The World's Finest Assassin
by Richard Eisenbeis,
How would you rate episode 1 of
The World's Finest Assassin ?
How would you rate episode 2 of
The World's Finest Assassin ?
How would you rate episode 3 of
The World's Finest Assassin ?
(*Note: The review of the first episode is copy-pasted from when I reviewed it for The Fall 2021 Preview Guide—which also includes a review of this episode from other ANN reviewers. The episode 2 and 3 portion of the review is completely new.)
This series has a fun hook: What if our world's best assassin was reincarnated in a fantasy world and told to assassinate the hero destined to save it? Now, despite his mission being given by the goddess of this fantasy world, it's not hard to guess that her reasons for having the hero killed are less than pure. Thus, she is, broadly speaking, a villain—as is our protagonist by proxy.
With this kind of a setup, it's important to make our protagonist if not likeable than at least sympathetic. There has to be some emotional connection between us and the legendary assassin—something that makes us root for him despite being... well... a life-long mass murderer.
That is what this episode attempts to give us in showing the legendary assassin's death in our world. Finally too old for the job, he is given one last mission alongside a fledgling assassin. Here we learn a bit about his history, but more importantly, his plans for the future—becoming a teacher to new assassins. He actually seems to look forward to teaching, as we can see by how he interacts with his temporary apprentice. Despite her overinflated ego, he is constantly trying to teach her how to be a better assassin—how to survive in the life she has chosen. In fact, it is his instinct to protect her that gets him killed in the end. In his hurry to get her out of harm's way, he isn't as careful as he should be—allowing his own organization to kill him off.
This directly connects to the “in media res” opening of the episode. We see that, in the not too far future, he will be the teacher he wanted to be—leading a group of young, fantasy world assassins on a mission to stomp out the evil and the corrupt. This glint of humanity beneath his calm, admittedly badass demeanor is enough to make him a character we can get behind. And judging by how his last employer treated him, I doubt he plans to simply follow the goddess' plans without question. Due to this, he exists in a gray area. Will he ultimately kill the hero or end up aiding him? We'll just have to see as the story unfolds.
The first episode of The World's Finest Assassin was all about introducing our protagonist—giving us his history and personality. The second episode is all about laying the rest of the groundwork.
This means that this episode is almost entirely world-building. We start off by learning about his mission—i.e., to kill the hero—and why it must be done—i.e., that after saving the world, the hero will ultimately destroy it. We also get to see Lugh choose his five skills so we know exactly what he is capable of in the fantasy world. Leaving the fifth skill a secret does add a bit of mystery—especially as Lugh thinks it's the most overpowered skill he has—but it is something we really need to be clued into no later than the first climax of the story.
It's during this time we also get to know the Goddess responsible for Lugh's reincarnation. As we listen to her lay everything out, it's clear that she's not above lying to get her way—and if she's willing to lie to other gods, it's safe to assume she wouldn't even hesitate to lie to the assassin as well. Because of this, everything she says has to be taken with a grain of salt. It adds a fair amount of danger to the story when you are unsure whether god is friend or foe.
Moreover, it's interesting that she thinks the only way to stop the hero from destroying the world is for him to die—though she says she's fine if Lugh finds a non-lethal way to stop him. This implies that there is something in the hero's fundamental nature—something at the core of his very being—which cannot be changed. It's something to keep in mind when we eventually meet the hero.
The final bit of world-building is introducing us to the status quo for Lugh's new life. While we don't learn much about the greater world, we do get a solid focus on his family. Raised from birth by a secret organization to be an assassin, this is something he never had in his former life. Yet, it is something he clearly values in this new one—hence why he allows his mom to do something as crazy as crossdress him when meeting someone important for the first time. Lugh has made a decision about what's truly important and what's not—and if it's not, then there's no reason to not let his loved ones have their way. It's both a choice that shows the maturity of his actual age and serves to humanize him to a surprising extent.
The third episode of The World's Finest Assassin is all about introducing the series' magic system and how it works. On the most basic level, it's a mixture of knowing the magical formula and pronouncing said formula correctly. However, once Lugh realizes that, he is able to figure out the language behind the magic—namely that it uses scientific measurements from our world. With this, he is able to not only make new spells but recreate objects from our world (though with an admittedly magical slant).
Now, info dumps like this can be boring when animated. However, what keeps this episode interesting is that it's more than just an introduction to magic: it's an introduction to a new main character.
Dia, Lugh's magic teacher is a character that it's hard not to love. This comes from one key facet of her personality: she has no ego. While she is one of the greatest mages alive—a prodigy far beyond her years—she is not threatened by Lugh's magical talent. Rather, she is overjoyed by it. If being jealous is ugly, being the opposite is beautiful and endearing.
It's clear that Dia has never had a friend like Lugh—an equal in magic of a similar age—hence why their two weeks together seem so impactful. And make no mistake, they are equals. Lugh may have more raw power along with knowledge from our world but without Dia's experience and knowledge of magic, his power is nothing. It's she who is able to decipher the magic language to the point that Lugh can create new spells. And like Lugh, she is able to use any spell after seeing it only once (well, as long as she has the raw power anyway).
Their promise when parting—that he would come to her in her time of need—ties in directly with the end of the episode. Before making his “first kill,” Lugh is told that he is not a tool but a human. It is up to him to decide who lives and who dies for the sake of the kingdom—not the person who would order him to kill. Lugh, raised as a killing machine in his last life doesn't yet understand. However, his promise with Dia shows his growing humanity. He has made his first friend in two lifetimes—and in doing so has become the master of his own existence for the first time.
The World's Finest Assassin is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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