Episode 12

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 12 of
Endro~! ?

And it's time for Endro to end—again! Even after the full season has wrapped, the fake-out ending from the first episode remains one of the show's most memorable jokes, so the biggest question going into this finale was how they would handle doing it for real. Given the setup of the previous episode, with Mao kidnapping Rona and fleeing back to her Dark Lord castle in a fit of panic, it was easy to guess that there was only one way for this all to work out. While Endro does deliver on resolving everything nicely in its usual comfortable way, I feel like this final episode may have gone overboard on the late-game story details.

To be fair, there's plenty of good in this episode right away. There are quite a few surprising story revelations doled out at the end, and my favorite one was that after so much foreshadowing otherwise, Rona actually had no idea that Mao was the Demon Lord! That's the kind of irreverence I appreciate from this series. Mao is unsurprisingly the highlight, from having a great rapport with Rona as she flops around her throne room waiting for the Hero's party to arrive, to getting indignant when they just send her a letter instead. Similarly, Misaki Kuno is able to turn on a dime in the more sincere second half of the episode, the bittersweet resignation in her voice selling the drama of the moment.

The themes at play in this episode also help keep it all together. There's been a significant through-line about what defines a hero in a story like this, and why someone like Yusha would seek that role. It comes up several times, but the answer to that question is predictably simple; she thought it sounded cool and she wanted to help people. It ties into her ultimate decision to discard the role of the destined Hero if it means she can save Mao, and if her reaction to Rona's blank storybook at the end is an on-the-nose metaphor, it still effectively makes its point. This is a story of adventurers in a fantasy world learning that they are not defined by the roles and character classes they match, but can become whoever they choose to be.

Unfortunately, all the setup to get to that point overdoes things to some degree. The last-minute world-building details seem to be adding complexity for its own sake or setting up broader concepts as the production hopes for another season. Maybe the characters just trotting over and talking Mao down from her spontaneous kidnapping wouldn't have filled up enough of the episode, but having Meigo drop in to info-dump several extra details about a magical destiny conspiracy keeping the Hero/Demon Lord reincarnation cycle going, not to mention the contrivance that Yusha's iteration is the last one in the chain, just feels like too much. It's especially unfortunate how this is framed as a big shocking twist to up the stakes, but it fails to elicit much reaction because it just feels too broad conceptually for what's always been a more cozy show.

Even the idea that leaving Mao undefeated will cause her powers to fully manifest, go out of control, and destroy the island, feels poorly-defined as a final threat. The way the characters resign themselves to her actions feels less like a danger foisted on her by destiny and more like Mao just going with the flow for undefined reasons. The final confrontation still works on an emotional level, because the sincerity of the characters has been earned by their bonds over the course of the season, but they definitely could have streamlined this situation to make it more impactful.

Of course, all that pales compared to the mechanical resolution of this new conflict. If you thought Chibi-chan's gluttonous antics led to some deus ex machina twists before, this finale will be a real doozy. To their credit, I definitely would never have predicted that the little dragon would eat both the Hero's sword and the literal concept of the Demon Lord off Mao. But just being surprising doesn't make it feel like less than a cop-out even in a series that has thrived on comedic anticlimaxes. There is some funny acknowledgement of how random the moment feels, specifically that none of the party can even remember how Chibi-chan came to be with them, but then the lack of explanation feels like another bit of setup the show is socking away for future adventures.

The finale of Endro certainly works just fine wrapping the series up, and when it focuses on the role of heroic archetypes in its world, the show works as solidly as it always has. But overcomplicating its own premise at the eleventh hour seems ill-advised, proving to be a distraction when we just want to watch all these characters make up and go home with each other. If they do make more of this series, I hope they don't keep leaning too hard on the elaborate plot elements introduced in this final episode.

Rating: B-

ENDRO! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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