Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?!
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! ?
As the Average show continues its pointed pursuit of the titular kind of life for its heroine Mile, it's tightened up its presentation of plots and spent more time in silly irreverence as episode content. That reaches a new crescendo with this week's installment, which will be familiar to anyone who's ever watched a sitcom before. This is a ‘surprise party’ story line, as amazingly no-frills as it could possibly be without starring a bunch of high schoolers on the Disney Channel. Cozy escapism is a driving force of this show (and others like it) to be sure, but it still seems a bit brazen even by the Average standards to devolve into 22 minutes of imagining you have friends who want to throw you a party and give you presents.
Though that's not really outside this particular show's mission statement. A lot of the other middling isekai I've waded through the past few years have focused on characters with at least implicitly friendless backgrounds. So many of them make no mention of previous loved ones they left behind after that fateful truck clobbered them into another world, and indeed part of the fantasy is getting together with a gaggle of cool new people to hang around and go on adventures with. But as I've dissected time and again this season, Average Abilities puts this element front-and-center, to the irreverent dismissal of the world-saving superpowers angle. To that end, Mile's previous lack of friends and her related anxieties form a sympathetic core for her character, rather than being merely a detail untethering her from the ‘real world’.
Those fears of Mile's form what little conflict is present in this glorified Hannah Montana plot: After ten episodes of seeming to get on quite well with her party members, the ol' dismissiveness in preparation for a surprise party routine does a real number on Mile's confidence in her confidants. As viewers we're immediately privy to the fact that Mile's fears are unfounded but it still makes for a decent demonstration that these concerns that can build up and undermine a person's confidence don't go away easily. The writing, via Nano, trots out the old advice that if you're worried about things between you and your friends, you should just ask them, but also uses Mile's position (as well as the other girls) to counter that communication is still extremely hard if you're unpracticed in it. There's an ambitious juggling act going on with Mile's character in this episode, working to make these foibles for her sympathetic and relatable as her character development goes, without reducing her to a mere cipher for the audience to project their own friendship woes onto.
One speed bump that hits is in trying to portray Mile as imperfect while also mining that for humor. An odd detour partway through the episode reveals some privacy-invading habits the more-than-average girl has that actually would justify her friends being upset with her. The show remarks on this, and it's even brought up as an end-of-episode gag. But while details like Pauline's secret stash of cookies or Mavis's adorable picture diary are cute asides to learn about these characters, this method of presentation just makes it seem to us like a surprise party is the least of this surprising party's problems they need to talk through. And that's without getting into the multiple oddly-intimate bust size jokes that crop up in this one, continuing an unsavory habit from the last episode.
Indeed, the biggest issues holding this episode back from the admittedly-interesting friendship character study are that the core plot isn't that interesting and the humor not funny enough to carry the rest of it. Reina, Pauline, and Mavis don't get much characterization to themselves this week, functioning as a party-plotting hivemind or simple embodiments of Mile's concerns. The humor is mostly played-out illustrations of panic and worry, seeing Mile fret or take out her frustrations by vindictively vandalizing her friends' Nendoroids. Probably the best gag is an extended imagine spot where Mile's in an old school setting, beset by delinquent versions of her teammates who bully her for the crime of being an isekai protagonist. But it all feels a bit more time-wasty than the episode might have needed to, given it's got ideas to work with.
Faulting a cute little show like this for not being deep enough would be a losing proposition, I think, but that doesn't mean it can't strive to be a bit more interesting. I'm seeing an ongoing source of Average Abilities' issues is that it can't muster the non-Mile members of the Crimson Vow to do interesting things on their own, rather than acting as an entourage. That limits the time it can spend telling their parts of the story, as well as dragooning most of the humor to Mile reacting around them. This episode is fine as an average little sitcom plot, but emblematic of its problems filling time with material. The core idea is a nice one that embodies the spirit and motivations of the series well enough, but I don't know that what they've got here has enough legs to sustain its full runtime.
Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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