by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Sometimes your greatest opponent is yourself, and sometimes it's a bald man in boxer shorts. In the case of this episode, it's both. Just as Seth thinks he's making progress in his training, Yaga decides it's time to correct his perspective on magical power. Seth is forced to wear a pair of black silver gloves that prevent him from using magic, and on top of that, he's stuck cleaning the outside of Artemis in order to work off his debt. While scrubbing the city wall, he runs into the Bravery Quartet, who are trying to break in. The ensuing fight helps Seth to realize that having power is worthless if you just use it for yourself, and this epiphany is enough to convince Yaga to get rid of the black silver gloves.
In having Seth wear a pair of magic-restricting gloves, Radiant borrows yet another common plot point from the genre playbook. It's a familiar case of the hero needing to temporarily lose his powers in order to grow stronger in the long run. Sometimes this means learning to fight without relying on a special ability, but in Seth's case the lesson is more ethical than practical. As Yaga explains, growing stronger doesn't really get you anywhere unless you use that strength to achieve something of value. As is often the case with Radiant's “story with a lesson” episodes, this is relatively bland stuff for a veteran anime fan, but it's an idea worth presenting to younger viewers, and this episode does a decent job of getting the message across without belaboring the point.
In order to do that, the show once again calls on the services of the Bravery Quartet, who have somehow found a way to one-up their previous outfits in terms of silliness. The humor here isn't exactly subtle, but the episode commits to it, and it actually works. The image of Don Bossman and company shooting beams out of their butts while monologuing about the merits of magical underwear is so willfully ridiculous that I can't help but laugh at it. While the competition isn't exactly tough, this is still one of the best jokes Radiant has delivered in the last few weeks, and it's a good tonal fit for the show. When your protagonist shouts about his motivation on a constant basis, you might as well make the comedy as broad and colorful as possible. Even though the Bravery Quartet boys just reiterate their old views here, it's good to have them back.
This episode also manages to improve on its predecessor in a key area, though it's a modest step forward at best. Where last week's monster-hunting detour felt completely irrelevant to the overall story, it feels like Seth at least learns something of value here. Radiant's story gets more engaging whenever it asks the characters to reflect on what they're doing, whether that's Alma looking back on her decision to take care of Seth or Seth realizing that there's more to life than just being the strongest guy in town. These are the kinds of moments that make a show feel like it has something to say, and they may be Radiant's best hope of standing out from the crowd. Character development is a good thing, people. Let's get some more of it.
This is a solid “back to basics” episode for Radiant, and it comes at a good time. As it works to regain its momentum after a mid-season slump, the series is returning to the formula that worked for it early on: take familiar genre storylines, present them reasonably well, and throw in a simple thematic lesson or two. If it takes four grown men fighting in their underwear to make that formula work, then so be it. The question now is whether or not Radiant can use these basic building blocks to piece together a real plot. Comical bad guys are all well and good, but it'll take a stronger antagonist to really revive this series. Now that Seth is finally getting his magical act together, it's time to bring back the Nemesis and the Inquisition.
Radiant is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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