Episode 5 – The Executioner and Her Way of Life

In what may be the most shocking, paradigm-shifting twist imaginable, Menou is forced to see the cracks in the façade of her precious institutions for the first time as the church’s mask of benevolence slips away. In a development that should shock nobody absolutely that is familiar with the most basic allusions to “Famous Stories About Morally Compromised Institutions and/or Deals With the Devil,” this week’s episode reveals that the church leader named Orwellwho works on behalf of the people of Faustain’t exactly on the up-and-up.

As Momo discovers in the sewer scouring adventure that she reluctantly joins Princess Ashuna on, the Church of Faust has secretly been in cahoots with the Noblesse royals to summon all of those poor isekai kids to this world. And as Menou learns when Orwell goes on with her very long villain monologue, it all hasn’t been for the good of the people or anything like that. Old Orwell is simply looking for a way to turn back time so she can be less, well, old. In this terrifying moment of reckoning, Menou’s whole life comes crashing down in an instant, and she must now confront one of the hardest questions any assassin in the employ of a magical child-murdering institution could ever ask:

Okay, maybe that isn’t entirely fair to Menou, since one of the most interesting aspects of her character was that she was fully aware that she was one of the “baddies”, but she was at least convinced that she was committing a terrible evil in the name of the greater good. I can’t imagine that she feels great to have been involved in the Machiavellian plot to improve Orwell’s skin-care regiment. At the very least, it makes her inevitable rescuing of Akari and betrayal of everything. She stands for a much easier band-aid to rip off.

I already mentioned a while ago that I fully predicted there to be some sort of schism between Menou and the church; It’s basically necessary for this story to function, after all. If I have any complaints about “Goodbye”, though, it’s that tidiness with which this “twist” unfolded, as it basically absolves Menou of a lot of the moral ambiguity that made her relationship with Akari so compelling in the first place. Sure, Orwell’s heel turn doesn’t invalidate all of the very destructive shit that has gone down because of the Lost One’s arrival in this world, and there’s still some juicy drama that Executioner could wring from Akari discovering that Menou was planning on watching her get horribly murdered. Still, I can’t help but feel that it is a little cheap to reduce all of the potential complexity of Menou’s turn against the church to “Evil old woman wants to kill magical isekais to be young again.”

Don’t get me wrong, nothing about “Goodbye” is outright bad. It’s a well-executed and arguably necessary chapter so far as the pacing of the story is concerned. It contains some decent action, and even a few genuinely affecting moments of tension and suspense (the show has excellent face game, I’ll tell you that much). It also does a good job of selling Menou’s mixed emotions when it comes to Akari’s imminent departure. Even though Akari herself is still a bit straightforward and simplistic, you really do start to feel Menou’s ambivalence at selling out such an earnest (and earnestly gay) young lady. I just hope that Akari gets to be a slightly more active participant in the story moving forward.

The one good thing about the obviousness of this twist is the hope that Executioner and her Way of Life has better things to come for its story in the long term. The sudden but inevitable betrayal of the church is one of those beats that you accept as being a part of the tradition of the genre, and I’m willing to go along with it. What really matters is how the story uses these familiar steppingstones to take us to a destination that is hopefully more unique and rewarding.


Odds and Ends

• It is a cute little detail that each of the characters has a personal attachment to their different hairpieces. It’s not the most revolutionary bit of visual storytelling, but I always appreciate non-verbal cues like when Menou absentmindedly fidgets with her ribbons at the beginning of the episode.

• I’m still not in love with the Automaton designs in the show. The fact that they look like living blood golems is neat, but the execution gives them a more plastic-y look than I imagine was intended. The angel that Orwell summons is at least cooler than the generic suit of armor from the train episode.

• The way that Ashuna teases Momo is pretty adorable. Maybe Momo needs to look for a lady that will actually pay attention to her, hm??

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.

The Executioner and Her Way of Life is currently streaming on HIDIVE.

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