Content Warnings: Depictions of drug addiction, abuse, sex involving minors, sexual assault, and slavery; discussions of indigenous genocide.
What’s it about? Chosen as the “Hero of Recovery,” Keyaru was drugged and abused by his fellow “heroes” in their quest to defeat the demon king, quietly gaining his own set of powers along the way. At the end of their journey, Keyaru defeats the demon king and obtains her philosopher’s stone, an all-powerful magical device that he uses to travel back in time four years. Armed with the knowledge of the future, Keyaru plots to thwart the corrupt heroes and get revenge on behalf of his previous self.
I try to go into new anime without knowing much about them, but it was hard to avoid the scuttlebutt surrounding Redo of Healer, a light novel series that readers tend to describe as “rape revenge fetish porn.” I volunteered as tribute (I figured it was my turn to review a dumpster fire for once) and braced myself for the worst, only for this first episode to be… pretty standard “dark fantasy” fare, honestly?
If anything, it was more dull than horrifying. And hell, maybe this is the pain meds and the sleep deprivation talking, but there are even some glimmers of potential here—which only makes knowing where the series will go even more disappointing.
The thing about this premiere is, I don’t hate the concept of an abuse survivor going back in time to stop his abusers. The leaders of Gioral are pretty objectively terrible people, using and oppressing others to expand their own power, and the kingdom itself is explicitly built on the bones of indigenous demi-humans and slave labor (which Keyaru condemns them for). I wouldn’t at all mind watching Keyaru lead a revolution against them.
At the base of this premise are some worthwhile ideas about gender norms as well. The kingdom’s leaders look down on Keyaru’s powers of healing (which are, notably, usually held by female characters in fantasy series) in a way that reflects how a lot of feminine-coded caretaker skills are belittled or taken for granted in the real world. There’s also something to be said for a story that acknowledges that boys/men can be survivors of abuse and assault and that their pain is valid, since we really don’t see that enough in fiction.
It’s not bad groundwork, is what I’m saying. There’s a story buried inside Redo of Healer that I would be interested in seeing play out. It’s just that I’ve seen the (very NSFW) cover art of the light novel as well as some pages from the manga adaptation, and I have absolutely zero faith that it’s actually going to do any of that.
My chief concern with Redo of Healer is that, like so many tales of trauma (and especially male trauma) before it, it’s going to use Keyaru’s pain as an excuse for him to do whatever he wants to other people. “Someone hurt me, so I get to hurt others” is a message that comes up in a lot of these revenge stories, and it just continues to highlight how thoroughly modern society has failed to teach people (especially young men) healthy coping mechanisms for their pain, from minor aches to serious trauma.
I’m here for Keyaru working to prevent future harm and bring oppressors and abusers to justice. I’m here for him building a supportive community (Kureha the Sword Saint seems nice!) and finding a way to heal from the trauma of his last life. I am not here for Keyaru turning into an abuser himself and torturing people for funsies, no matter how awful they were to him before. We need stories that sincerely engage with male abuse survivors, not stories that promote the same unhealthy cruelty and violence that society at-large has for ages.
It’s also worth noting that Keyaru is the only person who remembers the previous cycle, meaning that Redo of Healer is basically doomed to fail as a satisfactory revenge narrative since the cathartic moment of “the villain realizes their past actions have come back to bite them” can never happen. The more you think about it, the more you realize the set-up really is just a convoluted way of justifying Keyaru “destroying” people who have no idea why, and the more concerning this premiere gets.
Beyond that… I mean, like I said, pretty standard “dark fantasy” LN fare, complete with fanservice and troubling sex scenes. Flare’s cleavage is in a lot of shots and several of the female characters wear your usual array of skimpy fantasy clothes. Flare is also clearly the focus of Keyaru’s wrath, but the series manages to sidestep outright misogyny for now by (1) having some of the villains be men and (2) introducing sympathetic female characters. True, I get the feeling the nice ladies are mostly there to form Keyaru’s future harem, but who knows, maybe they’ll have, like, character arcs and stuff.
There’s also a sex scene between Keyaru and a maid that I think is supposed to be sexy, but between the Censorship Shadows and the characters using each other to boost their power levels, it fluctuates between unintentionally hilarious and downright chilling. It’s also a pretty prime example of rape culture, as the maid insists that Keyaru getting a boner means he actually does want to have sex with her even though he told her to stop (it doesn’t; I don’t know who out there needs to hear that, but if you say “no” and they don’t respect that, then that’s rape, full fucking stop).
At the end of the day, Redo of Healer’s first episode didn’t send me running for the hills or sharpening my pitchfork. Honestly, Mushoku Tensei wins the “worst premiere of the season” by a wide country mile by starring a straight-up pedophile. Mostly I just leave this one a little sad, thinking about what this series could have been but knowing the destructive mess it is almost certainly going to become.
If you feel the need to stick with this one to see if these predictions bear out or if the anime adapts the source material into more positive directions, then have at it (although seriously, please keep those content warnings in mind as you go; folks tell me there is some truly heinous shit in the light novels). As for me, I’ve got a whole slew of more promising titles on my watchlist and no particular desire to have my eyeballs seared with more censored assault scenes. I’m out.