“…going forward, I want to make medicine available to those who need it.”Falma de Médicis. “Master and Apprentice.” Parallel World Pharmacy.
With the past couple years of COVID lockdown, makeup has been one of the furthest things from my mind. When all you do is stay at home or go in public wearing a mask, what then is the point of putting on a pretty face? Some might do it for self-satisfaction or work-from-home video conferences, but I personally only bother these days out of a sense of obligation towards a presentable front…and Insta pics, of course. Now that many of us are venturing back out into public spaces, I realize that much of my makeup has expired and will need replacing.
Seeing the most recent episode of isekai series Parallel World Pharmacy reminded me that my priorities have changed since pre-pandemic–I no longer care as much about long-lasting, photo-ready finishes, but more about sun protection, moisture, and evenness of tone. Protagonist Falma de Médicis’ wariness of popular makeup, most especially whitening foundations, isn’t particularly new to anime–take for instance another recent show, 2021’s The World’s Finest Assassin Gets Reincarnated in Another World, where they highlight a related issue. However, Falma’s profession as a pharmacologist rather than an undercover assassin allows for a more expansive view on the world of cosmetics and how it relates to one’s health.
Episode 5, “Daily Life at Parallel World Pharmacy and Cosmetics,” shows us a Falma struggling for customers a month past his grand opening. The reality isn’t good; rich people tend to go to their own established “pharmaceutists” (this world’s version of pharmacists), while poor people are wary of the royal seal, Falma’s young age, and misguided ideas of steep prices. Beatrice, our protagonist’s mother, suggests the brilliant idea of catering to those eager and willing to regularly pay for makeup since the most popular brands all include toxic chemicals like mercury for their whitening properties. I’ve never felt the desire to change my own skin tone, either lightening or darkening, but still find it fascinating that both fantasy and real worlds share a history of dangerous approaches to beauty. In a society where one’s worth hinges on public perception, attention to appearances goes hand in hand with success.
In the case of possible next customer Chloe de Chatillon, whom Falma’s assists with a case of anemia, a beautiful skin tone promises love. Her desire for a white complexion is strong enough to lead her to extreme measures of bloodletting on top of her persistent use of whitening makeup. To Chloe, the cost of her health is a small price to pay for a successful marriage. Thankfully, Falma is first a pharmacologist rather than a businessman, and isn’t willing to make a harmful beauty product. Rather than going with the status quo and quick buck, he takes the time to research and produce a line of skin care that not only beautifies the wearer, but also nourishes. He includes face wash, CC cream with sunscreen, and a luminescent powder.
Those unfamiliar with “color control” cream might find the name suspicious, but rest assured the “control,” also termed “correction”, addresses discoloration caused by sun damage and redness. Falma’s cream uses titanium oxide to help protect Chloe’s face from the tanning to which she’s prone. The loose powder uses sericite that helps diffuse light to give skin a bright, airbrushed look and soft feel. He addresses all of her concerns while still looking out for her wellbeing. 10/10 response, Falma!
If there’s a small gripe I have about both Parallel World Pharmacy and The World’s Finest Assassin Gets Reincarnated in Another World discussing cosmetics, it’s the implication that women’s concerns circle primarily on appearances. They’re not wrong in the understanding that the demographic offers lucrative returns and can easily support the rest of the business; for Falma that means his main pharmaceutical pursuits in research and application, while for Lugh it disguises, funds, and gives access to his assassinations. But as Parallel World Pharmacy is meant first and foremost as a supplier of medicinal drugs, promoting makeup and skin care cosmetics ends up feeling a bit like a cop out. I’m glad at the end they opened a related business to sell their cosmetics and allow headquarters to return its focus to medicine.
I’ve enjoyed watching Falma establish himself in his new life and try to help as many people as he best knows how. Rather than imposing his knowledge of modern medicine on his new environment, he strives to progress through era-appropriate channels and methods. This care for subtlety and rules may largely be explained by him hiding his Panactheos-given abilities, but Falma also makes it easy to believe in his inherently good intentions. This extends past general health to overall wellbeing as exemplified by his instilling of maternity and family leave for all staff members, many of whom lost their pharmaceutist licenses after giving birth. We’re halfway through the series by now, and he’s finally getting a foot in the doorway towards aiding the general public regardless of social standing. I’m excited to see where he’ll go from now and the progress he will continue to set in motion.
Watch Parallel World Pharmacy on Crunchyroll and VRV.