A N I M E – R E V I E W
Mahdi Daiyan Sadol, Lamia Karim
TW: This article concerns subjects regarding sexual assault and/or violence. Reader discretion is advised.
This is it. We are officially witnessing the anime industry act more and more like an intoxicated college student with each passing season.
The start of it all can be traced back to the release of Interspecies Reviewers, with which the industry inched closer to redefining what could and could not be broadcast on national television. And with Redo of Healer’s premiere on 13 January this year, “operation redefinition” seems to have wound up successfully. This may very well be the ultimate peak of baffling decisions made by the anime industry.
Interspecies Reviewers stands right on the line that differentiates anime from hentai, but Redo of Healer totally shatters that barrier. While the former has a ton of redeeming qualities to the plot, the latter is undoubtedly a hentai being branded as an anime. What went wrong? Why is it so controversial? Is it a total dumpster fire?
Redo of Healer starts with Keyaru, one of the ten heroes destined to defeat the Demon King, who can heal people’s injuries no matter how severe. In exchange, however, his body has to feel the same pain that the receiver of the injury did. Unable to handle such pain, he wishes to quit his job as a hero. It is then that the elder princess of the Gioral kingdom, Freia, refuses, drugs, and tortures him mentally, physically, and sexually. In order to seek retribution for years of such manipulation, Keyaru acquires the philosopher’s stone by defeating the Demon King and turns back time to when he wasn’t a victim of this fate. Now with the knowledge from his past, he embarks on his quest of taking revenge on every single person who did him wrong in his first life.
Brilliant plot points in Redo of Healer
Despite all the negativity and criticism going around Redo of Healer, it is, in fact, a bold approach to discovering new sectors of anime.
For instance, it’s one of the first anime series that depicts a male rape victim. Such representation is a rare find in the entertainment industry as male vulnerability is a laughing stock in our toxic masculine society.
The series doesn’t shy away from showing Keyaru’s brutal methods of seeking revenge. No matter how psychopathic it may seem, Keyaru presents plausible behaviours one might exhibit after being subjected to abuse for a long period of time.
This very shamelessness of the story, along with its fantasy elements, generates an interesting and unique way in which the protagonist ultimately achieves his revenge — in a manner that hasn’t been seen in anime before. Time-travelling and memory-wiping, for example, are appearing as new techniques that can be adopted by revenge fantasies but can only be found in Redo of Healer as of now. A more specific example can be the fact that Keyaru wipes out Freia’s memories during his second life and completely robs her of her previous personality — a clever and ruthless way of attaining retribution, one must admit.
All of this violence further ties up to creating these inhumane characters who seem far worse than all the other races in the world of Redo of Healer. The non-intrusive demi-human clans are constantly being oppressed while even the supposedly malicious demon clan is more conciliatory and behaves more humanely than the humans do. Such a depiction creates an interesting overlook upon human nature.
This whole madshow takes place in the Gioral kingdom which, at first sight, appears as a peaceful nation. However, with the progression of each episode, we get exposed to the actual ways of how the nation operates. The government is ignorant while the army works behind the curtain to abuse their power — annihilating demi-human villages and selling off the women as sex slaves.
Our very own hime-sama, Freia, transforms from the maniac antagonist to a morally-just person after Keyaru wipes her memories to a blank canvas. And the show takes her as an example to prove how people aren’t inherently bad but rather victims of corrupt environments.
These political and psychological themes bring in a sense of realism in the fantasy world of Redo of Healer.
Jumping onto the lewder side of things, the show does a few genre-defying things which can be considered as positive. Since it is marketed as an anime and not a hentai, the series has to follow Japanese censorship laws which state that sexual organs cannot be broadcast on television. Because of this, all the scenes involving intercourse have no pixelated genitals and only body language to portray the action. It creates a whole new branch of erotica, intermediated between hentai and ecchi. And Redo of a Healer has actually been quite successful in delivering fan service through this new approach.
It must be noted that this “new branch of erotica” does not include any non-consensual acts that are part of the show. Rape is a crime, not a kink.
The immoderate amount of rape scenes in the show might not generate new branches of erotica but does accomplish another very important thing instead. The anime doesn’t do a total bad job in portraying the inhumane nature of sexual assault. The characters adopt absolute gory and aggressive torture methods and the voice actors do a fantastical job in bringing these graphic scenes to life. Suffice to say that no one felt comfortable watching these moments and the anime can be credited for adopting such repulsive depictions of this heinous crime.
…but what went wrong?
And before you jump in to comment on how all the points mentioned above are overstated — yes, you are absolutely right. All of these points are either elements that the story did not build upon or subtextual themes that have been picked apart. Redo of Healer is such a dumpster fire because it totally ignores its strong points and goes on to focus on the more detrimental side of things.
It could’ve done a spectacular job with its unique premise of having a male victim but it chose to give this plot point absolutely no room to shine. Instead, it chose to bring in redundant amounts of gore into the revenge that it did not build up to. Titles like Berserk are gory as well — but Berserk is such a notable title because it has an excellent plot that encompasses the gore, not excessive gore that encompasses an inadequate plot. Nothing fits into the description of being “gory and edgy just for the sake of being so” better than Redo of Healer does.
What is shallower than the redundancy is the world-building. It has so much potential (as has been mentioned earlier) but it discards all of it, much like how we are discarding this anime now (what goes around comes around indeed). The power system, specifically, is an absolute joke. Keyaru isn’t a healer, he is basically almighty. His magic spell “heal” cannot only cure injuries but can kill, injure, and even materialise inorganic things out of thin air. It can probably make Apple sell their phones and chargers as a single product for all we know. The plot chooses to focus on all the wrong things and, therefore, has no depth whatsoever. The characters are one-dimensional and the proper execution of the themes in the story is completely non-existent. No wonder it’s ridiculed so much.
And then comes the feature which the story decides to pivot around — the hypersexualisation. The majority of the sex scenes are unnecessary and don’t add anything to the plot. The major reason why all the positive points aren’t distinctive in the show is because of the excessive sex scenes taking up most of the screentime.
The only things the series does well is introducing its new branch of erotica and displaying loathsome depictions of rape.
What does this all tie into?
Dark fantasy turned into hentai.
It would’ve been totally fine if they produced Redo of Healer as a hentai. But the anime industry decided to baffle everyone by airing it on national TV with heavy censorship which cut out everything in the show anyway. This was the decision that marked the origin of the controversy.
The synopsis is misleading, so are the genre tags. People who wouldn’t normally watch hentai get baited by these into watching the show, which can lead to traumatisation.
The production and the marketing industry messed up more than the author of the story did. They produced an “anime” series out of a potential hentai which, for understandable reasons, couldn’t reach the standards expected of an anime. This is explicitly why, as an “anime series”, it’s selling point is its controversy alone at this stage.
Despite all this controversy and baffling decisions leading up to weak plot execution, Redo of Healer does bring back the trend of broadcasting gory shows on national television. This can potentially reintroduce the edgy vibe of the early 90s shows. Devilman Crybaby was an edgy show and a breath of fresh air. However, it only streamed on Netflix — unavailable for the wider TV audience. But Redo of Healer overcame that obstacle. This can also help better the adaptations of horror mangas so we don’t have to witness disappointments like The Junji Ito Collection.
But if you do wish to watch Redo of Healer, just sort out your reasons beforehand. If you’re interested in everything other than the plot, by all means, go for it.