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This Week in Anime
When a Wife Guy Is Banished From the Hero's Party

by Nicholas Dupree & Steve Jones,

Banished from the Hero's Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside offers an appealing romance between a wife guy and a former adventurer princess... and then there's everything else. Nick and Steve break down this RPG-inspired fantasy that features quite a bit less "quiet life" than the title might lead you to expect.

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

Well, Steve, we spent last week talking all about Horse Girls. So I think it's only fair we compensate today by talking about their diametric opposite: Wife Guys.
If those are the thesis and antithesis, then it logically follows that their synthesis is Horse Wife Guys. But I don't think we, nor anybody else on the planet, is ready to broach that subject yet. So yeah, best to stick with the basics.
Just saying, horse girls are born to run. Wife guys stay at home. Horse girls wreck their bodies trying to achieve an unattainable accomplishment. Wife guys leave the main quest line and play Stardew Valley. That's the circle of life. For every Luigi, a Waluigi.
It's not much, but it's honest work. And that's, purportedly, the conceit behind Banished From The Hero's Party, a title which is followed by an even longer subtitle that I have a moral obligation to ignore. Let's face it, there are way too many stories about heroes questing and adventuring. What Banished asks is what if you instead moved to the countryside and opened a dispensary?

Lord knows if I was getting raided by ogres every other week I'd want to have a steady supply of herb.
Considering the horrific existential implications we later find out about this world, I'm surprised Red's (R)Edibles isn't the hottest shop in town. But we'll get to that later. For the most part, this show is a top batter in a new trend of web novel fantasy series where the main character just fucks off from the typical JRPG quest, trading in the power fantasy of those stories for the domestic fantasy of being an independent small business owner with a married life and friends.

There's a lot to be said about why that specific shift would become a trend, but we don't have time to unpack all that.
Not when there's plenty to unpack in Banished's own lumpy knapsack full of tropes, politics, and wifeposting. At least the premise is straightforward enough. Red here gets peer-pressured out of the Hero's party and decides to make the most of things in a quiet village far away from the demon war.
Though "banished" is a bit of a melodramatic way for Red to describe it. More like the party's salty nerd told him he sucks and to either go hard or go home. Red chose the latter.

Side note: It's disputed, but apparently one theory is that "not a true comrade" line is based on a Tales of Zestiria meme that spawned from not being able to have Alisha join your party. And if this whole franchise really did spawn from salt over a Tales game then I have to admire it a little.
For sure! I wish more gamers would channel their salt into something productive like a successful light novel series. Much better than the usual avenues like online flame wars or inventing cryptocurrency.

I also think it's extra cute that Red's big dream is to open an apothecary. I mean, it's one step up from calling it a potion store, but it feels extra quaint when there's just a normal-ass doctor from the 20th century living in town.

Like, I know this isn't technically isekai but where did this guy and his lab coat come from?

Honestly, that'd be a funny twist. This world has actual, video game Item Bags so for all we know that's Dr. Otaku who was transported here after he died playing his favorite mid-grade RPG.
Honestly I wish that were the case, because then at least the world's weird video game logic would make sense. Why are we still slapping gaming terms onto otherwise normal fantasy settings? This isn't isekai so there isn't even that excuse for it here. Come on, people.
It's just, like, a thing that light novels do now. I do not get the appeal since it typically makes the world just feel massively artificial and less interesting. Though Banished at least attempts some interesting stuff with it. But before any of that, it has to introduce the Wife half of Wife Guy.

Gonna absolutely wreck my online dating profile by calling exes "former comrades" from now on.
Rit was engineered by top anime scientists to be a spunky and super lovable princess-turned-adventurer who, like Red, decides to forego a life of orc-bashing for the slow life in the countryside. She also makes funny faces sometimes, so naturally I like her a lot.

The term "Girlfriend Fantasy" gets thrown around a lot, and while that could apply to Rit, I prefer the term I saw somebody use to describe her as "Post-Tsundere." The couple had their cliché hero/princess story arc years in the past, and now that they're effectively retired all that's left is to move in together.

Also, "Post-Tsundere" makes Rit sound like the Joy Division of anime girls.
God, I was about to make that same joke. How dare you.

It's definitely difficult to divorce Rit as a character from her role in the wish fulfillment. Like, at the end of the day, she is there to be Wife and Wife alone. But she and Red together also end up being the most consistently charming thing about the show.

I'm not gonna pretend they have a super deep and compellingly intimate relationship. The biggest internal conflict they face is how long before Red works up the courage to touch a boob. But that's still a novelty in a genre space where the hero usually has a cadre of anime girls swooning over him and/or literally being his slaves. So I'll take it.
The bar really is low enough to be subterranean. That's also why I can't be too hard on Banished and its no-nonsense approach to its central romance. If only more anime couples had a married friend to tell them to stop pussyfooting around.
Elves telling these two to cut the high school crap seems to be a running theme.
And giant barely concealed gazongas, but that's hardly a Banished-exclusive phenomenon.
Though really, if anyone is the Joy Division of anime girls it's probably Ruti. In that she's got, uh... issues.

Oh right, the plot.
Might even say she's... lost control again.
Full of disorder, that one.
No love lost between her and Ares, that's for sure.
You know I was really disappointed once I realized this show was going to have an actual plot. Like, my idealized version of it would just have entire episodes written about Red and Rit shopping for new drapes for the apothecary, but noooo. It has to chicken out and turn into yet another fantasy light novel series. For shame.
Yeah it kinda undercuts the subtitle about living the slow life when we routinely cut back to Red's Capital H Hero sister and her party trudging through the actual story. Though I have to laugh at how bad Ares is at party management. He gets rid of the team's underperforming tank only to add more DPS (D'awww, Precious Spider).

That's a terribly unbalanced setup for a raid, dammit.
Even though having a plot is a betrayal of the series' self-professed ethos, I do enjoy how much of the plot ends up being about dunking on Ares. After Ruti goes Kung Pow on his torso, he just gets scragglier and scragglier with each screw-up, eschewing all subtlety for the sake of villainous entertainment.

Banished is really just a cautionary tale about being That Guy in your D&D group.
And while I have a loooot of problems with how the story goes about telling itself, I do at least find Ruti's whole deal interesting on paper. Which I guess means we have to get into the whole "Blessing" system that defines most of the show.
It defines it while being rather undefined itself. Like, a "Blessing" most closely resembles the job system in a Final Fantasy game. Everyone in this world is born with a particular predilection towards some kind of craft or trade, which informs the kinds of skills they can learn and generally steers their direction. Blessings are also a basic tenet of the religion, and more broadly, its the lens through which Banished decides to interrogate determinism. Which is ambitious, to say the least.
The series is more than a bit ham-handed with how it handles (and exposits about) the whole idea, but it ultimately uses that to make a point about the importance of doing what makes one happy, rather than just following the path of least resistance in whatever life decides you should be doing.
And that's kinda noble, but it also throws out wild ideas like the concept of "leveling up" your Blessing, which can only be done by killing people. That definitely seems normal and sustainable for a society.
Yeah that's where it kinda breaks its own worldbuilding. Middle school is stressful enough as is; imagine if one of your friends could just unlock their dormant Axe Murderer gene any day.
In general, that's the big thorn in Banished's side. It throws out a lot of big, potentially cool concepts, but they're smashed together with such reckless abandon that it leaves no room to ponder on their inherent contradictions or troubling implications. Ironically, the series would be a lot better if it slowed down and thought these things through.
It's not perfect, but it does try. Mostly through Ruti, who gets all the invincibility of a Lvl.99 player character, but The Drawback is everything about her personality is forcibly repressed in service of being the central hero of the world, which is decidedly not An Ideal For Living.

It's a good angle! And an empathetic one. Ruti can't even sleep at night, because RPGs treat "sleep" like a status ailment, which she's immune to, because she's the hero, of course. That's more than a little horrifying.

I also love that her solution to this is doing drugs.

Hey, if the universe itself decided I was just A Means To An End I'd probably hit the hard stuff too. I like that the reason she has a codependent relationship with her brother is because her memories with him are the only parts of her life where she was able to be herself.
Yeah, I was very relieved that Ruti and Rit didn't end up rivals. If anything, they are weirdo comrades-in-arms.

I also like that she doesn't feel betrayed by Red leaving, despite it leaving her in A Lonely Place. More than anything, she's envious of him having found satisfaction outside the strictures of his Blessing.

Also, her super strength lets her dry off after a bath like the Tasmanian Devil, so it's not all bad.
Now that's what I call a real Blessing.

Honestly, the emotional locus of Ruti's arc is real good, but it gets swept into this big conspiracy about bodyjacking demons, mindjacking swords, religious conspiracies, and secret underground elven laboratories. My eyes glazed over watching the last few episodes, not gonna lie.

Yeah, while I like a lot of this in Isolation, getting there is a slog. The A-to-B plot mechanics of Banished are contrived at best, amateurishly clumsy at worst. They are only livened up by how Ares' first act of revenge is just getting mad that Red is getting some.
Huge incel energy.

Too bad it only lands him in a cell, and by cell I mean coffin.
There's also a brief stint where another of their companions decides to force Ruti back into her Hero box, which offers an interesting Omelas-esque conundrum that the show ultimately rejects, but also they just forgive her and convince her to stop in like three sentences.

She also gets mortally wounded and healed back to full health within, like, five seconds. This also happens about half a dozen times to other characters in the exact same scene. It's like a bad fanfic I would've written in middle school.
It's a real Atrocity Exhibition, only slightly elevated by Rit declaring she's gonna kick God's ass for messing with her sister-in-law.
This is why the show needs to stick to what it knows best, i.e. the joy of having a wife.
Yep, the show is definitely at its strongest when it's pure shmaltz. And yes, they do fuck:
Now here's a man who knows how to compliment his wife's tiddies.

Yeah, it's super fluffy, but sometimes that's enough. And when the direction occasionally depicts genuine moments of vulnerability and tenderness, it's even better.
They do kind of lose it in the final episode's afterglow scene. Red looks like they photoshopped his face onto a mannequin.

Love to have sex with my wife and then lie perfectly still, arms at my side, looking straight up at the ceiling instead of her. Also, this has got to be the weirdest way I've ever seen someone touch a boob.

It's a breast, my guy, not the Gom Jabbar.
I guess being disastrously terrible at touching another person's chest runs in the family.
It's true what they say, Love Will Tear Us Apart. Viscerally.

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