It was surprisingly hard to get all six characters in one shot.
Endro~! is the kind of anime-original heroic fantasy series you’d think Studio Gokumi would make, when they’re not making a hard swerve into despair ala Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru. It’s fluffy, it’s funny, its art is all pastels. Its characters are relentlessly cheery, and its overall outlook is optimistic. It’s adventuring with all the corners sanded off, all the blood sanitized away, and everyone happy at the end of the day. It’s fantasy adventure meets slice-of-life, with the world only ostensibly in the balance.
That’s a good show! Director Kaori—who directed Yuyushiki before this, which had sharper comedic timing but was very much in the vein of what Endro~! ended up being—did the moment-to-moment comedy stuff well, the show was pretty, the seiyuu were overly-chirpy (but that’s what was asked of them), it all worked. That would have been a solid B series … but what we got was a B+ series, maybe an A- depending on your preferences. And that leap all came down to how the series managed characters and growth.
Yes, B to B+ isn’t a large leap. This series is still what it is. But it’s better than it could have easily been.
The key is Mao-chan-sensei. She wasn’t the only character done well—I appreciated how much time was actually spent on Rona-hime, who could have been a one-note princess/fan girl/stalker joke character, but actual time was spent on exploring and humanizing her, even if she never grew much beyond a two-note character. (That’s better than one!) And the Hero Party girls all had their quirks and personalities, but they stayed largely static throughout the series, mostly because they lost their memories until halfway through episode 11, which means they didn’t have much room to grow until then. But they did by the end, coming to a new conclusion about how to interact with the Demon Lord by the end that they didn’t come to in their previous life. Chibi-chan was even a decently applied chekhov’s gun, since she never appeared in the prologue of episode one, though there was still a fair bit of get-out-of-jail-free feeling to her.
It was Mao-chan-sensei, though, who got all the growth. Who went from trying toi destroy the heroes, to revealing her loneliness, to panicking about losing her cushy new life, to throwing it all away to defend Meigo in the final episodes. Where Yuusha is the heart of the story, Mao-chan-sensei is the soul, for it was her who experienced most of the growth and change. And yes, Kuno Misaki is voicing her with her patented stuffy loli voice, which will annoy some. But you know what? She did the actual acting well, Mao-chan-sensei came across as endearing and loveable and intensely lonely, so cheers to all involved sez I. Her portrayal, and the added depth (however limited) to the other characters didn’t elevate the series much, but it did elevate it some.
Endro~! was a pleasant little series that gets low-key touching by the end. If you’re down for some fantasy slice-of-life, you could do a whole lot worse than Endro~!.
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