Anyone following my personal story arc on here will know I am not the biggest fan of Isekai. The latest twist in the tale being me trying not to lump all Isekai in the same basket and learn that it isn’t the concept itself that I have a problem with, but what generally comes along with it.
I don’t hate on Isekai as my default. Although the sheer number of them that come out on any given anime season of late is really making difficult for me to change my mind. What I actually don’t like, down at its core, are overpowered protagonists with no depth to them.
Pure power fantasy is a video game concept to me, and even in those situations, there is a limit to how easy these experiences want my life to be. A lack of adversity, challenge or growth makes for a boring main character in my brain.
Sure, there are exceptions to these rules, there always are.
What I feel this show does differently is that it takes its sweet ass time in building up its main character. In a good way. Sure, he’s still some nobody from modern day Japan, hurled into another world and given the opportunity at a second chance.
Where I feel Will differs from a lot of other Isekai protagonists is that right from the bat, he simply takes this second chance for exactly what it is; an opportunity to do it better. To know what he was missing from his old life and earnestly try to make up for it this second time round. He’s not out for some personal grudge or to take something out on someone.
So many other heroes jump into their new world with a desperate need to stroke their own ego, conscious of that fact or not. Or to simply life an “easy life” away from the stresses and pressures of the life they had before. Genuine or not. Will openly admits that he was unhappy because he was isolated.
Thus he spends over a decade of his life determined, dedicated and willing to work for a better life and a better sense of self. It certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s surrounded by three brilliant minds and bodies who are more than willing to teach him everything he needs to know in order to be the perfect overpowered Isekai protagonist once he ventures out into the world.
Unlike so many other protags we see though, who basically get by on a “cheat”, Will works for his skills and knowledge. And we spend an entire half season watching that progression. And that’s not a complaint, it’s genuinely warming and touching to see Will grow and come to love and his new undead family.
Thus, by the time Will’s time with his family is over, it’s a heart wrenching goodbye and Will goes out into the world a very humble, respectful and caring young man having grown into a totally different person from the one who he was before. Almost as if this didn’t really need to be an Isekai show in the first place.
Which stands to question, what kind of Isekai is this?
And that is the question isn’t it. At the very beginning o f this piece, I complained that my problem with the genre wasn’t that of Isekai (outside of the sheer number of them), but the power fantasy aspect of the series that comes at the expense of character drama in most cases. There are some Isekai I do like, generally the ones where the hero is disadvantaged and has to overcome something.
Ascendance of a Bookworm always being my prime example of a series doing it well. Putting the main character into a small body and a sickly one at that, the only advantage they got was an eclectic memory from far too much time spend in the library.
Is that what Faraway Paladin is doing? I don’t think so, honestly, in structure it feels like any of the other power fantasy style Isekai out there, with a main character finding themselves out in the world and much stronger than everyone around them. The main difference is its slow burn, that it dedicates those first 6 episodes to Will and his family. Something so many other Isekai would have rushed over in the first episode to get to the bit where Will is destroying people.
And honestly, this slow burn is the show’s biggest boon in my eyes. At least in regard to what I’ve seen of it so far. My worry is that this approach comes with one big shortcoming to the remainder of the series.
Now Will has gotten out there, fought some bandits and made friends with an androgynous elf dude, we start to see that Will’s soft spoken and subdued personality makes him a… less than dynamic protagonist. Part of the reason Isekai are so popular these days are because their heroes are bombastic, acting like kids who realise they were in a dream and immediately try to test the limitations.
Some of them seem to want to take the frustrations of their past life out on whoever they run into in this world. Others want to meta-game the shit out of their new powers and it makes them seem eccentric to everyone around them in the extreme. Will is just a nice, God loving boy who wants to do some good in the world and play as close to his Lawful Good alignment as humanly possible.
Which is great, but after two episodes of it, I’m kind of finding my attention waning slightly. The problem is, our most interesting and charismatic characters all ended up dying at the conclusion of the story’s first act, and the ones we’ve got left have been… let’s say less than exciting.
I honestly do appreciate the shit out of this series for doing what it did in those first 6 episodes. Telling a very slow burn of a story about a kid being raised by the undead heroes of the previous generation. It was wholesome and fun all without really needing to have an extreme gimmick to it.
But maybe that was the gimmick in the end, because now Will is out in the world, I feel like the show is going to have a very hard time keeping that charm and sense of character development for the remaining duration of its run. When I was reading the synopsis of this series before it started airing, I thought that part of Will’s deal that he would be a little weird and eccentric from spending almost his entire life around undead.
However, none of that seems to have carried through to the rest of the story so far, rather he is just a powerful Paladin with a pretty generic power set. The Faraway Paladin might end up regretting not carrying the most interesting thing about it to the rest of the series. Which is if things don’t take another twist in the road before it’s over.
I’m not giving up on the Faraway Paladin yet, but I am worried that it’s best story arc is already wrapped up and behind it. At the very least I really do appreciate that this story took the time to give it’s main character some depth, a strong moral core and a very strong sense of reasoning behind it all.
Something I’m always baffled so many other anime seem to forget it a simple part of storytelling.