The Dark Horse Returns… is it obvious yet that I’m a huge nerd?
How Not to Summon a Demon Lord
I’m running out of ways of saying “This show is unexpectedly good.” But I am pleasantly surprised from week to week. A lull, here and there. But when this show feels like it, it’s more than capable of delivering a really strong narrative. And even being pretty compelling and intriguing, at times. Episodes like this are the perfect example of that. Full disclosure – when the Force Hydra thing was revealed in the previous episode, I was not feeling the design. It looked overly simplistic and unthreatening. Big surprise, I was proven wrong. The creature turned out to have a much better design once it revealed its abilities. Though we all knew how this fight was going to go. Really, I can’t see any reason Shera should’ve been worried, considering what she saw him do to that army of Fallen, a few episodes back… and the bridge… and the river under the bridge… and the field across the bridge. Even so, it was still an engaging and fun fight to watch. I suppose it could’ve been nice if the girls got in on the fight too, but given how vastly outmatched they would’ve been (mind you, it could easily have attacked all four of them at once – multiple heads), I’m not very bothered by it.
But the highlight of the episode was what followed. It was great seeing this fight end so quickly, then give us no time to breathe before being immediately thrown into another one. One that actually brought out the possibility that Diablo may not be as unbeatable as one might think. And I believe this may very well have resulted in his acquiring a new adversary. I do think this could’ve been a prime opportunity to have Alicia and Rem (I doubt Shera would’ve been in any condition to fight at the moment) to join the fight against Galford, maybe just fight some of the knights he brought with him. Though I suppose it may be a factor of the series’ budget, and not being able to show that involved an action sequence. They definitely couldn’t fight Galford, himself, seeing as Alicia’s stronger than Rem and he basically just flat out nope’d her. So maybe with an improved budget for a second season. We’ll see. Another thing I really want to touch on, aside from that, is how well this series handles emotional moments and the like.
We certainly saw bits of this in the previous episode. And it really paid dividends. This episode didn’t really provide much time to have the same sensation of emotional dwelling that the last one did. But the bits we got were still very well handled. Shera, in particular, had a few really strong moments. And the episode was, overall, something I’d actually call Super Effective.
Yep. This cour’s all Noelle. No denying that, at this point. Over the course of the past several episodes, Noelle has learned to properly control her magic and gained two new spells. In total, the girl’s had three consecutive “crowning moments of awesome” (again, scale to the series as a whole) and she’s grown significantly since she was introduced, having initially just been… well… a fairly useless brat. I don’t mind the absolute lack of subtlety as long as it conveys the arc well. And thus far it’s actually done just that.
As I’ve said several times, Noelle is the best character in the show. If only by virtue of her being the character with the most realized motivation and arc. Asta certainly has the motivation, but not much of an arc. He’s learned things and changed a bit, but that was mostly the acquisition of skills. His calming down didn’t even seem like so much of an arc as it did the writer kind of settling into the character a bit, finding their legs and so-on. Kahono and Kiato kind of exist for the express purpose of being sacrificial lambs to Vetto’s whole “despair” schtick. But we’re talking about a Shonen, here. They’ll probably be fine. I also do still have some misgiving’s about this show’s action scenes.
Put plainly, they’re still not great and it’s obvious how many corners they’re cutting. I get that this is a notably low budget production, at least in this initial season. But the repeated frames and lackluster keys are very noticeable. Other Shonen battle anime, such as Dragon Ball (or, more specifically, Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball Super) were notorious for doing this. But if we just take a moment to look at, say, the Tournament of Power arc, you can see that in the better animated segments (especially towards the end) used this sparingly, and even then, they used effects to kind of mask it. Black Clover does no such thing. That isn’t to say the action’s all bad. There are quite a few really impressive shots. But it could still be much better. Overall, this was a pretty Super Effective episode, all things considered.
My Hero Academia
…Do I even talk about this? I’m not sure this warrants the review. It’s a filler episode… yet also not. I should explain. By now everyone knows about the My Hero Academia movie on the way. Well, this episode’s basically one big promo for it. As such, it actually has nothing to do with the plot of the arc we’re in. It effectively swerves and jumps backwards in time to be able to tell a story from before… as far as I can tell, any of Season 3. I can make that call because in the episode, All-Might is able to maintain muscle form for something like a full half hour, maybe longer. But we all know that after the first cour of this season, he basically can’t pull that off for any longer than a few seconds.
The actual plot of the episode doesn’t seem to be anything other than something that exists solely to have a plot, still happening around this time frame. There’s nothing particularly wrong with it. It’s essentially a drill for a handful of students to test their problem solving/investigative abilities. And while I don’t think there’s anything particularly special about the episode either, there were a few decent moments. Things like Bakugo deferring to Deku, for example, which really goes to show that there is at least an inkling of respect there, however grudging it is. And I like anything that lets us see more of the nuance to his character. Because it’s really, really easy to just write Bakugo off as a jerk and nothing else. But other than that, the episode was Harmless and you can probably skip it, especially if, for whatever reason, you don’t intend to watch the movie when it becomes available to you.
Overall Episode Medalists
This really shouldn’t surprise anyone, given what one of the shows threw at us, this week. But taking home the Gold by a country mile is none other than How Not to Summon a Demon Lord. Action, emotion, the elevation of stakes and forwarding of plot, extremely minimal fanservice (that I have to admit got a chuckle out of me), this episode basically had it all.
That leaves Black Clover to surprisingly take home its first upset victory by bringing home the Silver. But I’m not even sure whether I should bother giving this week’s My Hero Academia the Bronze, because the episode clearly wasn’t actually competing. You be the judge, I suppose.
When she gets the chance to actually do something (other than pine for Asta, that is), Noelle doesn’t just carry episodes. She carries the whole show. And this episode was a pretty solid example of this. Noelle might not do much in the episode, but what she does accomplish is a leap in terms of her character development. Which isn’t to say she outperformed the characters of other shows. But once again we hit a situation where the other shows are just much more steeply invested in letting multiple characters carry the whole thing. Diablo, for example, doesn’t carry the entire episode on his shoulders this week, as I genuinely believe Shera also deserves a fair bit of credit for the emotional core she really brought to the episode. And since that determination can’t really be made, I’ll let Noelle have this one.
Unique Achievement: Best Entrance
All I’mma say is… dayum.
Unique Achievement: Feels Generated
I’ll go ahead and note that while I feel absolutely no sympathy for Shera’s brother, I don’t exactly think that was the point. The rather gut-wrenching scene towards the end was more about the feels for Shera. When she tries to spare her brother’s life from Diablo, she notes that things weren’t always like this between them. They apparently used to be on better terms. So what happened? I can only assume he was spoiled rotten by his upbringing and became an absolute monster. And that, alone, is perhaps enough to make Shera mortified. But on top of that trauma, it’s heavily implied that he’d abused Shera before, and he was obviously about to do it again, which led to her current opinion of him. That being that she hates him. But people can have more complex emotions than raw hate. While she hates him now, she may well hate more that he wasn’t always like this. Which makes it more difficult to accept. And then, despite her giving him a chance based entirely on that, it’s literally cut down, right before her eyes, leading to that final, heartbreaking scene that I think is one of the better done moments in the series, despite being far more subtle than a lot of the other best moments.
And that’s that. Surprisingly, this time My Hero Academia trails behind everyone. Though only based on the episode not actually having anything to do with the actual narrative. Meanwhile, How Not to Summon a Demon Lord continues to be excellent and Black Clover continues to be competent, at least. What do you think? That’s all for me, folks. Thanks for reading, as always. Keep up the Awesome.