Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?!
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! ?
Like a reincarnated protagonist getting superpowers from God, ask and I shall receive, I guess. This episode of Average Adventures deals in a lot of elements I'd been harping on getting for a few weeks now: Letting the party members play off each other, actually showing how they come together and deepen their bond, and dishing on some backstory to develop them beyond just being Mile's new friends. The result is something that, while not super-thrilling and somewhat incohesive, makes a point of feeling quite different from the Average episodes that came before. So showing off some range is something to be congratulated on, anyway.
You know this is going to be a more somber episode than usual overall when it skips the upbeat dancing intro to dive straight into the overt tragedy of Reina's backstory that we were teased with last week. That was something of a whiplash moment then, but it at least means we're more prepared now to see everything as it transpired, and it is quite the doozy. It's almost heavier than we expect or might even desire from this show, but fortunately the direction does know just when to pull back. We get probably one of the best uses yet of Mile's genre-awareness, her being familiar with this kind of stock tragedy and the lessons characters are supposed to learn from it, and cluing us in that we're not supposed to take it all that seriously.
Instead, while there is plenty of base pathos to go around as we get more info on what drives all these girls, this episode of the Average show seems more interested on the narrative functionality of a tragic backstory itself, how it can bring people together and affect their reactions to others. There's an immediate contrast in that set up with Reina's backstory: On its own, it's a hard-hitting one-two punch of losing her family, gaining a new one, then losing that one in another tragedy. Along the way it seems to set up points about the harsh realities of this world and what one might need to do to safeguard it, along with some moments to reflect on how horrible the concept of selling children into slavery is (hint-hint, so many other isekai shows). But then the flashback ends and we discover that two out of three of the Crimson Vow aren't really phased by all that mining for feelings, and the comparisons of comrades kick off instead. Pauline chipperly volunteers to breeze through her similarly-sad setup, her smile at the end to Reina speaking volumes about the contrast here.
This mostly encompasses the first half of the episode, and also frames the question of killing villains that was brought up at the very end last week. Reina's point is that all the tragedy and evil in their world necessitates our heroes being prepared to take the life of another human if they feel it's justified, while Pauline and Mile seem to argue that your own personal tragedies can't be allowed to color a decision like that. It follows on from the acknowledged difference in fighting people, rather than monsters, that was brought up in the previous episode, and fits with the question of how much responsibility overpowered isekai protagonists have to ‘clean up’ their worlds, and how far they should be willing to go in doing so. Granted, this is the Average Abilities show, so the subject matter never actually treats itself as that heavy, punctuated as it is with winking nods to expected tropes and Mile quoting JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. It's also broken up with a hilariously brief aside to Mavis's absurdly simple non-tragic backstory, cementing that even outliers can be included in this kind of revelatory bonding.
The story seems to mostly get all that isekai-ethics contemplation out of the way in that first episode-half (“I'm starting to feel stupid for thinking so hard about all of this,” Reina opines), and that's so it can focus on more pure story-and-character content for its second. Mile finally gives (most of) her origin story to her party members, following up on that ‘secret nobility’ part of her background that was casually mentioned in the first episode and then immediately dropped. The thing is, as neat as it is to see that the writing didn't totally forget it set up these details, you kind of get why they glossed over them at the start. It's a storm of cliches setting up Mile's fairy-tale tragic past (knowingly ripped straight from Cinderella) and discovery of her isekai-protagonist superpowers. It even repeats jokes pretty much verbatim from the beginning of the series, like the statistical-outlier explanation for her ‘average’ situation or Mile failing to conceal her exceptional abilities at school. It's to the point that I almost forgot we were covering a part of her story we hadn't actually seen before.
Things pick up a bit as we find out how Mile eventually made friends at the school, itself a continuation of this episode's seeming theme of the power of a solid tragic backstory. And the resolution that takes us to where the series opened is both an amusing visitation on Mile's self-sacrificing nature that led to her taking the protagonist spot in the first place, and a potential demonstration of how those protag-powers could be used to resolve problems in this world without having to actually kill anybody. But that's a potential that is barely glossed over as we take in all the other elements of this flashback. There could almost be enough for a whole other show here, if the storytelling was up to it, but as I said, Average Isekai's writing seems less invested in the sad backstories themselves than in where they take us and the characters. In the end, the multiple layers of hardships the girl we now know as Mile has been through serve to show how she's been tempered to be unphased by the likes of Reina's story, which the anime seemed to be presenting as so dead-serious at the beginning otherwise.
I'm struggling with my opinion of this episode of Average Abilities. Technically, the flashbacks are trite and disjointed, and only offer character insight in the most basic sense. However, they're mechanically used in the story in a clever way, making a point about how storytelling works in this genre and letting their existence in-universe develop the characters and their relationships in a way the actual events were unconcerned with. It's a neat idea for an episode like this, but on a critical level, I can't help but feel that some viewers more focused on pure progression and character insight may be more disappointed by what we got here than I was.
Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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