One of my ongoing issues with the anime adaptation of Arifureta has been the general feeling that even the characters are bored or just playing around as they move through the various challenges they seemingly face. I get the whole point is that Hajime is an overpowered main character after his ordeal falling to the bottom of the Labyrinth alone but it doesn’t make for a compelling story when a ridiculously powerful enemy appears and Hajime literally snuffs it out without breaking a sweat.
After the events of the last episode, Hajime isn’t in a great state. In fact, I don’t think we’ve seen him this injured since the very start of the story and Yue is understandably a little freaked out. Even Tio and Shia are struggling to keep calm under the circumstances. And then it appears that the demon has caught up with them and decided to eliminate them. Also he declares he’s god’s apostle and blah, blah, blah. Yeah, his motives seem fairly trite to be honest and just the usual kind of thing of I got great power from someone and now I’ll do whatever just because they say so.
Arifureta could put a little more effort into the antagonist here.
However, just finally having a fairly powerful enemy isn’t enough to elevate Arifureta from the pile of indifference I usually have when watching it. What works here is that the fight itself, while following most of the standard clichés for such a match up when it isn’t a final battle, works well. The pacing was spot on. The characters actually seemed to be taking the situation very seriously. There were actual potential stakes. And let’s be honest, the setting of fighting inside a volcano is just kind of cool once you get a decent enough fight scene to enjoy it.
Weirdly though, Tio, a character I have little time for and am mostly glad she has mostly remained in the background of the group, was the standout this week, and not just because she went full dragon.
Arifureta really gave her moments to shine throughout this episode as she was the one who kept her head when Hajime was first injured. Shielding Yue from the follow up attack and also preventing Shia from putting herself in harm’s way. She also recalled that Hajime, despite his overwhelming strength, was human. A very brief flash-back sequence reminded us of her own circumstances and why she hides what she is most of the time. And then she stepped up, went full dragon and played a pivotal roll in allowing Hajime to kind of get the upper-hand in the fight if only briefly.
It was a solid effort from this supporting cast member and I think her final flight out of the volcano on Hajime’s orders, as true to form she laughs in the face of pain, is a scene that should be remembered as a triumph for a character that at times manages to really just derail whole scenes. This was Tio at her best and I really hope we see more of this Tio because I really liked it.
The other solid choice here is the villain isn’t killed. Arifureta most definitely is heading for a rematch which means for once we have something to look forward to in this story rather than just Hajime knocking something down and moving on seemingly without ever considering what is coming in the future.
The final few minutes of the episode of Arifureta skip us back to the castle with the Princess, the King and all the other class-mates. There’s a problem with the King being in a trance, Shizuku is feeling weak after her easy defeat in the dungeon, and the guy who tried to kill Hajime is annoyed because Hajime isn’t dead and Kaori has now gone with him. Going to be honest, I don’t care. None of these characters have had enough presence in the anime to be anything other than a distraction and sure these subplots will be important later but Arifureta hasn’t given them enough weight to really matter at this stage.
Here’s hoping more of the episodes feel like this where core characters get moments worth celebrating and conflicts feel like they were worth having.
Images from: Arifureta 2nd Season. Dir. A Iwanaga. asread & studio MOTHER. 2022.
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