Back in black!
Overview (Spoilers Below!)
With her dying breath, a woman draws symbols on the ground in her blood. She summons a demon, begging him to “kill them.”
A demon has been terrorizing the town of Filtwood. Shizu joins a group of heroes, catching up with her old friend Cougar. The minister reports that the demon has recently killed two great heroes. Shizu theorizes that they may be dealing with an archdemon, but her theory is quashed when the minister says that the demon is unnamed.
A man refuses to help with such a dangerous mission, and one of the guards kills him in cold blood. At his death, the man is revealed to be a lesser demon. The minister explains that he called this meeting to determine if any demons are hiding among the heroes; anyone who refuses to cooperate will be revealed as one and struck down. Shizu wonders if the minister wants the heroes to kill each other.
One hero steps forward and declares that he will not cooperate and that he knows the guard himself summoned the lesser demon. This man reveals his desire to kill everyone else in the room to ensure that the demons will be vanquished. Shizu steps forward to fight him, and the two engage in a fierce battle. When one of her strongest skills can’t touch him, she realizes that the man is actually a powerful demon himself. He calls himself “Black.” Shizu is able to wound Black before he vanishes, but she feels that she might not have won if he’d decided to finish the fight.
Back in her room, Shizu remembers a lesson Leon gave her about the three immensely powerful progenitor demons, one of which was called Noir. A knight declares that the king wants an audience with Shizu, and she follows him to the dungeons, where the minister and the king are waiting. However, this knight is actually the hero Orthos who is actually a demon who is actually the true king of Filtwood. He tries to kill Shizu for her mask, but Black appears and slaughters Orthos and his corrupt aides. He rids the kingdom of demons under the condition that Shizu will claim that Black was behind the mayhem and she defeated him.
In the present day, Black watches Rimuru from afar, deeply intrigued.
While there are some satisfying twists in this episode, the overall plot is unfortunately just plain boring. The snappy dialogue and absurd situations that are Slime’s greatest strengths are absent here. Since the fight scene between Shizu and Black isn’t particularly inspired, we’re left with a dime-a-dozen fantasy short that doesn’t do much other than set up Black’s eventual appearance in season two. And the serious Shizu can’t hold a candle to Rimuru for the title of likeable, engaging protagonist.
For one thing, Shizu’s mask means that we don’t get to see any of her facial expressions, which just seems like an excuse for lazy animating and character development. Her disproportionate character design—an hourglass figure so extreme it looks dramatically unrealistic, especially in the way her boobs are individually defined even under a tunic—further renders her an unrelatable character. On the other hand, Black’s outfit is cool as hell—he looks like he stepped straight out of Black Butler or maybe Code Geass.
All these plans and fake plans and secret real plans get pretty confusing though. At first, we think the minister gathered everyone so that they could join their strength in fighting a demon. Then Shizu wonders if this gathering is intended as a paranoid mass execution of anyone powerful enough to be a demon. Then the minister assures us that he had no intention of killing any human; he was just using this situation as a ruse to draw out the real demon. And then it turns out that the whole thing… was a power grab by Orthos? And he was the real demon terrorizing Filtwood all along? But then how did Black feature into it? All these twists and turns are too confusing to really be shocking. Plus, we get a moment of Shizu being shocked that she’s in the dungeon to see the king (who we’ve never seen before, so we need her exposition to tell us the guy in front of her is a big deal), but then immediately Orthos reveals himself to be the real king. What’s the point of including the fake king in the scene at all?
So yeah, this episode is mostly a vehicle to get us some exposition about and context for Black so that we’re a little invested in him by his next appearance. And I’ll admit, Black is definitely the coolest thing about “Black and the Mask”—way cooler than the aforementioned mask for sure. Daman Mills does an over-the-top suave vampiric voice that’s usually on the right side of charming, and his cavalier attitude towards using his immense power is likable. I just wish the other new characters here—Orthos, the minister, Cougar—weren’t so immensely bland.
Honestly, you could probably skip this episode without missing much, especially because Rimuru’s absence is plainly felt. But the final fight scene is reasonably entertaining, and Black is intriguing enough that at least “Black and the Mask” left me feeling tantalized for next season.