Arifureta - From Commonplace to World's Strongest
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Arifureta - From Commonplace to World's Strongest ?
Arifureta continues to frustrate. It's at an awkward place, in that it's not really an indefensible tire-fire that deserves to be unilaterally dunked on. But it's still hard to evaluate at this point without feeling like running down a list of increasing disappointments. And that disappointment is there because of the potential it always held. There's a story worth telling in here somewhere, it's just buried under a struggling production and baffling directorial choices.
Take the most standout narrative thread in this episode: Hajime and Aiko-Sensei's developing relationship as they work together. The core idea here is that after still feeling embittered and betrayed about how his classmates treated him, Aiko's unwavering faith in Hajime as her student begins to convince him to start trusting someone from his former group again. There's actually an undercurrent of Aiko being an inspirational figure to lots of people, her students and those in the village they're defending embodying this. A lot of lip-service is paid to Hajime using her presence to motivate all those participating in the big fight this episode, and it's revealed towards the end that the whole attack was in order to try to take her out specifically. But the show oddly glosses over any particular reasons she's regarded so highly. We found out several episodes back that her skill upon arriving in the world was ‘farming’, and assisting the fertility of the land is remarked on a couple times here. But if she was a lynchpin of the resources and economy of this war effort, it's not spelled out enough to jibe with what we're shown, and instead just comes off with an incongruous scene of all these folks being big fans of this tiny teacher for no particular reason.
Getting down to the particulars of Aiko's role and how her powers (if she has any, it's never really shown) factor into her work could have gone a long way towards really effectively developing her relationship with Hajime. Farming is about as much a ‘support’ skill as Hajime's matter-transmutation powers were shown to be, they could have called attention to their nature as kindred spirits. She's a teacher, perhaps she could have expressed a desire to help him grow his abilities before he was lost. But instead Arifureta simply leaves these elements dangling, half-formed and not followed up on beyond basic platitudes on the student-teacher relationship, itself exacerbated by the ending.
There's actually a lot of work involving parallels between characters being attempted this episode; alongside Hajime and Aiko, the revealed villain of the scheme turns out to be Shimizu. He was mentioned as someone who went missing a couple times in the past two episodes, and here he plays the role of an even darker-side Hajime: He felt he was shunned by his classmates, so he turned to uncouth sources for a power-up, turning heel in the process. Just getting to this plot twist is communicated bizarrely by the show, vaguely transitioning to them questioning him after some awkward cuts and fade-outs. His whole deal is offhandedly mentioned in this dialogue, since we never saw him before or heard much about him there'd have been little surprise in a more direct, dramatic unmasking. But it still makes for a terrible way to convey the story, since almost nothing was set up and this twist (if it can be called that) is just dropped in our laps.
Despite being another concept ripe with potential, the episode barely calls attention to Shimizu being a ‘There but for the grace of God go I’ version of Hajime. Nor does it dwell on the loaded idea that some of the summoned-student heroes can be swayed to the demonic side of the war. He's just here to mine some edgy points by testing Aiko-Sensei's aforementioned faith in her students before he gets killed off for further pathos. And Hajime being the one to off him is supposed to be reinforcing his Dark Loner status for Aiko, only to exposit at the last minute that it was actually a ‘be cruel to be kind’ gambit, and a sequence of events that didn't make any sense anyway.
The other parts of this episode don't suffer as much as those other elements simply because they have less far to fall, potential-wise. Tia the dragonborn is still here, appearing whenever the show remembers it added her to the cast. I rather feel bad for her voice actress, the always-talented Yōko Hikasa, who's clearly putting a lot of effort into the role. But it's all in the name of a character who comes off as annoying as possible most of the time. Her sections in this episode mostly come off as padding, and they aren't the only ones. There's another of the show's now-patented oddly placed insert-song montages early on, and so much of the dialogue this week is awkwardly stilted, like they're actually trying to stall for time. At least the giant battle scene turns out to be one of Arifureta's better attempts at action. It is a shame how most of the CGI monsters look, but we get some decent scenes of Hajime Devil-May-Cry-ing it up and there's a lightning dragon from Yue that actually looks genuinely cool.
There was no dragon sodomy tanking my overall feeling towards Arifureta this week, but that just meant I was more acutely aware of how badly it fumbled the interesting things it was trying to do. I think everyone deserves points for effort, but even the places where it's actually trying are betrayed by dwindling resources and fundamental failures in storytelling. I know I'm not the only one who wants to like this show, but Arifureta is making it very hard to do.
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