I certainly wouldn’t say I’ve been wowed by the first two episodes of Saihate no Paladin. However, if I were to try and encapsulate them in one word – especially the second – it would be “patient”. And that, frankly, is pretty unusual for any LN, never mind an isekai. One trait these series tend to share is a lack of respect for the intelligence (or at least patience) of the audience, and that doesn’t seem to be the case here so far. Which is, you know, a positive. Of course the author is apparently a big fan of Goblin Slayer and Shield Hero, so the salt shaker is getting a pretty good workout.
What’s striking about the first two eps, which were pretty good, is as much what’s absent as what’s present. Of the protagonist’s prior life there’s almost no mention, which renders the isekai portion of the premise pretty tangential so far. There’s also very little information about this world itself, which has the appealing effect of putting us more or less in the same position as Will (i.e. mostly in the dark). It’s obvious that secrets are being kept from us, but not what they are. And there’s very little violence and no sex – mostly just talking. What little action there is has been non-dramatic, as the voice-over narration’s existence assures us nothing too bad is going to happen at this stage.
One thing that strikes me as a little odd is Will’s willingness to go along with all this so placidly. He’s clearly not stupid, and intellectually an adult inside a child’s body. I get that he’s keeping a big secret himself, but at some point you’d think he just wants to know what the hell is going on with his existence. But he keeps absorbing Gus’ lessons, Blood’s blows, and Mary’s prayer training – all in good humor and obedience. I don’t deny their seeming good will towards him making it easier for him to just play along, but maybe this is a case of a little patience going a long way and too much absolutely nowhere.
Eventually, as Will becomes a teenager, the lessons become more demanding (like a five-day fasting prayer session) and events begin to creak forward. Blood takes the boy to the ruined city at last – or underneath it to be precise – and has him engage in some undead survival training. But it’s Gus who pretty much takes center stage, starting with his appearance in said underground. His attacks on Will he passes off as a lesson, but it seems clear to Will that they’re not. It almost appears to be some sort of test, where Will’s decision not to destroy Gus is the key moment.
Later, as discussions turn to Will’s coming of age ceremony at age fifteen, Gus makes a strange request – he wants Will to throw the match he suspects Blood will challenge him to, and to make it seem like he didn’t lose on purpose. When Gus refuses Will’s demand to explain his reasoning, Will refuses to accede to the request. Gus isn’t just going to leave it there obviously, but it’s certainly odd to begin with. Clearly that day is what the prequel portion of Saihate no Paladin has been building towards, so perhaps we’ll learn more of the truth of this world when it arrives.
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