Seirei Gensouki - Spirit Chronicles
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Seirei Gensouki - Spirit Chronicles ?
I remember reading once that the late, great Terry Pratchett was told that because he wrote fantasy, there had to be dragons. That's a bit of what this episode of Seirei Gensouki is like – it's fantasy, so you gotta have dragons, elves, and dwarves, right? And maybe some griffins and spirits inspired by Greek mythology. There are standards to be maintained, after all.
Happily, shoehorning in of all of these fantasy staples doesn't derail the story at all, and in fact brings out some really pleasant character designs. I may have spent way too long trying to figure out how Ursula got the top part of her hair to work (wires?), but that couldn't detract from the overall attractiveness of the new girls. From the details on the elf's sandals to the way the bird girl's clothing makes sense when you think about her having to be able to fly easily, this episode just brings in all sorts of eye candy. Nothing all that original, mind, but it doesn't matter because it fits the setting and the characters so well. The most fetishy design is probably the little redhead, who the ending comic (which absolutely nails my reaction) thinks may be a dwarf. It still doesn't feel strictly done for the fanservice, though, and I appreciate that.
Most of this episode could almost be dubbed “isekai pastoral.” After Rio and Latifa actually get to the village of the Spirit People, their time seems to be taken up with nice, regular activities and warm relationships the likes of which neither of them have ever known. They stomp grapes, pick strawberries, and bathe in the open-air hot bath on a snowy night – it's practically an anime version of a Kate Greenaway picture. More importantly for Rio, he actually gets to learn how to use his mysterious spirit powers, something he's basically had to figure out entirely on his own up till this point. My one complaint is that the whole thing is glossed over; we get one montage that lets us know that Rio and Latifa have been in the village for a year and that's it. I realize that the show is trying to adapt more than just the first two-odd light novels, but I would have given up some of the school stuff to get a little more detail on his spirit power training.
The most important piece of the episode, however, is neither his training nor the return of the bad guys at the end. It's when Rio meets Dryas, the spirit of the World Tree around which the village is built. Dryas (like “dryad,” get it?!) senses something special about Rio, and when she's given permission to investigate further, she tells him that he has a “human-shaped spirit” within him, one he must have made a contract with. This, once and for all, lets us know that he is not the reincarnation of Haruto after he died in that bus crash. Instead, Haruto's spirit, or soul, has made the trip sans body and made a contract with Rio – or perhaps we should say forced a contract with him. While Haruto undoubtedly reared his head when Rio most needed him, there wasn't a formal agreement, per se; instead it was more like a tacit understanding that Rio needed help and Haruto could provide it. Would Rio have agreed had he known that he was going to be housing the Japanese man in his body for the foreseeable future and wouldn't be able to use magic? I suspect he would have, but it's hard to say for certain, because at the end of the day he didn't get to make that choice.
Dryas also brings up the possibility that Rio houses one of the greatest spirits, a group of beings that vanished after a war many years ago. This gives things an interesting cyclical spin – what if all of those spirits vanished to Japan, where they all happened to end up on that same bus (or train, possibly), and now they've returned to their original world? I hope that gets explored more going forward, because it would add a little something to really make this particular isekai series stand out. But even if it doesn't, and even with annoying misunderstandings and bad guys who seem set on enslaving dragons, there's something about this show that I find myself really liking. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I'm always interested to know what will happen next.
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