Betrayed by a classmate in a new world, Hajime fell to the depths of the labyrinth, where he was forced to fight for his life or become lunch for one of the many monsters that lived there. Can Hajime survive? The odds are against it!
What did you watch?
Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest was a late addition to my reviewing lineup and while that has worked out well for me in the past, see Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, I’m not so sure this time around. It’s an Isekai series which followed an entire class of students that were summoned to another world to become its heroes in a battle against the demons and the monsters. Let’s no waste too much time with the intro, I feel like there’s a lot to unpack with this series. There will be spoilers beyond this point.
The class of students suddenly found themselves transported to a lower level where the behemoth and an army of skeletons appeared. They were severely outmatched and retreating was their only option… if they could! Hajime, the weakest member of the party with the ability to transmute objects, used his power to hold the behemoth at bay. It bought the party enough time to pull back and cover him as he retreated, but a stray bolt of magic struck Hajime and knocked him off the bridge, sending him down into the unknown depths of the labyrinth.
Hajime survived but discovered that he had fallen down many levels and the monsters there were far more terrifying. He lost his arm to a giant bear and almost his life, if not for his quick thinking and transmuting the ground to create a hideout for himself. There he discovered an incredibly rare well of holy water which healed his wounds. After struggling with what happened to him and the need to eat, he trapped some of the monsters and killed them by dropping rocks on them. Desperate, he ate their flesh, which would have normally killed him, if not for the holy water. After excruciating pain, he recovered and had acquired the monster’s skills. Now, to find a way out of the labyrinth and get revenge on his betrayers.
What did you think?
Where do I start with this series? To begin with, the summary above covers most of the first episode. Seriously, it could have been the whole season, but it wasn’t. I enjoy being thrust into the action and having to piece together the story behind it, but this was the most rushed story I’ve come across in a long time. When we first met Hajime he was relatively weak with a fairly common ability in this world and then the next thing you know he’s overpowered and edgy. Had they taken the time to really show the development, it would have been far more satisfying, but nuance is not something you’re going to get here.
On the whole, I have come away pretty disappointed in this series. There were some entertaining moments and the episodes did get better as the series progressed, but the pacing continued to hurry through the elements that should develop the characters and their relationships in favour of Hajime being edgy, refusing to help anyone and then ultimately helping everyone. The story was fairly compelling, but again it wasn’t given enough weight in favour of Hajime and his one-note harem.
What was your favourite moment?
I have two favourite moments and both for very different reasons. Firstly, after the rushed and contextless episode one, we spent a bit of time changing the focus between Hajime in the labyrinth and his classmates back on the surface. I felt that this was the best way to continue the story as it gave us a chance to see the world from more than one perspective. It helped to develop the other characters and was able to contrast the two different realities. Sadly, that level of detail stopped there, so when the classmates were reintroduced in later episodes, you barely knew who they were or what the relevance of them was. Not continuing in the manner felt like a real missed opportunity.
My second favourite moment was when the slavers stole Myuu, the mermaid girl that Hajime had previously rescued. This was the revenge series that had been promised and never really materialised, but for this one episode. Hajime went on a rampage, tearing up the town and obliterating all existence of the underworld gang. The only criticism of this scene was once more the lack of weight to any of the other characters. The slaver could have been given more time to make us hate him. It would have made his death that much more satisfying. I think back to the time in One Piece that Luffy punched the Celestial Dragon. It was a similar scenario and because of the build-up, it remains one of my favourite moments in all of anime. In contrast, this scene in Arifureta was fun but lacked the impact.
What was your least favourite moment?
That would be the episode with the dragon, that we later learn is Tio, a dragon that can assume human form and is a masochist. For one, this episode was just a complete joke and not in the funny sense. Even if it was trying to be funny, the shifts in tone in this series have made it impossible to gauge what’s going on. Having defeated the abysmally animated dragon (I’d been trying to avoid discussing the horrendous 3D CGI, but I can’t do it anymore), Hajime decided to ram one of his metal rods up the dragon’s butt! This is when we learn that it can transform into a humanoid form and also that it kind of likes it. This could have been funny, but everything felt so unnatural and forced that it completely failed for me.
Who was your favourite character?
I was going to say Shea, the bunny girl with the big hammer, but I’m going to stick with Shizuku. She was the classmate that episode two focused a bit of its time on and as a result, when the class showed up again, she was recognisable. Shizuku was also the only member of the class to really step up in the face of danger whereas the hero was as useful as the heroes from Shield Hero, all talk and no substance. Anyhow, back to Shizuku. She gets big points for being a strong character with a sword and also resisting Hajime’s magnetism (what?). In fact, their conversation in the end credits of the last episode was the first time Hajime seemed like a real person.
Who was your least favourite character?
I can’t decide between Hajime and Yue, so I’m going to pick both. Firstly, Yue was introduced as an old and powerful vampire with a regenerative ability that meant she literally couldn’t die. On top of that, she was able to use powerful magic. After her introduction and the revelation of her potential, she just became a shell of a character, following Hajime around and not really doing much, except to cast the occasional spell. With her power and presumed knowledge of the world, she should have been far more useful, but that would mean being more than the cute girl on Hajime’s arm!
Now to Hajime! In one episode, we watched him go from the hopeless bullied nerd to a gun-totting revenge-seeking victim. Fair enough, they tried to kill him, but do we really need more role models for this sort of behaviour. Hajime acquired a ton of skills from eating monsters in the labyrinth, but the only thing he seems to do is point his gun in any direction and bang, bang, bang. If they were trying to copy the gun-haka from Equilibrium or Neo from the Matrix they failed. On top of that, it got so boring watching Hajime refuse to help people over and over again, knowing that he will end up helping them any way. It just became a bit of a joke.
Would you like some more?
So, apparently a second season has already been announced. Whether that pans out or not is yet to be seen, but I’ve no reason not to believe it at this stage. Will I watch it? Possibly. Will I be reviewing it? Unlikely at an episode level. There are far better shows that I could put the time and effort into. It’s not my goal to watch anime and pick faults with it. I want to be entertained and have fun, that’s what this is all about after all, so just like Fairy Gone, I’m not going to go out of my way to not have fun. This series was a mess as far as pacing, tone, and character development were concerned. It tried to do too much too fast and as a result, none of it carried the weight it deserved. There is a good story beneath it all, but it needed a much more delicate approach.
What have you learnt?
I’m going to focus on pacing here. Even with all the other issues, the CGI included, the pacing was the biggest problem for me. With writing, it’s a little easier to deal with, but it is possible to move things too quickly. I understand that with a limited number of episodes, it can seem necessary to try to squeeze more in. That would have held more weight had a second season not be announced so quickly. It makes me feel like the pacing issues could have been avoided, but they chose not to. In writing, pace is an incredibly powerful tool.
Whether it’s using shorter sentences to hurry the reader through a scene or shorter chapters to keep them reading, it’s great, but there also needs to be moments where things slow down to give the reader a chance to assimilate the information you want them to. For example, the scene where Hajime loses his mind and eats the monsters should hold much more weight than the minute or so it got in the anime. Similarly, when he turned the bunny-men into rabid murderers, it happened too quickly that there was no time to reflect on what he’d done.
Other Posts in the Series
- Season One
- Episode 1 – The Monster of the Abyss
- Episode 2 – Pandora’s Box
- Episode 3 – The Golden Vampire Princess
- Episode 4 – Guardian of the Depths
- Episode 5 – The Maverick’s Lair
- Episode 6 – Worthless Rabbit
- Episode 7 – The Great Reisen Labyrinth
- Episode 8 – Reunion with the Past
- Episode 9 – Dragon Slayer
- Episode 10 – The Goddess’ Sword