「絶望の谷」 (Zetsubou no Tani)
“Valley of Despair”
In the second to last episode of the first season, Will finds himself in a psychologically distressing situation: his first real friend and traveling companion, Menel, is gravely injured due to what he perceives to be a failure in his judgement. According to Will, his mistake was to look at his peers as if they were his equals, something that stemmed from his fear of being alone, when in truth his role is to protect everyone (alone). Gracefeel doesn’t seem too keen with his assessment. “Oh, my dear child, why do you do this to yourself?” Thinks the mother.
There’s no question that Will is the strongest human character we’ve met so far, but it’s not by our lonesome selves that we achieve collective progress, is it? If I could bet an imaginary cent, I’d say the author’s intention (also a D&D player) is to show that although our journeys are individual, we walk alongside one another and sharing this journey actually makes it all the more fun. William’s family members were in a party themselves, and I’m sure they faced their own setbacks and had to, individually, better their skills. Blood might’ve been stronger than Gus at a given time, due to specific circumstances and so could’ve Mary and Gus himself, until they eventually reached a level beyond normality. This is probably an understanding that William will have uncover so he might achieve his full potential in this new world, and when I talk about potential I’m talking about strength and personal growth.
At the heart of every character lies a fear of being alone, bad (as in defective or a bad person) or unsafe, and part of their journey is working through those fears, many of these heroes inspiring us along the way. But just like any other discipline, facing their fears takes practice. Take Rudeus for example, his fear of being unsafe because people are mean and will physically harm and ostracize him, is something he’s still working on even after years of living in this new fantastical world. Personally, I think Children’s Playground Entertainment’s Saihate no Paladin could’ve been a much better show if they’d focused more on Will’s inner journey. But I will pick up on this point later down below. Speaking about this specific episode, the overall pace was slightly disappointing, it felt rushed and even though the episode addresses a deep personal issue, it felt like lacking in storytelling.
「最果ての聖騎士」 (Saihate no Seikishi)
“The Faraway Paladin”
All of my complaints about the previous episode were made up for in this one. Giving a few seconds of screen time for the extra characters fighting alongside Will and shouting out the name of their gods before diving into battle was a good way of making them into more than just faceless and nameless extras, it brought them closer to Will and thus the audience. Menel and Will’s emotional fight, which took about ⅓ of the episode, highlighted what’s best about this series: Will’s internal conflicts, his interpersonal relationships and how these relationships impact his life. William’s cold and distant attitude at the beginning of the episode was a reaction to his fears: “I’m alone because the people I love die.” (a trauma he brings from his past life) and “I’m bad because I’m a monster.” By wearing this anesthetized air, he gets to mask these fears and protect himself from facing what he thinks to be an imminent truth.
And in similar fashion to Mary, Menel slaps him out of his daze and gives him an earful of truth. The dialogue and directing honored the emotional intensity of the scene, and it’s times like these that have me squinting my eyes, thinking that Children’s Playground Entertainment could have done a better job with the series. There were other instances throughout the episode that I felt like the quality in animation had gotten higher and that was not nice, because what were they doing with the previous episodes then? Compared to other fights we’ve seen, Will & Menel x Chimera was the best fight in this season–it wasn’t a splendid fight, in some moments the pacing felt a bit like a turn-based RPG (meaning it was missing fluidity) but it was decent.
I personally liked how there was no big strategy behind their attack on the monsters in the forest–as I don’t think battle is the strength of the series–instead they go with the route of planning, proper organization and good coordination. And ending the episode on a quirky note of William accidentally turning himself into this feudal lord and then panicking over what that entails, was a positive period to the last sentence. This last episode truly felt like the completion and the end of an arc, which would’ve been satisfying as a standalone, but good news to fans of the series: a second season has already been confirmed! Also, I’m happy to see I’m not the only one who thinks Menel is William’s boyfriend ha ha ha, maybe Robina and I really do share a braincell. I definitely feel more connected to her now that I’ve started playing a bard gnome (shh, I know she’s a halfling, but they’re small either way).
I still stand by what I said before, unfortunately I think Children’s Playground Entertainment picked a bone too big to chew. Saihate no Paladin is a good piece of introspective storytelling, and I think it would’ve made a huge difference if the animation had been more beautiful, sorry, I said it just like that because sometimes I think simple is best, there were so many ugly scenes… This story would’ve worked really well with beautiful landscapes, different shades of colors and shadows, better directing, better soundtrack during battle scenes (okay, just overall better action scenes), and on and on. I’m not going to pretend to be as well versed in studios as my fellow colleagues on the blog, so maybe better to pass the baton to you guys: which studio do you think could’ve done this work some justice?
I know the whole Christian and evangelization themes are not for everyone (hey Fish, are you reading this? If so, could you please share with everyone how you’ve found the light of Jesus after watching this show? Like you told me over on Discord), but to be fair, William is a Paladin and they have to be lawful-good, don’t they? Being connected to God is their whole deal, so if anything, I think the author does a good job at keeping Will a consistent character when it comes to his personal values, which is a strength in its own. Is it my personal preference? No, but I don’t think he’s a bad character. I can see how people can resonate and find comfort in his virtues and cohesion.
Part of me feels a tad sorry about covering this series because I’m sure there’s people who are very passionate about it, but I hope to have done at least a decent job at it. Hopefully someone else will pick it up from season 2! With all that said, thank you for reading and being part of our community and if you’re not a member of our Discord server, come hang out with us over there!
I hope you all have a great start of the year.