「悪魔契約 -Valbanill-」 (Akuma Keiyaku -Valbanill-)
“The Devil’s Contract -Valbanill-“
So it turns out Cecily was actually fighting while we were mesmerized with Luke’s on-the-fly katana forging. At least that’s what they’ll have us believe by showing us her shattered sword and armor afterward.
More importantly, we were given an opening monologue about the Devil’s Contract War that took place 44 years ago, which should serve as the fundamental back-story/premise for the series. As it turns out, those in the know are concerned about this devil’s impending resurrection and the subsequent destruction of the world. From last time, we saw how humans who make a contract with him become monsters. Known by others as anything from a beast to a god, this “Valbanill” can only be defeated with a legendary sword it seems. Because of this, I couldn’t help but get Seiken Densetsu (a.k.a. Secret of Mana) vibes from this “Seiken no Blacksmith” story.
Speaking of story, watching Luke finish off the monster and hearing Lisa talk about not losing your weapon in battle felt like this series was written by a katana fanatic. While I myself find katanas to be ridiculously well-crafted swords, that bit was coming off as a promotion for ancient Japanese blacksmith techniques wrapped in a westernized fantasy setting. Luckily, that doesn’t appear to be the case with the introduction of Aria (Toyoguchi Megumi) at the end of the episode. As hinted by Hugo Housman (Inoue Kazuhiko of Naruto-fame), Aria’s the “invaluable goods” they were transporting. Judging from her container and the opening sequence, it shouldn’t come off as too much of a surprise that she transforms into a rapier for Cecily, who is now responsible for protecting her. So with a rapier, it’s not all about katanas I guess.
To my pleasant surprise, this second showing had the glimpses of comedy I was hoping for after watching the first episode. By glimpses, this partially means the scene with Cecily’s armor falling off for Luke’s eyes to bask in, but more so the part with Cecily’s emphatic apology followed by Luke’s sexy face. That, plus the scene with Luke being a jerk over money (after he finally agreed to craft Cecily a sword) changes gears by lightening up the mood — something I felt Tales of the Abyss sorely lacked later on. In Tales’ case, it seemed like they were more concerned about progressing the story by visiting all the areas RPG-style than making the damn thing entertaining to watch. It’s still too early to say if this series will avoid that pitfall, but so far things seem to be taking a step in the right direction. I just need to see more Toyoguchi Megumi as Aria now.
* I’m filling in for Omni for this series this week. We’re not entirely sure how we’ll continue going forward just yet.
* There don’t appear to be any previews for this show, at least not on AT-X’s broadcast.