[Review] The Executioner and Her Way of Life

…isn’t reality beyond one’s control, just like a monster?” -Pandæmonium, “Pandæmonium”

Round 2 of unexpected isekai: let’s go!

The Executioner and Her Way of Life sauntered onto our screens wearing a cloak of familiarity. We had our hero post-summoning, quick integration into the fantastical setting, and a burgeoning friendship with a pretty girl. I knew where this was going.

Then I was proven very, very wrong.

Draggle and I mentioned repeatedly in a couple of podcasts our surprise in the first episode of this series, but even now after finishing the entire series the pilot’s ending is the most memorable moment. There have been plenty of surprises since then, but nothing quite as shocking as the realization that I had tricked myself into assuming a different storyline and main character. The title explicitly names Menou as our protagonist and I just went ahead and discounted it.

Whether or not you consider that opening shock a gimmick, Executioner is still onto something special with its attitude towards otherworld travelers and the often volatile powers these “Lost Ones” wield. This fantastical world has integrated with the technologies and cultures of the Lost but still retains a unique magical identity with “Pure Concepts” and Executioners tasked with exterminating Lost Ones. While it appears like both parties wield similar magics, natives like Menou gather power (ether) from personal reserves and the environment rather than specializing in a specific power like otherworlders. Menou and others like her simply drain themselves when wielding magic; however, Lost Ones lose memories of their original life the more they use their powers. This honestly seems a bit like a blessing since a path back to their former lives is repeatedly stated as impossible and letting go might help them better integrate into their new reality. Danger still exists that results in what is known as a Human Error, an evolved entity that brings calamity and gives further credence to the existence of Executioners.

This is where the second Lost One of the opening episode comes in to shake the accepted truths of this world. Akari’s power is time manipulation, making her nigh impossible to kill. Menou is forced into accompanying her for an unknown length of time in order to find a method that works, completely unaware of the changes already brought about by Akari by the time they “first” meet. The silly and sweet Akari in Menou’s presence differs greatly from the experienced and determined Akari we see each time she activates her Pure Concept, and it’s this juxtaposition that intrigues and worries me.

With the swift dispatch of the first Lost One, I took Menou’s resolve as some form of brainwashing; murder, no matter how justified, is wrong, isn’t it? But the more time we spent with her, and watched Akari go through the motions of resetting time again and again, the less convinced I was of Akari’s innocence. I still disagree with killing Lost Ones, but I cannot agree with Akari’s actions given how it has fractured this world and impacted everyone living in it.

The final arc centered on the results of another Lost One slipping by undetected. We don’t actually learn that until near the end when the anatagonist reveals her history and motivations. Seeing a Human Error up close magnifies the dangers posed by Akari’s time manipulation, and I appreciated the humanization of what would otherwise be a comically monstrous villain. Her love for film and desire to recreate her very own horror movie in her fight against Menou felt oddly endearing; even with all her memories stripped away, she still retains her passions.

Rather than wrapping up this journey at the end of the series, either with a miracle path returning Akari to her former life or with her actual death, we’re left basically where we started. We actually end up with more questions than answers, which I assume is their angle for a sequel. I can’t say I’m a fan of the first season just ending here rather than continuing uninterrupted into a second cours, but as a whole I was pleased with the story we got. Menou and Akari’s coupling is admittedly cute, but so is Menou with her subordinate Momo (when it’s reciprocated, not that creepy Momo). Then there’s Momo’s chemistry with Princess Ashuna, a woman who steals every scene she’s in and about whom I wished we knew more. Flare’s involvement in this world and her raising of Menou also remain mostly in the shadows–she obviously will be a major encounter in a sequel should we get one.

Despite our cyclical journey, unanswered questions, and problematic characters, Executioner never bored and I look forward to each week’s episode. The art and animation looked pretty damn good, with my only gripe being at the silliness of some of the CG monsters at the end. At the start of their journey I was unsettled about these characters and their hidden motivations; now at the restart, I’m actually hopeful for some kind of resolution. 2nd season, when?

Rating: 1 dango

*Rating system:

  • 0 dango – average and forgettable.
  • 1 dango – very good in its category.
  • 2 dango – excellent show that is worth a try.
  • 3 dango – exceptional show one must watch.

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