The mystery of how Gus, Mary and Blood came to be undead and raising a child is finally revealed in an extended exposition dump with flashbacks to a war 200 years ago in episode 3 of Saihate no Paladin. I strongly suspect that this episode would fare better in a binge watch following on directly from last week and not ending with the cliff-hanger we get but continuing on to see the outcome for the situation we are left with because on its own this episode gives us a lot of crucial information but doesn’t quite manage to nail its tone.
Would Saihate no Paladin be more enjoyable binged?
I hope that doesn’t make it sound like it isn’t worth watching because I’m really enjoying this story. I’m just frustrated by the twenty minute bites which makes the pace feel way too slow and we’re forever getting cut-off by the episode end before we get to the next bit of information I want to know. For some stories the episodic format really works and the week break in-between episodes adds time to think and discuss and just take in the episode, whereas a story like this feels like it is just not right for the format.
But I guess we’ll see once Saihate no Paladin gets a bit further along.
Anyway, episode 3 has Blood once again leading Will into behaviours that Mary is definitely not going to approve of as he decides that given Will is about to become an adult it is time to teach him to drink. He then takes the inebriated Will to look in on Mary as she is changing and that ends about as well as you would expect such a scenario to end in anime.
It isn’t a bad scene by any means but so far Saihate no Paladin has reminded me far more of a sprawling epic fantasy than the usual anime fantasy fare and this scene was so very typical anime scenario it actually felt jarring against the setting. Again, not really a criticism that an anime has moments you would expect to see in an anime in it, but it just didn’t feel like it belonged. Like if the characters of Lord of the Rings suddenly took a time-out from their journey to visit a hot-springs.
The episode swiftly moves us on and we have Will preparing for his duel against Blood. In fairness, I really enjoyed this segment. It was something we’d been waiting for since Gus and Will discussed the upcoming fight in episode 2 and Will putting on all that armour seriously meant business (though I have to wonder if fighting wearing more armour than normal was actually an advantage or not).
I won’t tell you how the fight resolves but it was decent enough to watch and then Blood and Mary sit down to tell Will their history. Which we do need to know given Saihate no Paladin has kind of built up this deliberate lack of knowledge for both the audience and Will but I’m not sold on the delivery here.
Pretty sure this was supposed to be deadly serious though when Blood talked about ‘the kinds of demons you really didn’t want showing up’ I kind of laughed because first I wondered just what kind of demons you did want showing up. Then naturally I thought of Sebastian from Black Butler and that kind of killed any chance I had of taking what was a fairly serious segment particularly seriously.
Still, through Mary and Blood’s explanation as well as Will’s conclusions, we learn about the war against the demon king of kings and how devastating it was and the events that resulted in Gus, Mary and Blood becoming undead. They then also explain how Will came to be in this city inhabited only by the undead and that was actually suitably emotional to really land.
I kind of wish they’d ended this episode there rather than going for a cliff-hanger style ending by introducing another threat right before the end of the episode. A solid emotional note to end on would have been quite satisfying for Saihate no Paladin and instead it feels like they weren’t convinced that the audience would be hooked in by that and so they had to throw a potential battle at us even if that undermined the moment we’d just watched.
Three episodes in and I know some people aren’t sold on Saihate no Paladin and I can see why. For me though this is giving me some very solid fantasy vibes and despite my issues with the pacing I’m very much hooked into this story and the world building so I’m definitely looking forward to more of this. Though, this anime is making me wonder if the reason we don’t get more epic style fantasy in anime (lots of fantasy, not so much epic) is because the stories they tell just aren’t suited to the twenty minute episode format.
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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