Death March to The Parallel World Rhapsody
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Death March to The Parallel World Rhapsody ?
The bright side to being over halfway through the season is that we've probably reached the baseline of quality that Death March to The Parallel World Rhapsody has to offer. Seeing as this is an iyashikei slice-of-life story nestled inside the framework of an isekai series, it's doubtful that we'll get any earth-shattering plot developments or status-quo shakeups in the near future. Now that the show has gotten past what I can only hope are its roughest patches, all that's left is to see how Death March rounds out its cast and what kind of small stories it tells with them. This seventh episode of the show is as middling as anything else the series has delivered, but it's comfortable enough in its own skin to be a relatively harmless experience overall.
The first half of this story is mostly a wash though, introducing the mysterious elf girl from the end of last week's episode without doing anything to establish her character. There's little entertainment to be found in watching Satou awkwardly try to make conversation with her, and the following jokes revolving around Arisa's petulant lust for Satou land with a dud. The only redeeming part of these early scenes involve Pochi and Tama playing around with the vocabulary cards that Satou bought; for the first time, the demi-humans' excessive cuteness worked in the show's favor. The bit doesn't entirely work, because Satou is such a void of charisma that his attempts to teach the girls proper vocabulary rob the scene of its potential charm and sweetness, but there was some joy to be had here, at least.
More successful was the second half of the episode, which focuses on the episode's titular camping trip. The animation and artwork is janky, with most of the trip being told as a sloppy slide show, but the actual goings-on are innocuous enough to be tolerable though not entertaining. The bit with Pochi and Tama fearing that the camp's teakettle is an angry interloper is another cute moment that works despite Satou not being an endearing teacher; Arisa saves the scene by undermining Satou's knowledge with her own less-informed method of education. The anthropomorphic dog children from a few episodes back show up again as well, though I can't say for sure why; their scene with Satou and his own slaves just kind of hangs there without making much impact.
Scenes like this one with the dog-children or the subplot where Lulu teaches Satou how to drive a cart only emphasize Death March's weaknesses. An anime cannot simply weave together a string of vaguely related activities for Satou and the girls and work as iyashikei; the characters need to be interesting and endearing, and the activities they engage in should fulfill some kind of thematic or tonal purpose, even if they're intentionally low-stakes. Of all the girls in Death March's cast, Lulu is the most thinly defined, existing merely to be sickly and meek, an unnecessary “straight man” to Arisa's antics. The carriage ride with Satou doesn't fix this problem; instead it demonstrates the dearth of chemistry between Lulu and Satou.
So this scene isn't so much bad as it is awkward and boring, which is unfortunately the most common complaint for Death March's material in general, even in its best episodes. Thankfully, this episode avoided indulging any ill-advised battle scenes, so there was nothing as unintentional-giggle-inducing as last week's terrible action setpiece. For that reason alone, “Camping Lessons That Started with a Death March” has earned the distinction of being Death March to The Parallel World Rhapsody's best episode. It's a stilted, patchwork mess of bad animation and weak writing, with characters and scenes that work sporadically at best, but that's still a sight better than everything that has come before.
Death March to The Parallel World Rhapsody is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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