What They Say:
“Losing to Win, and What Comes After”
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
We’ve known from the beginning that this series would be about Avilio and Nero, but this is the first episode for which that is absolutely the case. The two have been separated from the rest of the cast we’ve met in the first three episodes, and as they travel on without ever stopping in one place for too long, there aren’t any new characters that look to be recurring just yet. Avilio has obviously always been the protagonist, but now that we get such an isolated look at him and Nero, it becomes more apparent than ever that Nero is far and away the more likable character. He is technically the antagonist, but even as Avilio confirms from the horse’s mouth that he and his family were responsible for killing Avilio’s father and Avilio himself as well, it’s hard to deny some camaraderie building between the two of them as they save each other’s lives before Avilio finds the right time to attempt to take Nero’s from him and end the story that Nero tells by fireside.
For now, that’s basically the plot of the series. Nero is about as good a guy as a gangster can be, and his job to kill Avilio’s father even seems to haunt him after all these years. The only animosity he had shown toward Avilio in the previous episode was simply a result of frustration over losing his lifelong friend, but since setting off on this unwanted journey, he has shown a clear affinity for him, despite Avilio’s aversion to any positive emotion. When not befriending Avilio, he takes any chance he can get to put a smile on the face of strangers, like when he shows off his juggling skills to a group of children and the nuns that are looking after them. Even breaking the law is a fun, friendly endeavor for him, getting himself riled up and challenging everyone around to arm wrestling to earn the money for his booze. When a one-episode behemoth sniffs him out and attacks, you’re likely to be rooting for Nero more than Avilio. Avilio’s only real moments of similar character likability come from expectations of the same as Nero offered, although Nero’s tricks are as deadpan as the rest of his personality. He continues to be impressively cunning, extracting as much information about his father’s murder from Nero as possible without raising any suspicion. And those moments are the only ones that show any real emotion on his face: pure rage. Conversely, Nero hasn’t looked like that since losing Vanno, which is an appropriate enough parallel, and this episode he’s almost always smiling, pausing only for sorrow reflection.
The action in the fight against the enemy of the week (which hopefully won’t prove to be a regular format, unless they can make it especially engaging) reminded us of how the animation quality has been dropping as the series has gone on. How the fight actually plays out is dynamic enough, but the character art has been getting a little too wonky when any significant amount of movement is applied to it. It looks like Shuka may not be quite ready to stand on its own as a full-blown studio after all, which is becoming increasingly worrying as we draw closer to the next season of Natsume Yuujinchou that will be moving entirely to that studio as well. Fortunately, this series is mostly made up of character interaction, so the writing quality matters much more than the animation quality and that is still proving to be strong enough to make the series worthwhile.
Avilio and Nero begin their trip together, and it’s a fun ride to watch. Nero is an extremely likable character, while Avilio just has to do his best to not fall victim to his charm so he can execute his revenge plan eventually. The animation continues to have problems, but the writing is still strong.
Streamed By: Crunchyroll
Roku 3, Sceptre X425BV-FHD 42″ Class LCD HDTV.