「世界が愛に満ちるように」 (Sekai ga Ai ni Michiru You ni)
“Let the World Be Filled With Love”
Oh the happiness at knowing when you’ve guessed right. For all the distaste of Usain Bolt pacing last week, Maou Gakuin’s finale pleasantly decided to dial the speed back and give us, frankly, one hell of a show. Masterminds were crushed, idols hilariously sang, and we even received the magic version of a fusion dance because clearly the best duo wasn’t best duo enough. And yes, even Ray/Kanon got in on the action with a confirmed pairing for spice—not to mention Mama Anoth further reinforcing why I need more of that wholesome demon (and human) family life. It was the nice cherry on top to a season of ridiculous guilty pleasure fun, and I couldn’t have it any other way.
When I started into Maou Gakuin I honestly wasn’t expecting much. With light novel origins and a generic fantasy harem premise akin to RokuAka, this was a series which screamed seen it all before and a quick three episode drop. Indeed, such initial impressions were easily met, yet Maou Gakuin soon revealed to have far more talent than apparent resting under the hood—because execution arguably proved to be its saving grace.
The important and strongest feature of Maou Gakuin is without a doubt its self awareness. This is a series which features your typical OP MC, your usual harem shenanigans, and all the various rationalizations and veritable deus ex machinae, but rather than try and muddy the waters or blur it all away, heartily accepts what it is and doubles down as appropriate. Case in point is main man Anoth. Rather than the usual shenanigans of random and frequently nonsensical power-ups appearing out the blue—themselves typically accompanied by explanations attempting to rationalize away the latest get out of jail card—Anoth already starts as the end all be all. We know he’s going to crush the competition, we know he’s going to win, so the fun revolves around guessing and seeing how the guy pulls off the expected upset. This enables Anoth to take a hands-off approach per say, allowing for the secondary cast (who otherwise would be relegated to cheerleading and harem duty) to actually influence and outright decide matters themselves and provide a surprisingly welcome shot of narrative diversity to a well-trodden concept. Sure, it may not be a lot by itself, but when paired with the likes of Anoth’s confidence, respect, and own self-awareness, and the tongue in cheek, genre-related comedy stemming from Anoth’s family life, these parts synergistically sum together to yield an experience far improving upon what any could do alone.
Such improvements, however, cannot entirely make up for where Maou Gakuin does fall flat. Unfortunately, like many similar adaptations, this series has spent some considerable time at the chopping block, with each adapted arc being heavily rushed and with important plot elements or setting details skipped over. While the show, to be fair, did somewhat limit the effects to its bookends, it was honestly hard to really care about its conflict comings and goings outside of the central mystery plot which itself was largely revealed (or at least guessed) 6-8 episodes in. In effect this was a series which succeeded in spite of such series composition choices, a show grounded on how well the scriptwriting and voice acting worked within the constraints given, and a good indicator of just how far Maou Gakuin likely could’ve gone if later events such as the human-demon war (spoiler alert) weren’t restricted to a half episode segment. Not to say it ever would’ve been masterpiece material of course (that’s definitely a stretch), but Maou Gakuin undeniably had space to further spread its wings if it had been allowed.
Ultimately while I’m disappointed Maou Gakuin is over, I’m quite happy with what we got and the ending received. This was a series and adaptation showing just how far character writing and choices can go towards taking a generic concept and letting it stand proudly apart from its genre brethren, and further reinforcing that not all light novel adaptations must be necessarily mediocre—i.e. promotional material. Although I believe any sequel to Maou Gakuin wouldn’t work too well (it’s hard replicating the magic a second time), I certainly wouldn’t turn any more of it down should such a thing be greenlit. This was a show which went far and above anyone’s expectations, and for anime really shows just what a bit of thought and imagination can do for the things we’ve seen many times before.