Cautious Hero: The Hero Is Overpowered but Overly Cautious
Episode 11

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 11 of
Cautious Hero: The Hero Is Overpowered but Overly Cautious ?

It's probably a sign of where Cautious Hero has ended up that this episode opens with a lighthearted, comedic aside sequence that the characters themselves note seems out-of-sorts for their situation at this point. Granted, it was supposed to come as a surprise at the end of last week's episode that Seiya would actually let Ristarte and the kids take some time off for the final battle, but it's played both for more comedic irreverence and as a serious plot motivator than you might have expected. So it goes that we're several minutes deep into jokes about saucy swimsuits and face-game face-offs before everyone notices that Seiya has pulled a disappearing act that might be more than just setup for a gag. And since there's a forthcoming finale this series has to clear the runway for, that turns out to be the prompt to just dump a whole tragic backstory on us.

The biggest place I'll give credit to all the developments dished out over the course of this episode is that they do not feel like they came out of nowhere. In particular, most of the elements from the ‘present day’ getting elaborated on here were set up as such. Seiya's level actually having been maxed out this whole time fits with how we've seen him acting since he apparently reached that height, and that concern sheds light on his decisions like the fake Igzasion sword. It also has to be some sort of record for time taken to payoff on the old sex-fakeout gag: Turns out what Ristarte caught Seiya and Valkyrie doing really was a magical ritual, and his not explaining that takes on its own serious connotations here along the recurring theme of not wanting to worry his party members. It all frames one of the more interesting questions yet asked by this series: What happens when someone whose whole strategy hinges on simply getting stronger than his enemies finds that he can't get any stronger? It's a harsh application of the arbitrary game-world RPG rules these stories so often run on, that an ever-invincible hero could be laid low by something as mundane as a level cap.

I found myself being drawn into this part of the story on the merits of that cleverness, which was good because the presentation was so mundane. Cautious Hero successfully treats itself with its oddly-rotated-in seriousness here, but it's purely a serious infodump. Dropped off right before the (potential) last episode as all of this is, it almost smacks again of the show's notoriously slapdash pacing needing to cram this in at the last place it possibly could. It's payoff to elements it had specifically set up earlier, but there's no time or space to organically knock down each of those dominoes; They all get smacked away at once here by a wall of expository dialogue.

So Cautious Hero tries to balance that out with a more emotional presentation of an actual flashback to even further-back prepared plot twists. And while this part has also been technically well set-up for by the narrative so far, that's actually where I take issue with it. I'd remarked previously that I was curious if we'd ever get insight into Seiya's past that might provide an explanation for his nature. The very fact that his cautiousness was related to some incidents in his previous life had already been hinted at. I cannot say I was expecting the reveal that this was actually Seiya's second attempt at being an isekai hero, as related by fellow goddess Aria here. The thing is, as soon as that truly shocking revelation is out of the way, the flashback we get follows a pretty rote path, as the mere context of the backstory we're being told has the audience gearing up for the inevitable tragedy as soon as it begins. That's not strictly a problem, but here it feels like an exacerbation of Cautious Hero's ongoing issue of the serious/silly balancing act. This is a revelation that essentially retcons the entire context of the series, Seiya's paranoid efforts being not a riff on an over-careful RPG player, but a suite of personal neuroses inherited from a tragic backstory. It redefines the story's digs against feckless, ‘typical’ game players and isekai protagonists as much more direct, as we're shown how much the old preparation-averse Seiya resembled that type of character. And though he got to experience 'The joy of securing victory in tough battles with his friends', his reward for that at the end was the wanton slaughter of those same friends. Cautious Hero has gone from irreverent genre commentary to a diatribe by the author on their pet peeves about how illogical the accepted style of heroism is. People need to be cold, pragmatic engines of careful analysis and preparation, or be viciously punished until they are, it seems.

But the tragedy shown here is so overdrawn at the sadness bank it trips, unintentionally, back into the near-farcical heights the old, irreverent Cautious Hero was coming from. It's not enough that Seiya's old party members all got killed, but one of them, the Princess Tiana, was actually his lover carrying his unborn child at the time! And if you didn't pick on her having the same mannerisms, voice-actress, and penchant for funny faces, they also reveal that she got reincarnated into Ristarte, giving the Goddess her own pathos to push forward on. It's a last-minute effort to tie everything about this series back to this important origin point, but that's a near-impossible landing to stick when everything before had barely been a ridiculous romp. So in spite of all that planning and payoff, the show comes off even more than before like it's had no idea what it actually wants to do. There's a version of this story in theory where all this came together beautifully, but while the plot points technically all hold up, the tone and direction of the series needed to be planned out much more tightly up to this point in order to make it really work.

Rating:

Cautious Hero: The Hero Is Overpowered but Overly Cautious is currently streaming on FUNimation.


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