Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?!
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! ?
The Average Abilities show wrapped up its latest major, character-developing story in just one episode last week, so it's time for another deeply silly sidequest to balance things. As has worked for this show in the past, it starts with a somewhat askew look at what motivates our anything-but-average heroes: Paying the rent with quirky maid-cafe hijinks is getting old for Mile and crew, but even over-leveled adventurers can't escape getting roped into the rigors of capitalism. What else to do but put totally broken abilities to good use and take on quests to get the money they need?
The question posed and quickly answered by this episode's premise is: Are even the most high-level quests trivial for the Crimson Vow to clear, and if so, how hard could it be for them to fill their coffers then? These RPG isekai fantasies often revel in the recognizable simplicity of their setups, but anyone who's actually played a well-designed game campaign knows that the most satisfying quests are about the ingenuous challenges they present alongside just how big the monsters' numbers are. In this case, the wyvern the team is tasked with hunting isn't just strong, it's clever, slippery, and they only get one shot at taking it down.
By the standards of the genre, this Average episode is the game-iest the show has been in a while. So much of the encounter with the wyvern seems specified to getting the viewers' internal gears turning, thinking about how they'd prepare and handle the challenge of this foe. The main thrust, interestingly, lies in going against those gamified expectations: How do you hunt a fantasy monster that isn't going to just stick around for a mandated boss fight to the death? However, as fun as the technical aspects are to think about, Average Abilities here quickly swerves into an answer all its own style in how Mile is going to handle this challenge: As ridiculously as possible.
As I said, this episode is pretty much all comedy, and while it's hit-or-miss along the same lines the show has been before, I'd say there are definitely more hits. The dynamic draw of a scene holding everything together is Mile's plan to aggressively fastball-special her friends at the dastardly dragonthing, and those are funny bits that get paced out well. There are a lot of good character dynamics mixed in, like Pauline ending up agreeing to join the Mile-throws-her-high club because her brain works on the same warped logic, or Mile abruptly switching to calling Reina ‘Boss’ as things unfold. I think this series' sensibilities and the way the characters play off of each other has evolved enough at this point in the show that this all flows naturally for a strong, sitcom vibe, even as it's about fantasy adventurers being hurled at a wyvern.
Unfortunately, not all the humor is A-material. It's skirted into other episodes, but fanservice is very oddly on display as an element in this one. My issue isn't just with the suspect ages of the characters (though hey, there is that) but also with the series seemingly trying to deploy these elements specifically as a supplement to the humor here. The timing just ends up wildly off, however, and the content isn't presented as ridiculous so much as weirdly uncomfortable to make the laughs come easily. So we get bits like a cow nudging its face into Pauline's boobs or Reina deciding to do laundry in the woods after a fall. There are points where it's so close, like Mavis avoiding the embarrassed reaction of the others to a skirt-blowing wind attack, only to drop her into that pratfall anyway when parts of her actual clothes get blown off. It's all just out of place, exemplified by a bizarre ending gag centering on the characters being surprised by a ten-year-old's pronounced chest.
The other component to the humor is in the referential angles, which are at least more back-and-forth. The actual backstory for the wyvern comes out with much narration from Mile on how she knows where this is going, meaning Average Isekai here falls into the same trap as its forebears: Just because you acknowledge that you're doing a cliche plot doesn't let you off the hook for doing said cliche plot. Fortunately, the reactions immediately afterwards help carry this element, Mile just arguing kaiju-movie references with the old man who turns out to be the wyvern's caretaker. There's some great dialogue and delivery in that conversation.
That old man and his contribution to how everything works out turns out to be another saving grace of this episode: Seeing the team actually win, though not necessarily as a direct result of their superpowers and on the verge of looking like their efforts would go unrewarded. It's like a pleasant reversal of shows like Cowboy Bebop where the heroes still end up broke and hungry after everything they went through. The likability of these characters and enjoying spending time with them as Mile does is the key draw of this show, after all, so letting them have this win is rewarding for the audience as well. And understanding that is why, uneven elements though it has, this is another episode of the Average show that mostly works.
Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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