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This Week in Anime
Is The Faraway Paladin Worth Watching?

by Nicholas Dupree & Jean-Karlo Lemus,

This rather wholesome entry into the isekai subgenre features Will, a good boy raised by the undead. Nick and Jean-Karlo debate whether a good, straightforward fantasy can hold an audience's interest and overcome its workman-like animation.

This series is streaming on Crunchyroll

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @mouse_inhouse @NickyEnchilada @vestenet

Good news and bad news, Jean-Karlo. The good news is: it's almost Christmas! And all the good little children of the world are about to get some wonderful presents from Santa. The bad news is: we're smack dab in the middle of the naughty list, and our penance is to watch another isekai anime.
Well I guess every pagan holiday requires a blood sacrifice, so lemme just spin the wheel real quick to pick one...

...I'll take it.
WELP. Nothing to do. Let's get to it. NEET dies, gets resurrected. He was a sadsack in our world, he's a prodigy in a fantasy world. You know the drill.
But hey, let's look on the bright side. This one DOESN'T star a sex criminal! Can't believe that's an effective qualifier now, but I'll take small mercies where I can.
Yeah. Full offense to isekai as a genre, but Faraway Paladin is basically a poor man's Jobless Reincarnation only the protagonist wasn't a total creep. Turns out, when you take the perv-angle out of Jobless Reincarnation, you're left with a really boring show, as opposed to a boring show with a gross protagonist.
Eh, I'm gonna have to disagree pretty hard there. Faraway Paladin is not an amazing piece of work, and it's hampered by some major production woes that keep it diminished as an anime, but will absolutely take this meek, sheltered Christian boy and his undead parents over the literal sex offender.
In a way, it ultimately doesn't matter. Even Will up there seems to forget he's from another world; this feels like Negima! where the show is billed as one thing when it starts but becomes another thing the author truly intended to make. So where Faraway Paladin is supposed to be an isekai, it slowly sheds that to become a boilerplate fantasy. After a few episodes, Will even stops dropping random Earth-slang.
Honestly, I like that. Will's memories of his previous life are vague, more defined by emotion than concrete details, and while that informs his actions through the story, he's more fully defined by how he's raised in this world. And I gotta say, if more isekai had their heroes learning magic from Ghost Wizards I would be a lot more positive on them.
It just makes me wonder "Why bother?", but the demands of the market are what they are. I was there when every show needed a maid or little sister or a creature voiced by Rie Kugumiya for whatever absolute cornball reason. To Faraway Paladin's credit, there is some pathos over Will regretting how his relationship with his Earth-parents went. Evidently, they died sometime before he bought the farm and he never stopped regretting how he never seemingly did right by them. It informs his decision to really value his relationships in the fantasy world. It's one good scene.

It's a really solid motivation, and while Will himself can be too milquetoast for his own good, it's a sentiment that informs everything in the show's early goings. Despite how fast the series clips through Will's young life, there's a genuine sense of family between him and his corpse parents.
So yeah, about that. Because Will is such a stick-in-the-mud, the show makes up for it with his cool fantasy foster-family. Blood is a 🎵 Skeleton Warrior 🎵 (doo-doo-doot-doot~!), Mary is a mummified priestess, and Gus is a ghostly magician. They spend their days teaching him the ways of magic and swordplay alike. Blood is a good sitcom dad, Mary is an Anime Mom™, and Gus is a gruff old coot who just aches to feel coin in his palms once again. Between their lessons, fun shenanigans happen. We get to see Will grow from a young child to a young man of 15 summers.
They're a cute little family! Like I said, the show has issues with pacing during this chunk since it feels the need to rush to the action-y bits, but if nothing else I appreciate Will developing genuine and important bonds with the people around him instead of the typical half-dozen anime girls. Plus his dad was Carrottop All Might, which is pretty neat.
There's also stuff involving the gods of their world. As it happens, there are multiple gods with extremely-on-the-nose names, like Mater the Earth-Mother or Blaze the Fire God of the Smithery. Will's parents, like everyone else in this world, had pledged to their own gods but became undead after they struck a deal with the evil God of Death, Stagnate, in order to watch the seal binding a powerful demon king. As it turns out, Will's family adopted him after a gaggle of demons tried sacrificing him in a bid to free their master.
It's cool stuff. Hamstrung by the show's animation and how much of it is just infodumped on us, but I like when fantasy worlds feel like they have long, involved histories, you know? And little details like how the Gods' dominions wax and wane with human society add a lot of texture.

It ties into things later. When Stagnate comes knocking to claim Blood and Mary's souls, Will is blessed by the light goddess Gracefeel, whom he forms his pact with. Gracefeel's blessing is another hax power that Will can call upon on top of his top-tier swordplay and spellcasting, but she's also a goddess who has largely been forgotten by the masses. So in a way, Will isn't just being a healer-by-proxy: his powers are also to remind people that this goddess even exists.
She also oversees the cycle of life and death, which feels like something people should prooooobably be praying for more often, but I guess a constant reminder of the ephemeral nature of life doesn't fill the pews. But hey, Will learns a pretty important lesson thanks to her helping him get reborn!

And I do actually like how this plays out. "Starting over" is all but the mission statement for isekai stories, but Will's story isn't a power fantasy where he gets gifted super powers and a harem of cute girls. Instead his "fantasy" is learning to cherish his own life and family enough to overcome the struggles that come with life.
The anime also makes a point that the stronger the blessing or the more-ambitious your pact is, the more crap will be thrown at you. So right from the get-go, it's established that Will has an uphill to climb.
I mean his starter quest is fighting THE GOD OF DEATH so yeah, he's getting the Souls-Borne treatment.
Yeah, but you don't start Dark Souls by godmode-ing Gael, just sayin'.
He DID spend 15 years in the tutorial, to be fair.
I'm being bitter, so to be absolutely fair to Will: he only fights an Echo of Stagnate. And even though Blood had just given him a weapon that is not only strong enough to kill God Echoes but also heal his wounds while it causes damage on top of having another Goddess giving him the nod, Will doesn't quite one-shot Stagnate's Echo. It ultimately takes a concerted effort between himself, Mary and Blood to actually banish him.
Also it was technically a half-echo, since Gus actually took out the first one solo. Please stop praying for Will's grandpa. He's too strong. He broke out of the cycle of reincarnation and the cops can't get him.
There's also a nice bit where Mater steps in to give Mary a last-minute blessing—significant because Mary making a deal with Stagnate and becoming undead cursed her with catching on fire every time she prayed to Mater. Mary spent 200 years continuing her rites towards Mater and she didn't even expect to be forgiven for making a deal with one of her patron's sworn enemies, she was just carrying out her duty even when she thought her goddess had turned her back to her. Game recognizes game.

Again, it's a nice tidbit of characterization that makes the whole thing feel meaningful. Really my biggest issue with Faraway Paladin is that so much of this stuff is good on paper, but keeps getting tripped up by the presentation. This is a big, pivotal battle that barely moves and constantly pauses to have Will explain stuff to us, and I really wish it just...didn't.
"Good on paper" is right, because Faraway Paladin is so boring otherwise. The presentation is absolutely workmanlike to a fault, the music is generic "folksy-fantasy" fare with the weird Scottish twist that so many isekai use, and it's so ungodly slow. It takes five episodes to get to Will starting his journey in earnest. You could have done that in three, I feel.
Or take the opposite approach! Stretch out the origin story stuff and let us just spend time with this family alongside Will to give it all more oomph when he things go to pot. As-is, it just feels too cluttered in the anime, and honestly has me curious about trying the light novels instead.
I like that idea—start backwards. Establish that Will is supposed to be some omnipotent hero and paladin of Gracefeel in the future, but the show is about his humble origins as a kid raised by a trio of Undead who has his first wet dream because his Skeleton dad got him drunk and made him go peep on his Mummy-mommy.

I mean you could maybe cut that part out.
"You don't understand, Will's Oedipus complex is important writing", the greatest thread in the history of forums, locked by a moderator after 134,982 pages of heated debate on the merits of mummy-loving.
But hey, once Stagnate is abated for the time being, and Will gets to finally give a proper goodbye to Blood and Mary as they pass on, it's time for him to venture out into the world and spread the Good News about Gracefeel. And like most teen missionaries leaving home for the first time he immediately falls in with a thoty half-elf.
Eh. He's no Deedlit, but we gotta make do, I guess.
Just saying, Menel is strikingly similar to the guy my super Christrian friend hooked up with in freshman year. Right down to being tsun-tsun as fuck.

"I-it's not like I want to combat the forces of evil and bring light to a dying continent because I l-like you, baka!"
Menel is comedically tsundere for Will, especially since Will saves him from being executed by an angry mob. It helps that Will does Menel a favor by liberating his village from invading demons.
He also provides some much needed perspective on Will and his whole deal. I like how Will's grown up a super devoted worshiper because of Mary, but as soon as he leaves Undead Salt Lake City everyone's asking him to chill about saying grace all the time.
There are some nice bits between Menel and Will when Will helps the undeadening villagers pass on in comfort, since it took Menel too long to find help. See, this is the kind of thing I could do more with: less of the attempts at grandiose storytelling and more of Will doing good in the world by being a good person.
Or more scenes of Menel trying to punch ghosts.
Yeah, part of helping the village also includes helping Menel say his good-byes to the woman who raised him. It's a very tender scene, for all his bluster Menel can't really bear the thought of losing the only person who loved him. Again, this is the kind of thing I like: Will using his religious blessing to ease the pain of people dealing with day-to-day stuff. You could make a really fascinating slice-of-life about a priest just being a source of comfort for the village around them, like the witches in Discworld.
I also dig how it works into Menel being half-elf. Living between worlds left him grasping for companionship, but that also means he'll easily outlive everyone he does manage to connect with.

It's not just Menel who gets a lot out of Will's services—Menel's appreciation makes him the first person Will truly connects with that isn't a caretaker in some capacity. So they're both each other's first friend.

I'd forgotten about that scene, lol Catch Menel in his upcoming appearance in the next season of Interspecies Reviewers.
Oh god could you imagine Will stumbling through a fantasy red light district? He'd die so hard even Stagnate couldn't bring him back.
I don't wanna think about whether Will will make a beeline to the brothel with all the Undead women. Because I know the answer is "Yes, he would."
Poor Will, he died before he got to see Sankarea: Undying Love.
Zombie Land Saga would change his life, he'd pledge his soul to Stagnate on the spot I bet.
Anyway, after they've returned Menel's village to the cycle of life and death, there's the minor matter of getting help to clear out all the demon monsters stinking up the continent and terrorizing villagers. Unfortunately Will's first new companions are more there for moral support than any demon fighting.

Note: his companions are the hobbit and the old man, not the ape. That's a different isekai from this season.
The Hobbit Bard there is Bee', and she's... kinda the best character of the show? But also generic in being such a bubbly, happy-go-lucky little bundle of joy. I wanna love her but she's like Store Brand Dr. Pepper instead of Dr. Pepper. But she's better than her companion Tonio by virtue of having some personality; Tonio is just a "hawker", which I think is supposed to be some kind of merchant.
Tonio's there to fill the Wise Old Man role now that Gus isn't around, and while he leaves something to be desired I do like how kind and open he is with Will.

His actually answer is "the friends I make along the way" but the show doesn't miss a chance to throw in more shipping regardless.
There's a good scene where Bee' recites an epic that winds up being about Blood, Mary and Gus's deeds back when they were alive. As it turns out, they were particularly famous heroes and there's even a living half-elf waiting to repay a debt to Gus. Mark that as a side quest, I guess.
It really does hammer home how cool actually building history into your fantasy world can be. Will knows these guys as his family, but now that he's out in the wide world he's hearing a new side of them, and potentially has a way to reconnect with somebody else who knew them. That's rad! And I kind of love the sentiment that the final gift Mary and Blood gave him was a whole world to explore and experience.
By the way: at this point in the story, Will still isn't a paladin.
It takes a while to Class Promote alright? Thankfully a Wyvern shows up to give him a huge EXP dump.
It's not enough that Will is blessed by a forgotten goddess, has purifying powers, has a magic spear and a God-killing sword and can cast high-level magic like it's nothing—he can choke out a wyvern with his bare hands.
To be fair, if the show was animated enough to make this look as cool as that sounds, I would totally be down for it. Unfortunately it's all they can do to sometimes animate Bee's arms when she plays her instrument, so cool monster fights aren't in the cards.
Will killing a wyvern lands him the attention of the local prince, who decides to get Will knighted. This puts Will in the sights of the local bishop, Bagley, leader of the local temple. Bagley looks like he exists as "Ugly Bastard"-tag fodder, but he's actually got some depth to him. He understands the politics of his position, while also being genuinely devout to his patron. He thinks that guiding faith is less about showy acts of magic and more about actual guidance, hence why he allows his underlings to deal with the people while he hangs in the wings to handle the administrative side of things. He has divine powers, but he knows he has to play Bad Cop for the sake of things getting done. On top of cheapening the grandiose divinity of his God, using his blessing openly would just make people wonder why someone like him was given a God's favor. It's fascinating to hear Bagley talk.
It's a neat bit of added depth where it would be so easy to go with a simple Corrupt Priest angle. But Bagley gets to be a source of genuine, unconventional wisdom in his own right. And he helps make this world feel more complex and rich for it. Stuff like this is what I love about Fantasy stories alongside the magic and fights and Cool Nicknames. Though speaking of cool nicknames, uh...
No, folks, it's not a famed boss from Demon's Souls, it's just this Aragorn-looking fellow. He's apparently a famed adventurer in his own right, and Will recruits him as hired help for his mission to purge the Beast Woods of demons.
We haven't really gotten to see much of him yet, but his whole thing is apparently taking super dangerous missions and never staying to bask in the limelight. It's sort of an interesting companion to Bagley's whole deal, and I expect the show will do something with it in its final episodes. For now though he's just fodder for Bee's fanfic.
I support this halfling fujoshi and I will help man her stall this upcoming Comiket.
You tell that hobbit hussy to keep her crackship in the dumpster where it belongs. Menel x Will OTP. Just look at this raw seduction.
...Menel, why do your smallclothes look like bloomers...
He's rocking zettai ryouikki he knows what he's about. Hell, he's even ready to throw hands when a crown prince starts threatening Will.

Menel very decidedly does NOT want this twink obliterated.
For my part, I've legit had more fun joking about Will's necro-Oedipal complex or his upcoming experience with Elf Bussy than I actually had watching Faraway Paladin. This stuff is some unmemorable fantasy. And I don't wanna pretend I'm some hoity-toity type; one of my favorite fantasy anime is MAOYU, which exists purely to make fun of Maoh being endowed with skills in Macroeconomics (which comes with having really big knockers). But Faraway Paladin is dry and slow and doesn't even have the courtesy to be particularly flashy about itself. That Will is a decent stick-in-the-mud is a small favor when even that isn't enough to make this stand out as a show. Twelve Kingdoms is right over there, folks...
I'm a little more soft on it. Partly because I think there's some genuinely interesting ideas in here that could really shine with a better production. Partly because I am starved for a fantasy series that isn't built around video game mechanics. This show is far from amazing, but I did enjoy my time with it. And like I said, I might even check out the novels now. Though I really hope this line isn't in there:
Some real "They truly are Spice and Wolf!"-energy. Gyeh. Also, the show only just made Will a paladin in the (at the time of this writing) most-recent episode, episode 10. So even if this show goes two cours, that's almost half of the show where your titular Faraway Paladin is just Faraway.
This stuff takes time! But hey, with this we've managed to almost-painlessly pay our Isekai Tax for the season. Now let's see what Santa left for u-


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