「国家騎士」 (Kokka Kishi)
I like to understand why stories work. It’s what I do. Which is why stories like this fascinate me: it’s lowbrow entertainment that the critic class turns their nose up to (and justifiably, to an extent—it’s not a world-shattering drama by any means), but many people enjoy it. Why? That’s why I stopped hating stories like Twilight, and instead tried to understand them. What itch are they scratching, and how are they scratching it so effectively?
I won’t belabor why isekai fantasies are popular. The logic is clear enough. But this episode once again bolsters my case as to what makes Isekai Maou work: Diablo’s social anxieties. Or more correctly, anything that keeps the overpowered Diablo from feeling like he can solve all of his problems instantly, and nothing illustrates that better than the scene with the lord. I have never felt so proud, for so little, for a man who can blow up so much, as I did when Diablo managed to thread the needle and both greet the lord and maintain his demon lord act at the same time. Go you, Diablo!
Which goes to show another thing this series does well: it’s not making fun of Diablo’s anxieties. It’s not shitting on him, like shows like Big Bang Theory does to nerds (I finally figured out why I hated that show GODS thanks Wisecrack). It has sympathy for his struggles, and it celebrates his victories even as it makes use of his failures—but not in a mean way! Which is the sneaky other reason Isekai Maou works: it’s not shitting on shut-ins with social anxieties. Why would you, right? Seems like that’d be your target market. Yet other series have done exactly that, and even been enjoyable despite it. Isekai Maou hamstrings Diablo’s power to make him relatable and likable without taking the piss out of him, which is superb! That can be good too, but this is structured as a drama, not a comedy. It works so well because it doesn’t make those mistakes. That’s one of the reasons it works.
The other reasons are simpler things, like good dialogue, memorable characters, and a mix of romance, action, and funny gags. I say simpler, but there’s nothing actually simple about any of that—it’s just more ineffable, and harder to point to precise moments that make someone like Alicia Cristela (Hara Yumi) so much fun. She’s fun because she’s tropey, but just enough not tropey (in her uber-diligence) to make her play off Diablo in a way that promotes comedy. In short, she’s suited to the story because she plays off another existing character (Diablo) in a way that makes the story better. It’s like how each of the girls of YoriMoi is perfect for that story, even if they would be superfluous in another tale. She’s right for here. Also, funny sexy hijinks happened. Can’t go wrong with that.
Next week it looks like we’re detouring into a slave market, which, er. Okay? I guess I’d like them to confront that, and either get those collars off or have them accept them as an entirely symbolic reason why they get to stay with Diablo. Still, hm. We’ll see how it goes.
- “We don’t need empathy from others. We face hardships as we please, put forth our efforts where we please, challenge our limits as we please, and savor the success we achieve by our own strength. When you’re following a path you chose yourself, you mustn’t be led astray, no matter what others may say. That’s what it means to live free.” I don’t agree with everything in that—no one gets anywhere alone, and humans (and pantherians, and elves) are too much of social creatures to operate well without empathy and a support network—but when it comes to choosing your life and not being led astray … yeah. That I like.
My SECOND novel, Freelance Heroics, is available now! (Now in print!) (Also available: Firesign #1 Wage Slave Rebellion.) Sign up for my email list for updates. At stephenwgee.com, the latest post: Risk Tolerance in the Creative Life.