What’s it about? After losing a leg in battle, the hero Belgrieve retires from adventuring. His life takes yet another turn when he finds a baby abandoned in the woods outside his new home, and decides to take her in. Now grown up, Angeline is following in her father’s footsteps and has become one of the best adventurers in the land—in fact, her heroic skills are needed so often that she can’t get any time off to go visit her dear old dad.
Alright, this premiere probably isn’t going to blow your socks off, but I’m happy to say that Fall 2023 is starting capably and comfortably enough: gifting us some over-competent girls with swords and some Nice Anime Dads with gardening skills.
While I can’t personally comment on how Bel fares as disability/amputee representation as that’s not lived experience that I share, I think the show handles him… alright, but with perhaps a small hiccup. His wooden leg does hinder him when he tries to save some village kids from one of the monsters that inevitably prowl these fantasy forests (great for XP farming, not so great for actual vegetable farming), and he makes a self-deprecating comment about how Ange’s success makes him look like a miserable quitter in comparison. Maybe the series will interrogate this line of thought, maybe it won’t—it’s too soon to tell.
I can say, though, that overall Bel is portrayed as a capable, nurturing, generally tip-top dude with character depth beyond his disability. He’s a modest, sweet fatherly type that you just know is quietly carrying around a novel’s worth of tragic backstory. While he might not end up the deepest character in the world, if that’s a character type you like, you may find this show scratches the itch.
As a female protagonist (or deuteragonist, I suppose) Ange has promise. I’m always keen to see a girl with a sword, and this is clearly a setting where women taking up what we, in the real world, would consider “traditionally masculine” professions and skills is really no big deal. She’s eager to pursue the family business and live up to her dad’s legacy, but she clearly also has a deep drive to help people and Be Heroic in the make-the-world-a-better-place sense.
Her motivation and character conflict thus far is mostly “my dad! I gotta go see my dad, whom I love!” but there’s still room for that to expand. Her being hyper-competent is both a character strength and a source of emotional conflict in a way I find fun. There’s certainly something funny and bitterly relatable about her frustrations with guild bureaucracy and life as a contractor—the conundrum of being so good at your specific job that if you want a holiday, the whole system falls apart. Except in this case, giant ants destroy a village instead of, say, something getting filed wrong.
It’s cool that Ange’s two co-adventurers are both women, too, and that the female characters have a variety of skills rather than the guild (or rather, cliché writing) delegating swords to boys and magic to girls, for example. I was enjoying the fact that there’s relatively no fan service in the character designs, and that Ange even has a somewhat androgynous look, when Ange suddenly felt the need to complain about how her mage party-mate has much bigger boobs than her—over a shot, of course, of said mage cuddling Ange into said boobs. “It’s frustrating, but I have faith in myself. I’m still growing!” Ange declares… to her father, in a letter she’s writing to him. Which. Well, alright.
The spectre of Bunny Drop unfortunately hovers in the back of my brain every time an anime stars a girl and her adopted father figure, and a voice in my head inevitably, frantically whispers don’t make this weird, show, please don’t make this weird. I want to have hope, though: while Ange is a little clingy as a kid, and adolescent Ange is almost solely motivated by her love and idolization of her dad, there’s nothing in the text itself to suggest that affection is anything other than familial. Certainly Bel seems nothing but sweet and paternal. If this can stay the course and not Make It Weird, this could unfold into a really fun, really sweet cozy fantasy about a relationship dynamic we don’t always get to see.
It’s using video game frameworks like letter rankings and adventurer’s guilds, but it doesn’t feel egregious, and even if the worldbuilding is relatively shallow for now this does at least feel like a cozy, lived-in world with a bit of personality. The production values aren’t much to write home about, either—the characters are a little stiff, and they’re conspicuously avoiding actually animating most of the action scenes that the dialogue sets up—but other artistic flourishes like the ink illustration-style backdrops give the visuals some charm.
Overall, this is just Nice with a capital N—aside from the boob joke, this is a refreshingly un-horny and mellow fantasy series (plus, it’s not even an isekai!) that gives us both a disabled protagonist and a female lead in a trope and role that skews traditional gender clichés. Dare I say My Daughter Left the Nest and Returned an S-Rank Adventurer looks promising—or at least, like a fun, cozy, character-focused fantasy series that could be fun to return to every week.