Rating: 4 (of 5)
Given the way last episode ended, the expectation was that this episode would be more action-intensive. Indeed, we do get that – sort of. While this episode does have a few decent scenes of Will (later with Menel’s support) wiping out lower-level demons, the length and staging of those fights reminds us once again that this is more of a pure fantasy series than a true action series. Neither the fight choreography nor the animation impresses much; the only interest factor here is how Will integrates his magic use into his fighting style as a type of battlefield control, something that traditional fantasy paladins aren’t known for. He is almost more of a classic fantasy fighter/mage (or what might now be called a bladesinger in D&D circles) than a true paladin in that regard.
Fortunately, the series has other factors carrying it, and that is where the appeal of this episode lies as well. As I suspected from last episode, this episode clearly pushes Will towards finding a new relationship with Menel to replace the one he had with Blood, Mary, and Gus, but a different kind: a true friend who can stand as an equal rather than a parental (or grandparental) figure. They also complement each other well in both personality and fighting style, in more or less the same way that typically plays out in tabletop fantasy RPG battles but without a clunky game mechanics feel to it. Menel establishes himself better as character, too; he’s had a difficult background, as the scion of a capricious elven mother and unknown human father who eventually fled the elven village he was raised in because the differences between him and pureblood elves made him stick out too much. He found a home and appreciation in the other human village that he didn’t find among the elves, so his dedication to protecting and trying to save it is only natural.
The religious side of things is, again, a strength, though not flawlessly-presented this time. The two very different scenarios with the undead – the ghoulish girl who had been burned and the matronly ghost – both felt a little awkward, with the former case evoking some of the tragic air it was aiming for and yet not entirely hitting the horror effect it needed – while the matronly ghost seemed a little too casually self-aware of her situation. Even so, they provide good scenes for Menel, brings up the point that people ignoring/rejecting the gods isn’t universal, and gives Will a chance to show off his piety without force-feeding it to anyone. By the end of the episode, Menel asking Will for the blessing of Gracefeel seems only natural; even the most cynical anti-religious soul could probably not watch this without wishing that such gentle use of grace was real.
The flaws in this episode keep me from giving it a higher rating, but on the whole, this series is still going in a strongly appreciable direction. Sadly, it seems that the production is running into issues, as 11/27’s episode is going to be a “Special Edition.” Hence it’ll be two weeks this time to see more.