Cautious Hero: The Hero Is Overpowered but Overly Cautious
Episode 12

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 12 of
Cautious Hero: The Hero Is Overpowered but Overly Cautious ?

I think my biggest issue here at the end of Cautious Hero is the same one I've had with it throughout: The series taking itself and what it's doing far too seriously to register as dissecting, deconstructing, or otherwise saying anything about the genre and conventions it initially set out to skewer. The thesis statement seemingly built up at the end of the previous episode was one about how Seiya had originally been a more ‘typical’ isekai protagonist, harsh realities visited on him as such forcing him to adopt the stern pragmatism this story is built on. But here in the final battle, Cautious Hero's case for that kind of action feels incredibly half-hearted, as things proceed just as well with plenty of our heroes believing in each other and making sentimental self-sacrifices. Is this a case of an author setting out to write satire but becoming too attached to their setting and characters to follow through on that tone? Or was it always meant to turn out this way and the introductory parts of the series proved interesting purely by accident of unfamiliarity?

The fact is that the answer to those questions doesn't matter at this last stage: We're instead left with what we get, a big final battle between Seiya and the Demon Lord that Ristarte and the dragon kids show up just in time to provide healing and moral support for. There is, at least, a nod to Seiya's technicality-mindedness that's brought him this far, as it's explained that Valkyrie's Valhalla Gate move bypasses the Demon Lord's magical barrier by not actually being a magic spell itself. Everything else is pretty rote, as far as final boss battles go, punched up only by a mildly-amusing intermission between Seiya and Ristarte before additional escalation and contractually-obligated further battle stages for the Demon Lord.

That's the big structural place where this last episode comes up short. The absurdity of the amount of times and ways that Seiya has to take down the Demon Lord feels like a purposeful riff on those kinds of conventions for Big Bads in RPGs and fantasy stories, and should be ripe for at least a little winking and nudging so long as it's entertaining them wholesale. But that's the weakness of the suddenly-deployed backstory dump, isn't it? Previously in Cautious Hero, Seiya would have prepared for a multiple-form final boss because that's what genre conventions train us to expect, and that awareness would have been enough of a gag on its face. But now we know that failing to account for a second stage in a boss fight is part of Seiya's tragic origin story, thus his beating-back of the Demon Lord's regenerations here becomes a much more typical depiction of the triumph of Seiya's will implicitly making amends for his previous failures. By the very end the guy is sealing the Demon Lord in the Valhalla Gate inside of another Valhalla Gate, and we can't even get a reference to this absurd magic matryoshka because here it represents his unwavering decision to sacrifice his life to save the world.

I'm all for sincere shows of triumph and salvation and so forth in stories that have committed to and earned that, but Cautious Hero is not that show. Here it all feels tacked-on, wrangled together for a last-minute sense of dramatic satisfaction where the anime had done at least decently wielding anticlimax previously. I mentioned in previous reviews that an element holding the storytelling back was how one-note and unlikable Seiya was as a character, but that's even more of a problem with the series trying to get us to take him seriously, least of all feeling sad for him sacrificing himself. A fifteen-minute flashback one episode prior was never going to be enough to mitigate that. Instead we're left with the show trying to be completely self-serious here at the apparent end, even though the repetition of these standardized heroic isekai tropes were what the writing blamed for the heroes' previous failures and seemed to be taking apart so long ago.

Seiya was also merely functional as a platform for Cautious Hero's single joke it rode on, so downplaying that delivery in his characterization has weakened these past couple episodes, and removing him entirely for the rest of the finale proves even more ill-advised. Fully the second half of the last episode of this anime is a dry, depressing, slow-moving coda as we watch Ristarte mope around about the loss of Seiya. Perhaps the most indicting implication of this last stretch of tone is the portion where all the other gods from the Divine Realm show up to take a bow around Rista, each doing their comedic bit but she's just too down to provide the proper comedic reaction. Maybe in short form this could have made an earnest point about the feelings of a character like Rista in this scenario, but in this way it just comes off as a slog.

That's pretty much the lot for the Cautious Hero finale overall. It took a story that initially thrived on spawning surprise from the expected, and ran headlong in the most expected direction for this ending. It means that we aren't really left with any compelling final message from this story beyond “Trying again and being more careful this time is good, I guess?”. It even undercuts any attempted commitment to sacrifice by going for the expected happy-after-all ending, busting out a last-minute technicality to let Ristarte and Seiya go off on an isekai adventure again! That's great because it renders the preceding fifteen minutes moot as far as any point, and exemplifies Cautious Hero as a series that kind of fumbled around trying to figure out what it could do best, finding nothing in particular, and so settling on just moving on anyway.

Rating:

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


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