In recent years, the isekai genre has been a dominant force in the anime industry. While the formula has been used to tell some compelling stories with profound critiques on the world at large, shows that use the plot device have often been dismissed as escapist wish fulfillment. Additionally, the frequent focus on a wronged protagonist with exceptional skills has led to many of them being labeled as power fantasies.
At first glance, the edgy-sounding premise, RPG mechanical elements and obligatorily long title all seem like reasons to believe that Banished from the Hero's Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside is just the latest entry to this trend. Yet despite these factors, it is decidedly not an isekai. Not only does the protagonist actually hail from the world the story takes place in, but the anime's subversion of typical isekai tropes crafts a meaningful story about choosing a healthy alternative lifestyle.
Banished from the Hero's Party tells the story of Gideon Ragnason, the older brother of the divinely chosen Hero Ruti Ragnason. It takes place in a world where every living being is appointed a job class known as a Blessing, which dictates their skills, abilities and subconscious personality. Although he initially traveled with Ruti on her journey to defeat the Demon Lord, the party's Sage, Ares Sorwa, convinced Gideon that his Blessing of Guide was a hindrance to their mission, as it prevented him from taking high-level skills or stats.
Hurt by this betrayal, Gideon changed his name to Red and retreated to the countryside to become an apothecary and invest in the small-town community of Zoltan. He is eventually joined by Rit, a former travel companion and princess of a nearby kingdom, who is revered as an ace adventurer.
Largely due to its calm tone and lighthearted nature, Banished from the Hero's Party is able to show how Red's response to his situation is both satisfying and productive. It's clear that he finds joy in contributing and making a difference in the lives of the people of Zoltan. While he occasionally thinks back on his ostracization from the party, he fulfills himself with his new lifestyle and the friends he's made in it.
Some of the best isekai series involve storylines that provide insightful criticism on the achievement-based mentality of modern society. While many such protagonists embark on a journey of self-preservation or revenge, that is not the case with Red. By making Red a native to his world and dedicated to improving it, albeit on a smaller level, the series communicates that it's possible to love the world even when society undercuts one's place in it. Rather than grow stronger in an attempt to prove his superior qualities, Red removes himself from the very assumption that one's worth is evaluated by a single metric. He leaves Ruti's side not out of bitterness or hatred, but out of care and concern for her and the world she protects.
Furthermore, the series emphasizes that withdrawing from a meritocratic hustle culture can be good for one's mental health. Red's new life allows him to pursue meaningful activities while cultivating wholesome relationships with Zoltan's residents and an uplifting romantic partnership with Rit. Even when resident adventurers offer him advancement opportunities to recruit him for their own quests, Red feels no need to deviate from the lifestyle that has brought him true happiness. This is in stark contrast to the isekai genre's tendency to build characters who are only able to gratify themselves through their accomplishments and the immense powers that they wield.
Conversely, Ruti's party is shown to be driven to toxic ends by this performance-oriented mentality. Ares's expulsion of Red from the group results in a paranoid dynamic wherein the members are unable to trust each other. Worst of all, Ruti is unable to find any coping mechanism that relieves her from her Blessing's constant drive to grow stronger and move forward with her quest. While Red provided her with a faithful family member who saw her as more than just the Hero, his absence leaves her isolated in a destructive setting devoid of such support.
Though Red has not encountered Ruti or her allies since his departure, it will be interesting to see how the two sides interact when they cross paths again. Should Red find reason to join the group once more out of obligation, it's unclear what toll this could take on his emotional wellbeing. Still, it's apparent that whatever path Red chooses, he's doing something that he believes makes his world a better place. Even if other adventurers accuse him of being complacent, his dedication to Zoltan's wellbeing makes his behavior a far cry from the angst-driven self-indulgence seen in many isekai titles.
Banished from the Hero's Party is based on a series of light novels written by Zappon and published by Kadokawa Shoten. The anime is currently streaming via simulcast on Funimation in both subtitled Japanese and dubbed English.