy...Cautious Hero: The Hero Is Overpowered but Overly Cautious is based on a light novel. It's available streaming on Funimation, Wednesdays at 10:30 am EST.
How was the first episode?
I really enjoyed the source light novel for this series, although I wasn't quite sure how an adaptation would work out, given that so much of the humor comes from Rista's narration. Fortunately someone really knew what they were doing with this one – the problem is largely solved by the dual methods of making Rista's crazy-faces the most detailed pieces of animation in the episode and Aki Toyosaki's voice acting is wonderful. The way she says “six-pack” may stand out as one of my favorite lines since Tomokazu Sugita in Daily Lives of High School Boys said “Jack.” She also maintains a nice balance between Rista's several modes in the episode: beatific, stressed, and enraged and frustrated, all of which are in direct response to Seiya's deadpan delivery and overabundance of worry.
That the episode also works well with the novel's comfortable self-awareness is also a plus. Rista's declaration that she's going to summon someone from Japan because of the continued popularity of isekai fiction and RPGs is a nice nod to reality as well as the assumptions people make based on someone's ethnicity. When Seiya hasn't read a light novel or played a video game (or at least, not in the otaku sense Rista was counting on), she's shocked; when he further starts using more advanced commands to see his properties rather than status, she's annoyed. Clearly this was not what she was banking on when she made her choice, and although she tries at first to make the best of it, she really should have taken that as a warning sign.
Another nice touch about this story is that there's no indication that Seiya is suffering from an anxiety disorder or that the anime is making fun of him for his caution. Instead the onus is on Rista for having summoned him without reading the fine print – she didn't pay close attention, made assumptions, and now she's stuck with him. Is he ludicrously cautious? Yes, it's right there in the title. But he's also representative of a specific style of gaming – the person who grinds like there's no tomorrow before even attempting a quest. (In fact, the original novel author mentioned that this was the intent with the character.) It's clear that this is just how Seiya lives his life, too – the muscles and the practiced breathing when he runs away from Chaos Machina let us know that – and in the end it'll probably work really well for what he has to do. But right now? It's equal parts sage head-nodding at his precautions and understanding Rista's intense frustration while managing to let us chuckle at both aspects. If you've ever though those damned plucky kids summoned over and over again to save fantasy worlds make a series of stupid decisions, you definitely ought to check this out.
The easiest pitch for Cautious Hero is “did you like KONOSUBA? Then there is a tremendous chance you'll like Cautious Hero.” Like KONOSUBA, Cautious Hero seems dedicated to poking holes in the standard assumptions of the isekai genre, and offering a loving send-up of recent years' most popular genre trend. But much more importantly, also like KONOSUBA, Cautious Hero is very, very good at it.
Instead of situating us in the perspective of the brave Earth hero being transported to another world, Cautious Hero starts off by introducing Ristarte, the fatigued goddess who's actually doing the summoning. Ristarte is a hilarious mess of a person, coming across as more of a put-upon bureaucrat than a divine goddess, and her griping about the mechanics of hero-summoning works makes for a very endearing first act. She very much feels like a direct successor to KONOSUBA's Aqua, and there's no shame in that - Aqua was a very funny character, and Ristarte is very funny too.
These early scenes also demonstrate Cautious Hero's most valuable visual resource: chief animation director Mai Toda, who helps to imbue all of Ristarte's grievances with endearing, exaggerated, and gleefully cartoonish visual energy. It's hard to imagine another show this season will be able to match Cautious Hero for funny expression work; every single scene of this episode is a visual feast, as Ristarte contorts herself into ever-more-tortured shapes in her despairing execution of her duties. Even when a given joke didn't land in pure structural terms, it was still greatly buoyed by this episode's playful animation, making for a consistently engaging visual experience.
Eventually, Ristarte summons her chosen hero, and we meet our straight man Seiya Ryūgūin. Instead of reacting with awe or joy at being transported to another world, Seiya reacts with absolute caution, and seems immediately suspicious of his goddess benefactor. From a position of total distrust, Seiya very slowly moved towards “wary acceptance,” acting with total caution and annoying the heck out of Ristarte all along the way. Seiya's deadpan min-maxing and Ristarte's impatient floundering play off each other wonderfully, making an often frustrating aspect of isekai shows (the overpowered nature of the protagonist) into a consistent comedic asset.
On the whole, I think I may have enjoyed the first episode of Cautious Hero even more than KONOSUBA's premiere, and recommend it to any fans of isekai, comedy, or fun character animation. If the show can keep up this level of jokes and visual personality, it could easily be a highlight of the season.
Last season we had two isekai series going head-to-head on Wednesdays. This season we have the same phenomenon occurring again, but from a different angle: the two isekai comedies – this one and Kemono Michi: Rise Up – are on the same day and nearly the same time slot. Based on first episodes alone, I am unequivocally awarding the first round to the competition.
Cautious Hero is a series that is trying very, very hard to be funny by taking an irreverent approach somewhat in the spirit of KONOSUBA. The problem is that it isn't KONOSUBA or anything even close to it. The first episode is trying to run with two basic jokes: that hero Seiya is “impossibly cautious” and that the goddess Ristarte is nowhere near as dignified a divine being as what she tries to project. The former, for the most part, just isn't funny. In fact, Seiya's attitude becomes tiresome very quickly. He works better in a humor sense as the straight man that Ristarte can lose her cool towards, which allows for some exaggerated reactions that compose the few actually funny moments in the episode. Even so, the episode was rather drab until Chaos Machina showed up. That the Demon Lord actually considered that a Hero would be summoned and tried to cut that hero down before he could power up enough to be a threat is an interesting twist which goes against type for these stories; if a later revelation comes along that the Demon Lord is a former otaku playing the “if I was a smart Demon Lord, this is what I would do” game, that would be a fulfilling twist. That move raised my estimation of the first episode out of the trash heap that I was prepared to consign it to at the 20 minute mark and it had very little to do with comedy.
Aside from Ristarte's exaggerated expressions, the episode makes little impression on its technical merits. This is, at best, a second-tier effort overall, though I did find it interesting that some character design aspects involving Chaos Machina distinctly resembled Overlord. That comparison continued with my favorite favorite anisong band, MYTH&ROID, who rocked out the opener “Tit for Tat;” that was easily my favorite part of the episode.
The best way I can sum up the comparison between this title and Kemono Michi: Rise Up is that I had a stupid grin on my face almost the entire time I was watching the latter but I only barely cracked a smile while watching this. Perhaps my opinion might be a bit different if I had watched this one first, but I doubt it. I know which one of the two I will be following on Wednesdays this season.
More than anything else, the ridiculously titled Cautious Hero: The Hero Is Overpowered but Overly Cautious is a showcase for the vocal talents of Aki Toyosaki, who plays the goddess Ristarte, who is one among a pantheon of deities who make a regular habit of summoning heroes from Earth to save this or that other world. Ristarte is tasked with defeating the S-level threat Demon Lord that is plaguing the world of Gaebrande, and Aki Toyosaki spends the majority of Cautious Hero's premiere grunting, grumbling, scheming, and lusting her way through a script that wouldn't be half as funny if it weren't for her gung-ho performance. I always love it when show gives an actor the chance to really cut loose from familiar performance archetypes and go a little wild, and I have to give Cautious Hero credit for doing just that.
It doesn't hurt that the script is genuinely funny in spots. Cautious Hero gets a lot of mileage out of the pot shots it makes at well-worn isekai tropes – one great gag sees Ristarte admitting to regularly choosing Japanese heroes, because their familiarity with isekai stories makes the whole setup an easier sell. The titular Cautious Hero, Seiya, is also his own brand of ridiculous, a man who is not so much “cautious” as he is “pathologically mistrustful of literally everything and everyone he meets.” The guy has the usual overpowered stats, but spends a week doing pushups just to make sure he's ready to fight the bad guys, and when he finally does encounter a low-level slime monster, he spends a dozen nuclear-powered special moves obliterating the poor thing, just to be safe. Sieya himself isn't honestly a very good character – his level of obliviousness would need to be offset by a likable personality, but he's a condescending grump – but Toyosaki's vocal work, along with Ristarte's wonderfully exaggerated facial expressions, elevate the material substantially.
Really, this is yet another anime that I think would work so much better if each episode were just a few minutes long. Neither the artwork, the animation, nor the world building rise above being purely functional, which means the success of Cautious Hero lies entirely in how well its main gimmick plays. In short bursts, the show works, but I just don't know if it can sustain a whole season's worth of half-hour episodes. Still, Cautious Hero left me cautiously optimistic for the season's prospects, since we've got least one isekai comedy that might be worth revisiting.
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