Cautious Hero: The Hero is Overpowered but Overly Cautious – Anime Review
Synopsis: In the world of Gaeabrande, Goddess Ristarte is tasked with summoning a hero to save her world. The hero, Seiya Ryuuguuin, is an OVERLY cautious hero who’s obsessed with muscle training and buying armor before setting out to deal with low level creatures. It’s simply one overly cautious mission at-a-time for this invincible hero! (Official Funimation Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Cautious Hero appears terribly simplistic at first glance; it’s all about a typical overpowered Isekai hero and his quest to save a world threatened by yet another no personality Demon King. The twist is also quite simple: Our hero, Seiya, is overly cautious, meaning every step towards defeating the demon king is a feat in and of itself of massive over preparation. It sounds like the kind of gag that would grow dull early on, but while you will likely predict some of the series’ big jokes, Cautious Hero actually does a decent job of developing this simple premise into something with far more breadth for comedy than first given credit for. It thoroughly explores all the possible avenues of humour for someone like Seiya; from his unnecessarily thorough extermination of even the simplest of foes, to Seiya grinding down the most arrogant of combat teachers with his relentless desire to level up, and even to the inevitable foe he simply isn’t actually prepared enough for. This ability to mine every depth, every corner of its deceptively simplistic concept keeps the story and humour engaging throughout all twelve episodes. In part this success belongs to Ristarte, the goddess responsible for summoning and guiding Seiya on his journey, who is perfect for fans of reaction face based comedy, with countless expressions for all sorts of comedic mishaps and reveals.
Tom: When Seiya’s overly cautious comedy starts to run out of steam it’s Ristarte who keeps the series chugging along. Like Linny said, it’s largely due to the stellar ‘face game’ art and the sheer enthusiasm of Ristarter’s VA, Toyosaki Aki (Made in Abyss, Re:Creators, Konosuba). It’s Toyosaki’s performance, coupled with the breadth of wildly different faces that makes Ristarte such a lovable and hilarious component to the series, one that actively elevates events even when Cautious Hero starts to feel a tad predictable. Ristarte’s role in the series boils down to that of a straight-man, always shocked at whatever new level of cautiousness Seiya exhibits next. But even with Ristarte ever so shocked reactions it’s hard to keep the same type of gags going through all twelve episodes. This is where Cautious Hero stumbles a bit, as the series tries to remedy this gradual wearing down of its central goof by introducing increasingly absurd side characters, who exhibit their own comedic quirks. Whenever Seiya feels like he needs more training he retreats to the Goddess Realm where we’re introduced to several different gods and goddesses, each with their own bizarre personas. These gods and goddesses vary in quality, some producing new, if small, fountains of humor, and others working for an episode or so before it feels like you’ve seen the extent of their worth and they are relegated to brief cameos that do little more but act as reruns for their mediocre goofs. Sadly these side characters never quite manage to prop the series up to its early highs, and Cautious Hero suffers a downward, if albeit minor, trend in terms of comedic worth.
Linny: Flagging comedy aside, audiences should know that Cautious Hero doesn’t have much interest in giving the spotlight to anyone but Seiya and Ristarte, even after it introduces a few extra main characters. Elulu and Mash, dragonborn teens saddled with grand destinies and unique abilities… or so the show makes you think. Both characters factor in very little to the overall progression of the story, often existing more to provide additional amazement when Seiya overpowers his enemies, or exasperation when his overly prepared nature sneaks up on the party. It’s a little disappointing to see the two completely relegated to generally minute one-note appearances, despite being members of the hero’s gang. Their introduction ever so briefly leads to a plotline centered on them, and a few gags along the way about them powering up, but by and large they seem mostly just along for the ride. While the show does go on to later offer explanation as to why neither get to engage in much battle or action, it could still be a sore spot for anyone who takes to both Elulu and Mash and would like to see someone kick a little ass besides Seiya.
Tom: Underused characters and flagging comedy should be a deal breaker, but Cautious Hero gets away with it thanks to a shift from the comedic to the dramatic. By episode 8 the series begins a subtle shift away from its heavy comedic tone. Over the course of several episodes things become more dire, until the series undergoes a full heel turn into the dramatic, where we’re treated to a number of late series reveals that re-contextualize both Seiya, Ristarte and their quest to save the troubled world of Gaeabrande. This change in tone is subtle and gradual enough that by the time it hits in full it generally works, allowing Cautious Hero an emotional conclusion, even if the series started as a full blown, balls to the wall, gag fest without an ounce of heart.
Linny: However, this shocking, game changing reveal isn’t perfect. The revelations offered seem ingrained into the plot purely for emotional impact. Not only does it feel it was there primarily to end Cautious Hero on a more dramatic note, but in doing so it provides justification for Seiya’s cautious nature. But given how comedic most of the series is, I don’t think it was essential to give Seiya a backstory to explain away his one, major character flaw. It could have just been a strange quirk to provide balance for his other, bad ass and analytical abilities. This only further cements the big backstory unveiling as something done purely for dramatic effect and to emotionally manipulate the audience as the series starts to struggle comedically.
Tom: I’m not as harsh on it, but I agree this dramatic shift isn’t without its flaws. Not only does the series work to produce a backstory that provides emotional weight, but its efforts at times take this pivot too far. Namely certain elements of the reveal add in traumatic details that feel unnecessarily edgy, especially for what started as a comedy. It’s a minor misstep, as these details are given just two lines before being forgotten about entirely, but that only begs the question of why these details were needed in the first place? Some may find these details leave a permanent stain on the series as a whole.
Linny: Another potential red flag is the clear and ever present sexualized design of so many of the series’ female characters. Not only do we have skimpy outfits for a lot of the women but the show even has a ‘villainous goddess’ who is exiled because of her habit of sexually draining any male hero she comes across. Most of the content is played for humour and a lot of it is probably standard anime fare for most viewers but Cautious Hero is definitely not a show you could watch with someone uncomfortable or unfamiliar with the more male gaze pandering nature of anime. So should you watch Cautious Hero? Despite my criticisms I think, Yes, definitely. Especially if you like your action fantasy stories with a heavy dose of comedy. Even with its failings for Elulu, Mash, or the manipulative, emotional ending, the show still gets a lot right and the few bumps and creases it has are easily covered by its frequent and largely effective comedy. However, given how well this first season has run the gamut for possible gags and scenarios, it feels like a potential season 2 would be akin to ‘New Game +’. Without spoiling too much, the series ends with hints of further adventures, poised to pit our cast against higher levels of the same obstacles they faced this season. Less abilities and a higher difficulty level. Of course there’s a market for that; But it dictates that you probably have to really love Season 1 to want more of what was already veering on dangerously close to repetitive.
Tom: Despite missteps, Cautious Hero still comes out on top. It manages to take a one note joke and find every possible avenue of it to explore. Ristarte holds the whole thing together by being lovable and charming thanks to Toyosaki’s incredible voice acting and some serious face-game comedy that deserves top praise. By the time the series has started to lose steam it’s already neared conclusion, and I personally think that shift toward the dramatic helps to then nail the landing just as the comedy wears out. While there’s set up for more adventures, and plenty of Light Novels to adapt, I generally agree with Linny that the series works best as a single season story, providing itself with an ending that offers enough conclusion that it feels apt to stop here, especially as the series has squeezed all it can out of its fairly simplistic premise. If you’re looking for a comedic Isekai that’s largely over and done with in just one cour, Cautious Hero is perfect, and stands not only as one of the better Isekai offerings, but one of Fall’s top anime.
Cautious Hero is available for streaming via Funimation.