The premiere episode of The Executioner and Her Way of Life was a hell of a good time, as it managed to put a fun twist on some of the most tired modern isekai tropes while also telling a very fun story in its own right. I was excited enough when we got to watch our heroine Menou stab Potato McIsekaiFace in the skull just as he was beginning to get a little too Excited about the prospect of murdering all of his enemies with his terrifying nullification magic. Everything that came after that only made the premise of the show all the more compelling. Menou is a conflicted and relatable heroine, and the flashback to the traumatizing destruction of her hometown kills two birds with one stone: It makes you understand exactly how and why a girl like Menou would become a sactioned Executioner, and it shows off the spectacle that the show is capable of when its using its setting and magical rules to the fullest.
There are plenty of shows that had a stellar premiere, only to run out of steam in the long term. What I was really looking for in these following episodes were signs that Executioner could hold its own as a series without all of the shock value it mustered with Menou’s introduction. We have a whole world to build, after all, not to mention a central relationship to develop between Menou and Akari, the latter of whom possesses a very powerful magic that can literally turn the tides of time itself. Twelve episodes isn’t a whole lot of time to tell a coherent and satisfying story, and we’re about a quarter of the way through the series already. (at least, if the HIDIVE episode count is anything to go by). Thankfully, I think I can say that, so far, the show is doing a good job of living up to its potential…mostly.
I have a few nagging quibbles that I will get to shortly, but my biggest takeaway from Episodes 2 and 3 of The Executioner and Her Way of Life is that the show is consistently fun to watch, and that’s a good sign. There are some holes in its writing and production that could lead to problems in the long term, but the show has officially passed the all-important Three Episode Test. Even if I wasn’t being asked to cover this anime for my job, I’d want to keep up with it on my own time. When you have to watch as much anime as we do around these parts, that’s quite the compliment.
More than anything, this series is a testament to how you don’t need to completely rely on shocking twists and subverted expectations to deliver a good story. Menou’s conflict over having to escort the functionally immortal Akari to the city of Garm is maybe a little straightforward—we all know that Menou is going to eventually start to question her role as Akari’s murderer—but the show sells her character well enough that you buy it anyway. It helps that Akari is a sweetheart, so you totally understand why Menou would feel at least kind of bad about gutting Akari like a fish (for a second time, that is).
I’m even starting to warm up to Momo, whose “aggressive lesbian comedy relief” shtick was one of the only major gripes I had with the premiere. The character is still a bit much for my tastes, and I’m not jazzed about how her entire role in the story feels based entirely on her feelings for Menou, but she plays better when she has more to do than make obvious passes at her friend and comment on Akari’s boob size. She gets to play more notes than “aggressively horny” once Menou and Akari set off on their journey to Garm, and she even gets a major action highlight when the train attack gets going in Episode 3.
Episode 3 is where I think we’ve gotten the best look so far at what kind of show The Executioner and Her Way of Life is actually going to be. The premiere was mostly a hook, and an effective one at that, and Episode 2 was devoted entirely to introducing Akari and setting up her journey with Menou. When our heroines get caught up in a terrorist plot on the ether train bound for Garm, though, we have our first proper plot for the girls to work through, and the results are pretty good! Momo gets to show off her sadistic side on the terrorist she tortures for information, and her fight with Princess Ashuna is a great setpiece. I love the magic-infused chain that Momo uses for a weapon, and Ashuna is an interesting and flamboyant character in her own right. The royal family and the Church’s growing conflict with one another will hopefully add some depth and flavor to Menou and Akari’s story.
One of the only downsides to the train adventure is Menou and Akari’s showdown with the armored warrior inside of the train. The fight simply isn’t as dynamic or fun as the one going on up above, and the production values for this scene (and several others throughout episodes 2 and 3) are noticeably weaker than the generally stellar-looking premiere. The show is never downright ugly, but it’s not the kind of anime that can get by on flash and style alone, either.
The final scene of the episode is also worth mentioning, but not because it’s bad. I actually loved the reveal that Akari saved everyone from dying horribly in a train crash with her time powers; It’s a great cap to the episode-long thread of Menou constantly reminding Akari of how “useless” she is in a fight. That said, if I had any major reservations about the series beyond some potentially shoddy visuals, it would be with Akari herself, and only because I want to see more of the tragic and painful side of her existence in this world. So far, the girl has proven to be a sweet and bubbly presence, and while I think there have been a few hints that she knows more than she lets on, she hasn’t been given a lot to do other than be impressed with Menou. Even that excellent train-crash scene is something we only see in the past tense. I guess what I’m saying is that I hope it doesn’t take much longer for Akari to be given the same level of depth that Menou has been afforded; it would be a shame if she only existed to be a precious puppy of a girl for Menou to feel guilty about.
These are all minor issues, though, since they’re mostly just hypothetical at this point. While The Executioner and Her Way of Life hasn’t yet managed to be as blazingly awesome as it was in that first episode, the show is still a very good time, and I’m excited to see where it goes from here.
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.