Arifureta - From Commonplace to World's Strongest
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Arifureta - From Commonplace to World's Strongest ?
The episode-long fight scene Arifureta showcased last week may not have been done any favors by the show's production values, but it certainly was the most straightforward the show's ever been. Unfortunately, now that the battle has passed, it seems we're back to more curious adaptational sensibilities. Much as the first episode was in a rush to cover all the setup of the story in the most inscrutable way possible, this one seems like it's just trying to power through all the remaining material in this initial arc. The result works about as well as it did that first time, though at least now we have more context for all this stuff.
The first question-mark that arises concerns Hajime and Yue's relationship. In spite of all the smooching they did during last week's battle, Hajime still doesn't seem overly comfortable with how intimate his bloodsucking best friend wants to be. This makes up much of the odd comedy sprinkled throughout this episode, from Hajime magically electrocuting Yue awake from the pair's naked naptime to the unsettling implication that she licked his body clean after the battle. It makes for a weird uncertainty to their relationship after the last episode seemed to trade so definitively on their codified chemistry. It honestly feels like these gags are here simply at the behest of how trope-dependent isekai anime are expected to portray an odd couple like this.
Intimacy issues aside, the rest of Hajime and Yue's portion is spent on winding down with exposition. The inner sanctum of the Maverick they've reached after beating the boss turns out to be an oddly scenic magical vista that, at least for a minute or two, delivers some of the nicest scenery in Arifureta yet. There's some nice lighting and use of reflections in water, before they stumble into a dank mansion to stand around another dark room livened up only by more low-rent CGI magic effects. This includes such graphical gems as Hajime getting bombarded in the face with a loop of flying screencaps, and then we're presented with an Obi-Wan hologram of the guy who supposedly made this whole labyrinth.
That's easily one of the most interesting hooks the show could have dropped, production values and directorial issues aside, so of course it then opts to cut away to the rest of the class fighting a behemoth for half the episode. And if you thought Arifureta depicting just two people fighting a giant CGI monster put its resources under visible strain, just wait until you see how this turns out. Struggling to choreograph a fight with all these participants, more than just being a visual disaster, really spotlights the issue with trying to focus a big battle around these characters at all. We have context for maybe two or three of these people, while the rest are simply random distinct character designs. No major plot developments follow in the wake of these kids beating the monster, it's merely supposed to demonstrate how far they've come as warriors. But having spent no time getting to know them, we have nothing to compare their growth against and no individuals to care about. So this is simply a long scene of the show killing time on something it's not particularly adept at depicting, using characters it rightfully presumed we weren't interested in before. Even the most hilarious animations of stretchy monster mouths and skeletons falling apart can't make this scene worth watching.
I wanted to be excited once we got back to the whole labyrinth-creator part of the plot, but sadly that fell victim to skewed priorities as well. The anime's presentation opts to make Oscar Orcus's message to Hajime little more than a gamified mission briefing. It offers frustratingly little in the way of explaining why he went through all the trouble of creating this setting, instead just handing our hero a new power-up and telling him to head to some new levels. How they handle depicting Hajime's new ‘Creation Magic’ is just downright odd as well. Hajime briefly explains it in vague and broad terms, then immediately offers to teach it to Yue. Within about a minute, we've skipped ahead a few hours to where that teaching supposedly began, but we still don't actually see it in action, even with Yue practicing just offscreen. It makes for an oddly understated introduction to what's supposed to be a major new power, until a couple of quick clips in a montage wraps things up, showing our heroes summoning motorcycles and Humvees.
This montage sounds an anticlimactic note to end the show's first major story arc on. It feels like many major points are glossed over with little fanfare, least of all Hajime crafting his replacement arm. It comes across like Arifureta simply rushing to close out this part of the story, and at the end I still remain unsure about Hajime and Yue's game plan for the future, and I have no idea what they might have to do with the rest of the class still fighting elsewhere. Also, and this feels like a personal minor nitpick, but two months is a comically short amount of time for them to have made themselves over into isekai badasses, considering how they talk like they've been at it for such a long time. Even though the main characters reached their initial goal in this episode, it still feels like Arifureta is wandering through the dungeon of itself.
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