After more than nine years off, this beloved anime adaptation is finally back! It features a new animation studio, new director, and substantial but not complete turnover in the primary staff, but all of the original seiyuu for the major roles reprise them here. The result is an episode which spends most of its run time reacquainting the audience with the cast from the first series before dropping a bombshell character introduction, one who will define the course of this season’s first story arc and set in motion the story’s overarching plot.
Before getting to that, the episode opens with a brief recap of the premise before showing the current status of the cast. Nearly all of the recurring cast members get at least some attention, which was doubtless the episode’s goal; the only significant absences are Emilia’s coworker/friend Rika and the landlord Mikitty, but both would have been difficult to shoehorn in here. The antics are just what you’d expect based on the first season: fretting over mundane activities, getting triumphant over minute successes, exploring cultural elements that differ between the two worlds, a dash of romantic hijinks, bad-mouthing each other to the point of violence, and so forth, including a silly sequence of excessive drama and overkill involving a cockroach. While getting back into the swing of things like this can be fun, it also makes for a slow start to the episode.
That all changes about 3/4 of the way through, when a Gate opens and deposits a golden apple which turns into a toddler with silver hair featuring a purple streak. (That streak is actually an important detail, though it may not come up again for a while.) Clearly to viewers, this has something to do with whatever the mysterious woman in the prologue was doing at the former Demon Castle, but that the toddler Alas Ramus can stop Better Half (Emilia’s sword) cold with her baby hands means she’s no ordinary child. Her true identity, and the truth behind her jaw-dropping claim about who her parents are, gives the episode a juicy twist/cliffhanger that finally spurs the story into a higher activity level. Seeing how this plays out should be fun.
This episode adapts the prologue and first chapter of the third source novel (about 64 pages) with a mix of utter faithfulness and some shifting and tweaking of details that nonetheless remain fully in the spirit of the series; for instance, the cockroach scene is anime-original and Sariel’s cameo in startlingly overweight mode doesn’t come up until later in the same novel, but both scenes still fit here. The shifting of the character design style will definitely take some getting used to, as it tends to give the characters softer and more rounded features, which makes most of them look younger. The animation further gives them much more exaggerated expressions, which is a very hit-or-miss effect. Newcomer Alas Ramus has an adorably roly-poly design sure to endear to viewers, however, and the animation quality is decent if unexciting.
Overall, the first episode is exactly what it needs to be for reintroducing the series, even if it does go a bit slow.