NOTE: This review does not include the first of the two-part OVA for the series, which streams the evening of Thursday 6/23 on HIDIVE.
If you had asked me early in the season what series I thought might have been worthy of a full review at the end of the season, I’m Quitting Heroing probably would not have been one of the titles to come up. Sure, it uses a novel twist on the standard Hero/Demon King fantasy premise, but nothing that the series does its early going at all suggests the quality it gradually develops or the weighty, redefining twists it uses in its later stages. This is a far more involved story than it initially appears, and that makes its success in the later stages end one of the season’s mild surprises.
The premise here seems straightforward enough: the Hero, Leo Demonheart, is tasked with defending the human realms against the invading forces of the Demon King. This he accomplishes virtually single-handedly, but in a classic “the warrior has no place after the war” scenario, the people fear his overwhelming might to the point that Leo no longer feels welcome in human lands. Hence, in an apparent rejection of this behavior, he decides to go somewhere he feels his abilities might be more appreciated: to the Demon Queen, who sorely needs help restoring her Leo-decimated forces. There he makes a very business-like pitch to offer his services in helping her rebuild, but the Demon Queen Echidna, of course, has none of this after Leo soundly thrashed her. To get around her resistance, Leo instead works with her generals under a disguise (which is initially known to only one of the generals) and does exactly what he claimed he would to ingratiate himself to Echidna.
However, while Leo did not lie about what he would do, he was less than forthright about why he was doing it, and that is where the series’ unexpected depth lies. Leo has a much bigger goal in helping the Demon Queen Echidna than what he lets on, one which asks surprisingly deep questions about identity and purpose. In the process, the series redefines the meaning (or, perhaps more accurately, the extremity) of its title and presents a more involved and philosophical take on the role of the Hero than most fantasy titles do. To what extremes might the Hero go if he literally has no identity beyond being the Hero and no purpose beyond saving humanity? And what if conditions force your calling as a Hero to be endless rather than just a one-time thing?
While the first episode implies that acceptance is a big part of this scenario, that is only a relatively minor factor in the end. The story is ultimately mostly about Leo finding a new role for himself, one which doesn’t involve playing the hero. This isn’t exactly a novel storytelling approach, as other recent fantasy series (most notably Banished from the Hero’s Party) have tackled a somewhat similar premise, but this series takes a much different angle on the concept. That is not initially apparent, as the first half or so of the series focuses on Leo cycling through each of Echidna’s four Generals and helping them learn to carry out their roles more effectively and efficiently. That starts to change when a mid-series revelation shows that this is not, by far, Leo’s first time around as a Hero, and that being a Hero is an imperative rather than a calling for him. The gradual revelation of Leo’s backstory leads to some harsh twists later in the series, which makes the second half of the series much more compelling. Even somewhat chickening out at the end doesn’t hurt that much. Slightly more of a problem is the way the pacing drags things out a bit in the late episodes, but again, that’s not a crippling problem.
The effectiveness of the cast in supporting this varies widely, and that is the series’ main weak point. Leo is a more interesting character than he appears at first, Echidna is instantly-likable, and female general Steiner is appreciable as (essentially) the Demon Army’s manager, though her role wanes considerably as the series progresses. By comparison, Edvard is a standard pride-obsessed musclehead, assassin-like Melnes is clearly aiming too much for the Emo Teen stereotype, and Lily is just annoying as the cute animal girl who has absolutely no business having the responsibilities that she does (although that is also part of the point of the episode focusing on her). Fortunately, the three better ones are enough to carry the weaker ones, and an imp who has a major role in one flashback episode also makes an impact as a guest appearance.
Artistic merits for the series are about average. The only character designs which stand out are those for Echidna (which give her a young look which flirts with being sexy but never really sexualizes her) and especially for Edvald’s daughter Julietta; she’s one of the most appealing-looking fantasy females to come along in a while, which makes it disappointing that she has only cameo appearances outside of the episode focused on Edvald. A surprisingly limited number of action scenes do offer some pop, but this is not the series’ strength. It does better with its background art, especially some nice-looking mountain landscapes and the beat-up look of the Demon Queen’s castle. Musical merits are competent but mostly forgettable.
Overall, I’m Quitting Heroing is an unexpectedly solid non-isekai fantasy series, one whose strengths are enough to overcome its more mediocre aspects. It is a series that I can recommend.
Rating: Writing 4 (of 5), Artistic Merits 3.5, Overall 3.5
Other Titles That Have Wrapped for the Season:
The Rising of the Shield Hero – Over, season 2 has mostly been a disappointment compared to season 1, and the climactic resolution of this season’s storyline in episode 12’s finale doesn’t change that. The dramatic presentation of the final fight scene just does not come together well, but that has been a problem throughout the season; the emotional intensity just isn’t there. I also had some issue with the unsettled status of the relationship between Naofumi’s group and L’Arc’s group; they seem to want to be chummy, but these were also the same people who tried rather hard to screw over the world Naofumi was protecting in the name of protecting their own. Yes, Kizuna wasn’t part of that, but there is a disconnect here. The one part of this season that I do like is that Raphtalia, by becoming the Katana Wielder, is no longer technically Naofumi’s slave and now has the power and status to stand beside him rather than just be helping him. (This does, of course, leave lingering the question of what consequences there might be for such an important weapon leaving that world, but perhaps that will be addressed in future seasons, if there are any.) The ending certainly leaves the door opening for more animation, as it throws out some character cameos that seem to be teasers for future developments. I would welcome more, but hope that any future seasons put together a more compelling story.