Well, just to start off, I’m pretty disappointed. I honestly had a non-negligible expectation that they might, given how poorly they’re representing Willem’s connection with the past, but they did indeed completely negate that hook moment from the end of the first volume that really stimulated me to keep reading. In fact, they didn’t show any of the minute that would make it so powerful either, but I guess I’ll talk about that later on.
So, what is shown, right from the outset, is the little girls of the B-Team watching full-on tongue action, and in a public cinema no less. (In the LN, those lizards did actually kiss). Afterwards, they, Willem and Naigrat move to a cafe in a reasonably populated town (presumably on the same island as the warehouse), and we’re told it’s been half a month since the A-Team left. In an effort to jostle Willem out of focusing on what might be happening to the absent girls, Naigrat suggests he do some work for her, just as some poor fuzzy comes over with some cake, shaking violently and legging it as soon as possible screaming “Please don’t eat me.” This seems to be a rejigger of a scene which came back in the first volume of the LN, in the first chapter no less, where Willem is visiting the town near the warehouse for a change of pace and ends up chatting with a chef. It leads to his first encounter with Ithea and Nephren, along with Kutori, and the chef makes several mentions of an individual far more terrifying than any Emnewiht legend, whose smile makes you forget history and just pray to live; the “Red Stomach.”
Apparently, Naigrat also single-handedly destroyed a criminal band of Orcs that had been harassing the area. And possibly ate them...
After the OP, we then see Willem appraising a leak in the ceiling of the warehouse. Asking Kutori for a hammer, the lack of response has Willem staring down creepily-expanding darkened hallways, calling the names of the A-Team and running into empty rooms for any signs that they were there. He eventually encounters Naigrat, who tells him to accept the fact the girls are dead, and then he jerks awake in an airship cabin with an excited Tiat staring out of the window.
Arriving at a seemingly famous city (specified in the LN as the first city founded after the islands took to the sky), where Disfeatured seem to not suffer the same prejudice we’ve previously seen, Willem complains about the trip whilst Tiat starts fangirling. Another flashback to the cafe (the chronology of these sections is a bit of a pain) has Naigrat tell of Tiat having a dream of places she’s never been and people she’s never met. Apparently, when a fairy has such a dream, it’s a sign they are awakening to their potential and need to go to a medical facility on this particular island for an examination. Tiat’s squeeing amplifies when she sees a landmark that featured in the dirty lizard porn the episode opened with, with her entirely unconvincing assertion that she’s too adult to want to sightsee depressing Willem as it includes a reference to both the fact Kutori is fighting and that Tiat wants to be like her.
The trip to the hospital has the duo locate ever more banal sites for Tiat to fangasm about, Willem remaining resolutely unenthused. As they get a drink, more dirty lizard action precedes Tiat leaping from her chair and drawing Willem over to a big statue of a beardy old guy on a fountain, who Willem looks at with a narrowing of his eyes which I’m sure isn’t significant at all. (Hey, doesn’t that look like the beardy old guy from the OP? Also, Willem explicitly doesn’t show any recognition of the statue in the LN). The mood is abruptly interrupted by two large beastguys beating the crap out of a stall, which I presume insulted their mothers or something, as the start of a plotline which I expect to take up certainly the next episode and possibly the one after, yet will remain pretty irrelevant overall. Seriously, if they were going to cut content to make the anime fit, I could have done without this BS.
Seeing a police golem flatten one of them was amusing though.
At the hospital, the familiar way the cyclops doctor refers to Naigrat (Nai-chan) becomes to cringe-worthy “NyNy” (I guess Nyggie could have been worse) and people in the CR comments started writing jokes about The Lusty Argonian Maid. As Tiat goes off for her checkup, Willem perks her out of her nervousness by saying they’ll have time for more sightseeing before they leave the next day, then after the commercial splash we get a panty-clad Tiat suffering the torment of the Cold Stethoscope (and if an underage girl’s bare back and underwear gets you hot, you really need help).
While Tiat suffers, the cyclops seeks Willem out to report that her health seems fine (aside from a milk overdose) and we get the exposition of why these examinations occur in the first place. Fairies are the only beings (left) capable of wielding the ancient human swords so effective against the Beasts, but not all fairies come into that ability. When they have a ‘Harbinger’ dream, they’re taken to the hospital to be assessed on their suitability and get “tuned” to be able to fight. More references to the girls being treated objects. We also get a mention of the odd afflictions that can sometimes assail fairies, as they aren’t ‘normal’ existences, and a specific mention of “mental disintegration.” I would casually suggest people connect that to “having dreams of places and people they’ve never seen” and see where that might take you (Or just read the Explication section later).
Tiat will be staying in the hospital overnight, so Willem says he’ll go to the Guardian Wings HQ (Winged Guard in the LN translation) and stay in a spare room reserved for layovers like his. The typical scene of a child wanting to grow up too fast whilst an adult reflects on the unknown costs they’re leaping towards is given added gravitas given the fairies specific situation - of becoming expendable weapons - but Willem’s muttered objection could be considered slightly hypocritical given that running off to fight is exactly what he did as a child, obsessed with stories of heroics, and until it all went a little wrong over the course of 500-odd years he never regretted it.
The next morning, Willem fails to realise the gloom and rain is scene-setting for DRAMA in a massive case of genre-blindness, and just bitches about his plans to go sightseeing with Tiat that afternoon getting spoiled. A leaking roof in the atrium of the of the HQ reminds Willem of his nightmare about the girls, before a fancily-dressed dog woman runs through a door and bumps into him. A minor upside for anime in general occurs when Willem doesn’t immediately either get slapped or accused of being a pervert after a girl collided with him (though we get a hint she was tempted) and the woman asks to see Limeskin. Limeskin being away supervising the fight against the Timere, both parties complain about not knowing when he’ll be back, then a furore in the background comes screaming to the fore with a mention of that exact battle, that has conspicuously been a complete unknown due to communication lockout until now.
Dashing out from under cover, Willem accosts one of the personnel running around and pulls rank to get the news (incidentally pulling it out of his ass, he’s no idea if he does actually have any right to the information), which turns out to be that the battle against the Timere has been lost.
The moment is sold suitably dramatically, but I’m very glad they didn’t use it as an end of episode cliffhanger. It would have been an unnecessary irritation had they tried to pretend something bad had happened to Kutori or the others, when the very start of the anime showed them further on in time (admittedly in a bad situation). Instead, they actually leverage the scene for humour, as as Willem collapses to his knees in the pouring rain, flashbacks of moments with the girls accompanied by solemn music (as dog girl wondering what the heck is going on), Limeskin and the girls themselves actually walk in discussing how to get the news they’re okay back to the warehouse quickly so everyone (Willem) can be reassured, Limeskin once again coming across as a pretty reasonable guy.
Dog wifie running off to speak to Limeskin stops the group’s progression, Kutori fussing about her post-battle appearance (as the ‘magic crystals’ allow two-way visual communication) even as Nephren spots Willem looking sad. Willem returns the observation, still blue-screening, followed by Ithea, leaving Kutori blissfully oblivious that the person she doesn’t want to see her covered in mud is right over there, until they both make eye contact. Long pauses follow, until Willem snaps entirely and flashsteps over to catch Kutori in a battle-glomp faster than anyone can actually track (similar to his rapid-movement from the time he caught her).
Kutori starts freaking out adorably, complaining about how tightly Willem is holding her, how dirty she is, how wet he is, that everyone is watching etc etc etc. as the other three very casually wonder where the hell he appeared from (rather, how did he move so fast; Limeskin perhaps not knowing Willem’s history given his own surprise). Nephren pointing out that this is why she suggested sending word right away is met with Ithea for once not snarking to difuse a situation, commenting on just how broken Willem is acting. Or rather, how overtly broken, as they’re well aware he’s usually trying to cover it up. Ithea perhaps acts surprisingly mature here, I would point out, and Nephren clearly states that she feels you need to watch Willem closely otherwise he’d hurt himself. Kutori meanwhile is still stuck not being as mature as she likes to think she is as her friends finish reflecting and move on to teasing her instead. As all good friends would, naturally. Nephren and Ithea moving to reassure Willem that they’re okay, everyone is okay, snaps him out of his Blue Screen of Glomp, and he slowly realises the situation. Letting Kutori go, both try to figure out where to go from this (as Ithea luxuriates in the awkward), Kutori defaulting to the tsundere stereotype and slapping us into the ED. The next ep preview then provides us with more beastpeople, more Willem getting decked and an actual reason to watch in seeing Tiat and Nephren playing together.
Frankly, I’m beginning to worry about how the anime is managing the story. I said right at the beginning of this (absurdly long) article that they skipped the end of the first volume and that vital moment, but that’s perhaps not even the worst of it. They also completely leave out the beginning of volume 2, with another flashback to Willem’s past where he meets up with Leila and Suwon and chat whilst they wait for the other members of their party to arrive, before heading off to that battle he wouldn’t return from. This doesn’t just allow us a greater look into who Willem was before he suffered the massive trauma that practically defines him in the ‘present’ it lets us see the world as it was, and also has us get to know characters who do continue to have ramifications as the story continues. I’m not sure if the anime might be planning to focus on the past all at once at some future date, or are just discarding it entirely, but even if it is the former by not providing these vignettes as the ‘primary’ plot advances, a significant amount of context is lost and honestly, so is much of the tragic nature of this tale. And if you’re going to adapt a tragedy but leave out much of what makes it tragic, why bother? [cough]Fuuka[cough]
Aside from this, the anime continues making Willem emote far more overtly in his depression over the Fairies, especially at the episode’s climactic event. For example, when pressing that random soldier for information about the battle, rather than pleading Willem straight-up intimidates the guy. That said, they actually tone down his nightmare, which in the LN he has before leaving the warehouse with Tiat, and hits him far more powerfully; reducing him to repeating the names of all the Braves he idolised growing up as he wakes, then crying as he realises it was just a dream.
It also continues to cut much of the banter, especially between Willem and Naigrat, that often expands the setting. In this case, Naigrat flirting with Willem as they retrieve laundry before a downpour, talking about the nature of the Timere (that every time you kill it, it splits into a new form and attacks again, more powerfully, and the larger attacks can require it to be killed hundreds of times) and that the girls were accompanied by a Reptrace (lizard) artillery group to pin the Beast down while the girls rest, even if the Carillons are the only things that can do significant damage. I know several viewers questioned how the girls could fight consistently for such a long time; this is the answer, the anime just didn’t include it. Naigrat then tasks Willem with taking Tiat for the checkup after this conversation, rather than a chat at a cafe.
Interestingly, the anime also changes Ithea’s personality a bit. Rather than her realising how badly Willem’s mental state is, she instead appears to have bought into his act to a greater degree, Nephren having to explain just how damaged he is to her even as Kutori keeps squealing. Nephren is also the singular person who reassures him and allows him to return to his senses. In many ways, Nephren is actually more a central heroine that Kutori, honestly, even if Kutori is the ‘main’ one.
The “mental disintegration” mentioned in the anime is also far more explicitly termed “encroachment” in the LN, and specified as memories of a past life intruding on the present individual, leading to a loss of self identity. The Fairies nature as reincarnated souls is also a significant aspect I think the anime is glossing over.
As well, the LN sets up more of the political intrigue which this particular volume moves around, stating that racial conflict between the beastpeople who founded the city and other races who have come later is flaring up and Willem noting that he feels like he’s being watched through much of his time in the city. As a core plot element to write a single volume in a larger story around, whilst adding more worldbuilding to the actual series story around the edges, this works fine. For an anime, I think it’s going to be spending too much time looking at an event that really doesn’t matter much, and as I said before, if you’re cutting material for brevity, why cut material that does matter to the wider story instead of truncating stuff like this?
Finally, in the LN she doesn’t slap him. Overall, just as the anime is making Willem more… angry, and passionate, I guess, though in a negative aspect, it’s also making Kutori more emotionally unstable and less composed. Not an alteration I’m in favour of, personally, even if people always seem to piss themselves in fury anytime a character who doesn’t have the emotional paradigm of a cat on meth appears foremostly in a show.