This is review number one hundred and ninety five. This anime is part of the Winter 2013 lineup and, look, five more till I hit 20%. The anime I’ll be reviewing is called Maoyuu Maou Yuusha. It’s a twelve episode anime about a demon king and human hero joining together to end the war for everybody’s sake. They also flirt along the way and tease each other. It’s an awesome anime. Let’s read on.
The anime is about the strong and powerful Hero. After a long drawn out war between the demons and the humans, the Hero has decided to kill the Demon King and end this war once and for all. He didn’t expect the menacing lord of the demons to be a girl. He also didn’t expect that this girl wanted his help to end the war. This war is actually more than just the demons and humans killing each other for the greater good. It’s a war driven by profit and politics. Hero is a bit surprised and he decided that he will change this unacceptable practice of profiting from war. He decided to help Demon King end the war. They set out on a journey to slowly change the world. Slowly but surely, the seed they planted would grow into something that could finally end this war.
Taking the Pants Off
This was the most anticipated anime from the Winter 2013 lineup. It had a lot of buzz and people were excited for it. Something about being born from the annals of 2channel and a promising Spice and Wolf, one of the best anime about economics, successor just got people excited. It does sound pretty freakin awesome and I wish I was with the hype when it came out. It’s one of the downsides of reviewing after the hype die down. There were some familiar elements similar to Spice and Wolf but it was really just a slither. If you’re expecting a Spice and Wolf clone then you’d be disappointed. This is more of a war story involving two cute lovers than anything deep rooted in the spirit of that awesome show. However, this anime is really good. Story wise, I admire how sophisticated it is. It managed to clearly present a complex story about war. The wonderful thing is that the anime was able to overcome the hurdles of a confusing backstory, important names and key factions that are vital to the war and notions of a convoluted fantasy aspect by embracing what some would call a cancer to any anime. It embraced cliché. Yes, that oh so horrible thing that ruins an anime was the thing that made this particular one amazing. I always said cliché isn’t always a bad thing and it depends on how it’s utilize. Maoyu is a great example of how cliché can be used to offer something great.
The anime is pretty straightforward. It’s a show about war. The problem with war stories though, especially in anime, is that the overarching story is ridiculously huge. Take a page from Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon. It was a war anime as well. It was a fictional war though so it needs to properly explain the backstory leading to the war, the important people in this war and it was also presenting fantasy/Sci Fi aspects along the way. The narrative was a mess and it took two seasons to properly tell a story. Can you believe that this anime has the same setup as Horizon? I kid you not. It had an overarching story that could’ve used two seasons as well. It didn’t need to though because the anime was smart at presenting the story. The backstory was simple: demons vs. humans in a war that lasted a long time. The important figures in this war weren’t deemed as important and they only appeared when the story warranted them to appear. The fantasy aspects (mainly the demons and the magic and all that sh*t) wasn’t even properly mentioned. It didn’t need to. It had cliché to do the rest.
Let’s not call it cliché. It’d say it was relying on the familiarity of the viewer’s involving war stories. There are the good guys out for peace, the stubborn authorities, the internal conflicts and the effects of war on the innocent people. These familiar ingredients for a war story were utilized by the anime. Nothing seemed awkward or forced in the story because it’s honestly a conventional kind of war that most people have probably seen before. It didn’t try to be complicated and it didn’t become convoluted. It already had a cliché pace and all the anime need to do was to add its own spin on it. This is where the anime truly shined. It gave us different perspective about the war. One of the things I admired the most was the idea that people profit from the war. Merchants have direct power over the economy of the country. The Southern nation is receiving goods from the North to fund the war but they are mostly using it because they can’t produce their own food for winter. The North want their lives secure though so they’d sent money down South to make sure the war doesn’t go up North. With this structure, the war is not planned to end anytime soon. It’s a vile practice that has a bit realism to it. The war in this anime isn’t just about a bunch of soldiers in the battlefield fighting for peace. It also presented how money is important to the war and how politics can greatly affect it. It’s a complex yet cliché look on a war.
Let’s look at all the aspects of the war in the anime. First, there is the ever so familiar story of soldiers on the battlefield. This is the typical story where a lot of people die because of the war and some people are gravely injured. Some people stand out because of their awesome power and some cowardly run when push comes to shove. I was honestly not expecting an actual war battle in the anime because it was dialogue heavy and it was more concerned about other things but it had time to present a full on battle of humans and demons, and even humans against humans. Again, nothing complicated and the battles are mostly directed by how effective the tactics of the armies are. This was a great way to feature the prowess of the demons and the humans though so it was nicely presented. Like I said though, it’s not the main focus of the anime.
The main focus of the anime is the political and economic aspects of the war. The basic status quo of the human world is that the South is a poor country receiving funds from the North while the North profits and slowly becomes rich. Throughout the anime, the Demon King and the Hero devised certain plans that would affect that status quo. At first, it was a bit misleading because they were concerned about planting potatoes instead of actually doing something to immediately stop the war. Their plan involves a lot of time though and a lot of people. The Demon King introduced a lot of innovations and taught a lot of people how to live a better life. She was mostly planting the seeds for a permanent change in a small way while gradually gaining influence and power. It’s very precise and really ingenious. The political aspect of the anime was sharply presented. Demon King and Hero interacted with a lot of authoritative figures and allied with some of them. As the big picture was slowly being put together, you’d be surprised how Demon King became so influential despite the fact that she started out teaching a small village how to properly farm potatoes.
The anime also nicely presented another aspect of war: technology. I’ve learned through various Discovery Channel movies of those WW2 films in color that the Germans got the upper hand mostly because they adapted new guns, tanks and aircraft while the other nations were pretty sure the whole war would go down as another trench warfare like in the First World War. They were f*cking wrong and their defenses were being blitzkrieg and their cities pillaged. Obviously, they responded by technology as well and punctuated it with a technological innovation called the Atom Bomb. Isn’t war awesome? Anyways, this was presented in this anime as well. The Demon King introduced technological advancements that greatly affected the pace of the war and the status quo of the human world as well. It’s not just advancement in warfare though, but also in agriculture and education. She was teaching people new strategies for war and teaching farmers new tools to help produce more crops. These are also common advancements and not a hint of Sci Fi or anything is present. It’s something that easily fits the story and something the audience can easily digest. It’s also a new approach to war stories that I really appreciate. It’s not that “new” though because it’s still within the realm of familiarity the anime is built upon.
As the anime progresses, the various aspects of the show slowly became a lot more interesting. The political, economic, technological and even religious aspects soon gave us a clear picture of what the anime was trying to present. The Demon King and the Hero was really trying to end the war and the results of their efforts would slowly come to fruition. The focus expands from the two main characters to the various side characters and the whole situation of the war becomes really exciting to see progress. The story still had some noticeable downsides though that I feel I should point out. First of all, some aspects of the story were a bit hard to not roll your eyes over. The idea that the two characters introduced corn to the oblivious humans seemed a bit ridiculous and there were certainly a bit of Mary Sue attitude coming from the characters. The show slowly fixes that though so it’s not really that big of a deal. There were some aspects of the story that were still a bit confusing though. The anime doesn’t explain things and let the pacing of the story slowly correct itself so it will be a challenge trying to keep up with the anime. Some things like the magical powers of the characters aren’t fully explained and the various “negotiations” in the anime were a bit hard to follow.
The characters are all pretty interesting. I find it fascinating they don’t have actual names. They are just called by their title. The Hero, Demon King, Head Maid and Soldier are among the names in the anime. It’s actually a good thing for me because I don’t bother with names. They’re obligatory things to an anime but one that isn’t really that vital. I’m glad the creator realized that as well. I am a bit curious how it was on the light novel since names are pretty important there. Oh well. Anyways, the characters are all nicely presented. It’s a bit surprising how well the characters grow in the show. Aside from the Hero and Demon King, all the characters started out as mere plot devices to further the story along but as the story slowly expanded, the focus was slowly shifted to the plot devices and you can see how they grow as a character. One best example is the Older Sister Maid. She started out as the cheerful girl who was luckily sheltered by Demon King. She was taught by Demon King and she served nothing more than a worrying character. Then the story focused on her and how she perceived the growth of the nation. This caused a surge of bravery in her that caused her to deliver one of the powerful moments in the anime. The show was smart at presenting the characters and instead of being just mere plot devices the story can use to shape the anime, the characters were important parts of the show that told the story’s great progression and buildup. Even mere characters that had two or three lines soon became great characters that led armies and had their own cool fight scene. It’s really amazing and deceptively complex.
The two main characters are pretty decent. Demon King was really interesting. She was as playful as a little kid but as perceptive as a great strategist. She was able to fully weigh the consequences of every choice she make and calculate a satisfying outcome at every decision she chooses. She clearly has a great vision to end the war and it’s one of the greatest surprises of the anime. Nothing in the anime is blatantly expressed so her plan remains in the dark until its slow reveal but it’s OK because it’s a really good one. The Hero is the idealistic kind of character that believes in the power of good prevailing over evil but he realizes how insignificant he is after realizing he is just a pawn for the profiteers of the war. He doesn’t do much in the anime except display great courage and valiantly take any challenge head on. He is also super strong and he is the muscle if Demon King is the brain. These two have a rather playful relationship though. It reminds me of the one in Spice and Wolf. I believe that was the point. The creators even cast the same voice actors to further deliver that point. They are cute but the playful kind of cute you’d expect in most anime. They don’t have the same sophisticated flirtation of Lawrence and Holo. I don’t really care though because it’s just a small part of the anime. Their relationship doesn’t really mean much compared to the slowly expanding focus of the war story of the anime. It’s still cute though and I like cute.
This is a really great anime. It’s complex without all the confusing bells and whistles. It relied on familiar tropes to deliver a powerful story and the entire experience is certainly an amazing one. The overarching story still seemed to be a bit too big though but I’ll try not to spoil it. The anime presented a nice story either way and I’m still surprised at how wonderfully executed the whole thing is. This is certainly one of the strongest anime of 2013.
Sight and Sound
Character design is pretty decent. They mostly have a simple look to them. Generic at best and only a few standout details to make them look unique. Things like hair color are mostly the aspects that make them not so generic though. It’s not that much but it’ll do. There is a nice range in age and body type though. I do appreciate that and the look matches their personality quite well. The anime is set in sort of like a medieval period and the characters mostly wear outfit related to the period. Simple knight armors and Victorian dresses. They don’t stand out that well but they still look pretty good. The demons are also pretty decent. Some looks like humans with simple fantasy aspects like a horn and such while others are the standard supernatural creatures. There are talking monsters with fish heads, giant squids and blue skinned demons among other things.
The anime had a pretty interesting color palette. The background designs are all painted over but it has some digital touches to them. The trees and the farm fields all have a nice painted look to them that is very beautiful to look at. The way they are painted gave a nice storybook-like appeal to it that I really appreciate. The colors are also a bit leaning to a darker palette that nicely sets the mood of the anime.
The animation is pretty decent. The movements are pretty precise and the fight scenes are awesome. The simple mannerisms of the characters are nicely presented and the quality stays consistent. The effects are decent and the frame rate is pretty good. The animation is pretty standard though and it doesn’t really stand out in an amazing way. It’s enough to give the anime a decent look but not enough to make it visually grand. The precise animation is impressive though. I particularly like the crowd scene where you can see those tiny little ants moving independently. The rather gruesome detail of the war is also nice but I personally felt that it’s not enough. By far, the map scenes where it’s in CG and the arrows move smoothly have the most complicated movements because of the camera angles.
The anime’s OP is “Mukai Kaze” by YOHKO. This is an awesome song. The singer’s voice is really lovely and I love how it made the song really catchy. The verse started out slow but the voice is really infectious. As it builds to the chorus, it just becomes more fun to listen to. The romantic theme of the song is a nice touch as well. The OP sequence summarizes the events of the anime in a nice way and introduced all the important characters. It nicely ends with all of them holding hands on top of the hill overlooking their country.
The anime’s ED is “Unknown Vision” by Akino Arai. This is a slow mellow song and the singer’s voice is really chilling. It’s pretty amazing but it doesn’t really do much for me. It’s a typical ED song for me. The ED sequence features a chronicled look at the events of the anime in a book printed type thing. It’s pretty simple.
6/10 “A different perspective at war but one that feels familiar and easy to understand.”
This is a strong anime. I’m sure it will easily hook you with its inviting story, strong characters and amazing buildup. It’s a smart show that only gets better as you keep watching it. If you enjoy war stories in anime but with a political and economic aspect then you’ll enjoy this one. If you’re also a fan of Spice and Wolf then a short bite at nostalgia may encourage you to try this show as well. I highly recommend it.
Personally, I couldn’t help but feel pretty disappointed with Maoyuu. A lot of the war and economics stuff felt really simple and glossed over. I know it’s just anime but I didn’t feel like there was a lot of focus in the story. But I agree that it presented its cliches in a way that made it stand out and feel pretty clever.
what’s wrong with the story? i’m pretty sure the second half did the story justice. the ending was a bit unsatisfying though…
I think the story was pretty rushed and it looked like there was a lot of material that never got adapted. I don’t fault the anime for having ambition, but it could have been more evenly paced, definitely.
that’s fair. it could’ve been better but it’s also a fact that it had all the more chance to fail. i’m glad it didn’t get confusing towards the end like most anime adapting a complex light novel and retained the simple story and pace through and through. 🙂
If you look at it, there are actually lots of connections with the 16th century Renaissance. But, I guess only history geeks like me would notice.