by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 11 of
It's weird to think we've seen a notable uptick in complexity for Endro across the past couple episodes, but this one has all the detailed setup for a seasonal payoff as the previous episode. Thankfully, unlike that outing's handling of the party's trips to dreamworld, this episode's ambitions gel a lot better, because it feels much more thematically connected to the rest of the story. It's all about Mao revisiting how she's come to feel about her non-Demon-Lord life, and what kinds of wrenches an anime's impending season finale can throw into that peace.
It makes sense; Mao's always not-so-secretly been the most interesting character in Endro, so focusing the final arc on her was probably the best storytelling decision. As with most Endro adventures, this one begins innocuously enough, with Mao having Yusha and the rest of the party hang out at her place. It's all just setup, getting characters into position for the final conflict, but it's still praiseworthy in its execution. It's not a mere rehash of when the party visited a sick Mao back in episode 6, instead acknowledging the bond all these characters now share and letting them get along in a more casual atmosphere. It's a nice turn to see Mao and Seira uniquely bond over their inability to maintain a clean room, or to hear jokes we hadn't heard before about Seira's long-lived elf heritage. There's a great one-two punchline in Mao's apparent shocking ability to whip up a great-looking meal followed by the reveal of how it actually tastes.
It's all typically relaxing fare for Endro, and then Chibi, the team's resident cute dragon mascot, barfs up Mao's old maid.
Major plot twists aren't something I expect from a show like Endro, but even as the maid's conspicuous departure certainly seemed to foreshadow her returning somehow, I never expected her to be dropped on us quite like this. It's a successful upheaval for the show's standard pleasant situational comedy, and it's immediately made clear to us what kind of threat the maid golem, or ‘Meigo’ as she comes to be known, represents to Mao's newfound life. She has amnesia that delays the shocking revelations for our main characters, but still her presence is an impressively effective eleventh-hour-twist that sees Mao's past catching up to her in an unexpected way.
Meigo's integration into the group as this episode goes on demonstrates how Endro can deliver on a compelling plot without getting too sidetracked like it did last week. The adorable domestic montage we get of Mao and Meigo's new life together directly ties into how things have changed for both of them. It was previously made clear just how much Mao could benefit from having a helper around the house, along with her newfound capacity to care about others, so Meigo integrates seamlessly into that role. It's immediately believable how dependent Mao could already become to her previous caretaker, as well as tacitly setting us up for the kind of impact Meigo being forced to leave would have.
Of course that twist lands by the end of the episode, but not quite in the way you might expect. The one storytelling hiccup in all this is Rona's memory-restoring cartado. It's not the worst thing in the world, since the cartado's anything-goes abilities have been so well-established in this series so far, but the timing of its use still feels too obvious; it's just not as natural as all the other choices in this episode. Fortunately, it leads to quite the upset with a terrific gag where not Meigo, but Yusha's party have their memories restored of the previous encounter with the Demon Lord! It's a truly priceless reaction, and in hindsight a perfect way to set up the season's final showdown.
Things probably aren't going to be that straightforward, of course, and with Endro I wouldn't want them to be. Mao bonding with Meigo has created a key last step in her character development, allowing Mao to bond with a figure from her past in a way she couldn't before. Just as Yusha is a ‘hero’ because of her desire to help others, Mao's role as a villain doesn't preclude her actions; she reveals herself as the Demon Lord, attacking the party and making off with Rona because she's come to treasure her companionship with Meigo, but she couldn't think of any other way to defend that relationship in her panic.
That final explanation is an adorable admission of just how little Mao's heart has remained in the whole villain game, so the final ‘battle’ will almost certainly be more subversive than the straightforward punch-up that kicked this whole series off. I'm looking forward to seeing how coming full-circle will reveal how far all these characters have come.
ENDRO! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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