Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?!
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! ?
It definitely feels like I haven't gotten many chances to talk about the other Average Adventurers in Mile's crew, save for all that time we spent on Reina in the previous arc. But given the lacking impression that over-long storyline left (fair warning, I'll be referring back to it for comparisons a lot here), I wasn't really in a hurry to find out what kinds of serious situations Mile's other party members would try to carry. Sure, Pauline seemed interesting enough and I've been a big fan of Mavis since the beginning, but would it be terribly worth it to allocate more focus to them? Thankfully, this episode proves that the answer is a solid ‘Yes’.
One lesson Average Abilities seems to have learned from Reina's arc is not to drag things on so long. Episodes of this show have always seemed like they stretched on with more padding than you'd think to fill a half-hour time slot, so this one actually opts to make efficient use of its time. It at first seems to be an entirely Pauline-focus plot with only incidental ties to Mavis, only to resolve the former character's story with a large chunk of the run-time left so it can turn the spotlight around on the latter. It still leaves the episode feeling oddly-paced, the sort of thing where you check the time as Pauline's story is wrapping up and go “Wait, there's still how long left?”, but at least you're decently amused and entertained through most of that.
Honestly, leaning on some parts of the previous arc in a setup with more steps than it needs is probably the biggest weakness early in this episode. The punchline of Pauline's nonchalant attitude in relating her tragic backstory back in Episode 5 was pretty funny at the time. However, in hindsight, whizzing through it that way alongside everyone else's histories meant that at least my recollection was a bit jumbled as it factored majorly into her situation in the present. A quick refresher via a second Crunchyroll tab is definitely recommended, especially as the bullet points get even more discombobulated thanks to Pauline's evil stepdad letting her get adopted by another evil stepdad who reveals himself as the one pulling the strings behind her cruddy life all along anyway. The main functionality is leading to Pauline being forced to marry into Mavis's family, with the father there menacing alongside the others to form some sort of Bad Dad Triad.
I was tensing up for another multi-episode drag after all that setup, but thankfully once it was out of the way this Average episode picked up significantly. It turns out that in a simple rescue scenario, the remaining members of the Crimson Vow in Mile, Reina, and Mavis make for a pretty entertaining power trio. Never diving too deep into the ill-advised seriousness that plagued the previous storyline, it's instead fun to see the crew lean into their overpowered isekai abilities in happily interrogating local thugs, or taking on the town's entire regiment of soldiers. The impromptu superhero antics are pretty funny too, though if you know me you know I'm an easy mark for those. My favorite part of that bit was assuming the masks were some sort of magical invention Mile cooked up that actually cloaked their identity from anyone who saw them, only to find out, nope, they really were just simple domino masks! It's the kind of dopey irreverence that the series showed off last week, but played a bit more strongly in a proper adventure plotline.
There is one more bump in the road between those antics and this episode's surprisingly strong final act. The initial situation gets Pauline and her mom into position for revenge on the sinister step-fathers, and after all the discussion around killing people in that constantly called-back previous arc, the ladies here seem to have no compunctions about making a caesar salad out of these dudes. Except then it gets broken up by Mavis's dad, and leads to a duel where Pauline just bonks them on the heads and they get hauled off by the cops instead. It's a bizarre zig-zag that doesn't reach the tonal dissonance of earlier missteps, but is still weird in how the momentary murder musing isn't even mentioned again.
But perhaps dwelling on the previous contemplations the series averagely attempted would be a waste of space, since what we do get feels so much more cohesive. It's mainly apparent as the Mavis part of the plotline steps up, and as decent as Pauline's portion was, this segment is where it really gets going! Actually, Mavis herself gets little to do compared to Mile, but even her brief fight with her brothers throws into relief the thesis of the plot up to this point, as well as how that ties into Pauline's portion we just witnessed. Seeing how far the Crimson Vow have come with Mile as their mentor, the interest comes not just from watching what kinds of superpowers they've awakened to, but what those mean to them and what they've been trying to accomplish.
It all contrasts with some other isekai series where the heroes' powers are just one more cool thing on their pile: Pauline hasn't learned shadow casting and Mavis hasn't honed the speed of her slashes just to fill out their character sheets; Pauline learned that so she could avenge her father, and Mavis got to that level so she could prove her ambition to her family. It's neat because it makes their ‘above average’ abilities part of who they are, and rounds back to Mile's connection with them through that being her main goal in this quest she's found herself in. Compared to the exhaustingly long meandering of Reina's arc, this is some tidy, satisfying storytelling. That it gets wrapped up with a surprisingly nicely animated fight scene between Mile and Mavis's father is the cherry then, and it all worked to continue to renew my faith in this average little show.
Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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