In the VRMMORPG Ark Earth Online, players create everything from scratch. And not just everything, but also anything, as in, anything goes! Both in terms of avatars and world-building. As a result, there is a modicum, shall we say, of chaos and conflict in this online world. The one bright light of peace and prosperity is the Kingdom of Alcait, ruled by the mellifluous King Solomon and his wise council of Elders, not least among whom is the aged magician Danblf. Turns out the players behind these two characters are friends irl and set about to create exactly such a kingdom as the one they now enjoy. Sure, there are villainous enemies to be defeated, hordes of monsters to wipe out, and other tests for their courage and strategic skills; and sure, all the other heroic Elders are currently occupied with facing off against such challengers; but when an army 10,000 strong formed of some new kind of creature with never-before-seen magical mastery turns up, neither the King nor Danblf bat an eye. This will be a cinch.
*Death Flags!!!!* Amiright??? No! Not at all. Because, some terrible CG animation later, and after no small amount of grumbling about the boredom of it all, Danblf does indeed wipe out the 10,000 and return home triumphant. And then…And then, people! For the final 5 minutes of the episode a silent montage straight out of an isekai slice-of-life (that isn’t this one) plays out. Well, I mean, there is some background music, but no sound effects or voices—nothing diegetic or coming from in-world. Just miming. All this is done by a young girl who is of course the great and powerful Danblf rematerialized as a helpless girl who probably has to start leveling up from scratch, but we don’t know because, no sound. The one thing we do know though, is that she is cute, and she knows it. Roll credits.
This was not a first episode. This was the prequel episode that gets released as an OVA after the series has aired and done well enough to warrant an OVA, but it has to be a prequel because the manga/light novels aren’t far enough along to provide the material for a follow-on or spin-off OVA. In other words, this is a filler episode. Let me say that again, the most important episode of any anime series was, in this case, the kind of stuff you get in recaps or flashbacks. Talk about a false start. It even repeats the same material: once, in a discussion between the king and his sage, and a second time, as Danblf walks through the city and converses with people who tell him the exact same things he just said to the king, but this time, there are visualizations of what they are talking about, namely, the other Elders and their amazing feats.
Then, at the 17:30 minute mark, after about five or six minutes of janky CG animation, the budget completely runs out and the rest of the episode is a montage of mostly pans across still images, some of which create a roughly coherent visual narrative, but not all (there’s more than one cute girl who appears); a sequence without voice actors or sound effects, accompanied by a piece of music that doesn’t fit well with the images unfolding before us for a painfully long time. It could have worked if it was just for a minute or maybe two at a push. But the decision not to animate or score these pivotal five minutes properly means that the episode ends without making clear the significance of the girl and what has happened: the fact that she is actually the player himself, who has been sucked into the game world for real (though to be fair, she can taste things, so that gives us a clue, but only really if you already know the premise); that she has to start from scratch again; that the player had actually been experimenting with this new character—all the details that are in the synopsis on MAL but are not conveyed in the episode. This is where the episode should have begun, followed by the opening credits, and then some flashback to his Danblf days.
BUT WAIT! This review isn’t over yet! Time for the last minute save, the Hail Mary Pass! The solution to the quandary we are currently faced with: to watch or not to watch.
Here’s what I propose: skip this episode and instead watch next week’s episode as if it were the premiere. Then maybe come back, or wait till the end and come back. I think—I hope!—episode two will do a much better job of introducing the actual peril or challenge that the MC must overcome throughout the season than what this episode manages, with its filler and unfinished five-minute closing montage. That’s what I’m going to do: I am going to forget this episode and tune in next week to give this series a fresh start. It’s not too late! And I think it will actually be kind of awesome once it gets going!
You see, there were some truly brilliant moments of self-reflexive humor in this episode that broke the fourth wall to share a knowing wink with us, the viewers. Like when the opening infodump admits that there’s nothing all that unique about the skills and spells in the game (ahem, anime); or when the King and Danblf trade screenshots (literally a split second after I myself took a screenshot!); or when Danblf observes wryly how boring the NPCs are, precisely when I was thinking the same thing; or when, once again in unison with my own observations, he comments that at least one person (a mute kitten avatar) is excited about the battle scene which was otherwise pretty dull. Not only these moments, but also the OP and ED simply sparkle! They are both focused on the cute girl that Danblf rematerializes into, and she looks like a fun character (and also the kitten avatar is with her, win!).
So I’m looking forward to this series actually starting next week. I just hope the rest of the series isn’t in mime. It can’t be, right? I mean, she has to profess herself to be the pupil of the wise man at some point, right?
Thanks for sticking around to the end! This was actually one of my most anticipated shows this season, and I really want it to work. It just got off on the wrong foot.
UPDATE! Episode 2 is now out, so I’ve done a follow-on review of it, down in the comments below.
She Professed Herself Pupil of the Wise Man can be streamed on Funimation. But do it next week and start with episode 2. You’ll enjoy this prequel OVA more if you watch it at the end. 😉
6 thoughts on “First Impression: She Professed Herself Pupil of the Wise Man”
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This reminds me of the first episode of “Kuma Kuma Bear”, although rather than a prequel, that felt like the 3rd episode in the series.
Are you planning to write a review for the 2nd episode?
That’s a great idea! At the very least, I’ll revisit this post in the comments and add an update. Watch this space!!
Episode 2 UPDATE!
Plot Summary: Female Danblf, Mira, makes her way back to King Solomon’s kingdom where all is not as it was! It’s been 30 years (!!), though everyone seems pretty nonplussed about it, apart from Danblf’s dragonfly winged servant girl, Mariana, who’s pretty het up that he keeps missing his meals. Turns out all the other players are caught up in this world now too, so either it was a collective reincarnation or some kind of VR world event, but again, no one’s too worried about getting to the bottom of things. Instead, keeping the kingdom together has kept Solomon and his Elders plenty busy, so they’re pretty happy to welcome back the One Man Army himself, er, herself, Ganblf/Mira. And fortunately, though a few things like transportation and communications have changed since Ganblf’s been away, the formidable scope of the Wise Man’s powers have remained unchanged. Mira, now professing to be the pupil of the Wise Man so as not to tarnish the reputation of the kingdom and Ganblf (she’s too small and cute now to be taken seriously, apparently), stuns the new supporting characters and puts her critics to rest. Now, time to eat that breakfast that’s been waiting!
Well, I think it was a bit better than the first episode, and would function just fine as a first episode, though obviously it isn’t optimized as such. But still, it does a better job of lining up the issues that are going to preoccupy the series throughout the season.
That said, the problems I have with this episode are basically the inverse of what irked me about the premiere:
If the first episode suffered for failing to really go anywhere, then episode two tries to go in too many directions at once. As a result, it’s hard to judge whether it’s actually going anywhere. I suspect not, unfortunately.
First version: this a Sword Art Online rehash, where all the players are seemingly trapped in the online world. Only, well, the players aren’t too bothered by this or the fact that they’ve been in there for 30 YEARS! Can they be wounded or die? Can they come and go between the game and the real world? We don’t know. All we do know is that they can now taste and smell. *Shrugs*
Or maybe the focus is on the time jump, a little like In the Land of Leadale, also out this season. Yet, there don’t really seem to be any interesting implications re: those missing 30 years for our MC, so maybe it’s not so important. Why bother then?
Maybe the main theme is the genderbend, our male MC who used to be a stately old man in game and is now a cute girl. But if that were the case, then surely it would have taken the MC longer than one episode to earn back his place at the King’s right hand. Give the guy more than just a peeing scene for the implications of being a woman in a fantasy gameland scenario to sink in…
Ok then, maybe it’s about the game dynamics, and the fact that the villainous monsters seem to be up to something more nefarious than they ever attempted during game mode. And on the flip side, the “good guy” NPCs are “alive” now, meaning they have human personalities and emotions. So maybe this is a kind of fantasy sci-fi about artificial consciousness, a la Girls’ Frontline, also out this season? Yet, it’s not like these now-living characters have any kind of self-awareness…
I don’t know. I feel like it isn’t really about any of these things, considering how glibly each theme is foregrounded and then cast aside when the next plot point calls for a different focus. In other words, I don’t think this series knows what it wants to be.
And unfortunately, the meta-humor of the first episode was mostly lacking in this one (aside from that series of peeing jokes, where the MC keeps monologuing and an NPC-turned-to-life keeps barging in, thinking her master wants something — way to acknowledge the fact that there is far too much narrating going on in the episode!), while the janky CG fight sequences remain. Having a character exclaim, “Epic Battle” does not an epic battle make, I’m afraid.
Sigh. I was hoping for more. It’s a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster of a series though, unfortunately. I’ll be watching In the Land of Leadale instead!
Sounds like a mess. At least you gave it a fair shot.
[…] made clear what the premise was. Episode one suffered from some low-budget, cost-cutting measures. My friend Claire recommends forgetting episode one exists and waiting for ep two, which hopefully will kick of the story and explanation. I will, of course, be watching it because […]