OP: 「向かい風」 (Mukaikaze) by YOHKO
「｢この我のものとなれ、勇者よ｣｢断る！｣」 (｢Kono Ware Nomonotonare, Yuusha yo｣｢Kotowaru!｣)
“｢Be mine, Hero｣｢I refuse!｣”
A fantasy deconstruction and a love story, shot through with lessons on politics, economics, human nature, and war that are relevant to our world today. That’s what we have in Maoyuu Maou Yuusha, and if the first episode is any indication, this is going to be a very good show.
The first post-OP scene is indicative of the show overall, with the expected tropes presented, and then swiftly deconstructed in a thoughtful and elegant manner. Yuusha (Fukuyama Jun) charges in to slay the king of the demons and then the vile war that has been plaguing humanity. Yet not all is right. There are no guards, no monsters, no demons to bar his path. Instead, he finds that the king is a queen, and Maou (Koshimizu Ami) is not the evil war criminal that he expected
him her to be.
“Be mine, Hero!” This show has a lot of talking to be sure, and that’s alright. It’s great, even! The action will come–for now, they’re giving us the intellectual background to fully appreciate the conflicts to come, and the Maou and Yuusha’s place in them. Did I say intellectual? Yes, dear reader, this is an anime that will make you think! It’s not abstract philosophy, which is to say it’s nothing that any of us can’t wrap our minds around, but it’s rife with thoughts you may not have considered before, and therein lies the benefit. What’s more, they focus on hefty matters (hur hur hur…sorry) that have piqued my interest quite thoroughly.
What are these matters of which I speak? Economics, human nature, and the profit in war. I hope you paid attention to what Maou said, because those are truths she uttered. To me, fiction is at its greatest when it’s used as a magnifying glass, to focus on aspects of our own reality that would never be thought of, or otherwise ignored. Fiction can speak truth about reality, even when it’s full of demon kings and sword-wielding heroes. That’s what happened here. Maou says that war is profitable, and she is right. I am a businessman in my non-blogging time, so let me repeat that, with (necessarily) little detail, but absolute conviction – this is true. Certain parties will say that a war is done for great reasons, because it is right and moral and just, and yet in the back of their mind they’re thinking “Well yes, maybe…but also, I’ll make a killing on selling weapons. Send in the troops!” Likewise with the Central Nations giving money to the Southern Nations. It might be that they do think it’s right to give them assistance…but the calculus of having a shield from Maou’s armies is there as well. All that is as true in our world as it is in theirs. Sadly enough.
And who decides who is evil? Such words are bandied about quite often, but I find the truth to be much more…flexible. So goes the saying, one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter. Who is to say that Maou is more evil than the human lords who profit from the war? Or for that matter, who is to say that she’s less? (Though in this case I would agree that she is, having met her.) For a world full of demons, Maoyuu Maou Yuusha paints a much more realistic picture of our own world than many, with “evil” everywhere, and on the same sides as good – not a grand, terrifying evil, but the petty evils of greed and selfishness, of no empathy and allowing a bad situation to continue without working towards a way out of it. As it is in fiction, so it is in life.
But enough philosophy–there will be time enough for that later. What of the series’ bona fides? The animation and art are good. ARMS isn’t KyoAni or Ufotable, but the animation is as good as it needs to be, and the backgrounds are quite artistically fascinating. Call me weird, but in my advancing age I’ve come to appreciate those breaks from reality that convey its essence, rather than merely show what it is. The seiyuu? This is Amin and FukuJun we’re talking about, people. They’re fantastic, and anyone who says otherwise gets thrown in the Maou’s dungeons…if she had any, so I suppose I’ll have to find another punishment for blasphemers.
The direction, tone, and flow were also phenomenal; the episode moved naturally towards its conclusion, with each scene sucking my further into the atmosphere of Maou and Yuusha’s world. No big surprise there, considering that Spice and Wolf veteran director Takahashi Takeo is at the helm. The OP and ED? The OP did it’s job of pulling us into the mood of the series (also, hng~!), while the ED – always a personal sticking point of mine – was very…ephemeral? Fragile almost, like the quest upon which our two leads have embarked. Yet also grand, and ancient. It’s very fitting, a good feeling to end the episode on. Full marks. So far.
But if this is a story about economics and politics and war, it is also of characters, and love. Maou and Yuusha are two of the most relatable and likable leads I’ve seen in a long time. Those are grand claims, so let me explain. First of all, they are not dumb. Well, Yuusha is a little dumb, but it’s in an endearing way! But even he, once the situation is explained, uses his head and comes to the proper conclusion. These are not characters who will carry the idiot ball (trope!) like so many we see. Maou especially…she’s as sharp as Yuusha’s blade, if not more so, and seems to know more than a woman of her time should. I have a feeling the reason for that will become clear in time. Watch for it.
Then there’s simply them. Maou is so relaxed, pleasant, and earnest, how could he not fall for her? What’s more, there’s no hesitation in this from my, the viewer’s part. Mainly because she’s so wicked smart, but also because she’s flirty and pouty and yes, very bouncy. But Yuusha is not lacking either, for he is just while not being stupid (trope? Averted!), and I must admit, quite endearing himself when he gets all bashful or heroic. The comparisons with Spice and Wolf return in their interaction, and deservedly so, but it’s to a lesser degree. It’s a draw, but not the primary (and some would say, only) draw of this series. Besides, they’re different characters – they’re just dancing some of the same tunes.
Finally, there is love. Here we saw what amounted to a marriage proposal in the very first episode. As I like the characters, it’s no surprise that I quite liked that as well. There’s not a whole lot in addition to say, other than that Maou is such an ecchi otaku. I’m sorry Maou, I don’t think I’ll forget that anytime soon. Hng~!
Politics. Economics. Fantasy. Deconstruction. Love. War. This is a story filled with so many things I like, it’s no surprise that I’m enamored with it. Maoyuu Maou Yuusha provides us with a window into our own world through the lens of its own, speaking to truths as universal as they are ignored. Here’s one last one. Maou says “If it’s the army’s job to end a war, it’s a king’s job to find a place for it to end.” Replace “king” with “leader”, and this is as true now as it has ever has been. What their people need now is food, not weapons; jobs, not soldiers; to unite against poverty and death, not each other. I look forward to seeing if Maou and Yuusha can prepare the world for the peace that’s (hopefully) to come…and not lose themselves in the process. I wonder too, what’s beyond that hill.
Let’s find out, ne?
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – Economics. Politics. War. A fantasy deconstruction that speaks to the real world, and with a little bit of love to boot. Superb! #maoyuu
- In case you haven’t realized, their names are literally Demon King and Hero. I’m just using Maou and Yuusha because that makes them feel more “name-like” to me.
- I will attempt to avoid political statements (that is, referring to current day political issues) whenever possible while blogging this show, but due to the subject matter, it may happen. I’ll try to at least confine them to the more inarguable realm of history, and let you guys extrapolate from there. Or just keep using big words so I hardly make sense. One of the two.
- “I doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or bouncy!” I like my Yuushas ecchi-minded ^^
- Watch it Yuusha, you’re going along with her pace. Lucky bastard!!
- Pouty, self-conscious, and childish Maou is sooo cute, HNG~!
- If there’s any single scene that may typify this show, it’s this one. Quiet, deft deconstruction, with a laugh to boot.
- “There’s one thing I can give you all, not half, of. Myself.” I have a good feeling about this series. Economics, ho!
ED: 「Unknown Vision」 by 新居昭乃 (Arai Akino)