Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?!
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! ?
Not to generalize them too much, but I have definitely become accustomed to the most average of these light-novel based series kind of just coasting to their seasonal finishes. And given how uneven Average Abilities has been, especially with regards to anything resembling serious subject matter, I found myself unsure as to how this last installment for the cour would play out. Such as it was that I found myself pleasantly surprised after all! Average Abilities brings its A-game for its season finale, wrapping on enough of an upswing that I think I can say the series as a whole has been worth it.
There's a strong sense of sincere poignancy running through this episode, a tone that I believe is what helps carry it to success. We've since established that Mile is the character getting all the real full-length character development and attention, protagonist that she is, so this one ditches the vague attempts at building up her party members from last week to just focus whole-heartedly on our heroine. Mile's multiple ‘reincarnations’ into different lives to lead, from real-world high-school student Misato to magical aristocrat Adele, have led to her being defined by those different paths. The scenes of her family in ‘our’ world are especially notable to me: As I mentioned before, most isekai series pay little-to-no mind to the life the dearly-departed hero leaves behind, so this gives some bittersweet context to what Misato had in her previous home and how it contrasts with the friendship and camaraderie she's found as Mile. It fits in with the running theme of Mile never quite getting what she wants in life, but making the best of it after all.
As much as the other members of the Crimson Vow have wound up barely rising above accessories to Mile's latest life lived here, this ending makes effective use of their status as such. Even after saving them, proving herself in battle against multiple Elder Dragons, and getting a lead on the world's mysteries to uncover, Mile's biggest worry is that she could still wind up alienated from her friends. The way they're happily accepting of her then makes for a reward for the audience as much as Mile herself. There's a simple warmth to the gag-explanation of ‘a secret family technique’ coming back through Reina, Pauline, and Mavis, delivered with all the sincerity they have regarding their belief in their friend. Similarly, by the end, we know there's no way Mile is actually going to get to leave her party members behind, but the suggestion still tugs on our heartstrings because we've seen how much this group has come to mean to her. If this Average Anime couldn't quite muster the chops for character-based storytelling as you might expect it to, it at least utilized those characters well for the feelings it was ultimately trying to convey. Motivating me to have any emotional investment in an averagely overpowered isekai protagonist like Mile is a mean and medium feat, I'd say.
The other structural elements holding those emotional concepts together for this episode represent the show putting forth some of its best work. There's some nice use of more understated direction here, selling Mile's existential crisis as she works herself back to life for a counterattack at the beginning, as well as at the end of the episode as she grapples with the truth of the world weighing heavily on her and how much she should open up to her friends about it. Similar to the above emotional elements with her friends, it was really never in doubt for me that Mile's standoff with the elder dragons would turn out okay, but they still ratchet up the tension effectively. There's also still time for a little of the show's usual trope-aware meta-humor, down to Mile deciding on her own classical background music or throwing out veiled Yu Yu Hakusho attacks. The part of the fight that actually involves fighting could have stood to be a little less static though, in my opinion. As-is it plays out at a surprisingly turn-based clip, seeming like the time and resources for more full animation may have been drained by this point in the production, that above-average direction coming in at the last minute to carry things as well as it could.
Mechanically, the story also wraps turning a corner that appeals just enough to my conceptual interests while potentially offering a little more of the genre commentary this Average Show dabbled in. ‘Solving the mysteries of the world’ is a pretty stock long-term fantasy goal, but here it's meshed with the oddly-modern nature of the previously missing civilization, as well as putting Mile in the awkward situation of only knowing about it because of that whole reincarnation aspect she can't bring herself to open up about. There's also the point that the world as it is now is described as being abandoned by the gods to merely scrape along at its current setting and technology level. It certainly seems to be an indictment (mild as this series is willing to get) of the complacency of isekai settings themselves at this point: Stuck forever playing magical-fantasy wish-fulfillment in RPG Maker worlds. This show's happy to keep things continuously average itself along those lines, and yet it still seems to make the point that we can find solace in the simple fantasy of making friends so long as we're stuck here.
It's been kind of a bumpy road for Average Abilities, but credit where it's due, the series really seemed to figure out what it wanted to do here at the end. It definitely ends with more story to tell, but that feels definitively like a next step after what it accomplished, emotionally, with this. So as things have a tendency to in this show, things end up as well as Mile would like to: Average, but likable enough.
Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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