I love the smell of genuine dramatic stakes in the morning. Once again, Parallel World Pharmacy is here to prove my long-running theory that not all of the “Reborn with Godlike Powers (and a Strangely Niche Career Path) in Another World” light-novel anime adaptations have to be boring, generic affairs. All you have to do is put in the minimum amount of effort to make your story, you know, interesting. If you can do that, the rest practically takes care of itself!
Case in point: This week, Farma has the unenviable task of curing Empress Élizabeth II’s tuberculosis. Now, because he’s been blessed with the powers of a god and can spit in the face of The Law of Conservation of Mass, the actual making of the cure is a fairly straightforward process. So long as Farma can remember the chemical compounds of whatever medicine he needs to poof into existence, he can do it. So, like most any other of these kinds of shows, Farma has more than enough power and intelligence to easily solve the seemingly impossible task set before him. That doesn’t mean that Farma has an easy time curing Élizabeth, though, and that is what makes this episode so fun to watch, in spite of Farma’s literal God Mode life hacks.
As Farma noted last week, this is a world that is still operating on a fundamentally Medieval understanding of science and biology. The Empress ‘personal attendants are using astrology to determine when her “destiny” is going to come to an end, and even Farma ‘s father has been reduced to administering a mild anesthesia in preparation for Élizabeth ‘s inevitable euthanasia. Farma’s fight here isn’t just that he has to remember the specific chemical compositions of drugs like rifampin, isoniazid, and ethambutol; he has to overcome thousands of years of misconceptions and backwards thinking on top of it all.
There’s also that whole thing about how our Farma stole the corpse of a young boy and has been masquerading around as him, while also wielding the incomprehensible powers of the Panactheos. My favorite part of the whole episode is how PWP doesn’t just drop that issue, and instead has Farma’s father get understandably upset over his son’s completely bizarre behavior. The show even manages to find a way to satisfyingly bypass the presumed hurdles of trying to hit the fast-forward button on centuries’ worth of scientific progress, since Farma’s holy “revelation” makes it easy for him to explain how he suddenly knows how to make hitherto undreamt of medicines, or how he can just casually introduce the concept of germ theory to the entire royal court.
Yet, the show doesn’t take the easy way out concerning Farma’s relationship with his father. It could have been simple enough to just have Bruno go along with the “divine revelation” story, but even though Bruno has never been a particularly great father, he can still recognize that the boy calling himself Farma is not the same person that they all knew before. I don’t know if PWP is ever going to have to follow-up on this development, but I really appreciate the fact that the show took the time to at least address it. It makes the whole cast feel that much more real and relatable.
It’s these ostensibly little things that add up to a lot along the way, and make it easy to see why Parallel World Pharmacy stands head and shoulder above so many of its peers. This is a story that understands that there is no point in a power fantasy if our hero lives in a world with nothing to struggle against, and no consequences to navigate. This is why I am happy to overlook the fact that Farma can store a hundred medical encyclopedias ‘worth of pharmaceutical knowledge in that underdeveloped little brain of his; he still feels like a real human, in spite of those narrative shortcuts. Conflict and growth are the core pillars to any good tale of adventure, and this is shaping up to be a very good adventure indeed.
Parallel World Pharmacy is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
James is a writer with many thoughts and feelings about anime and other pop-culture, which can also be found on Twitterhis blog, and his podcast.