Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?!
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! ?
The Average Abilities Isekai Show is definitely in odd, uneven territory now. The girls finally make it to their destination with the merchants they were protecting, but it turns out that's not actually the end of this story arc we've been following so far. Instead there's a mildly amusing digression before we dive right back into re-analyzing the themes that have been propelling all the actions for three episodes now. Offbeat as the presentation was, there was enough thematically to chew on in the preceding installments, but after this one I'm now wondering what the point really was. The anime can't seem to decide either, vacillating as it does between tones and storytelling styles the whole way through.
I think a key point to understanding what Average Time is trying to do is keeping in mind Mile's main goal: Having that ‘average life’ with her newfound friends and home situation. Amongst all the tragic backstories and seemingly extraneous worldbuilding the show keeps heaping on, it at least keeps finding its way back to that as a driving force. Such as it is that the first half of this episode sees the Crimson Vow arrive in the bordering city that is their destination and Mile immediately sets about wanting to have a ‘class trip’ experience there with her party. It's cute and endearing in terms of fitting with the character as we've gotten to know her so far, but also feels like the story throwing it in this section to justify keeping those themes in frame. There's an extremely budget-conscious montage of the team's fun times, and we end up at the pretty clever gag of a fantasy-land souvenir shop.
There's an inherent amusement to someone like Mile getting whisked away to a fantastical RPG land only to prioritize eating out with her friends and buying cruddy knick-knacks at a gift shop, and that's when I find I like Average Abilities the most: When it's leveraging that contrast with its other isekai brethren. Here the ‘fantasy’ for Mile is still focused on things she didn't get to do in her regular-world life, but instead of power-trips like ‘be super strong at everything’ or ‘have a bunch of people fall in love with you’ she's chasing the mundanities of a decently-adjusted school life. Here the anime could strive for an interesting point about how escapist fantasies differ from person to person, and what our desires from those stories say about us.
Unfortunately, Average Action is so ready to turn on a dime back to tragedy-town that it segues the silly sight-gag souvenir shop to the subject of those forest bandits still attacking their shipments, causing the local tchotchke industry to decline! And if that still seems pretty silly to you, know that's framed with all the gravitas of any other economic hardship anime heroes might witness, right before we find out the kindly old man the girls were escorting and all his fellow merchants were brutally murdered. The series is so insistent on getting weirdly dark and harsh in the middle of its endearing frivolity, like the writer was worried their story might not be seen as mature enough otherwise.
But all the time and heartache put into communicating the tragedy of this arc is what muddles the point of its presentation. Poor Reina has spent three episodes now learning a lesson about killing people for revenge not being worth it. The problem with beating our head against this metaphorical wall is that it dampens our response each time. By now it's pretty clear that this forest's bandit problem has resulted in some pretty dire consequences several times, so we start to think that maybe Reina has a point that similarly dire measures are necessary. If we're just going to have the same ‘killing is bad’ line parroted at us each time, it makes us wonder how many more extraneous characters will have to be sacrificed on the altar of Reina's pathos. The whole situation ends up more confused with a late-game reveal that the ‘bandits’ are actually soldiers from a neighboring country working to disrupt trade economics. Other than some awkward jokey banter between all the discussions of the morality of murder, this doesn't really result in anything. And that's an odd point itself, given that the show could have used the opportunity to discuss that Reina not killing someone in this case avoided an international incident, which could have been parlayed into a ‘war is bad’ theme that would have expanded on the ‘killing is bad’ one. But it doesn't, and we're left wondering what the point of this complication really was.
Average Anti-Conflict Themes does undo one driving tragedy right at the end, as it turns out the elderly merchant survived after all. His situation vaguely alludes to a conflict of fighting versus surviving, with the show seemingly coming down to the point that living for your family is more important than fighting and dying in a situation that's hopeless otherwise. It's an interesting side to take, in this context, and perhaps a door to the story favoring having the Crimson Vow just hang out when they can rather than striving to ‘fix’ this world weighed down with child enslavement and violent trade economics. Yet it's still so incidental that I'm left wondering what actual lesson the characters and audience were to learn from all this. Should you avoid killing your enemies for revenge and just hope that one guy you cared about avoided slaughter? Is it just important to remember to arrest aggressors like this instead of driving them off so they can't attack again? The show's delivery prioritizes platitudes and feelings over demonstrating actual solutions to the tangible issues that caused those feelings, leaving everything to happen to be solved by the characters' abilities with the situations just ‘averaging out’ in the end. An unsatisfying, mealy resolution to a storyline that already went on a bit too long.
Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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