“The First Journey”
Deliberate Pacing – Travelling, Lore & Effective Exposition
Who would have thought two characters traveling through the countryside for an entire episode could be so interesting? For me, it’s easy to predict how viewers would react to this episode. Either, it was too slow in the first half and the payoff only came at the end, or you found the gradual pace beneficial to the story. And I must say, I’m 100% on the latter. I’ve been reading comments from fans of the Light Novels, and their opinions only seem to be positive. Some even proclaiming this is one of the best LN adaptations in years. We’re so used to rushed efforts that fail to capture the intention behind the source material. However, with Rokka no Yuusha it doesn’t feel like newcomer studio Passione are attempting to adapt X amount of books in 12 episodes. Instead, they’re going at the pace of the source material, and it shows.
With this episode there are comparisons to be made with Spice and Wolf (same director, after all), albeit a much more chuunibyou version of it. Being able to spend nearly all of our time with Adlet and Nashetania provides us with some nice characterisation, and makes both of them more likeable because of it. When Adlet isn’t screaming that he’s the strongest in the world, he proves that he’s got a easygoing personality and a kind aura about him, despite his long, lone training in the mountains for all those years. He’s not as one-note as he could have been, which is nice to see. Hopefully all seven get their moments to prove that there’s more than meets the eye.
Another positive with the deliberate pacing is the opportunity it provides for natural dialogue between our two heroes. As a result, the exposition about the world seems much less forced than it was last week; it’s a difficult line to get the ‘telling’ across to the audience without it feel injected by necessity. There were several moments of interest throughout the episode: Nashetania’s family history, the civil war of Piena, mentioning the previous Saints, Braves being assassinated before they can meet up, or bringing up countries like Gwenbyer, the Country of Iron Hills – it all helps flesh out the history and lore of this world. As a result, I’m genuinely interested in these lands and destined heroes, past and present. If you ask me, that’s the perfect foundation for a successful fantasy.
Even if Adlet proved himself a likeable lead, it was Nashetania who really shone this episode. Last week I named her the suspect of the week – mainly because there weren’t many options – but in this episode she came across very genuine, and her story is an intriguing one. I was expecting her to be this confident fighter with an intimidating presence in battle, but as it turns out she’s still new to all this. She may be the Saint of Blades (we also learned that only females are Saints, interestingly enough), but she doesn’t have the experience to back it up quite yet. Still, she’s very powerful, with her many floating weapons and her deadly precision. But the fact that she’s shaking leading up to the fight – as well as during it – helps her feel more human, and not some lifeless Strong Female Character bred for battle.
She’s had a sheltered, privileged upbringing, to the point where she thought fruit grew on plates. She knows nothing of the world, and as the episode title suggests, this is her first journey. She’s discovering this world along with Adlet, so seeing her open up to him felt like the first step in their ultimate journey together. I want to believe that she’s not the fake – her banter with Adlet, their play-fighting, and the hints of potential romance were all too nice to be snatched away from us just yet. And let’s not forget her speech about doing the right thing for the people, and not minding that she has to sleep on the cold, hard ground. In that moment, I really did believe her words.
Suspect of the Week – Fremy:
Although we spent most of the episode with Adlet and Nashetania, we also got introduced to two more of the heroes. Goldof Auora (Uchiyama Kouki) was name-dropped before his introduction, as Nashetania explained that he was on a quest for the Brave killer. And who is that Brave killer? It’s none other than the fourth hero, Fremy Speeddraw (Yuuki Aoi), the Saint of Gunpowder. We’ve still not seen enough of either to get a full grasp of their motives or personalities, but Fremy is certainly the most suspicious of the two. Still, her being the killer in question and also the potential fake hero seems too easy. I pick her purely because her actions are the most questionable in this episode, but as of right now I don’t feel any of the four introduced could be the snake in the grass. We still have three more to see, after all.
Overview – What’s Next?:
A slower episode, and a much better one because of it. The exposition felt less like forced narration, and more of a natural, flowing conversation. I’m also very interested in what the world and characters have to offer; I just hope this continues to be a praiseworthy adaptation. So far, things are looking in the right direction. Some shots were a bit shaky (like in the previous episode), and the CG of the fiends was somewhat cringeworthy, but that’s not enough to dull the enjoyment I’m getting from Rokka no Yuusha thus far.