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Helck Episode #18 Anime Review

4 min read
Backstory episodes can be really hit or miss depending on both the story and execution - as well as placement within the bigger picture.

“Smile”

What They Say
Helck charges onward but an army of bounty hunters stands between him and Alicia. She is in horrible shape as she faces public execution.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The importance of the backstory that we’ve been getting here can’t be overstated because it paints the much bigger picture going on than the simple tournament show it started out as. But at the same time, it’s feeling a bit more decompressed than it should be and there’s a sense that it needs to be a bit tighter or perhaps better framed with material in the present since we don’t have much connection with the cast that’s been built up from the start. The time with Helck and his group and understanding how badly things went, the powers at play, and how both humans and demons are being manipulated in all of it is key. It’s one of the things that made me enjoy the manga as much as I did from what little I read because it was the kind of big-picture element that gives it scope and a sense of place amid things. But in anime form, through a weekly basis, it’s just feeling drawn out and not getting the kind of impact it needs.

The opening half of this episode is solid in delivering the right kind of action as Helck is on his focused attempt at dealing with the bounty hunters that are coming after him, and who believed that he was wounded as well. But as we’ve seen with how he heals, that’s not going to be a problem. There’s a solid field of bodies behind him but with a high bounty and being known as the hero killer for what happened and is being used to set him up, there’s an almost endless line of people that will try to get him. But he’s focused on both his own survival and trying to get to Alicia who is in a bad place herself since she’s been captured and is set for a very public execution. And the hunger of the crowd and those that have her is pretty intense when it comes to an execution like this. It’s pure mob mentality material but also some with a desire for revenge for what happened in the past, making her a very easy target.

© Nanaki Nanao / Shogakukan / Helck Production Committee

It’s no surprise that Helck arrives in time to save her from execution and just his presence does a lot of the work, especially in seeing so many people squirm and try to save their own lives. He’s incredibly tender after all that’s happened in saving her and wanting to follow through on the plan to go to the demon kingdom. But the bigger forces at work start to play out around him and he sees firsthand the cruelty of the nobility and their abuse of people – even other nobility that aren’t quite in their view real nobles. The real cruelty is in that Alicia has already been set for this transformation and there was no way for him to save her. You can see how this would push him to where we know him now, and why he tries to keep that happy facade about him after so much loss that he’s survived, but it also explains why we’ll see him go as intense as he does when the situation requires it.

In Summary:
While the sequence with Alicia drags on a bit more than I care for and ends up whittling away the impact of it, this is a solid episode overall. We again see how determined Helck is to do right by his friends and what kind of forces are being thrown at him at this point. It moves well with the action and showcases his abilities but also just how strong his presence is when he’s in the zone. The back half makes clear that there is, once again, a real gap between nobles and those that aren’t and how they pretty much view themselves as a separate species in a way. There are some good touching moments here as things get grim and the sense of hope is wiped away, but part of it was expected and it’s taking a while to get there which undermines it a little bit. Still, definitely solid and likely to play better when marathoned.

Grade: B

Streamed By: HIDIVE