Back when our baddies first made their presence known, I said that I wasn’t all that interested in whatever their big plot is – all I really cared about was how funny they could be. Well, now that Vizzd and Maid-chan have dropped the act and revealed their evil intentions, I’m glad to report they’re just as funny – and stupid – as our heroes. Especially Vizzd, who makes her presence known through some great sight gags, like rolling around in a barrel to keep a low profile in the rebels’ camp. Or the absolutely unhinged joke of her sucking juice out of an eggplant(?) through the stem like it’s a straw. That’s just good comedy.
They also unleash Mehpon, the giant rabbit monster mech hidden underneath the royal city, delivering probably the best brick joke in the whole show as it opens its face to blast out laser beams. I really do have to hand it to the show – it took probably the best visual punchline from episode one, sat on it for months, and then threw it back at just the right moment. And Mehpon’s attack even gives Schwartz a chance to shine in all his chuuni glory, cleaving through its energy beams with the power of friendship, desperation, and all the effort he can muster to not pee his pants in the process. I know I lavished praise on him last week, but Schwartz really does feel like the secret sauce to Total Fantasy Knockout‘s character chemistry, with a great personality for straightman Jinguuji to bounce off of as chaos rains down on them.
I have to give Jinguuji credit here too: the moment Mehpon starts stomping around, he realizes that Tachibana couldn’t possibly be behind it. The man may be emotionally constipated to hell and back, but he has enough trust in his closest friend to know he’d never willingly put innocent lives in danger. He’s still an obtuse piece of wood with glasses stapled on, but that ingrained trust is what keeps them likable as a pair (and potential couple) despite all their bickering. Now if he could just be honest about finding Tachibana cute, they might just make some progress.
Though their current relationship status is sadly muddled thanks to the villains’ magical manipulation causing interference, and I’m not wild about that. Now, this could be a case of the corruption causing just enough friction for Tachibana to finally air all his baggage out in the open, and that’s the generous reading of what we see happen after he overwrites control of Mehpon. Tachibana’s rant about feeling worthless and unimportant in Jinguuji’s shadow is the closest thing to emotional vulnerability this comedy has ever attempted, and it’s really compelling. For all that these two are friends, Tachibana has a lot of problems with his own self-esteem that have only flared up as their otherworld adventures highlighted all of his friend’s strengths. Having him finally blow up and confront all of this in a childish, cathartic tantrum makes sense, and offers a chance to develop these two beyond their initial shtick.
But there’s still that specter of mind control lurking in the back. Is this really how Tachibana feels, and will there be actual consequences to all this? Or will it get swept under the rug as “oh, the dark magic was manipulating my memories so all that character development was fake”? Because I’ve seen that happen more times than I can count – it’s what holds me back from loving the final season of Symphogear despite everything else it did right – and I really don’t want it to happen here. Conflicts like this, where two friends find themselves at odds, only work when they’re organic conflicts that rise up from each person’s personality. And if Total Fantasy Knockout is going to devote its closing episode to it, I really hope it doesn’t hit the reset button.
Life with an Ordinary Guy Who Reincarnated into a Total Fantasy Knockout is currently streaming on