Arifureta - From Commonplace to World's Strongest Season 2
Episodes 1-2

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Arifureta - From Commonplace to World's Strongest (TV 2) ?
Community score: 4.3

How would you rate episode 2 of
Arifureta - From Commonplace to World's Strongest (TV 2) ?
Community score: 4.3

Just when I thought I was out. I'd served my time reviewing Arifureta, doing the best I could to assess that mess of an isekai light novel adaptation. Having come out of it alive, I'd retired to a cozy cottage in the countryside, embracing a simple life of chopping wood and practicing loops in Melty Blood. But then, as it goes, a helicopter landed in my front yard, and my editor stepped out, telling me she had a new job only I could do. Arifureta was back! And the potential upswing shown in the first season's very last episode, coupled with the enthusiasm granted to the second season premiere, meant the people wanted it reviewed! Anime News Network needed me. My country needed me. And looking back at my precious family of anime figurines, I knew that I had to take this. One last job, to protect what had been built for them.

Seriously though. Arifureta was hardly the worst isekai anime I'd ever reviewed, but it was also hardly the best. And the general undercurrent around the run of its first season, which spent most of that time playing catch-up on account of a truly unenviable production setback (which, being fair, wasn't the fault of the anime crew at all) was that it had the air of "What could have been", but never really lived up to that potential. I know the light novel has its fans, and you're always going to want to see the energizing original version of something you like done justice. I know how you feel guys, I'm a fan of Ken Akamatsu manga, and I'll probably be waiting just as long for a comprehensive, big-budget Negima anime as we will be for a version of Arifureta that can nail down the engaging tone and action of its original books.

That first episode of this second season really gives it a shot though, doesn't it? It's got a few elements stacked in its favor simply by virtue of being the second season. Studio asread actually had a lead time on the production this go-around, so while Arifureta still doesn't look amazing, there's more a sense of consistency so far. They're actually able to plan out and structure how they're going to present the events of the plot. Plus we're established with the characters, concept, and setting overall at this point, so the show's just more comfortable to follow. As well, the element I actually took some contention with at the end of the previous season, the addition of Kaori to Hajime's adventuring party/harem, actually winds up being the new season's greatest asset. Turns out, the long-simmering plot point of Kaori harboring a crush on Hajime means she's actually able to be written with some degree of rapport with the hapless edgelord. It let her have a more interesting dynamic than she had in the first season when paired off with Shizuku, and made Hajime a bit more fun to watch via his reactions to getting dunked on.

Sadly, the writing doesn't yet seem to fully grasp the value of Kaori's inclusion yet, so she continues feeling underutilized, to the point of being left out of the party's adventure for the bulk of the second episode. Her verbal sparring match with Hajime right before he leaves over his makeout session with Yue, just to prove the point, is probably the most amusing that episode gets. With Kaori and Myu staying back in the village they just saved, the rest of the trip is characterized by Hajime's interactions with the remaining three ladies. And maybe it's the comparison with Kaori, or maybe things really have lowered a bit, because those character dynamics absolutely feel subdued compared to the S1 offerings. Shea is just kind of baseline competent now, there are only a couple light allusions made to Tio's masochism. The irreverent nastiness the party members got up to in the first season could feel a bit tiring at times, sure, but at least it lent some kind of flavor to the proceedings. The spiciest things get here in turning up the heat that's the apparent theme of this labyrinth is a brief aside making clear that even Hajime's practiced edgelord disposition doesn't make him immune to the sight of some sweaty boobs. I'm not asking for them to sodomize a dragon on-screen again, I'm just saying I know Arifureta is capable of bolder, brasher content than this.

The disappointing devolution back into the sort of walking tours that characterized so much of Arifureta's freshman outing at least invites comparisons to my earlier point about this one looking a bit better. The backgrounds have some variety and a bit of imagination to them (I enjoy the contrast between the heavily shadowed magma caves and the brilliant cavern of crystal the crew comes across). And they even prove that they can render a big monster in two-dimensional animation now! It's a magma bull that mostly sits still until Shea one-shots it, but it's still there! The CGI spells look better now, and even the monsters rendered that way seem more passable. Though it is kind of funny that a milestone I celebrated at the end of the first season was them finally learning to properly animate a CGI snake, and now it seems like all Hajime and crew are fighting so far are CGI worms and snakes. It's the crunchy animation equivalent of finding the first meal you're actually good at preparing at home. I just wish that rising to this baseline level of presentational competence did more for Arifureta's narrative.

But you know, these first two episodes of Arifureta's second season have already been better than most of its first. In the interest of the benefit of the doubt, I can suppose that it's just getting back into the swing of things, and look forward to stuff like Kaori being more consistently integrated into the team moving forward. They're even gesturing at some broader thematic elements built into the labyrinths of this world, even if "Cave that has monsters in it" and "Cave that is hot" aren't exactly the most creative concepts thus far. My point is, you can still feel the potential in this story, and get more of the sense that the crew behind it are striving to maybe try and meet that. And if I can rise to the challenge of once again evaluating this show on an episodic basis, I can maintain hope that they can rise to the challenge of making it more entertaining. For all of us.

Rating:

Arifureta - From Commonplace to World's Strongest Season 2 is currently streaming on Funimation.

Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.


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