by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Everything I look up about Endro~! as a production designates it as an anime-original, but I can't shake the impression that it feels like it's promoting something else. This is largely because of the detail the series lavishes on its card-based magic system; the Cartado feel like a marketing mechanic and the attention to which the characters (especially Mei) pay them seems conspicuous in a very commercial way. The show's monster concepts also seem quite well-developed and marketable, which gets emphasized further in this episode as the girls pack up their Cartado and head to the beach to catalog new monsters!
This vacation episode certainly also exists to provide the audience glimpses of the girls in fantasy-land swimsuits. It's completely expected, but the show isn't too leery about the whole exercise, save for going to the bland well of boob-size comparison jokes with Seira and Fai a few too many times. These repetitive jokes and a tone that jumps past ‘leisurely’ and straight into ‘tired’ is the biggest issue in the first half of this episode. I understand that the party is taking some time off, but that's no reason for the writing in the show to get so lax too. Anyway, Fai makes jokes about eating, Mei makes jokes about Cartado, just going through the motions with no sense of energy.
Those aforementioned monsters the party is assigned to observe do spark some interest, at least. There's a good sight gag in the seashell-tail creature, and another in the run-up to the watermelon monster with Yusha doing the old melon-splitting game just using her magic sword. And the sand-castle hermit crab gets a cool idea and a cute reaction joke out of Yusha. Royal Yusha Castle! It's just too bad that these decent jokes are few and far between all the empty screwing around, and the show's art also looks pretty subpar through much of this.
So thankfully, Endro~! does find something more substantial to focus on in the episode's second half. It kicks off with Fai fishing up an absurd-looking ‘Mackerelman’, which I could swear is Noonsa, the flaming fish-man from Slayers! This guy's appearance is a punchline in itself, and his tales of woe (including a romance scene with a fishy kabe-don) leading to a fishin' mission for our four heroes is exactly the outrageous uptick this episode needed. All it takes to get the girls underwater is the deployment of some extremely convenient water-breathing Cartado. Seriously, is there a mobile game waiting in the wings where I'm supposed to spend gacha rolls on these things?
There is a somewhat surprising shift after the girls get down to business under the sea, in that Endro~! demonstrates its power to become a relatively straight-faced fantasy show when necessary. Sure there are still silly-looking mackerelman antics and a few funny asides (Fai complaining about not wanting to work almost feels like a commentary on how little occured in the first half of the episode), but the threat we're told the Evil God presents and the way the team faces him down is played relatively seriously. To its credit, even with somewhat reduced animation from the action-packed intro in the first episode, the show can still swing a mean fight scene. It makes the most of the series' unique conceit, actually feeling like there's a reason for its fantasy-world setting rather than just delivering a rote slice-of-life sitcom with swords-and-sorcery window dressing.
The idea that there are competing evil forces in the world besides Mao is more interesting world-building than all the monster-cataloging, and the Evil God is a nice attraction in that respect. But seeing him ultimately dispatched in an odd anticlimax feels like a waste of an already middling joke. That kind of sums up the whole episode, doing well enough to keep me interested in its peaks, but largely achieving the bare minimum of entertainment. There's nothing wrong with lighter stories, but if this episode of Endro~! wanted to be primarily lax comedy, it needed better jokes. Likewise, if it wanted to get an interesting side quest plot going, it should have emphasized that sooner. This episode tries to split the difference, with two halves coming out just kinda okay.
ENDRO! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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