From the very beginning, Saihate no Paladin has been a little different from other isekai anime while at the same time it embraces a number of the usual genre tropes. This is no light hearted fantasy romp with RPG style levelling up and self-aware characters making jokes or smugly showing others how superior they are. Nor is it a grim-dark venture glorifying misery.
What Saihate no Paladin, of The Faraway Paladin, seems to be setting itself up to be is a very solid epic-fantasy adventure complete with a hero who is overcoming trials and adversity, as well as his own failings, to rise to meet the challenges we know are coming in the future.
Its a bold choice when you consider the format of twenty minute episodes a week.
Where most isekai anime would have the protagonist set out on their journey from the starting village within an episode (two at most) or will have some kind of epic battle sequence in episode two or three to ensure audiences didn’t get bored, Saihate no Paladin stretched its first act for five episodes giving us Will’s upbringing and really taking the time to establish the influence of those who raised him.
This means that as he reflects back on things Blood, Mary or Gus told him or skills he learned, this isn’t just a convenient plot device further down the line. The audience remembers the connection he has with these characters and the different skills they taught him as well as having a real understanding of Will’s deep connection to them.
Of course that depth comes at the expense of moving on with the story, building the world beyond the starting town (or in this case deserted city), and introducing other characters who will become important to the story later. For some viewers it was just too slow an opening act to really grab them. For others, this will be an anime better binge watched than episodically. Actually, I agree with that as well, even though I am enjoying it episodically.
Or at least I was until we got a recap episode after episode 7. Seriously, why?
But where pace is the point of concern for some viewers, my own concern continues to be with the presentation of the main character himself. For while I really like Will conceptually, what I don’t like is how much internal dialogue this anime feels the need to dump on the audience through even the most mundane of scenes.
Why can’t Saihate no Paladin trust the character’s intentions to come through his words and actions?
Right from episode 1, we’ve suffered through so much internal dialogue from Will. Admittedly, without it we probably wouldn’t have even realised Will was a reincarnated human given this didn’t become an actual plot point until episode 3 or something, but at the same time so much of what we are told through Will’s echoed internal voice are details about his life and his feelings for those around him. Things we are either watching happen or could discern from the interactions with those characters.
Realistically, I kind of get why in a written format the internal dialogue would have been necessary to convey a lot of the information. However, as the story is transformed and adapted to the new medium the question has to be asked whether Saihate no Paladin still needed all of this or whether they just didn’t bother to consider it and threw it in because it was in the source (keep in mind my memory of said source is incredibly incomplete so I’m not actually sure, just speculating).
Where the internal dialogue became most intrusive to the story was in the battle with Stagnate. Perhaps the goal was to show Will’s determination and then inner desperation as he realised Stagnate had gotten ahead of him to where Blood and Mary were. Perhaps they just didn’t think Will running up the slope toward the temple was thrilling enough without a constant barrage of inner thoughts.
What I know is that Will has gone from a character I was fairly underwhelmed by in episode one of Saihate no Paladin, more or less calling him the generic nice-guy protagonist, to someone I see as a far more interesting character who is driven by a desire to do better in this life than his last, driven by his emotional attachment to his ‘parents’ and the family he’s made in this world, and who has a strong moral compass.
But none of this is conveyed through his internal dialogue. It is from his actions and the words he speaks to others that his character comes across loudly and clearly.
The internal dialogue is a distraction and at times seems to almost undermine the tone of the scene.
If I was going to offer one edit to Saihate no Paladin, it wouldn’t be about the pace of the story. The deliberate pacing has really helped to establish this world and these characters and to be honest I’m really enjoying an isekai that seems to want to really build a world rather than just borrow generic elements in and create a fusion world we’ve seen before but doesn’t feel real.
No, I’d probably like someone to go through Saihate no Paladin and eradicate at least 80% of Will’s internal dialogue and really just whittle it down to those thoughts that genuine contribute something more than what we’ve seen on screen and inferred ourselves.
I’m not sure if it is the character or the audience that the writers don’t trust, but Will is a pretty solid character seven episodes in. He doesn’t need a voice over to explain his motives as they are quite clear through the choices he’s made and the path he has set out on. The audience also doesn’t need someone to hold our hand to understand this character. The pacing and opening act have well and truly done the heavy lifting there.
Actually, I do have one other concern for Saihate no Paladin. And that is this season is apparently only 12 episodes and as far as I can see there doesn’t appear to be a sequel announced. There’s no way this story is going to get anywhere close to a conclusion in that time so I’m hoping there is at least some thought about where they will resolve the season and it doesn’t just stop mid-story beat like several other anime have this year.
Anyway, Saihate no Paladin has so far been an excellent fantasy anime and one I’ve thoroughly enjoyed despite the small complaints. Hopefully it ends well.
You can read the full season review here.
Images from: Saihate no Paladin. Dir. Y. Nobuta. Children’s Playground Entertainment. 2021
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