Spoiler Alert: This is one of the ones I’ll be doing, episode-by-episode. Enjoy.
Ah. This is much better. A marked improvement over the last episode (which, by the way, I liked). Still not especially grand or overly impressive, but it’s looking like the show may be able to settle into its potential. Far less was delivered in terms of action, settling for one very brief action scene towards the end. However, the action is replaced by the development of plot and characters. Now we actually know what’s going on and (for the most part) why. Though the episode runs into a snag or two on the way.
The first of the issues is really that it takes a while for the reasoning to come to light. It isn’t until an argument at the tail end of the episode that we really know why Hiyori and Kanami are doing what they are. It turns out to be interesting and a fairly intriguing idea, based on what little we understand of the Aradama (this world’s word for the monsters). But it’s only brought up in conversation with a third party. Hiyori and Kanami never speak of it on-screen. And we find out in that very conversation that they didn’t speak about it off-screen, either. Which leads to the other problem with this. Kanami.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Kanami’s selflessness is not lost on me. And it’s admirable. In fact, it’s this selflessness that really drives the final act of the episode. When given an option between helping someone and doing the selfish thing, she’ll help them without a second thought. This goes well with her in-battle knack for making snap decisions. Though it can easily be spun into a character flaw later, characterized as hastiness. And that would be a nice angle to take. But that isn’t the reason she gives for following Hiyori on this exceptionally risky journey. No, she claims to be following Hiyori around purely because she wants the chance to clash blades with her. That’s it. Could her knowledge of the greater problem have been what compelled her to help? Quite possibly. But it’s just a little too unclear. Which leads to the issue of Kanami not really having a particularly strong motivation to be involved in this.
By contrast, Hiyori has both the obvious logical reason. The situation is dire and no one would believe her if she said anything about it. But it’s also implied that there is a personal significance to all of this. One that we’re still not entirely privy to. And that is the most intriguing element, so far. A character whose motivation is murky, but present and strongly interwoven is generally better than a character whose motivation is plain but uninspired. This ultimately makes Kanami the least interesting of the characters, though it’s heavily implied that there is more to her that I’d very much like to delve further into. Otherwise, she’s basically involved in all of this because she just happened to see something and made a rash decision.
Then there’s the subject of Mai. This time they focused more on the “friendly” element of “friendly rivalry.” And it honestly worked rather well for her. Her role in the episode made sense, and I liked getting to see how resourceful she was. As well as how determined she was to find her best friend. Though Mai is also directly involved in what may be the most confusing thing about the episode. It’s more of a continuity brand of confusion, rather than something just being hard to follow.
Mai gets into a little scuffle with Hiyori. Okay, fine. Yet Hiyori seems to legitimately have trouble with this battle, despite making it to the finals in the tournament against Kanami. Now. In Hiyori’s defense, she’s not feeling too great. The fight at the end of the last episode didn’t exactly go her way, and being on the run must have tired her out. Furthermore, she’d literally just gotten finished fighting a (small) Aradama – thankfully not another demon centipede. But something Mai says just seemed off. She pointed out that Hiyori “has no skill with a blade.” Um… was she watching the same tournament as I was? Because… Hiyori plowed through people pretty quickly. Hopefully, this’ll be elaborated on later, as I’m sure Mai’s role in things is nowhere near done. I do think I have an idea of what she did mean, but in the moment it just seemed off. Still. The notion of Mai being stronger than Hiyori strikes me as a little bit of a 180. Unless, when they do actually fight, Kanami’s able to defeat Hiyori just as easily as she beat Mai, if not more so.
Other than that, it’s a pretty standard “on the run” episode, which I actually liked, to an extent. It gave us little peeks at what’s going on with Hiyori’s character, as well as helped us learn a little more about her. Filling her out with little quirks and the like, such as a favorite ice cream, and showing how prepared she appears to be for everything. Her personality type is more or less the opposite of Kanami’s, being far more methodical and tightly wound, as opposed to her often erratic and carefree counterpart.
I would like to start getting a little more information on the Aradama. Even if they are ultimately just demons, they’re the main antagonists of your series (or so it seems). More information on them is necessary if we’re to really feel the impact of the struggle against them. It does also look like we’ll soon be filling out the cast with the rest of the relevant girls on the roster, given the teaser for the next episode. So I’m looking forward to getting more on them, as well.
All-in-all, this episode was far more focused and just generally tighter. It still had its issue, of course. But everything does. The last episode was Junk Food, and this one’s just that much sweeter. It honed in on some of the things I’d wanted, gave us some new developments, revealed a bit of character, and told a clear story. The action, this time, was less important, thus the incredibly brief scenes of it, which is indeed unimpressive, visually. But it’s there to do a job, in this case, more than it is to be impressive. So I’m not overly bothered by it. But if you’d prefer something with a little more bite in its action… well, this really isn’t the season for you. At least not yet. But maybe something with less of an emphasis on action might be for you, anyway. In that case, why not check out my review of the Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody premiere?
Or, if you’re still looking forward to whatever else this series brings, Toji no Miko is Simulcast on Crunchyroll, Fridays at 10:00am EST.