Episode 5

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 5 of
Endro~! ?

Endro has been all about playing with the expected roles of a fantasy adventure series in a slice-of-life context so far. It's almost its own high-school alternate universe fanfic; the hero and her party members are friends in class, the Demon Lord is their teacher, and the quests they go on are just their tests and homework. But those roles as heroes and villains are still real ones to be fulfilled in this show's world, and now another archetype must join them. The kingdom's Princess is here, and she's taking all this hero business quite seriously.

It's an interesting contrast. We know from the beginning of the first episode that Yusha and friends are definitely the destined Demon Lord dispatchers, but that's been easy to forget after so many episodes of fluffy time-killing. The arrival of Princess Rona upends that slice-of-life structure simply by trying to make the embrace their ordained roles in how they go about things. That forced shift adds a lot of humor to this episode, as Rona tries to box the characters up in ways that we know don't work for them. This also solidly demonstrates why we like them the way they are, eventually tying into the themes of the episode overall.

All other parts of the episode are Endro as we've comfortably come to expect, playing off our expectations of the fantasy genre for amusing antics. In this case, those expectations are played for laughs within the logic of the show itself, with Rona functioning as a viewpoint character who's trying to square her RPG party expectations with the more distinct personalities of Yusha and friends. It's an interesting twist to see the Princess character come to function as the Hero's publicist, trying to get Yusha's classmates to give her more respect and even throwing a festival in her honor. It leads to some fun sight gags, particular Yusha's recurring discomfort over people chowing down on snacks with her face adorned on them. More broadly, it shows how Yusha may not be as down with the fame part of the Hero business.

There's a whole spectrum of divided desires at play here. The team remarks at the beginning of the episode, after attempting to recount their encounter with the Evil God to Mao, that no one really takes them seriously in their self-prescribed roles as heroes, despite having several successes already. So when Princess Rona gets them treated more reverently, the rest of the team seems to revel in their newfound respect. But Yusha seems more distracted by the shows of pageantry over her mere existence, which became more poignant than I expected in a conversation with Rona later.

It's easy to fixate at first on Rona's clear desire to marry Yusha. Honestly, the decision to imply that this fantasy world has any sorts of laws restricting same-sex marriage is odd, but it pays off in a cute joke that the Princess can simply use her power to change those laws in the name of destined love. The bigger issue is what Rona's desire to marry Yusha says about those roles in a setting like this. Rona is possessed of actual hero worship for Yusha from growing up idolizing the heroes in her stories. So she cares less about Yusha as a person and simply desires to be a Princess who marries a hero, like in those stories. It's almost like a copout to teasing girl-girl romance, like an excuse that Rona isn't really attracted to Yusha herself as a girl, but simply the role she fulfills.

But then Yusha, lovably simple scamp that she is, clarifies this for herself in a surprisingly meaningful way. She doesn't want to fulfill the role of a hero simply because she's been assigned to it; she wants to be a hero because it's who she is. It's another heartening reminder of the earnest appeal this show delivers in its theories on heroism—that true heroes perform good deeds because helping is what they want to do, not just because they've been made to one way or the other. As Yusha leaps off to once again help people, we hear Rona's heart let loose a lovestruck thump. While she initially did all this to bring herself closer to understanding what it means to be a hero, Yusha may just be endearing herself to the Princess as her own person. It's another example of Endro demonstrating some thoughtful effort alongside its simpler course of comedy.

Rating: A-

ENDRO! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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