Taking the Long Way Round.
What’s the Story?
Reborn as a child in another world, Will first awakens to find he’s in the care of a skeletal warrior, a ghostly sorcerer and a mummified priestess. With nothing else living for miles around, Will is raised by these unusual guardians, learning how to fight and cast spells, about the various gods that inhabit this world and most importantly the value of money and the dangers of booze! His guardians are hiding a secret though and one that could spell the end of their happy little family. With everything he’s learnt though, Will is determined to make his parents proud and face whatever comes his way, even if that means taking on a god! That isn’t the end of Will’s journey though, in fact it’s just the beginning and with his parent’s love and his vow to the goddess Gracefeel, this soon-to-be paladin sets out to make the world a better place.
Some stories jump out at you right from the onset. They grab you by the throat and demand your attention, and in our current glut of content and streaming services it’s not hard to see why a lot of storytellers go for that option. The Faraway Paladin is not one of those series. Where some shows try to cram the equivalent of a novel into the first episode in a desperate attempt to make you stick around, The Faraway Paladin instead chooses to take its time. Will’s origin story lasts for five episodes. Five! It takes a special kind of confidence to dedicate nearly half your series length to just introducing the main character, but I have to take my hat off to it. And, look, I know just typing that out has already put some of you off from this series. I get it, time is a precious commodity in our world and asking for a larger than average chunk of it can be a big ask, the three episode rule exists for a reason. The Faraway Paladin isn’t perfect, and I’ll get into that shortly, but in my opinion it’s more than worth it. I had a great deal of fun with this series and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who will listen.
Let’s start the review proper by talking about the benefits of taking your time to flesh out your story. I think it’s fairly safe to say that most isekai (and, yes, this is yet another isekai series so that’s put off another section of the audience. Will there be anyone left by the end of the review?) suffer from the generic protagonist problem. They’re overpowered nice guys with usually a single definable quirk where there personality should be. Now, to a degree, that can also describe Will, but the difference is that thanks to those opening five episodes I really understand what makes him tick. I know his history, the way he thinks, what he values and what his goals are, all of which makes him so much easier to relate to and root for. I enjoyed this series as much as I did because I’m emotionally invested in Will, and I will continue to remember it for the same reason, unlike so many other fantasy anime I can’t mention because they’ve all long since faded out of my memory.
That brings me to this series’ flaws and there are a couple of things I need to mention here. First let’s talk about the use of Will’s internal monologue. I’ve no idea if this series is adapted from a light novel, but I have a strong suspicion that it was and the monologue is the reason why. Will just won’t shut up sometimes and in a book that’s fine, the entire medium is using the written word, but when you’ve moved over to animation some things really should change. Some of Will’s thoughts are really interesting, giving us detail on the religious or political structure of the world Will finds himself in, or breaking down strategies and plans. But there are other times when it’s just noise filling up the airtime when really a bit of silence would have been so much more effective. It shows a lack of trust in the audience and instead just spoon-feeding them everything because you don’t think they’ll get it on their own.
The other issue with this series is that it kind of lacks a climax. The actual parting scene I really like, this series is often at its best when it’s just focussing on quiet character interactions and that’s exactly how it goes out. Plus it’s always fun to see Will get flustered as he has the full implications of his latest good deed brought out in front of him. (I’m just saying the guy’s going to end up as a king at some point and not realise until someone tells him). No the problem comes in the fact that the final boss of the series goes down fairly easily. There’s a bit of emotional baggage to the start of the episode, but that’s quickly resolved and then the demon problem is taken care of like it was never any issue at all. I suppose this is the problem when the midpoint of your series has your lead facing off against a god. I can’t help but think that just one more episode would have made all the difference and give the fight and the emotional resolution the space they needed to not step on one another’s toes like they do. As much as I love the introduction, maybe it didn’t need to be five whole episodes.
In the end, The Faraway Paladin is a great deal of fun and I’m willing to go adventuring with Will and the gang any time. The series isn’t perfect and, on paper at least, has a lot of things that would normally put me off. However it takes the time to really develop it’s lead character and as such I’m incredibly invested in Will’s journey. He makes this series and is a good introduction to a world that is just begging to be explored more. From the set up with the gods to the political situation there’s so many juicy things left to dig into, but I also just want to see Will again so bring on season 2!
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.