「聖邪決戦」 (Seiya Kessen)
“Battle of Good and Evil”
At the end of the day, good triumphs over evil just as the Pope wanted.
This battle was a culmination of everything that has happened until now, with Naofumi at last standing up to the Church that had him persecuted from Day One, and the heroes coming together against a common foe. One of the best scenes was probably when Motoyasu and Naofumi flawlessly pulled off a combo attack against the Pope. Sure, it didn’t have much of an effect thanks to the Cathedral negating curses, but considering how on the outs they’ve been, it was an extremely satisfying moment.
Just to make it clear who’s really on the side of evil, after taking a few hits, the Pope callously ordered his dying followers to pour even more mana into his weapon, which ultimately led to his downfall when it became clear that the Pope has no true power of his own to defend with. I was so proud of the heroes for working together and keeping their bickering to a minimum, that when they approached Naofumi with, “Hey, you’re pretty OP, right? Why don’t you take care of this?” words could not express my immense displeasure. While it makes sense to send your DPS to the front lines, that’s never been Naofumi’s role, and whenever he tries to be something he’s not, it comes at a cost, leading to what was probably the weakest part of the episode.
As Fitoria mentioned, the Rage Series takes a toll on its user, especially now that there’s an angry dragon ghost inside of it. It’s really too bad that the dragon prioritized showing us a season’s worth of flashbacks again over attacking Ren because the latter would have made much more sense. After last episode, where the heroes decided to put aside their frustrations and Naofumi had the chance to vent his frustrations, for his resolve to have been so easily overridden by the dragon within the shield seems forced. Similar to previous instances of Naofumi using the Wrath Series, the result doesn’t feel earned, and thus Raphtalia and the others talking him down carries little emotional weight, causing the scene to feel needlessly drawn out and undermining the urgency of the situation. In a light novel, where the reader can skim through paragraphs at lightning speed, internal monologues don’t necessarily interfere with the flow of the battle, but the same can’t be said for three separate monologues given at a point that should have been the height of the action, though it really only amounted to a costume change while Naofumi and the others fought off the Pope’s kaleidoscope illusion. However, Naofumi regaining his senses, a feat that will become more and more difficult if he continues to use the Rage Series, led to him pulling together a strategy that the others were able to follow, one that played to each of their strengths, showing off how well the heroes compliment each other and how much they’ve matured since their last Wave. Then, with an assist from the Queen, Naofumi was finally able to put the Pope down for good. Most likely the Queen will pardon him for turning the Head of the Church into tomato sauce, but Naofumi’s not getting rid of that Devil of the Shield moniker any time soon.
More than any of the others, this one was tough to review purely because of how much I enjoyed it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – This is an entertaining adaptation. It may not be flawless, but you can tell that the voice cast is putting in the effort 100% of the time, and the animators definitely aren’t phoning it in, either. When the heroes coordinated their attacks and the first opening started playing in the background, it genuinely took my breath away. After seeing them be at odds with each other for so long, watching them work together felt like season finale material, and I’m not just talking about the Four Heroes. Melty, Myne, and the rest of Motoyasu’s party cast support spells, showing they could put aside their differences when it mattered, too. In the end, though it was the Pope’s machinations that tore them apart, they were also the force that would tie them together, and so long as the other heroes realize the reason Naofumi is so powerful despite his lower level is due to him literally risking his sanity and health, there may be hope for future team-ups yet.