These two episodes are getting reviewed together entirely because of an oversight on my part: I somehow forgot that I had not finished and posted episode 10’s review and did not realize my error until Thursday this past week. With only a couple of days left until the next episode aired, I just decided to delay it further and do these two together. My apologies to any who were following along weekly!
In the end, looking at these two episodes together may have been fortuitous, as they sharply contrast with each other even while being intrinsically linked thematically. Episode 10, which is the slower of the two (to the point of having no action at all), is the set-up side of the pair and arguably the stronger episode. It primarily involves Will formally becoming a paladin, which in this setting refers to not a holy warrior of the church, but rather a knight who has the backing of both the local lord and the church and answers equally to both. This is an atypical and very interesting arrangement for a fantasy setting, one that I hope to see explored more. At the very least, it does formalize Will’s status as a paladin and given Robin the impetus to name him The Faraway Paladin in song. The episode’s other main task is the assemblage of the team who will accompany Will on his quest to deal with the demon boss of the Demon Forest, and that finally brings into the picture Reystov, the scruffy, dark-haired warrior who has been prominently-featured in the opener from the beginning. That gives Will another front-liner of his caliber, which should be quite useful in the battles to come.
The other interesting feature of episode 10 is the greater exploration of Bishop Bagley. Some parts of episode 9 suggested that he was not just the standard, pompous church leader, nor is he a charlatan. No, he is a main of genuine, powerful faith, one who is so conscientious that he deliberately distances his diving blessing from the more earthy tasks he must undertake. His faith and divine power are not meant to be shown off; they are strictly for furthering the cause of his god, and he will not allow that to be corrupted. A case could be argued that his behavior is rather selfish, in that he is foisting duties on others so he can maintain his own private piety, but he is one of the most genuine-seeming of all religious figures I’ve ever encountered. As a non-religious person, I can respect that and find him to be a surprisingly likable character.
Episode 10 also features a couple of different scenes where both of Will’s superiors-to-be caution him that the path he is choosing can only lead to despair. Will has rather flippant answers in both cases, but that comes back to bite him in episode 11. Things work so well in the early going of the mission that the episode does not bother to animate it much, despair does come, just not in the way he at all expected. It happens in the form of an ambush of demon beasts led by a chimera, one where Will loses it after Menel is badly-injured trying to hold his ground against the chimera. The incident was not at all Will’s fault; any veteran adventurer would be much more likely to lament their own inadequacy while thanking Will for saving their life by healing them, and Menel is probably no different. However, Will not only blames himself but also spins that blame in a troublesome direction: by somehow twisting it into the belief that he was wrong because he expected someone who wasn’t on his power level to operate on that level. Menel would probably be insulted by that, so I can see a good talking-to in Will’s future from both him and Reystov. This showcases Will’s greatest current weakness: as powerful as he is, he still does not have much experience working with a group or relying on others.
Sadly, these episodes still show the technical limitations of the series. While the artistry still usually looks good, the animation shortcuts are way too prevalent, especially when compared to the brilliance that 86 achieved in its episode on the same day. While I still think the series is doing some good things overall, that is still a big limiting factor.