「選んだ道 / 希望ある未来へ」 (Eranda Michi / Kibou aru Mirai e)
“The Chosen Path / Towards a Hopeful Future”
Hard to believe it’s been over 24 weeks since Helck first started, but here we are finally at the end. And what an ending it is. Or, well, isn’t. Think I might’ve internally talked myself in the wrong direction, for not only has this adaptation left with matters half resolved, but also with a good chunk of the story (almost half!) not even adapted. Normally I’d take it as is – but dammit I have a soft spot for Helck and am a tad peeved no sequel announcement resulted.
On the plus side at least hard denying we got a bunch of goodies in the close, with Vamirio coming around from talking Helck into committing mass murder into siding with his original human saving plan, to Helck himself showing he isn’t one for shounen antics by never giving into the despair oh so thoroughly teased. Hell have to credit Rafaed too for showing in the close he’s not as entirely evil as made out to be and may in fact have more nuance under the personality hood than initially shown. All of it together may not be entirely enough to make up for a half-complete adaptation, but as far as adaptation endpoints go it’s the best type you could ask for. Now onto those final impressions!
In hindsight the best way I could describe Helck would be a binge watch show. This one, while ostensibly a serious fantasy story at heart, relies hard on a comedic veneer that leaves many moments of otherwise fluff or filler that although fun to watch aren’t really the thing fit for in depth discussion. It’s likely why I didn’t wind up regretting (too much) having work responsibilities forcing me into covering Helck biweekly, because what was lacking for weekly recaps was easily made up for by having two episodes worth of content to discuss. It didn’t make the show particularly weak, but it did influence its execution, and by extension its staying power.
In terms of negatives, Helck’s arguably biggest weakness was its backloaded story. Over half the episode count was largely devoted to more comedic, slice of life moments, helping to introduce and reinforce the nature and personality of various characters, but not significantly moving the story in a given direction. This was especially felt when paired with the middling animation budget for Helck, for while it did the job well enough, it also led to the impression of cut corners and a marketing-first approach embraced by many a production committee (Biscuit Hammer anyone?). To some degree it’s unfair to Helck to lambast it over such production decisions given how relatively faithful an adaptation it was – seriously, that alone is a major selling point in this day and age – but it’s hard thinking that many episodes could’ve been condensed or certain arcs shortened to better meet the material depth and potentially better bring across the emotional intricacies of the source material. It might have made for an interesting finale/cliffhanger arrangement, yet it would’ve helped mitigate the binge-watching feeling permeating throughout.
All of that said, however, doesn’t take away from Helck’s strength being its story. While paradoxical to an extent, Helck for me is a good example of an adaptation done right: all key characters and events were handled appropriately, all major arcs set up and teased as required in advance, and no weird breaks, cliffhangers, or whiplash moments ever took place. If anything Helck’s handling of its comedic side and slow rollout of its true conflict covered up a lot of these positives, leaving the impression of an episodic monster of the week tale that just so happened to turn into saving the (human) world towards the end via three episode flashback. Cannot even complain about the plot twist itself; generic certainly, conventional of course, but solidly handled with clear and logical motivations and outcomes – these are the sorts of stories that I always enjoy watching/reading play out. Whatever Helck’s faults execution-wise, its story and its progression helped make up some of the difference and let it continue being worth a watch.
In short while an imperfect adaptation, Helck did the trick for a nice and simple fantasy tale that never once tried to be more than it could. It’s perfectly reasonable to see it as wasted opportunity or another sign of what happens when production committees decide popular series only need limited funding, but given how it turned out and just how worse it could be, I honestly cannot complain all too much (the fact I stuck with covering it should tell the tale). It certainly won’t ever rank among the fantasy greats, it’ll likely get passed over by competitors with time, but if you’re ever in need of some straightforward, comedy-laced fantasy I firmly recommend giving it a shot. One way or another this one won’t let you down.