Content considerations: brief discussion of terminal illness
What’s it about? After dying in his sleep, a pharmacologist awakens in the body of a young noble in a fantasy world, nursing a mysterious wound from a lightning strike. Stuck in the life of “Master Farma,” our hero must relearn the healing magic and divine arts that his family is famous for. With some practice, it’s… almost frighteningly easy, and with a tingle in those lightning scars. What plans does the God of Medicine have for this displaced young man?
Last week I said my arms were open and I was waiting for an isekai anime I found genuinely engaging… and Parallel World Pharmacy has delivered! Ring the bells! Cook a celebratory feast! Send up some fireworks (responsibly and away from heavily-populated areas and flammable materials)!
Now, Pharmacy has its issues, and we’ll get to them in a moment. But honestly, this premiere provides a pretty neat example of how even the most familiar cliché can be reinvigorated with solid writing. Yes, it stars a character who has been reincarnated into a fantasy world with super strong magic powers, a trope we’re familiar with from its appearance in so many works in this genre. Here, though, this is a site of intrigue, mystery, and tension rather than a straightforward power fantasy. Our pharmacologist hero, henceforth Farma, has not been gifted the body of his game avatar or a random, handsome form shaped for him by a local deity. He’s been zapped into the body of someone who already has an established life and identity, including a family who are all eyeing him warily after his miraculous survival.
After reckoning with the fact that he’s died—something that feels genuinely a little bit tragic and dreadful, and something that a lot of these shows skim over—he has to quicksmart work out how to impersonate the young noble whom he’s now piloting around. This includes learning all the magic skills that Farma is renowned for; no small task given that our hero didn’t know magic existed until an hour ago. When he gets the hang of it, he pumps out so much power that it shocks and even terrifies the people around him. As the final credits roll, rather than his mentor fawning over him and his super cool OP coolness, she’s fleeing into the bushes because she has no idea what’s wrong with him.
It’s intriguing! Has he been touched by the God of Medicine, as his maid suggests? Is this a good thing, or is said God messin’ around with his immortal soul? How is this going to impact his attempts to blend in and assume Farma’s identity? Surely his “oh I’ve just been a little dizzy and forgetful since the lightning strike” deal is going to wear off—and how will everyone react when it does? There are stakes in this darn thing! The stuff that stories are made of!
That being said, this premiere definitely has other issues. The worldbuilding and magic system seems cool, though it’s delivered in piles of exposition from two helpful female characters who haven’t done much else. One is Farma’s maid, the other his magic teacher, the latter of which is sporting the most fanservicey outfit in the cast (though I’ll give them some points for her design clearly marking her as an adult woman and for the camera not leering into her cleavage). We briefly meet Farma’s mother and younger sister, who get no lines. I can only assume they’re going to become important later—especially the sister.
Our pharmacologist hero, you see, is motivated to work so many sleepless nights in the lab because his little sister died from an incurable illness when they were both kids. The opening scene that sets this up is engineered to tug the heartstrings, showing the poor sugar-sweet child from the protagonist’s POV. I’d love to give the show props for, again, actually establishing stakes, conflict, and a human motivation for their main character, but damn if the “too good for this sinful earth” dead little sister isn’t overdone and tacky.
Granted, maybe we’ll see more of her in flashbacks and get a sense of her as a person in her own right further down the track. I can only hope so, because beginning with a daisy-pure little girl in the fridge puts a pretty sour note on the premiere.
The word I’m going to stamp on Parallel World Pharmacy is “potential.” It’s made more of an effort to establish conflict than other isekai shows that just want everything to be easy for their male leads, which certainly makes it a more engaging viewing experience. I do want to know what happens next! It is, however, still falling back on familiar, gendered tropes, with the female characters thus far largely existing to provide motivation and exposition. Also worth noting is the fact that our adult doctor has inhabited the body of a much younger boy—mercifully, the series hasn’t Made It Weird yet, and I can only keep my fingers crossed that it continues in this fashion. If it improves and gives its women more to do, and continues to dish out interesting magical intrigue, it could unfold into something really enjoyable.