William doesn’t remember everything about his past life on Earth, but he does remember that he in fact had one and that makes his sudden reawakening as an infant in another world strange to him. He knows for a fact that he’s both in another world and not being raised by his biological parents since the people taking care of him are a mummy, a skeleton, and a ghost, not that this seems to be the norm in his new world! These three specters aren’t bad parents to Will but it’s clear that they’re keeping secrets from him, something he would’ve realized even without a previous life’s worth of memories and experiences to draw upon.
But there’s nothing to be done about that — their isolated home is located by a vanquished city filled with monsters and for all Will knows he could be the last human left on not-Earth. He’ll just have to live and grow until the time comes that everything is explained to him but until then, he intends to make more of this life than he did his previous one.
I had thought that it was a little strange for such an obscure light novel (at least, as viewed from my English-speaking sphere) to get an anime adaptation and while I certainly don’t know why precisely one is happening now, I can certainly say that The Faraway Paladin deserves to be less obscure than it currently is over here! This fantasy story where the forces of good and evil fight in an endless cycle isn’t blow-your-socks-off-revolutionary in concept (and really, how many of those stories do you even come across at any given point in time?) but the story is solid and the presentation of it truly elevates it to an excellent tale indeed.
William is like many other isekai protagonists where his past life on Earth doesn’t seem to have left a real mark on him all things considered; he does experience a bit more grief than usual at his apparent death but he moves on from it well, which is completely unrelated to the fact that the three people now raising him are undead themselves. In many isekai stories I wonder if they absolutely had to be isekai, that is if it was really necessary for the main character to be living any kind of second life, but this is one of the rare instances where I don’t think it would have worked as well if Will didn’t already have that maturity from his previous adulthood, plus it becomes clear later on that life, death, and life again is a part of this new world too.
Kudos to all of the staff, both on the Japanese side and the English localization side, for crafting the actual language for this story in such a nice, distinctive fashion. The prose is absolutely lovely to read and has a very different voice from most light novels I’ve read. Like many other aspects of the story, The Faraway Paladin in many ways reads much more like a Western fantasy novel circa the late 1900s than a light novel, and Kanata Yanagino does mention in their author’s note that a lot of their inspirations were things like Western tabletop games and such (hilariously, Yanagino mentions that another person in their group also debuted as a light novel author at the same time and Kumo Kagyu of Goblin Slayer, a very different kind of story, fits all of the descriptive details they provide about this fellow “K-sensei”). The genesis of this story is a reincarnation-type isekai, which is very light novel-esque, but beyond that the general idea of a young person being raised to greatness in a mysterious setting is as much or more the domain of Western-style fantasy than Japanese light novel-style fantasy. Although, I will admit that it’s unusual (but not unheard of) for stories from either language to be set after what was essentially the first round of the apocalypse.
And yet, it’s all these things that I loved about this story that have me worried about the anime adaptation airing this season. Overly wordy prose rarely works well in anime, no matter if it comes from an inner monologue or an unseen narrator, and language (in English at least) flows differently depending on if it’s written or spoken so the lovely rhythms of the word flow most likely won’t be present either. The novel’s unique art also doesn’t look to be present in the anime at all; Yanagino purposefully sought out illustrator Kususaga Rin for their previous TTRPG art and the rough, sketchy but purposeful illustrations really fit the overall mood of The Faraway Paladin, a mood where the basic concept is familiar to the reader but the execution is unsettling in small ways.
The anime’s designs look much more similar to those of the manga adaptation and so I gave the manga adaptation a peak as well in case the anime adaptation follows the manga more closely. Frankly I was a bit disappointed, but not at all surprised, to find that the manga starts the story in a more “conventional” spot with Will already around 10 years old, meaning that all of his inner monologues as an infant coming to terms with his new life are lost which is a shame since they were real character establishing moments. Again, it’s hardly a surprising adaptational choice, but it’s a shame since that more convention starting point, typical art style, and loss of prose eliminates so much of what makes this work striking and unique.
Nevertheless, I still immensely enjoyed this work and plan on reading the other books that are currently out. It’s been on hiatus for a while, although I’ve seen rumors that the creator resumed working on it earlier this year (and releasing a new volume during the anime’s run would be excellent marketing of course), and I only hope that the rest of the story captures my attention as well as this first volume did.