Arifureta - From Commonplace to World's Strongest
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 13 of
Arifureta - From Commonplace to World's Strongest ?
It's been an overly-long, strange road for Arifureta so far, and as of news today, it turns out we aren't even all the way there yet. Yup, there's going to be more of this show, meaning this thirteenth outing is positioned merely as a season finale for the story. What's perhaps more surprising than this anime adaptation's apparent renewal-worthy success is that this season-closer is one of Arifureta's better efforts. That's something to be grateful for, given some of the ill-advised pains the previous episode went to in setting it up, and perhaps a good sign for those looking forward now to that forthcoming second season.
As I predicted last week, just getting Hajime's party back to take center-stage in the proceedings improves things immensely after the slog that was the previous episode. It could be a fluke of the presentation or a genuinely-intended effect (it's hard to tell with this show) but seeing the nobodies of the student team in action really make Hajime's crew seem much more lively and entertaining by comparison. This even goes for previously-lesser members like Shea, who actually seems cool to watch in combat now, or Tio, who at least has some spirit in what little she gets to do. The visuals still aren't great: If I'm being honest the composition seems to have gotten even murkier by this point and there are a whole lot of stills and pans of Hajime shooting cgi monsters, but the energetic intent is still felt in the direction.
Like the other episodes of Arifureta that have worked, this one does so because it feels like the crew behind are really putting in the effort to do that. Some of it does come off a bit overblown, like the scene where Hajime irrevocably demonstrates his earned badassery by slicing cat-demons apart with his bare hands and rattling off a wry one-liner while a giant turtle explodes behind him. The show's presentation hasn't risen above ‘decently flat’ enough that it can sell any level of camp that would make that work. But other moments are downright transitory, Hajime throwing Shizuku a sword so she can do some cool moves or inspiring the magician whose legs got petrified last episode to try some determined badassery of her own. The anime's crew even shows off that they finally learned how to properly animated a giant snake after all this time!
That more celebratory tone is another point that lifts the show here at this stopping point. The grimmer, betrayal-fueled, 'I'll show you!' angle was wisely phased out of the story after the first arc, but with Hajime meeting back up with his classmates there was always the possibility that those unsavory elements could rear their ugly head again. But instead Hajime swooping in to save his classmates and show off his new powers is treated as its own reward. There's no smirking taunts about how sorry they are for looking down on him. And beyond Yue acknowledging that they know the identity of the classmate who tried to kill him, Hajime is utterly disnintered in pursuing revenge. It's an angle barely touched on, and rather than any petty gloating, Hajime instead gets treated to a crowd cheering for and genuinely celebrating him. That's a more good-natured, reasonably satisfying resolution to this story than I might have predicted at the beginning.
Before I get too carried away seemingly like I'm being uncharacteristically heavy on the praise for Arifureta, know that it's still not exactly great. As mentioned, the visual issues dog this show to the end, but its tonal problems and general lack of focus continue to be where it more deeply struggles. They're still leaning into trying to portray Hajime as this stone-cold badass who unflinchingly murders his enemies and has no love lost for his former classmates. But it's hard to see that as any sort of skewed position of ambiguous morals when it's merely presented opposite the idiotic wannabe-hero Kouki. To say nothing of the whiplash we get going from a glaring confrontation between those two guys to Hajime adorably playing with his adopted daughter a moment later. If the show is trying for the joke of Hajime's edgelord-itude being a mere front he's projecting, it's not leaning on it enough to make it funny or effective. And speaking of Myu, the moments we do get with her helping the team gel a bit more mostly just serve to remind me how little the anime has really utilized the found-family angle of the story, another missed opportunity.
But as ironic as it may seem after so much of the season spent struggling with this show, the prevailing feeling this episode left me with for Arifureta was hope. Hope that the break between seasons can give the production time to iron its issues out, of course. But I'm also hoping that can translate to more time spent getting the rest of the series shored up. Arifureta has always had potential, moreso after that initial arc and ditching a lot of its edgier excesses. This season-finale wraps with a lot of the last load of story baggage thoroughly ditched, as well as a status-quo shift with Kaori joining Hajime's party (after a love confession that is shockingly direct and reasonable by anime standards). It could herald a promising turn for Arifureta when we rejoin it after its crew has had time to catch up with itself. On its own, this episode is another tantalizing what-could-have-been glimpse for the whole show up to this point.
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