One of the risks you take going into a light novel adaptation these days is whether or not the anime is just going to end up as a glorified commercial for the books. Y’all know what I mean; it’s when you have cool characters in a great story that run smack into a cliffhanger that may not ever be resolved with another season, which means that your only options are to seek out the books (and that’s if you’re lucky enough to have localized versions of the books to turn to). All of this is to say that I never expected the ending of The Executioner and Her Way of Life to feel especially conclusive, but I sure was preparing myself to at least be underwhelmed. Thankfully, “The Duo’s Journey” does a great job of wrapping up the current storyline while still leaving room for lots more intrigue and tragedy down the road, which is basically everything you could ask for in a finale for a season that may or may not ever get a proper follow up.
Granted, the last episode did so much work escalating the Pandaemonium conflict that the only thing that this finale really had to do was dispatch the giant centipede monster and give each of our heroines something to do in the meantime. The action scenes have been hit-or-miss in this second half of the season, though, so I’m happy to report that Executioner doesn’t fumble it in the endzone. The CGI model that is used for almost any of the non-close-up shots of Pandaemonium doesn’t look amazing, but it’s good enough, and I’ve warmed up to the design since last time. Bug!Pandaemonium has a mouth that is a little too Muppety to be threatening (and that’s coming from a Muppet superfan), but it’s still a fun fight. Ashuna gets to hit stuff really good, Akari gets to shoot stuff with her vague time powers, and Menou gets to use Ashuna’s sword and the power of Akari’s love to turn Pandaemonium into mush. Fun stuff.
Then there’s the half of the episode that exists to wrap up loose ends and remind us that this was just the second story in a multi-volume light novel series, and that there’s plenty more to come in the future. Not every beat works; I’m especially puzzled at the interaction between Menou and Sicilia about Flare. I don’t know if Sicilia had more to do in the books, but she’s barely registered as a character in the show, so the scene mostly felt like a ham-fisted reminder that Flare does indeed exist, and that she may even do something relevant to the plot someday. I also wish we’d gotten more than a throwaway scene when it comes to Menou trying to figure out what the hell was up with Akari’s sudden shift in personality and power level that has just as suddenly disappeared now that Pandaemonium is gone. It comes across as the author writing themselves into a corner with the True Akari reveal and handwaving an easy solution so they can save the better scenes for later.
Still, I’d say more about the finale worked than did not. I loved the final interaction between Menou and Pandaemonium, and not just for the excellently creepy sound design on Pandaemonium’s voice. The reveal that the Sword of Salt might be the one way for Menou to kill Akari gives the next phase of the plot a much more concrete goal. It also gives Momo a great moment to end the season on, since she got very little to do in these last few episodes; I’m very much looking forward to seeing how her own relationship with Akari evolves in the future. Also, can I just say how much I appreciate the little coda we got between Pandaemonium and Manon? The reveal that they are siblings is fine, yeah, but what I really dig is that Manon didn’t just get unceremoniously chest exploded for good. It makes me a lot more forgiving of how the story handled her backstory info-dump knowing that she and her little sis have both survived to wreak more chaos together.
I’ll be honest: I have a really hard time getting into light novels, since I’ve never been impressed with the writing in any of the ones that I’ve read before, and I haven’t heard great things about the quality of Executioner’s prose, specifically. Still, it says something that I liked the anime version of The Executioner and Her Way of Life enough that I’m halfway considering giving the novels a shot anyways. It wasn’t a perfect series, but it’s fascinating characters and world were wrapped up in a genuinely compiling story, and that’s more than enough to earn my seal of approval. All we can do now is pray that there is just a little bit of justice in this world. If a godforsaken curse like The Fruit of Evolution can get a second season, then there is no reason that Executioner can’t get one as well.
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.