by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 9 of
I hesitate to use words like ‘intense’ or ‘heavy’ to describe the kind of material Endro~! has been dealing with the last few weeks; it's still been the same enjoyable slice-of-life fluff. However, the ideas it's presenting have proven to be more affecting than usual lately, from Mao's emotional journey to realize how she belongs with everyone, to Rona coming around on why she truly loves Yusha and her friends in the party. These are deep-dives by Endro~!'s standards, so it's only right to take a breather now. The Hero Party takes center-stage for the first time in weeks as Mei takes them off to a festival celebrating Cartado.
I was impressed by the turn for world-building this episode took. When I first found out that this was going to deal with a ‘Cartado Festival’, my mind immediately went to the opportunity for a convention or expo riff, something like the girls going to fantasy Comiket and geeking out over the technicalities of Cartado. But instead, we're whisked away to a hidden world populated by fairy-like beings called Tarka, where it turns out that for all their marketable rarity, Cartado really do grow on trees. The whole event ends up being more like a harvest festival than any sort of nerd culture allegory, and the show's trademark pleasant tone reliably chugs along unabated.
Some of Endro~!'s other standbys are less engaging this week, however. Being focused on Cartado means a lot of focus on Mei as well, and while this could have been an opportunity to expand on a character that always seemed flat even by this show's simple standards, that's not where this episode ends up. Mei's primary trait of getting really excited by Cartado isn't even taken to many extremes; for most of the episode, she's simply excited to be in the homeland of her favorite collectibles, dispensing trivia about them when information is needed and just generally making me think this series is trying to sell me something.
About all we get on Mei that could charitably be considered character development is seeing how truly hardcore she is about Cartado. She even gives up trying to be the translator for their Tarka guide after she realizes Fai can do it much more effectively. Generally speaking, if it's for these cards, she'll do pretty much anything, including an outrageous collecting contest at the end of the episode. The others make a point of highlighting how ‘passionate’ she's being, seemingly in contrast with how her usual "slacker" personality. But that's never come through too strongly; we always knew Mei would step up at a moment's notice whenever Cartado was involved.
Everything else this week is just fluff, so it's a good thing that Endro~! is still pretty good at presenting. The land of the Tarka has a cuddly feel that leans into the storybook aesthetic even more than the series normally does, and they even make a pretty cute song out of the denizens' babbling nonsense language. About the only incongruity in all this cuteness is a changing scene for the girls that's way more fanservicey than anything so far in the show, but it passes quickly enough.
But any griping I have about the simplicity of this episode seems to be addressed by its own ending. Mei wins the Cartado-collecting contest for the reward of a cute little crown and participation in a parade. Seira incredulously remarks “That's it?”, but the others are quick to point out how happy Mei looks. Her joy at being surrounded by her passion like this is its own reasonably endearing reward, and the sentiment was infectious by the end. This was the lightest episode of Endro~! in a while, lacking even many strong jokes, but it speaks to the atmosphere the show has cultivated that it was able to make just hanging out with these characters pleasant enough.
ENDRO! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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