Rating: B for episode 2, B+ for episode 3
This is one series that I did not expect to be commenting on week-to-week, and I’m still not sure if I will write it up every week. However, episodes 2 and 3 added enough to the basic premise laid out in episode 1 that I felt they merited further commentary and should earn this series more attention than it’s probably going to get.
Dismissing this series after episode 1 would have been easy to do, and complaints that the first half of the episode dwelt too long on the sword (hereafter called Master) powering up were warranted, even though that is still a compacted version compared to the novel. However, many other reviewers also noted that the episode experience a distinct uptick once Fran came into the picture, and the relationship that was already starting to develop before the end of the episode could give something for otherwise-disinterested viewers to latch onto. Episode 2 furthers this critical relationship-building as Master guides Fran through getting signed up at the Adventurer’s Guild (and the combat test she must pass in order to earn certification despite her youth) and learns a bit more about how Fran ended up in her current situation and what her current goals are: to prove that Cat People, who are widely-derided as the weakest of the beast people, are capable of Evolving like other demi-humans and monsters are. Master’s protectiveness and beaming over Fran’s accomplishments, along with Fran’s seemingly simple-minded nature, give the impression that a sweet father-daughter type of relationship is forming.
Episode 3, however, shows that classifying their relationship that way may be oversimplifying things. They’re absolutely still working together as a team, and the way Master seeks to help Fran is still very parental in nature, but as the episode progresses, Fran’s own will starts to show more and more. There were hints of this in the previous two episodes, but the battle against the goblins shows that she has no need to just act at Master’s directions; she can make her own decisions and take charge of the situation. She also won’t be cowed by the challenges before her, and the production team does an excellent job of showing that, despite her ability to overwhelm goblins individually with Master in hand, the goblins are still quite capable of being a threat as a group. She shows a tenacity and gritty determination worthy of any shonen action hero. Perhaps most importantly, she shows that she can carry the series on her own. By the end of episode 3, Fran is at least as much the series protagonist as Master is. Audiences will root for her even if they cannot much get behind Master.
Of course, that Fran has a hefty dose of moe-grade charisma working for her also doesn’t hurt. She could have her own short where she just goofs around and enjoys simple pleasures and I would absolutely watch it. She doesn’t just have cute factor working for her, either. The animation team is doing an impressive job with visually portraying the fighting style of a girl using a sword as big as she is and still making it look realistic. (That they are also remarkably graphic for the genre may or may not be a plus.) Put simply, watching her fight is fun, and that’s something that cannot always be said about dedicated fantasy action shows. Infusing the battles with a heavy rock musical score certainly does not hurt, either.
The one weakness of the series so far is that, for all that it is innovating a bit in the specifics of its situation, it is still hewing closely to a lot of isekai reincarnation tropes, including game-like stats, Adventurer’s Guild rankings, and so forth. However, I can tolerate that because of what we’re getting in exchange. In a season which has no shortage of high-interest, high-profile titles, this one is showing at least some potential to be a sleeper hit.