It’s time for my Iskai of the season! In between the time of me putting this anime on my shortlist of things to watch and actually getting around to watching these first three episodes back to back, I had totally forgotten this was an isekai. If you’ve been following me on here with any regularity, you’ll know I’m not the biggest stand for theiskeai tsunami that we’re being subjected to these past handful of years.
But that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to give one of them a chance every now and then.
Right from the beginning, there is one thing I appreciate about The Faraway Paladin over many other fantasy and/or isekai series I’ve been exposed to over the past few years. And that’s that it gets itself off to a very slow start. In general, these kinds of shows are desperate to grab your attention, and thus beat you over the head with something flashy in their opening episode. Last season’s Peach Boy Riverside was a prime example of this.
While that show’s first season certainly was eye-catching enough to keep me invested and watching it right through to the end, even making me check out the manga after it concluded, Peach Boy’s biggest failing was its bizarre choice to air the events of the source material totally out of order. something you can read me talking about more here. I get why studios do it, there are so many shows out there that you want to give yourself the best chance to get noticed right from the first episode. Even if that doesn’t suit the flow and development of the story.
Honestly, it’s becoming something of a minor annoyance for me when I’m watching a lot of new anime for the purposes of this series. As much as I do rate Takt.op Destiny as one of the most exciting series of this current anime season so far, it did the very same thing and gave us a first episode that seemed like it was plucked from the middle of the story before jumping back to the actual beginning of the narrative.
It’s one of the most refreshing things about The Faraway Paladin and probably the biggest thing that is keeping me interested in continuing it past the first three episodes, just to spoil my conclusions of the series right away. It takes its time to set up a world without oversharing its hand and giving too much away, it allows you to marinate in the characters and grow attached to them before leaving us on a cliffhanger within the third episode that genuinely has me wanting to know what happens next.
Something that probably would have been lost had the beginning of the series shown us our main character several chapters down the road and giving us a very clear idea of where his journey is headed. It was almost a slap to the face, reminding me of how this is how you’re actually supposed to write a story; as a series of small mysteries waiting to be solved and not a paint-by-numbers exercise where the only variation is the type of pencils used to colour it in.
To give a brief synopsis, Will is our revived Iskeai hero. A man whose previous life remains a total mystery throughout these first episodes, in fact, it’s barely even important. All we do know is that he was a lonely, isolated individual. Then, one day he finds himself waking up in the body of a red-headed baby, being cooed over by three undead monsters.
He quickly discovers that these three are actually nowhere near as terrifying as they first appear, and raise him as their collective son over the course of fifteen years. Gus is the ghost of a once-great sage and teaches Will magic and the history of the world’s Gods, Mary is a mummified Priest and teaches him the basics of agriculture, first aid and worship and then there’s Blood; a huge armoured skeleton who teaches him how to hunt and how to fight.
Over the course of these three whole episodes, we see Will grow and learn from his three parents and despite his foggy knowledge of a previous life in modern Japan, takes to these three as his family. He comes to love them. As I previously mentioned, the series really takes its time building these characters and their relationships. It justifies why Will will inevitably become as strong and important as he will eventually become because he had three fantastic teachers.
Which is why, when we learn the truth of the world in the final part of the third episode, it feels more impactful. That these three undead were the previous hero’s party, that classic Dragon Quest inspires trope that seems to permeate every single one of these fantasy anime stories. They were in a final battle with the fearsome King that lead armies of demons to destroy everything on the continent.
However, in this story, the hero party failed to kill their adversary and instead could only seal him deep in the dungeon of their final battle. Despite him being sealed, his armies still ran rampant across the country. It was at this point that Stagnate, the God of the dead in this world came to them and offered them a deal; that he would wipe out the demon army in exchange for them becoming his immortal servants, forever watching over the seal of the King and stopping him from ever breaking out again.
Based on these episodes, there is so much left on the table, despite the series already investing an hour or so of content into watching Will grow and learn. The God’s are obviously fickle and have their goals beyond our understanding, so when Stagnate shows up again in this episode, I desperately want to know more. Additionally, we have seen nothing outside of the world of Will and his undead family.
The show’s credits lead us to believe there is a much wider cast yet to be introduced, and yet we haven’t seen one iota of them.
Despite my general dismissiveness of the isekai genre, I feel like this show has actually done a fantastic job of writing a complete first act that sets the stage and then creates the event that kicks off the story’s next act. Something, shockingly, not many other anime seem to do.
Verdict: I want to see where this one is going, despite it being Isekai
My problem with iskeai isn’t with the concept itself. My problem generally comes from protagonists who come out of the other world portal already overpowered and underdeveloped. Being strong alone isn’t a compelling character trait in my books. While I get the impression that Will will venture out into the wider world being much stronger than everyone he meets (maybe), I don’t mind it as much because we spent three whole episodes seeing being trained by the previous generations strongest party.
The show invested the time into developing him, giving him values, things to care about and a sense of self outside of being some jerkoff from another world with a chip on his shoulder. Whatever Will’s previous life was, he has already discarded that and wholly given himself into his new family and their collective values.
Which isn’t to say that this show could very easily just drop the ball and turn into just another isekai about an overpowered protagonist travelling the world and building a harem of powerful allies along the way. But I am impressed enough the with patient legwork of the series’ first three episodes that I genuinely do want to see where it’s going. I’m sure I’ll very very quick to post a follow-up and let you all know about how it let me down if things eventually go that way.
But, right now I’m pretty hopeful. Man, why is all the best anime taking till the end of the year to come out