The Summer 2022 Preview Guide
Parallel World Pharmacy
How would you rate episode 1 of
Parallel World Pharmacy ?
Community score: 4.2
What is this?
The story centers around a young pharmacologist who was so focused on his research that he died from overwork. He was transported to an alternate world and reincarnated as Pharma, the scion in a noble lineage of court healers. In this world where erroneous remedies and cures are rampant, he takes on all kinds of ailments to save lives, thanks to his inside knowledge of modern pharmacology from his past life.
Parallel World Pharmacy is based on Liz Takayama's novel series and streams on Crunchyroll on Sundays.
How was the first episode?
To make your way to a fantasy world, it seems, you need to be hit by a truck, be a hardcore MMO player who refuses to log off when the game shuts down service, or die from overworking. Parallel World Pharmacy takes the last option. While this has obviously happened in enough other works to be cliché on its own right, what's interesting in this case is that our protagonist's overwork is solely his own doing. Professor Yakutani's not working at a company exploiting their workers, but rather as a researcher at the Japanese equivalent of an Ivy League university. His death is ultimately caused by his own desire to do all he can in the world of medicine, catalyzed by the loss of his little sister to an incurable disease. It's an interesting character beat that explains the drive he shows in figuring out his magic once he awakens in the fantasy world as Farma.
Moreover, I like the idea that Farma's magic is rooted in the scientific understanding he gained in his previous life. He can create not only elements but also compounds based on his knowledge of molecular dynamics. It makes his magic both familiar to the audience and something different from the normal magic of the fantasy world.
All that said, most of this episode is just going through the motions. We get a basic rundown of the setting, meet his new family, and learn a bit about how magic works. But what really sets this first episode apart from most isekai stories, however, is that the first person who figures out how overpowered Farma is utterly freaks out. While Farma's nothing but kind and caring, she only gets more afraid of him the more she learns. A being that she has believed to be a myth is standing before her, be it a god or a monster (and either way she fears for her life). Funnily enough, this might be the most realistic reaction to an overpowered character I've ever seen in an anime; such moments are almost always played for laughs, and the most common reaction seems to be either being stunned into silence or making a feeble quip. Pure, unadulterated terror does seem like the more logical reaction—especially given the "not having a shadow" thing in Farma's case.
All in all, while this was an okay first episode, a lot of it was just basic groundwork. Moreover, I'm not sure what the tone of the show is going to be—is it going to be a lighthearted adventure or a more serious take on being reincarnated in a fantasy world? Either way, there were more than a few intriguing twists to the formula on this one and I'm interested to see how it all turns out.
I don't have the time or mental energy reserves to fully unpack the implications of the fact that we live in a world where “Reborn In Another World Isekai Where Protagonist-Kun Is Specifically A Pharmacist, For Some Reason" is a fully-fledged subgenre of anime. What I can tell you, though, is that if we must live in such a reality, then we could do worse than anime like Parallel World Pharmacy. Given that it is perpetuating an industry stagnancy that I am growing increasingly sick of with every passing season, this show is more or less a best-case scenario.
For one, it begins by doing the one thing I am begging all of these isekai to do more of going forward: It allows us to give a damn about the life that our main character had before he got isekai'd. Sure, the tragic backstory and death by overworking isn't anything new, but it's the barest possible minimum of establishing a halfway decent narrative, so I appreciate the fact that Parallel World Pharmacy is putting in the work. What's more, that sense of melancholy gets carried over to Farma's new life in this other world, such as when he reflects for a bit on the family that he never got to have, and how he's essentially stolen the life of this boy that everyone around him already had real relationships with.
It's solid stuff, and it goes a long way towards getting me through all of the clunky exposition and the scenes of Farma having to figure out the rules of the world's magic and whatnot. Those perfunctory setup tropes are more-or-less unbearable when a show can't even be bothered to try telling a functional story, but in Parallel World Pharmacy, they end up being perfectly fine. I especially appreciate how Farma's “Panactheos" powers are seen as just as much of a liability as a blessing by people like Elen. Who would have thought that actual conflict can make a show more interesting, eh?
I'm still not the target audience for this kind of show, so I don't expect to be revisiting Parallel World Pharmacy any time soon. Still, given how predisposed I am to roll my eyes out of my skull any time the words “parallel world" come up, I was pleasantly surprised by how tolerable the premiere of Parallel World Pharmacy ended up being. Fans of the genre will likely be head over heels for this one.
“Pharmacy isekai” is perhaps a more baffling subgenre than “slime isekai,” but Parallel World Pharmacy looks like it might have an edge on some of its competitors. It certainly doesn't pull its punches in the first few minutes – we watch Professor Yakutani literally work himself to death (his assistant finds his dead body in his office), driven by the death of his younger sister from incurable cancer when they were children. Not quite making the connection that she perhaps wouldn't want him to die trying to save others, he's actually not hugely surprised when he wakes up in a new, younger body, because of a piece of him clearly knew that he was in danger of dying from his punishing schedule. He's not blasé, precisely, just willing to accept what's happened. If anything, he's most confused by why people keep calling his Lichtenberg figures (the fern-like scarring left behind by a lightning strike) marks of a god.
That they may, in fact, be both hasn't quite occurred to him yet, possibly because people just won't stop talking at him. Between his maid Lotte and his tutor Elen, poor Farma (as he's now called) is inundated with beautiful info-dumpers. On the one hand, how nice that people are on hand to explain the stuff that he's supposed to know and willing to buy that a lightning strike zapped his memories. On the other, holy crap is it clumsy, annoying exposition, made that much worse by Lotte's chirpy attitude and Elen's tendency towards histrionics. Add in a mother who says maybe two words and a little sister who sounds years younger than she looks and I don't have high hopes for the female characters in this series.
There may, however, be some hope for the story. Yes, Farma is overpowered, but all of his powers seem to be in service of the wish he was working towards in his past life, the cure for cancer and anything else that takes people too young. That those powers could also stop him from working himself to death for a second time seems to be a blessing based on his admirable goals that he executed poorly, and that's the kind of karma I like to see: a chance to redeem mistakes made in pursuit of something good. Yakutani's goals were admirable, he just got consumed by them. Farma has the power to bring them to fruition without that danger.
So while this drags and isn't great on the whole, I do think, in this slim season, that it may have potential. Maybe it's just hopefulness born of the fact that both of my parents are dealing with issues that I wish there was a magic fix for, but I'll take what I can get.
Besides its sheer ubiquity, my major issue with the ongoing isekai deluge is these stories' typical lack of friction. It takes a narrative device previously all about being a fish out of water and twists both world and characters into pretzels to make it as easy as possible for our plain-faced Melvin lead to slot into place without any problems. Any knowledge they need about this new world is either shoved into their brain or conveniently provided, and they typically get superpowers that make it that much easier to just brute force their way into prominence. So imagine my surprise when this new addition to the (so far extremely anodyne) sub-subgenre of Pharmacy Isekai actually uses its own premise for interesting drama.
A lot of that comes from the nature of this particular isekai-ing. Much like Main in Ascendance of a Bookworm, our protagonist finds himself suddenly taking over the body of somebody who was already living in Fantasyville – someone who had friends and family and an established life that the new Farma finds himself ill-equipped to retain. They still elide over some of those growing pains by having the genius doctor join a family of renowned medical specialists, complete with a spunky maid to explain everything to him, but there's a genuine sense that Neo-Farma is balancing on an ever-winnowing tight rope, and there's narrative tension to seeing when and how he falls.
It also helps that we get an idea of who he was before being reincarnated. Granted, his story was mostly a lot of medical drama clichés, but a brilliant doctor who dedicated himself to medicine after losing his sister to cancer is still a far more engaging start than your typical tracksuit-wearing otaku or overburdened office worker. Rather than an easygoing vacation from the stresses of life, this new world offers some mystery and challenges that are only enhanced by Farma's unfinished business from his previous life. That unfortunately means our hero spends most of this episode having things explained to him instead of establishing a personality, but there's at least room to develop him as a character here.
Plus, while Farma does get suped-up magic powers upon his arrival, they aren't the Get Out Of Plot Free card they typically are in other shows. Instead, his magic tutor is rightfully freaked out by his sudden, otherworldly powers breaking the scales of their entire world. Even if Farma himself isn't a threat, his OP magic represents a total break from the norms of this world, and that understandably scares people. And much like Bookworm there's the discomfiting bit about him essentially being a changeling – a totally alien personality now controlling the body of the boy these people once knew. Again, I don't expect that to last too long, but it's still intriguing drama that at least leaves me curious to watch another episode.
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