I’m extremely late with these last few First Impressions posts (sorry about that) so I’m not up to date with how people are enjoying this year’s edition of Fall anime. This includes Assassins Pride but I did get the impression that people were immediately in the middle when this show premiered. I wouldn’t say divisive, there hardly seem to be much vitriol, but even the optimistic opinions included some amount of caution. This post is likely going to be on the same boat. I really like the first episode of Assassins Pride but I would also put an asterisk or two next to that statement.
Set in the last vestige of humanity, Assassins Pride follows Kufa Vampir (Yuuki Ono), an assassin who gets hired to tutor Melida Angel (Tomori Kusunoki), a noble heiress who has seemingly not inherited her family’s magical aptitude. Should Melida prove to be powerless and therefore prove she’s an illegitimate child, Kufa is to eliminate her. Despite coming to the conclusion that Melida is indeed inept and illegitimate, Kufa chooses to help her instead and provides her a means to use magic.
Look, I do suspect that clumsiness is going to come with the program. In particular, the show is extremely overt about the core relationship between its two main characters. Kufa’s last name is “Vampir”. Melida’s is “Angel”. One is a shadowy being, the other is a fair maiden. Kufa providing Melida a means to use magic is even an inverse of what a vampire does – instead of sucking essence of their prey, he provides his target the life she wants to live. At the beginning of the episode, Melida falls from a balcony and lands safely into Kufa’s arms, evoking the image of a trust fall. At the end of the episode, Melida accepts a potion from Kufa that’ll either unlock her mana or kill her which Kufa delivers via a kiss. It’s literally a kiss of death. And following that is a stylistic scene where Melida appears to be drowning as she awakens her powers. Because you know, it’s sink or swim from here on out. Get it? I don’t want to say this is necessarily a bad thing but it’s running dangerously close to beating me over the head.
Even that aside, I noticed a line where they mention Kufa’s “status”. So guess what genre of games this anime will likely ape from? Goddamn it.
At the same time, I do find potential with where this show can go in regards to narrative and characterization. Kufa is undoubtedly playing a dangerous game here – disobeying the orders of both his client (Melida’s grandfather) and his guild and helping his target instead. I’m willing to buy that he’s simply taking a liking to Melida’s grit in the face of adversity (I’d be shocked if the story isn’t pushing a romance between these two characters) but I do wonder if there’s something else behind his motivation. And while Kufa says he could just kill Melida if his plan goes south, that creates another dramatic question for the viewer to consider. Should such a moment arrive, would the assassin still find it in him to do the dirty deed? And what about Melida? How will her new powers affect her life? How will she react when she finds out who Kufa really is? With so many questions swirling in my head, I’m really curious as to what direction Assassins Pride is about to take.
As clumsy as the show might be, it did manage to elicit an emotional response out of me by the end of its premiere. The story kind of pushes it with how much it wants to make Melida suffer, getting bullied by classmates and harassed by low-level monsters sent by her grandfather, but I nevertheless sympathized with Melida’s dilemma. Seeing Kufa have a change of heart and offer to turn the tables didn’t just feel intriguing, it also felt satisfying. And while I do think the ending is on the nose with having Melida metaphorically drown, that scene surprisingly does work. You know she’ll be fine, the show can’t happen without her, but you also know this is a point of no return for her and you can’t help but think that she’s losing something in the process of gaining her powers. Oh and that ending theme. What a perfectly melancholic song to end things on.
As one last thing, I’ll also add that the look and feel of Assassins Pride is looking promising as well. A lot of that has to do with the setting — a world where there’s no natural light left to be found and all that’s left of humanity is sheltered in a single city-state. Said city-state is comprised of a series of glassed domes, taking up the shape of a chandelier, which, while cheeky, does reflect that the only light left in the world are artificial ones. Sure, you still have walled cities (it ain’t a fantasy anime without them) but even they look more distinct than usual thanks to their glass ceilings and constantly dark sky. Studio EMT Squared seems to be taking advantage of that latter aspect. With a night sky at all times, shadows and basic lighting feel more pronounced and the brighter colors of some of the character designs stand out more. Even in moments of levity, you can’t fully shake up a sense of bleakness. It not only matches the bleak future of humanity but also the seriousness of Kufa and Melida’s situation.
I doubt Assassins Pride will be the best version of itself though I do hope it’ll at least be an admirable one. It’s erring on clumsiness but there’s also enough intrigue and investment to go along with it. So long as the show doesn’t fall apart from its own prose, I can accept it for what it is and I hope it’ll be an enjoyable time regardless.
Thanks for reading!