When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace
Episode 9

by Paul Jensen,

After the previous story arc's meltdown, it was tough to say how When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace should go about moving forward. Should it abandon the new group of characters that it plucked out of thin air, or try to develop them alongside the main cast? What about the fresh revelations surrounding the origin of everyone's powers? A lot of question marks have been floating around during the past seven days, and this episode takes a very cautious approach towards dealing with them.

By and large, the show chooses to put a lid on the new content and set it aside for the time being. Aside from a brief moment of foreshadowing, the new characters don't appear at all. No answer is provided as to what happened when Jurai “awakened” his power, but his friends make it clear that it didn't go well. Hatoko's criticisms of the chuunibyou worldview are carefully quarantined and folded into her romantic feelings for Jurai. On the whole, this episode tries as hard as it can to go back to the old mix of self-deprecating comedy and character drama.

It's fair to criticize the series for not taking full ownership of its new elements, but it's at least an understandable decision. The new characters and conflicts were thrust into the spotlight quickly and clumsily, and properly integrating them into established storylines would pose a serious challenge. Under these circumstances, the creative staff can be forgiven for making a tactical retreat of sorts. The show's current approach should allow it to gradually merge the two halves of its universe while letting its core strengths keep the audience entertained.

Viewed on its own, this is a perfectly decent episode. The rapid-fire humor makes a welcome return in the first half, offering a respectable amount of laughs as the main characters take well-aimed shots at one another. As far as the show's dramatic half goes, your mileage will vary depending on your tolerance for harem scenarios. Plenty of screen time is devoted to emphasizing that every single girl in the Literature Club is in love with Jurai, for better or worse. If you can look past the tired old setup, however, there's some pretty interesting stuff going on.

As the episode unfolds, it becomes clear that this isn't going to be some trite harem fantasy that's magically free of emotional consequences. The girls are treated as real people with real romantic feelings, and it's obvious that not everyone's going to make it through this story arc without getting hurt. The two conversations between Hatoko and Tomoyo illustrate this best, and you can almost see the battle lines being drawn as Hatoko explains her feelings. The series might be borrowing from light fanservice comedies, but it's deadly serious in how it approaches the situation.

The animation continues to be technically competent for the most part, but there's not an awful lot to look at in this episode. The characters mostly sit or stand around talking to one another, and there's not so much as a hint of a super power. For a show that can look pretty darn good when it wants to, this is an underwhelming effort. There's nothing objectively wrong with the visuals, but previous installments exhibited a sense of style that doesn't really come across here.

After a bout of temporary insanity, the series takes some important steps toward regaining its momentum in this episode. The newer elements are perhaps neglected more than they should have been, but things are moving in a positive direction. For the moment, that's good enough.

Rating: B

When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Paul Jensen also covers anime and manga at SharkPuppet.com.

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