Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou – 12 (END)
「おしまいは完璧？」 (Oshimai wa Kanpeki?)
“The Ending is Complete?”
For a series finale, things sure went out with a bang when Akuto took his fight directly to the Gods and Peterhausen showed just how faithful he is to the very end, but I found myself constantly trying to accept explanations on the law of identity and how the entire system works faster than I could even comprehend them. So with that, I was questioning whether I’m an utter failure at grasping the key points of the story or if Artland and their production staff didn’t do a very good job telling one. Every time Akuto responded to either Hiroshi, Bouichirou, Peterhausen, or the Lilidans protecting the Gods’ system’s with a correctly surmised statement, I was often left puzzled and wondering if I missed something that was said earlier on. At times it was less important stuff, such as Peterhausen telling Akuto to release his mana limiter and the latter knowing that it means risking harm to himself, but at others it was the Lilidans saying that the demon lord is supposed to form a contract with the law of identity and recreate the next world as its “father” — something Akuto had already figured out at some point. Looking back, I found that it’s actually a combination of both that made this series a little more difficult to follow than I gather the producers wanted it to be.
I actually had to watch this episode twice to get a proper grasp on the overall story, plus refer back to the previous ones to see how tangible the progression’s been. With only twelve episodes to work with in a series that’s expected to have a fair amount of fan-service on top an extravagant plot that works in both Gods and Demon Lords in a Matrix-like system, I’ve come to the realization that my personal difficulty in making sense of things stemmed from those two aspects being forced to overlap in the limited time frame. If you just look at the story that’s been covered thus far and ignore the “fluff” that’s encompassed it, the foundation has actually been laid to make it work. I mentioned before how the quick introduction of plot devices such as the Sword of Sohaya felt like a cheap way to advance the story, but in retrospect it only came off that way because the episode couldn’t spare enough time to focus on the Hattori/Teruya side of the struggle leading up to the Junko drawing the legendary sword to deal with Eiko. The screen time in the following episode had to be shared between Akuto, Bouichirou, Fujiko, Lily, and Hiroshi’s perspectives, which made it increasingly difficult to appreciate the underlying story elements that were progressing steadily along.
Leading up to this finale, if you took notice to the school director’s brief mention of how Bouichirou was around in the battle a hundred years ago yet never aged one bit, in conjunction with the flashback scene of his lover and former law of identity Rimu’s contract with the demon lord, it won’t come as too much of a surprise to learn that Bouichirou’s a time traveler intent on stopping the God’s endless cycle of destroying all human life and recreating it elsewhere. Along those lines, this means that everyone is caught in a system designed to collect data from each iteration, revise it, and then destroy the world and create a new one based on the changes. Being the demon lord, Akuto has been aware of this fact for some time now and is why he’s rebelling against the Gods. The huge twist is that the demon lord is proxy of theirs intended to close the chapter of each “story” by wiping out mankind, but it didn’t come off as one due to the brief and easily glossed over foreshadowing in previous episodes where the fan-service-filled subplots involving Junko, Keena, Korone, and Fujiko took center stage.
Whether you actually got all that leading up to this finale and saw past the ecchi surface of this series, the conclusion here where Akuto asks Peterhausen to tap into the God’s system and take it down to prevent their world’s destruction, will be either utterly awesome with a lot of closure or totally nonsensical random chain of events. Admittedly, I fell into the latter category when I first watched this episode, but a second viewing and some flipping through of the previous episodes landed me in the former. When I say “utterly awesome” however, this doesn’t mean the series has suddenly redeemed itself and become a series I’d recommend to anyone in a heartbeat. Instead, it’s been elevated from being rather unsubstantial and run-of-the-mill to actually having a good plot amidst all the fan-service. In addition, it even allowed things to come full circle with the law of identity’s slight modification to their world so that everyone except our main characters forgot about whole demon lord incident, only for Yata Garasu give Akuto the future career assessment of becoming one once again. It looks like there are some viscious cycles that can’t help but be repeated with or without the Gods’ involvement. =P
When I skimmed through the first bit of this series’ manga while writing up the Spring 2010 Preview, it came off primarily as a high school comedy with a fair bit of fan-service in a futuristic setting with magic. In spite of that, it was something I felt had potential to be much more given its light novel roots and backstory revolving around Akuto’s past with Keena. Having seen the full adaptation now, I can say that there is a lot more depth than it appears on the surface, albeit it wasn’t anything like I was expecting. Not once did I consider that the story would reach such heights as addressing the existence of Gods and depicting how religion is nothing more than a means for them to guide their human subjects in the system. All I was expecting from the demon lord premise is Akuto being viewed negatively yet possessing the power to do amazing things as he forms his high school harem. Clearly that was a misjudgment on my part, especially considering that this is based on a light novel where fan-service-oriented pictures don’t even exist. The plot has to play a significant role in order to propel things forward there and that’s exactly what we had here. Kind of hard to imagine based on the promo artwork of course, but that just goes to show you should never judge a book by its cover, regardless of how cliché is.
However, this anime adaptation wasn’t without problems as it tried to cover a fair amount of material in a short period of time. I originally felt that this series suffered from pacing issues, but now feel that really wasn’t the case at all. To the writers’ credit, they did what they had to in the limited time frame and compressed the story so that multiple things were happening concurrently. The trade-off is that things got a little hard to follow and were briefer, but all the key story elements were there to string the entire series together. The real problem I found is that it’s hard to take notice of those elements with all the fan-service that this series included. As soon as the viewer saw scenes with a loli getting fingers shoved down her throat or a naked girl being licked against her will, the whole bit about the assailant being a member of the government agency CIMO8 was the furthest thing from their mind. This tendency of overshadowing the underlying story with a lot of fan-service is what ultimately plagued this series from being taken seriously enough for it to come together in a significant way. Normally a series would alternate between story and fan-service rather than being forced to overlap them the entire time.
Be that as it may, it’s kind of impressive how much material was covered in only twelve episodes using this approach though. The first three were introductory ones, the next two focused on Fujiko’s brother and the revival of Peterhausen that was hinted at earlier, the sixth one was an obligatory beach episode, and the remaining six covered the rebellion against the Gods. If you can actually spare the time to watch this series again while trying to focus on the story elements of what’s happening rather than how it’s happening, it almost feels like this could have been a really good series that everyone would’ve been watching. In the end, unless watching a series twice with different focuses in mind is an option for you, it’s kind of hard to recommend Daimaou beyond what you’d get the first time through. I still enjoyed it thanks to characters like Korone and whatnot and see it in a whole new light after looking at things under a finer microscope, so everyone’s mileage will vary with this one.