When it comes down to it, this episode is built around a single cliché that we’ve all seen a thousand times before: one of our heroes is mind controlled and is forced to fight the other. But just because this setup has been used in a thousand different pieces of media doesn’t mean that it isn’t exciting or telling. After all, clichés become clichés specifically because they resonate with people in the first place.
In this episode, the cliché is used for character development—the “show, don’t tell” kind in Arc’s case. Aside from Ariane’s mother, Arc has always been the most powerful person in any given fight—be that in magic, activatable sword skills, or raw strength. But just because he has this strength doesn’t mean he can control it. Earlier in the episode, we see the only non-lethal way he has to stop the group of thugs he encounters is a finger-flick to the head—and even this sends them flying. Unfortunately, Ariane is much stronger than them so such an attack wouldn’t work on her. On the other hand, him going all out would likely kill her. And since even Arc’s paladin powers can’t stop the curse controlling her for more than an instant, he is left being able to do little more than block. This, in turn, forces Arc to rely not on his power but on his brain—something he has rarely needed to do in battle before.
The true trick here is that when someone you care about is attacking you, its hard to focus on anything else. However, once Arc is able to do so, he glimpses the truth: there is an illusion being cast on him as well—one that is preventing him from seeing the mind controlling imp riding on Ariane’s back. With this knowledge, he and Ponta are able to free her and kill the imp.
But no sooner does he get her back then he trips up again. When he starts slaughtering the monsters en masse, he slides right back into reveling in his power—making him lose sight of his actual goal: not to kill monsters but to protect the now unconscious Ariane. If it weren’t for the sudden appearance of Chiyome, the dark elf girl surely would have died.
All this serves to show that as, overpowered as Arc is compared to most people in this fantasy world, he has his own share of faults that could prove lethal to not only himself but to those he cares for. This, in turn, makes him a far more relatable character. For all his strength, he is just as fallible as anyone else.
On the other side of the story, we get a fair bit of character insight into Ariane as well. Basically, she is a walking inferiority complex. The other women in her family are unspeakably strong and she feels that she is stuck in their shadows. This is why the imp uses the illusion of her sister taunting her to get her to fight Arc—its targeting her insecurities to make her lose control.
But it’s not just in the fight between our heroes that we see these insecurities float to the surface. Ariane is very much aware of how powerful Arc is. Yet, there is solace to be found in the fact that he has decided to stay by her side and no one else’s. This makes her feel uniquely special in a way her mother and sister are not.
However, in this episode, we see how much she fears that this may not always be the case. When Arc rescues a beautiful woman—just as he had once rescued Ariane—she can’t help but be upset by the parallels. Perhaps she isn’t special to Arc—perhaps it’s all in her head. He’ll rescue anyone he can, after all. This is why she becomes “prickly,” as Arc puts it. It’s not really jealousy in the romantic sense as much as it is the fear that she’ll lose the one person who sees her as “Ariane” and not “Eevin’s sister” or “Glenys’ daughter.”
When it comes down to it, this episode is about showingcasing our heroes’ weaknesses. That way, as we head into the climatic battle against the legendary hydra next week, things feel a lot more dangerous and tension-filled than they did only a single episode ago.
• Ariane also makes the classic mistake of holding important information due to personal issues. Knowing that an army of ninja were on their way to help out probably would have changed how Arc handled not only the mind control situation but the monster army as well.
• I wonder, since Arc is a skeleton, had Fumba tried to control Arc, would it have worked since he can control monsters? I guess it would all come down to if Arc’s curse turns him into a skeleton or if it only makes him look like one. …Or wait, are undead actually “monsters” in the same way a beast-like monster is?
• I always have mixed feelings about fictional creatures as intelligent as Ponta. While she can’t speak, she clearly understands language and can even understand battle strategies on the fly. At that level, she isn’t a pet, she’s a person—so I always feel odd seeing her treated like a simple animal. (It’s the same issue I have with Pokémon.)
• I love that Chiyome has already started riding on Arc’s gigantic pauldrons like Ponta does.
• Something tells me that next episode we will get to see what Arc is truly capable of when he pulls out all the stops.
Skeleton Knight in Another World is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Richard is an anime and video game journalist with over a decade of experience living and working in Japan. For more of his writings, check out his Twitter and blog.