NOTE: Apologies for this being late! I’ve had it done since Sunday, but just realized that I failed to post it. 😦
Rating: 4 (of 5)
With this episode the series takes on a new angle, expanding the setting as William leaves his undead family behind and explores the greater world. While I always found Will’s relationship with Mary, Blood, and Gus to be satisfying storytelling, this journey allows for a more action-oriented turn, which may quell some of the rumblings of discontent about the slow pacing.
Not that the story has suddenly gotten quicker, of course. It is still quite methodical about laying out its events, and that can be seen in nearly every scene which transpires, whether it’s the way Will uses the magic he’s been taught to protect his campsite at night or the beautifully-portrayed but also desolate environs he traverses through in the early part of his journey, prior to meeting Menel. The world-building which unfolds both in this time and as Will starts to encounter people is also very measured in its delivery and revelations; we can piece together that the population of the southern reaches of the continent was so devastated by the war 200 years ago that the region was never repopulated, to the point that Menel was not even aware that it was ever inhabited by humans. Will has to travel for what appear to be weeks (if not months!) just to get to the outermost fringes of human civilization, and those villages are populated only by the outcasts and rejects of human society. Further, attitudes shown in the Menel and the villagers’ dealings with Will suggest that the gods may not be a major part of human life anymore – or at least not for these people, anyway. They aren’t hostile to the gods; the people just seem disconnected from worship of the gods. I am curious to see if that holds true as Will progresses deeper into human civilization.
The other big feature of the episode is the introduction of a character who, based on the opener and closer, is going to be one of the long-term regulars in the party Will will eventually form: the half-elf archer/hunter Menel. He already shows signs of being a fantastic addition to the cast, as he provides a more blunt, cynical, and world-weary contrast to Will without being outlandish in behavior. In a tactical sense, he also gives Will a ranged specialist to back up Will’s role as the tank of the party and full knowledge of the woodlands; in other words, he’s the classic fantasy ranger, and rangers and paladins usually are quite complementary in their skill and combat sets. There’s a lot to like in Menel’s character design, too, as it captures the delicate, androgynous look commonly-associated with fantasy elves without feeling like a caricature. That he is a male character in a role that would commonly fall to a female character in anime and anime-related literature is also interesting and a welcome change of pace. (Really, think about how many other fantasy anime you’ve ever seen where a male elf or half-elf was a primary supporting character. I’m hard-pressed to think of one.)
The series still may not be terribly exciting, but the practical way the whole scene at the village played out, the way Will’s devotion to the gods fits smoothly into this, and the way the gods and magic continue to be portrayed all maintain a solid presentation to the series. The artistry in general is also quite pretty, though the limited ways that action scenes are portrayed concerns me a bit. We’ll see what things look like in what should be a more action-intensive episode next week.