Arifureta - From Commonplace to World's Strongest
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Arifureta - From Commonplace to World's Strongest ?
As much as Arifureta's overall story still feels like it's barely going anywhere at this point, I can hardly accuse it of not having stuff happen. This episode sees Hajime, Yue, and Shea make their way into a new labyrinth, and since this show is now apparently pressed for time, they get through the entire thing in just this one episode. Much like the motored-through montage of last week, this one is a blur of events happening seemingly just so the narrative can tick them off and then move on. There's content here that could have filled several episodes of explored ideas or entertaining action scenes, if only the show's pacing and production were up to it.
As usual, there's a core idea to Arifureta's narrative holding this episode together as best as it can. This time around, that's how Shea can prove herself a valuable point on Hajime's now-triangular team, given how she mostly functioned as bumbling comic relief in her introduction last episode. This is a standard, but not objectionable, plot for a show like this, but the problem is that for as much lip service as the writing and dialogue pays to Shea supposedly growing into her role as some sort of front-line fighter, it never demonstrates her working through that learning curve. The pacing is partially to blame. In a more reasonably-paced multi-episode arc, Shea's growth could be seen from section to section, palpably getting better over time. But in this case, each confrontation is reduced to new waves of traps or enemies that get thrown at our heroes, so they simply throw Shea right back at them. She manages to tank her way through them each time, and Hajime and Yue just compliment her on that by the time they're done.
Beyond this repetition resulting in a general lack of entertainment, it disappoints me in how it shortchanges Shea's character. Last week, I liked the pointed thematic link the story established between her and Hajime and their outcast existences. But instead of using this new labyrinth to illustrate Shea going through the same kind of growth Hajime did in the previous one, it reduces her to a cheap punching bag until we're simply told at the end that she's proven herself as part of the team. This is too bad for her, since trying to focus on humor only exacerbates the annoyance issues she came with in the last episode. Her getting a new battle outfit or learning to fight with her hammer are glossed over in favor of oddly sexualized pratfalls like her wetting herself or getting white slime squirted on her face. More effort is paid to her strongly expressed desires to bed Hajime by the episode's end than to any of her cool RPG battle business. Heck, I think the sudden scene of her making out with Hajime has more frames of animation than this episode's biggest battle.
And what of the frantic following of fights? It's pretty much what we expect from Arifureta at this point. The boulder and saw traps the team smashes their way through early might be the worst-looking of the bunch. The living suits of armor get called out right before they happen, allotting the show that distinction of calling attention to an old cliche right before doing it anyway. The most potentially interesting part of this speedrun would be its final boss, the labyrinth's creator Reisen, whose chipper voice taunts the team and then confronts them at the end piloting a massive mechanoid with a smiley face drawn on it. But the presentation's as lackluster as ever for this decently interesting concept, so we're left to be entertained merely by the idea of how this fight could have been, papered over with aluminum-foil ice effects and a frustratingly unclear finishing move.
The prize at the end of this dungeon not being the specific magic Hajime is looking for makes this feel like another portion of this quest spent going nowhere, but it didn't have to be like that. If the episode had demonstrated the character development for Shea it kept claiming was happening, that at least would have made for some kind of satisfying arc. Arifureta seems to have gone off in a more casual, irreverent storytelling direction since getting out of that grimdark first labyrinth. But taking it easier does not make time-wasting a good storytelling strategy. By cutting out any atmosphere, interesting fight scenes, or character development to simply zip through events like a checklist, Arifureta feels like it's committing to taking up time and not much else.
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