Arifureta - From Commonplace to World's Strongest
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 3 of
Arifureta - From Commonplace to World's Strongest ?
After the first two episodes of Arifureta left me somewhat bewildered, I figured I might need to think about a change in how I was approaching the show. Reading through remarks by fans of the source material, it became clear that the original novels were far less in the typical isekai mold than those first episodes had implied, shifting my feelings on the Arifureta anime from outright derision to more empathetic disappointment. Maybe this series and its fans really did deserve better than they got.
For what it's worth, Arifureta the anime seems to have leveled off in its third episode. The plot's moving in a way that can finally be considered ‘linear’, and Hajime's hilarious conga-line of misfortune has arrived at a point where I feel like we're watching an actual character develop instead of following a walking tragic origin-story. He's also got someone else to actually interact with now! Giving Hajime a super-powered vampire girlfriend in the form of Yue is certainly preferable to him angstily monologuing to dead air.
The original idea behind Arifureta's particular take on isekai is that Hajime starts out underpowered and actually has to work to level up and gain new strengths and abilities. It's right there in the title, and it's a solid hook for the genre. My problem with this in execution so far is that Hajime's efforts to survive and the power-up rewards he receives in the process feel barely related. Just to start, it's not enough that he would become more physically strong just from fighting his way through the labyrinth, he also has to receive a staggering number of stat and ability boosts just from eating monsters. Likewise, this episode sees Hajime and Yue kill a giant scorpion monster that just happens to be made of the perfect material for him to build an indestructible rail-gun. Even with the crafting and transmutation gimmicks, there's little inventiveness or intuition to how our hero progresses beyond “he barely survives a fight to be rewarded with a cool new thing that seems barely related.”
Fortunately, with the introduction of Yue, the show instead turns this pattern into something constructive, with Hajime and Yue finding unity in their shared pasts of being outcasts, building a rapport that sees them learning to trust one another where others let them down. It makes for an amusing climax at the end of the episode, with Hajime waiting for Yue to tell him it's okay to shoot the plant-monster that's controlling her. By another token, Hajime expressing a desire to actually go home from this fantasy-world, even after gaining all these cool new powers, honestly makes him kind of revolutionary by the standards of modern isekai protagonists. These conceptual bits allow me to see where the source material found its fans.
Unfortunately, Arifureta's overall storytelling is still far from perfect. Huge chunks of the episode are killed by just showing Hajime and Yue wandering around the caverns, and while I appreciate some of the easygoing melancholy this conveys, all these scenes go on far longer than necessary. It's especially obvious at the end, which is supposed to wrap on our dynamic duo entering a boss room, but where several minutes are spent on the scenic route just to make it to the credits on that cliffhanger. There's also an odd attempt to ratchet up some sexual tension between the characters that just kind of ends on an awkward fade-out. And the conceptual focus on Hajime and Yue being unconcerned with revenge leaves the few minutes we spend this episode on the above-ground B-plot with no clear direction.
A lot of these awkward storytelling choices probably resulted from the apparent production issues. There'll be no need to repeat every week that Arifureta still just looks bad in general, but this episode's direction itself was struggling to keep up with its limited animation. The CGI scorpion fight at the beginning didn't make especially clear how Yue's attack works. And the otherwise atmospheric cave-touring scenes are saddled with awkward movements. The fight against the plant-monster at the end is probably the best-looking battle so far, but it's mostly just passable. There are flashes of cool concepts at times, like the heroes camping in a crater of rocks made from transmutation, but stuff like that just makes the numerous other ideas that aren't realized well all the more disappointing. Arifureta has definitely stepped up its general watchability, and it certainly doesn't invite as much derision now as its premiere did. But while I have developed some baseline interest in the story, that just means I'm now finding myself wondering what could have been in a better production.
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