“Pandæmonium” has a couple of rough spots, but that doesn’t prevent it from holding up as an excellent example of how to do this kind of wackadoo anime escalation right. Last we saw our heroines, Menou and Akari were reckoning with the arrival of little ol’ Pandæmonium herself, the replicating and regurgitating fountain of horrors that has been stuck in the form of a tiny Japanese girl for who knows how many years now. The city of Libelle is a shambles with the legion of transformed monsters that have been unleashed upon it, and Pandæmonium is ready to have some fun with her playmates now that she’s (kind of) escaped the prison of fog that she’s been trapped in (also called Pandæmonium, though the girl insists that we don’t forget that she came before the place, and not the other way around).
As a grand finale boss monster, Pandæmonium works on a number of levels. For one, she’s just delightfully creepy, the kind of high-camp killer kid villain that can chew the scenery with abandon. Like I said last time, Pandæmonium is just as much of a trope as any of the other villains we’ve met in The Executioner and Her Way of Lifebut she’s (ahem) executed with such aplomb that you can’t help but be entertained by her antics. The complete nonchalance that she approaches this fight with is a key part of what makes the archetype charming, and there’s nothing quite as casual as snapping your own doppelganger’s neck with a churlish grin just because you need the scene to pick up the pace a bit.
Since Flare is obviously not going to have time to serve as a villain in her own right, this terrible tyke makes for a perfectly fine substitute so far as Big Bads go, especially since this second arc has been building up to Pandæmonium’s arrival for weeks now . Sure, the way she drops exposition on Menou is a little clunky and straightforward, but if that’s the price we’ve got to pay to see Ashuna and Menou team up and smush an unkillable film-nerd gremlin like a boba with insane magical gobbledygook, then fine, so be it. Speaking of which, as much as I loved the shockingly violent and exquisitely voice-acted squishification of Pandæmonium (those excruciating blood gargles, hot damn), I was almost disappointed, too. For a minute, it really did seem like Menou’s and Ashuna’s Magical Ass-Pull was going to be what won the day, which would have felt awfully anticlimactic after all of Pandæmonium’s gloating.
Thankfully, Executioner is smart enough to avoid such a pitfall. Sure, Pandæmonium may be dealing with the weakest of the four Human Errors, but each of them is meant to be a literal walking apocalypse. It had better take more than an episode and a half to best one of them. As it turns out, Pandæmonium is far from defeated, even after our girls turn her into a human version of one of those suicidal junk cars from The Brave Little Toaster. As she so helpfully explains to an increasingly frustrated Akari, all of this eldritch horror that she’s been spooking up has been the result of her being able to stick one solitary pinky finger through the Pandæmonium fog. This is an excellent reveal, because it manages to reassert the Errors’ terrifying and inhuman strength while still keeping the immediate stakes fresh and impossible to ignore.
I don’t love that Pandæmonium ends up turning into a kind of comical-looking CGI bug thing at the end of the episode, but it’s another one of those minor problems that feels more than worth it when I consider the great beats we get in return. I loved Pandæmonium revealing that her motivations her for doing all of this basically boil down to being exceptionally bored and wanting Akari to tell her stories about life in Japan, for one. It is both funny and genuinely sad that the only thing that remains of this girl’s memories and personality is an insatiable love for B-grade horror flicks, and it’s a tragedy that also gives Akari’s character some much-needed grounding and conflict. We ‘ve already learned that the more she uses her Pure Concept her, the more of her original memories her she ‘ll lose, but in Pandæmonium we can see just how terrible a prospect it can be to remove every shred of humanity from a living god. Also, we now know that Akari’s time powers are affecting all of reality, every time she hits rewind. Akari is the one who inadvertently let Pandæmonium free, and it is safe to assume that consequences will only become more dire from here.
I’m not sure of what to make of everything else we get in this week’s lore dumps. All of the stuff about the “voice of the planet” and the “will of the ether” is stuff I can either take or leave, and we still don’t have enough information about Flare to discern whether or not she’s actually going to make for a good antagonist. Still, this episode proved that The Executioner and Her Way of Life has the chops to escalate its threats and expand its world enough to keep its story going for the long haul. Now, JC Staffcan finally get a confirmation of that much-needed second cour, now? Pretty please?
Odds and Ends
• The animation was a bit janky this week, and a lot of the conversational bits suffered from some pretty weak storyboarding, but I still appreciated the show’s willingness to get weird with Pandæmonium’s stretchy limbs and gross monsters. Shout out to the legion of creepy rat things with a bunch of human arms just sprouting straight out of their backs.
• Asuna may have been the secret MVP of the whole episode, especially with how adorably concerned she was for Momo’s well-being the entire time. Go get your girl, Princess, and don’t let any creepy kids or time traveling demi-gods get in your way!
• People like to dunk on translator’s notes, but they really can be indispensable for folks who crave context like me. I appreciated the quick explanation of why that single shot of Akari remembering the flowers her classmates her put on her desk would have constituted some serious bullying (they were a bouquet of mourning flowers meant for the dead).
• Also, I guess there is a way back to Japan, after all? It’s an interesting twist to drop, especially since there currently aren’t any characters who even want to go back to Japan to begin with. I wonder if Flare’s ultimate goal is going to be to cut the source of her world’s suffering off at the head by simply destroying Japan…
The Executioner and Her Way of Life is currently streaming on HIDIVE.
James is a writer with many thoughts and feelings about anime and other pop-culture, which can also be found on Twitterhis blog, and his podcast.