When I did my best anime 2021 celebration post, I wasn’t exaggerating when I chose Saihate no Paladin as my favourite isekai for the year. Sure if you are after standard adventures or slice of life in another world stories you will find better options, but for me Saihate no Paladin is the anime that really drew me firmly into its world and while Will does have some memories of his previous life, enough to motivate him to work hard in this one, he isn’t cheating his way through every encounter with knowledge from our world (sometimes highly specialised knowledge and you just have to wonder how so many isekai protagonists have this near photographic memory for things).
Saihate no Paladin gives me what I want from fantasy and reincarnation stories.
For anyone who has ever thought they wasted their life, or even a moment of it, the idea of starting over in a new place with the knowledge that you were given a second chance, is one that has so much potential. You could sit and make a list of all the things you would do better or right but kind of know that mostly you’d probably just fall into the same old patterns and somehow things wouldn’t be any different.
Will, our protagonist in Saihate no Paladin, awakens as a baby with the knowledge that he live a pointless and stagnant first life and as he is raised by a Skeleton (Blood), a mummy (Mary) and a ghost (Gus) he learns to fight, to pray and to cast magic but more than anything else he finds in himself the desire to improve and to live this life better than his last. It takes him awhile to figure out what that means but after the events that occur as he comes of age he makes his vow to the god of his choice and sets out into the world with high ambitions.
What I loved most about this process was it wasn’t a one or two episode montage where we just kind of see the baby, see a few training clips and then here we go fully formed warrior boy. Instead this introduction takes five episodes really developing the relationship Will has with the three who raise him in this world.
Its a risky move and one that has put some viewers off Saihate no Paladin given it isn’t your standard isekai full of upbeat quippy characters and there’s been no busty elf-girl in sight (at least not yet). Sure we do get a few standard moments such as before Will comes of age Blood invites him to drink and then leads him to try to spy on Mary changing.
Also, Will is ridiculously strong due to the training he goes through with Blood, Mary and Gus though just how overpowered he is doesn’t become truly apparent until he’s fighting a god and more so after he leaves his home and sets out into the world and we all get a clearer idea of just how much stronger Will is than your average human in this world. Fortunately, again because of the time spent in the early episodes, it doesn’t feel cheap. Will isn’t strong because he is reborn. He is strong because of the life he has lived this time around and the effort he has put into his training and his faith.
Where Saihate no Paladin is perhaps weakest is in Will’s personality. While he is pleasant enough he isn’t the most dynamic or interesting or protagonists and more than that the entire anime is filled with internal dialogue from his character that usually adds nothing. It also has a weird audio effect over it which just doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the anime and so feels intrusive.
Perhaps if his internal commentary provided some additional insight or seemed to contrast with Will’s exterior then I could see the point. And actually, this is where I’d point out that Mushoku Tensei did internal dialogue fairly brilliantly using the main character’s adult voice and definitely providing a clearer picture of Rudy’s character. Then again, How Not To Summon a Demon Lord also used internal dialogue well to show the conflict between the introverted guy’s interior character compared to his demon-lord persona.
The tone of Saihate no Paladin also clearly changes after Will leaves his home and sets out on his own. He meets new people and makes a friend, helps villagers and fights demon-beasts before arriving in a town and being acknowledged by both the temple and the crown-prince for his potential. The world definitely starts expanding during this second half of the anime and Will starts learning a lot more about the world he lives in from those he meets.
It isn’t all brilliant and there are at times more or less exposition dumps as other characters explain things to him and the pace, while mostly continuing its deliberate march, gets a little choppier. The final episode of this first season is actually where the pacing is at its worst and the final confrontation of the season definitely feels rushed. Almost as it this anime needed a thirteenth episode to really finish properly.
And with that said, while Saihate no Paladin leaves us at a perfectly sound resting point, the story has barely begun. Will has only taken his first steps on his own and there’s still so much for him to do. Fortunately he’s started to gather allies and friends around him but there’s so much world he still knows nothing about.
Its one of those anime that would be just criminal if it didn’t continue – which usually means it won’t though there has been a second season announcement so I guess we’ll wait and see if it appears.
Visually Saihate no Paladin isn’t exactly amazing. The colour palette works for the story being told as it uses more subdued colours than most isekai adventure anime. The character designs for the ghost, the mummy and the skeleton were perhaps the standouts as most of the other characters are pretty generic looking so far. Action scenes look good enough but can’t compete with other fantasy anime out there. I do however love how magic and combat are combined by the main character at times.
And I absolutely love the music in Saihate no Paladin. From the OP, The Sacred Torch, to the music swelling behind conflicts to even incidental background music, there’s a real attempt to set a tone and mood that reminds me of older cinematic works.
I will admit, Saihate no Paladin isn’t for everyone and the divided opinions of it in reviews on sites like MAL kind of make that clear. For some this is an anime that mis-fires and doesn’t get going. For me though this reminds me of the epic fantasy novels I read as a teenager where sometimes it did take awhile for the story to get going but the world and characters were firmly established giving everything that little bit more weight and meaning.
As always, I’d love to know what my readers though so let me know how you found Saihate no Paladin in the comments below.
Images from: Saihate no Paladin. Dir. Y. Nobuta. Children’s Playground Entertainment. 2021
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