Cautious Hero: The Hero Is Overpowered but Overly Cautious
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Cautious Hero: The Hero Is Overpowered but Overly Cautious ?
Cautious Hero continues to inhabit an odd place on the serious-to-parody scale. In spite of large parts of its first episode and other comedy beats scattered throughout (particularly in the third) it hasn't really dedicated itself to skewering specific isekai tropes. It instead shoots for more of an irreverent tone of anticlimax, spiced up with a lot of background silliness courtesy of Ristarte. It's also willing to actually get rather straight-faced when it feels the time is right, playing some situations more seriously than you might expect given the show's usual efforts. That's all especially apparent in this fourth episode, leaving it feeling rather uneven, but not to a degree that can say it's a failure.
One problem we're encountering at this point is that Seiya's personality is fine as a one-off gag, but the longer it goes and the more he has to interact with people who don't have the reactive comedy gold of Ristarte, he starts to wear thin. It's especially apparent in this episode's core conflict regarding Seiya's prospective party members Mash and Elulu. I get the impression our hero's blunt dismissal of these kids is supposed to be funny, but it mostly makes him come off as a callous jerk, even if we're acclimated enough with his character to know why he's doing it. There's a fine line a characterization like this has to walk between depicting characters as well-worn pragmatists and having them feel simply charmless, and the Cautious Hero seems to be slipping too far one direction.
There do seem to be attempts by now to level-up Seiya's characterization while still maintaining his personality that the whole show is built on. It's shown that, in his own way, he does still want to prioritize saving the people of this world like the hero he's been designated as, even if he absolutely doesn't show it outwardly. We also get a glimpse into how his mindset actually works, at the end as he faces off against another of the Demon Lord's generals. The zealously zombified Deathmagla gloats about how amazing he is for thinking he's planned for every eventuality, but Seiya brushes him off. To Seiya, that degree of preparedness isn't some super-chessmaster personality quirk, it's just something everyone should seek to do in their lives, particularly in this everything-trying-to-kill-you fantasy-land. It's the reason he comes off like he looks down on the kids and Ristarte for not being on that level he considers basically necessary, and it does make me wonder if we'll find out what his life was like and how he lived it before Ristarte summoned him. For now, it's a neat development of what had previously been the simple, singular joke of the series, but then does lead into more of that tonal dissonance as the show moves into depicting Seiya's overt super-preparedness completely seriously. And that just makes it come off like another super-cool always-win power, a bit too much like the ‘normal’ unbeatable isekai protagonists this series seemed to have the knives out for so much earlier.
Everything else this episode is emblematic of that uneven approach: Trying to depict and handle situations in an offbeat way while not straying too far from the isekai appeal or stepping on its toes. A funny little scene of Seiya being concerned about the delivery of a mirror immediately gives whiplashy way to a sinister Skype call from Deathmagla where he gleefully shows off how he's been torturing poor Mash. Seiya has a rather subdued conversation with Ristarte's head goddess Ishtar, seemingly showing off his resourcefulness in using every piece of information at his disposal, dryly leading to his successful encounter with the bad guy, but with Ristarte playing it up like it's more ridiculous than it was presented as. Through it all there's the odd point that Cautious Hero is actually less referential than its straighter-played brethren; It's worth noting that Seiya's caution is an element he simply pays to everything he encounters regardless, rather than being built on him recognizing common game and anime situations and acting accordingly. In some ways that's refreshing given how many other shows fall back on that gimmick, but it does tilt the series further away from being categorized as a true parody.
But through it all there's still Ristarte. Many of her funniest lines are confined to more inner monologue than usual this week, but her delivery's spot-on regardless. Her voicework really can carry whole scenes that would be a drag otherwise, and the show's art seems to have recovered enough for continued solidly funny-faces and a ridiculously-rendered gag about her boobs popping out that I have to admit was pretty sputter-worthy. If the show's going to back off on jokes in other places to leave us just to laugh at Ristarte's ancillary antics, that's a pretty good place for them to concentrate the humor.
Overall though, while I got the sense this episode of Cautious Hero was trying, it still didn't feel like it was doing enough, at least in the sense of being different or interesting. Its premise lends itself to being more outside-the-box than this episode was, but they seemed to fall victim to actually being impressed by its main character's abilities and wanting to show them off. And while I appreciate how that forced necessitated growth in a character who had largely been a punchline up to this point, that shouldn't have to come at the expense of the series's pointed self-awareness. That was one of the few things Cautious Hero had specifically going for it.
Cautious Hero: The Hero Is Overpowered but Overly Cautious is currently streaming on FUNimation.
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