The Winter 2021 Preview Guide
Redo of Healer
How would you rate episode 1 of
Redo of Healer ?
What is this?
Keyarga is a healer who is used and tossed around by his fellow adventurers on the assumption that healers cannot fight on their own. However, when he achieves the ultimate healing magic, and "heals" the world itself, he goes back four years to redo his life.
Content warning for torture, sexual content
How was the first episode?
Here it is. The big bad. The major controversial anime du jour. The final boss of the Winter 2021 preview guide. The one everyone is talking about, whether disgusted or gleeful, with very little in-between. After months of lead-up, I am here to say that, while nowhere near as bad as it could have, that premiere kind of sucked.
Even if I didn't know what was coming, and I'm not going to pretend I don't for the sake of this review because you and I both know better than that, I wouldn't have enjoyed it. It's a mediocre effort on every level, including writing, direction, and animation production, firmly below the fiftieth percentile in terms of the season. The dialogue is lacking, and the animation is often stiff and off-model. The action lacks originality, and entire minutes go by with montages of stills instead of actual motion. It also has probably the least sexy sex scene I have ever witnessed in my entire life.
It's hard to believe this was ever written in a way that made logical, consistent sense, that this is a world where the abuse Keyaru survived is plausible. Instead, it is characterized by an artificially constructed sense of cruelty, and the script is full of cracks where its petty meanness shows through. Instead of the party getting him addicted to drugs just to make him dependent on them and, apparently, rob him of his humanity just for funsies, couldn't he have just become addicted as a way of coping with his pain?
And then there's the way that Freya's face falls when she finds out he's a healer. Healers and support classes are essential to any adventuring party, as she should well realize, so it doesn't make sense that she'd hate him immediately. It would be just as effective, if not more so, for her to be disgusted and disappointed when she realizes how healing incapacitates him. The only reason to have her despise him right off the bat… honestly, I can't even think of one. It's just more nastiness for its own sake.
The transactional nature of sex discomfits me as well. There are tons of fantasy stories where magic and sex are interlinked, but the specific way Redo of Healer handles it, where it's an act of taking rather than sharing, builds a world where rape becomes just another common-sense way of getting more powerful, rather than a vicious act of domination. Plus, while he may have actually wanted it, the fact that the maid had sex with him even after he said no because he became erect hearkens to the idea that involuntary physiological responses can be used as proof that rape victims actually did want it and enjoyed it.
And now, I have reviewed Redo of Healer, and now that I've earned my preview guide money, I am extremely excited to never talk or think about it again.
I'd like to make one thing clear upfront: Even if I wasn't already aware of the way Redo of Healer's subject matter handled its particularly noxious themes and story beats, and all I had to go on was a completely-context free viewing of the anime's premiere, I still would have hated it. That's because, if there's one thing I never need to see again in my life, it is another light novel adaptation about a generic hero who gains godlike powers in a generic fantasy setting that operates exactly like a generic fantasy JRPG video game for absolutely no reason other than the fact that it's made other franchises an awful lot of money.
Based purely on this episode alone, Redo of Healer gives the impression of a creatively bankrupt series that hasn't put even an ounce of thought or care into its world-building or its storytelling, because it expects people to eat it up sight-unseen purely because of its similarity to the other ten million similar franchises, and also because of its “shock” value.
You know what also doesn't help Redo of Healer? It's also ugly as hell. Not strictly because of its themes or characterization either – the show just looks like crap. Most scenes are barely animated, characters are frequently stiff-looking and off-model, and the editing is choppy enough to make a mess out of an already overwritten premiere. Even when characters are on model, there's not a thing about any of them that I could discern from the key art of whatever random mobile game is gaining traction this week. When the show does pull its head out of its hero Keyaru's Edge Lord asshole long enough to try and titillate the audience, the art is either janky looking or blacked-over enough to render any of Redo of Healer's pornographic functions completely moot.
Then there's all of the garbage moralizing, which is presented pretty blandly here, though I'm led to believe that things will only get much worse going forward. You see, the series' only attempt at bringing something vaguely different to the table is that Keyaru's Halcyon Sight, which gives him all of his stupid video-game powers, also allows him to reclaim his memories from the future wherein he was psychologically broken, sexually abused, and otherwise tortured enough to turn him into King Shit of Sad Boy Mountain. Not only is he going to use his newfound power and future sight to avoid all of the pain and suffering he went through – you know, the one aspect of his character that makes him even slightly relatable? – he's determined to pay the villains in his life back eye-for-an-eye style.
Never mind that this makes Keyaru a completely irredeemable character that is impossible to root for or empathize with; even if I were to disregard the future events of novels that I couldn't possibly care less about, Redo of Healer is just so goddamned stupid and exhausting. The way this premiere goes out of its way to paint every major character as a psychopathic sex-criminal-slash-serial-killer-in-the-making is both offensively lazy and lazily offensive. Beyond being actively unpleasant to watch, Redo of Healer also then positions itself as a story that's based entirely on giving its protagonist the moral high ground, in order to justify its general awfulness. It also wants to make sure it can earn a few bucks as cheapo jerkoff material at the same time by exploiting all of that awfulness, and yeah, feel free to miss me with that nonsense, Redo of Healer. I'd rather marathon a GoHands anime than sit through this again.
Welp, it's here. Since basically the moment it was announced for streaming, everyone I know with a professional obligation to watch every premiere was dreading this particular title. For those not in the know or who only saw Sentai Filmworks' purposefully vague synopsis, here's the deal: this is rape porn. Like straight up, the draw of this show is to see the male protagonist rape and magically brainwash all of the women in this show. Because it's technically a TV series that pretends to have a larger plot and story arc, but basically all of it is set-up and attempted justification for why it's actually totally cool that the central dude routinely enacts sexual violence for revenge. If that understandably doesn't sound like a good time to you, then there is nothing for you here.
If that is your bag (or you're a weirdo who wants to see other people get upset watching this show), I have bad news for you on this premiere: it doesn't actually have any of that material you were hoping for. Turns out crafting a narrative to theoretically justify having your hero be a serial rapist takes a lot of legwork, and a 24-minute TV episode just can't contain it all. So instead this premiere is entirely spent on detailing the paper-thin excuse of how Keyaru was abused and exploited and addicted to drugs and born with paper bones and glass skin and every morning he breaks his legs and every afternoon he breaks his arms.
If that sounds glib it's because it is, but also everyone watching this knows that this is all set dressing. Redo isn't interested in being a psychological drama exploring the damage and trauma of abuse, or an examination of political corruption. Everything to do with Keyaru is a concerted authorial decision to make it easier to handwave his brand of revenge and allow for the audience to just get off to it. That's why all of his enemies are evil down to their bones, the easier to convince oneself that they “deserve” what's coming to them. And that's just not compelling writing on a story or character level, so in the absence of any real sexual content (there's a heavily black-barred scene of Keyaru banging a maid this episode, and that's all) you're left with a similar experience to watching the edited videos on Coolmic's YouTube channel. But instead of 5 minutes, it's 20.
So yeah, sorry to disappoint but this is just kind of a nothing of a premiere. Much like last year's Peter Grill and the Philosopher's Time, it's too neutered in its TV series format to succeed at its primary function, and too derelict in every other regard to make up for it. Heck, going by pure non-enjoyment this isn't even the worst thing I've watched for preview guide. But it is definitely the least.
Redo of Healer may well be the most notorious and divisive anime series this season, in this case its earned a reputation for using “revenge rape” as a key recurring story element in the original material. While the series' opening shot is suggestive, the unseemly potential of the series is not realized in this episode. That's not to say that the episode is tame – there is still a consensual sex scene and the protagonist mentions having several others – but it is more concerned with establishing the series' premise than showing its hand.
That premise is a hard-core revenge tale, one that is in the spirit of The Count of Monte Cristo but with more direct means of revenge being planned. Protagonist Keyarga's healing ability can even restore lost limbs, but it has a frightful side effect; he can see all of the experiences of the one he heals. This can be so overwhelming that he doesn't want to use his power. To make sure that he still does, he's both physically confined and effectively enslaved through addicting drugs, and he's looked down on for “only” being a healer on top of that. When he discovers a way to uses his powers to “heal the world” and steal the abilities and experiences of those he heals, he sets the clock back to before everything happens so he can control events this time.
Why Keyarga would be motivated to revenge is clearly established. He's treated like crap, the princess that is one of the other Heroes is a thoroughly awful person from the beginning and the other Hero he encounters after the reset – the swordswoman – eventually turns on him after initially being grateful to Keyarga for restoring her arm. There's also nothing unusual about tweaking events in a time travel scenario more to your advantage; we have seen that happen in countless anime and non-anime titles over the years. It's the methods he takes to accomplish his goal that are going to matter a lot in determining how problematic this series does or doesn't get. Taking revenge on people for things that they have not done yet is also, at best, a moral gray area, and I am curious to see if Keyarga even considers this.
What I have a problem with about this episode is one other aspect of the premise: that a Healer is uniformly looked down on by the other Heroes. In just about any fantasy RPG, healers are considered practically indispensable. Almost no one would quibble over a character who not only does healing but does it well, and being able to restore lost limbs is high-level stuff in most RPGs. Perhaps, like in Shield Hero we will eventually see an explanation for why a Healer is so degraded in this case despite normal utility, but right now the logic here feels awfully contrived.
The technical merits here are nothing special, with animation being limited in several places and the one sex scene (what little of it is not blackened out, that is) is, honestly, not that erotic, so the main draw here is Keyarga and his revenge scheme. Although the vaguely-suggested angle about how the Demon Lord may be a victim rather than the enemy is promising, too. So far he's coming across more like a caricature, but we'll see how things play out. I did at least like the biting irony of one scene where he mentally describes the capital as “filthy in many ways” and then says out loud to the princess, “the city is as beautiful as you are.” Let's see more of that.
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