The Fall 2021 Preview Guide
Banished From The Heroes' Party
How would you rate episode 1 of
Banished From The Heroes' Party ?
What is this?
Red was born with incredible powers, and he seemed like the perfect candidate to join the front lines in the fight to save the world—but before he could, he was told this wasn't where he belonged. Instead, he finds his destiny in an apothecary.
How was the first episode?
If you told me this morning that the best premiere I'd see all day would be the one with an overlong title about being an exciting fantasy world and purposefully not doing cool fantasy stuff, I'd have asked you just how bad the hockey show must have been. But here we are, a show I had basically no expectations or hope for turns out to be a genuinely solid premiere. It's not reinventing the wheel, nor is it some surprise tour-de-force, but it turns out you can do a lot with just a little if you're willing to give your stock anime protagonist some actual character and personality.
That's not to say Red is a font of charm and wit, exactly. He's a fairly standard, kind everyman on his own, but the inciting incident of the show's title gives him a lot to work with. Through this first episode we can tell he's clearly working through his feelings on how his life has shifted since his “banishment” and while he's making a concerted effort to embrace his new situation, that adjustment is a very lengthy process. And it's nice to see that conflict play out as he goes about his day, his mind always pivoting back to what he's left behind, second guessing if it was the right decision, and then doing his darndest to convince himself it's for the best and he can make a fresh start. It's not anything groundbreaking, but it does a lot to make Red feel human where he could have been just another bland protagonist.
On top of that, there's also a few bits of potentially interesting world building at play. I'm generally opposed to fantasy stories featuring explicit video-game elements, because it almost always makes the worlds less interesting, but the idea of skills presented here offers some clever avenues for character exploration. Not only are skills pre-ordained, they seem to have a dramatic effect on what one is capable of in the world. Red had to eventually bow out from being at his sister's side because the same special power that made him once helpful has left him straggling, and there's hints that what one gets for a “Blessing” isn't necessarily in line with what one wants from life. That's got a lot of room for character drama in the same vein as Red's, and I hope we see more of that as we (hopefully) explore the extended cast moving forward.
The biggest question mark for me is Rit, the blond woman who's plastered all over the OP and ED (The ED, by the way, has some sublime instrumentation and turned me onto JYOCHO immediately) who presumably joins Red in his “slow life” next episode. We don't really have anything to go off for her yet, and that means half of this slice-of-life formula is still a mystery. I will say, the ED paints a pretty cute picture of the two, and suggests they're actually a couple, which I do hope is the case. It'd be neat to see this kind of story also just delve into the domestic fantasy rather than padding things with extraneous love interests or constant blushing. Either way, I'm willing to stick around to find out, which is definitely not what I was expecting going into it.
Banished From The Heroes' Party was not a show I was looking forward to. “Fantasy pharmacist” seems to be the chill isekai/isekai-adjacent career du jour, and every single one I've tried out has bored the snot out of me. Based on its summary and its reputation I did not expect this one to be any different, and thus I hunkered down for a dull slog of an episode that I could safely give a two-star rating to and move on.
But, as you may have noticed, this is not a two-star review. It is, in fact, a positive-but-not-glowing 3.5 star review. Not even the great Zoltar himself could have predicted that I would actually quite enjoy the 25 minutes I spent with Red and his friends. Red, once known as Gideon, is basically one of those units you get at the start of Fire Emblem games - useful at first, but their stats grow more slowly than the other characters so you end up leaving them out of the party or sacrificing them when the story calls for it. His little sister is the Hero, but their fellow party member Ares thinks Gideon has become a liability and has him leave.
The big difference here from similar series is Red's emotional state. Too often in these iyashikei-type fantasy shows, the main character has settled comfortably into their new life and spares nary a thought for how they once lived. Red is different; he enjoys his slow life in Zoltan, it's true, and refuses to go back to adventuring even when the local party invites him along. There's little doubt that he sincerely loves his small town and his friends there. But sometimes when he's alone, his smile slips and his expression turns melancholy and pensive. Even if he's nominally happy, the rejection from the party still hurts and he misses his old sister and the feeling of being part of something greater. After all, even if a change is a positive one, it's hard not to miss your old life sometimes, especially if it wasn't your own choice. It's not especially complex, but it does add a bit of emotional depth that too many other series lack.
Its greatest flaw is easily the script, which has absolutely no faith in its audience's ability to put two and two together. You will never be left to make an inference or read between the lines; almost every moment without dialogue is filled with Red's internal narration, whether it's about world-building . It creates the kind of over-explaining endemic to fantasy anime, where the audience isn't allowed to just accept that something is happening. Everything has to have an in-universe explanation. It honestly weakens the series, especially since a lot of the details seem straight out of a Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook. The emotional moments cannot speak for themselves. After all, why follow the rule of “show, don't tell,” when you can do both?
Still, Banished From The Heroes' Party was exactly the kind of relaxing that I wanted at the time. I watched the episode curled up under a blanket, so drawn into the mood that I forgot to even take notes. It's obvious that the blonde girl who shows up at the end of the episode, Rit, is going to be Red's girlfriend. It'll be interesting to see how the show goes once they meet.
As a longtime player of JRPGs, I am well acquainted with the “not a true companion trope.” In countless games, you get a character who joins the party for a limited time and then stays behind to do their own thing (or dies) while the main party continues their world-spanning adventure. It's an interesting idea to center a story around one of these characters.
In this case we follow Red, who was the mentor to the hero—the Obi-Wan to this world's Luke—when they were just starting their journey. However, the world is literally built in a way that ensures he never can never keep up, because each person in this world has a blessing that determines what they can achieve. When he is unceremoniously told by the party's sage that he is now dragging everyone down, he leaves, exiling himself to the furthest frontier to live a simple life under an assumed name. This speaks to the insecurity he feels. However, with his life's mission complete, he has the opportunity to choose a new one of his own.
That is what this series looks to be about. Red is lost and is trying to find himself. He is no longer in the hero's party and is trying to find out what exactly that means. While he's focused on building a non-heroic life as an herbalist, he still wants to help people. But where exactly does the line between “helper” and “hero” lie? While it's easy to blame Albert and his party for burning the woods—and making it so a needed medicine is now impossible to make—the whole situation could have been avoided if Red had just killed the owlbear when he had the chance.
Moreover, while he might not be the strongest fighter in the world, Red has gone from striving to break his limits to living far below them. Everyone can tell on some level he is not what he appears to be. In a very real way, he is wasting his potential. Is it moral for him to help so much less than he is able to or is this his just reward for raising the hero who will save the world? It's a good question and one I look forward to exploring as the anime progresses.
This is, I suspect, one of those series that is better read than watched. In this case, that's because the pacing in the early chapters of the source light novels is, if not quite glacial, then at least very, very slow as the author establishes who Red is (and was) and what he's doing in Zoltan. And while the story is never what you'd call “rip-roaring,” it does even out more later on in terms of the pacing of events. This episode, however, is trying to get us to the point where things can move more quickly, and that means getting Red his longed-for apothecary as expediently as possible.
It does still do a decent job of letting us know more about who Red is and why he's so keen on having his very own backwoods pharmacy. Prior to showing up in Zoltan, which is basically the last place on earth anyone goes, Red was actually Gideon Ragnason, and a member of the Hero's party. Ruti, the Hero herself, is actually his younger sister, and while we don't know much about how the party was formed yet, we do know that Gideon was a class known as “Guide,” which most people appeared to take to mean that he was to guide her on the first part of her journey. And by “people,” I mean Ares, a spiteful man who took it upon himself one day to inform Gideon that he was no longer required by Ruti and that he should just do them all a favor and leave.
It's definitely striking that it's Ares, not Ruti herself, who kicks Gideon out of the party, because that could suggest that he's acting on his own without her knowledge; in fact, Gideon basically acknowledges that when he comes up with a story for Ares to tell the others. That also means that Ares is very likely full of it and that Gideon was not holding Ruti (or anyone else) back, but rather that Ares was able to play upon Gideon's insecurities with his odd Blessing (a gods-bestowed gift, basically an RPG class assignment) to get rid of him for his own potentially nefarious reasons. We don't know a whole lot about what “Guide” entails, but Ares acts like it's a pretty nothing Blessing, and if enough people have been telling Gideon that, it makes sense that he'd start to believe in his own uselessness.
We can see that he's anything but, of course, and so can the townsfolk of his new hometown. Red is strong and smart, able to compound medicines no one else can and even to take down serious threats. He's also got more common sense than the local adventurers, who think nothing of burning down a forest to kill an owlbear, never mind what that might do to the important, life-saving herbs that grow there. Some of this is just Red's greater experience back when he was Gideon, but a lot of it is also that he's got nothing to prove and no one to prove it to: all he wants now is to live peacefully.
If you've read the books, or just made an inference from the opening and ending themes, you know that the blonde girl, Rit, is going to become part of Red's new life and that his past as a member of Ruti's party is going to catch up with him. Whether the show picks up the pace at that point is up for debate, but this is likely to be either a relaxing watch or a boring one, depending on your perspective. I'll be sticking with the books.
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