Arifureta briefly gave us a glimpse of a somewhat grittier scene last week in episode 3 with a fight that felt like the characters had to really invest. However almost immediately this episode backs away from that by showing us the characters already free and clear before flashing back to walk us through a pretty clumsy escape plot that involves Hajime having already built a submarine (because they were going to investigate an underwater labyrinth) and said submarine somehow being fit to ride through lava.
Let’s not even talk about the fact that not only did getting swept away by lava deeper underground end up with them not being trapped in an underground chamber but somehow harmlessly flushed them out into the ocean, it actually did so right near Myu’s home and despite having no clear means to communicate, Tio, Kaoru and Myu more or less instantly found them and reunited.
Arifureta clearly likes its no stakes approach to conflict.
I will acknowledge that they do spend some time later in the episode bringing the whole conspiracy with the church and the King and his advisor’s potentially being mind-controlled or whatever more clearly into focus. As much as Aiko and Shizuku seem very peripheral to the plot, season 2 of Arifureta does seem to want to build up this portion of the story and there’s certainly room for it to end up being an interesting plot line. They just need to make us care about any of the classmates as characters.
Meanwhile, with the core group that we’ve spent time with and kind of come to appreciate, Yue, Hajime and Shia fall back into their old dynamics from before Tio and others joined the crew. As much as Tio had a pretty glorious moment in the last episode, this episode of Arifureta just reminded me of how much better this cast is when there are less of them around. Because as the others caught up with Hajime again I felt each character’s presence get more diluted until we really just had Myu and Hajime with the bevy of other characters trailing along and filling up the background.
Even Yue couldn’t really break through this week. While she certainly had her moment, with Shia more or less out for the count after their escape and Hajime lying on the deck of his convenient submarine, Yue certainly takes advantage of the moment to reclaim her position as the main girl in the story but all too soon she’s also just part of the bright haired girl group that seem to follow Hajime.
As always, its a case of wanting more from Arifureta than it seems willing to bring to the party and the end result is always feeling like we’re getting a walk through of a story rather than being immersed in the story.
Myu being reunited with her mother should have felt somewhat emotional but instead it was just another thing that happened and even the conversation between mother and Hajime, who Myu has taken to calling ‘papa’ couldn’t really carry any weight because the whole thing was frame by the locals peeking in through the windows and providing unwanted commentary before running off to plot something (probably something relatively meaningless so I’m not overly concerned).
That said, having watched season one and now being a third of the way through season two, it is clear season two is a little more settled than season one felt. There’s nothing actively bad about this season so far and it is definitely more a case of just feeling a little underwhelming. Though if this season of Arifureta gave us more episodes like episode 3 that might start to change.
Images from: Arifureta 2nd Season. Dir. A Iwanaga. asread & studio MOTHER. 2022.
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