Arifureta - From Commonplace to World's Strongest
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Arifureta - From Commonplace to World's Strongest ?
This week's episode of Arifureta ends up working better than the last few, and I like to think it's because it gets most of its awkward Arifureta-ness out of the way early on. The start features a flashback for Tio that turns out to be incongruous in several ways, least of all being that the masochistic monster-lady has relatively little to do with the actual plot of this episode. But the writers must have realized we still didn't have much info on her, so we get a perfunctory run-down of her tragic backstory and why she believes Hajime might be able to help her, all treated in oddly more serious style than Tio has been regarded with in the past couple episodes. Don't worry, this is still Arifureta, so it of course makes the bizarre choice to back the latter half of this solemn sequence with another dissonant insert song, which gives way to playing behind an unrelated montage of Hajime and Shea on a date in the very next scene. Like I said, I think they just had to get this sort of stuff out of their system.
What follows for the rest of the plot isn't exceptional, but holds together better than I was expecting given the potholes of the previous arc. Most of the story is concentrated on Hajime and Shea paired off, and it's mildly interesting to watch them absent Yue the way they've usually been. After all the verbal and physical abuse she took in being inducted into their odd little party, it's nice to find out how welcomed Shea has been into their chemistry. Her and Hajime have a solid rapport by this point that seems to demonstrate how he's become softer towards his new found-family and she's become less-annoying while around them. This bond is complimented by Yue and Tio off on their own barely-relevant side-plot, wherein they don't do much but go to the market and discuss how much they like Hajime and Shea.
So Hajime and Shea are mostly carrying this one, plot-wise, and after all those bizarre directorial stumbles at the beginning, their date mostly holds its weight. For one thing, that man-faced fish who was a one-off gag a few episodes back returns, and it turns out he really was a reference to Seaman! Acknowledging classic Dreamcast games is a pretty easy way to get on my good side, but then he leads the duo to look for a captured mermaid girl and grapple with that most classic of isekai institutions: Slavery!
I have (I don't think unfairly) been rather down on a lot of aspects of Arifureta, but I have to give this point to it: Upon learning what Myu, the mer-girl, had in store for her from her captors, Hajime and Shea are unequivocally against the whole thing. There's no wishy-washy defense of it as an aspect of this world they can't change, and while their initial solution of just turning Myu over to the authorities turns out to be ineffectual, I can't fault how their attitude is portrayed. Arifureta's worldview has pointedly bounced between nihilistic and irreverent, so even amongst all that performative edge it's nice to see the writing firmly taking the stance that buying and selling children as slaves is a bad thing. You'd think this would be a bare minimum for relatable, sympathetic characters in stories.
The show also manages to score some (admittedly easy) sympathy points with Myu herself. Her schtick turns out to be immediately imprinting on Hajime as her ‘Big Bro’ (and later ‘Papa’, because of course) but that's there to make her an effective charity case we want to see uncompromisingly saved and protected. Despite being an actual crying child, her sad reactions at being initially handed over by Hajime don't come off as annoying so much as effectively heartstring-tugging. And because the story has made such a clear point of articulating its stance that kidnapping and enslaving her is bad, we're right along with Hajime and the other heroes as they head out again on their brutal spree to get her back. In other shows (or even different episodes of this one) Hajime's unflinching execution of the story's villains would be a cold example of his pragmatism, but these guys were auctioning off a little kid, they deserve the worst of what our hero has given all the other monsters he's fought.
You can call it clearing low bars or playing on easy mode if you'd like, but the point is Arifureta set manageable goals for itself this week and came out pretty okay. The action overall is pretty basic (though there is one surprisingly nice cut of a wall exploding behind Yue and Tio), but it means what resources the show is using for them works fine instead of stretching beyond their means. I'm not sure how long Myu is intended to be part of the team here (she's not in the intro, at any rate). However, even if she's returned to her mother sooner rather than later, for now she represents to me a reminder of something Arifureta genuinely did right as an anime. Even if it still ended on a gag of all Hajime's lady-friends wanting him to get them pregnant. Don't worry, this is still Arifureta.
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