Maoyū Maō Yūsha (Demon King and Hero) is a single cours 2013 anime based on a light novel series. I first watched it when it streamed on Crunchyroll, bought a cheap Malaysian ripoff when it looked like it wouldn’t get a US release, and just now got the official version off of Amazon. That, of course, required a rewatch. Like many anime, it doesn’t fare quite as well the second time around, but “not quite as well” doesn’t mean “not good”.
The story is simple: Demon Queen convinces human Hero to join her in a quest to end the interminable demon-human wars. They do so by bringing modern agriculture, education, and technology (all supplied by the Demon Queen, who is really a Scholar) to the humans, thus breaking down the economic reasons for continuing the war. Subplots include the Queen/Hero romance, the unrequited love of the Lady Knight, and the education and liberation of Big Sister Maid. Note that no-one has names, just job titles. Fortunately, the cast of characters is small, otherwise we’d be having to sort out who Head Maid of Another Minor Noble of Southern Mountain Country is.
The Queen is enamoured of the Hero, based, as far as I can tell, on magical images in her demon scrolls. Unfortunately, he spends most of his time away, troubleshooting, and is as nervous as a teen-ager when in her buxom presence. The Lady Knight (voiced by the incomparable Sawashiro Miyuki) is an old companion of the Hero. When he left her on his mission to kill the Demon King she was so distraught that she entered a nunnery. The Big Sister Maid was a serf who fled her abusive master, was hired by Head Maid, trained and educated, and who (disguised as the Crimson Scholar, which is the disguise the Demon Queen uses in human lands) gives an impassioned Rights of Man speech after being arrested by the Church for heresy. Is everything clear now? Good.
Why I like it: I’m a sucker for a good romance. I like anime that makes you think. I like the characters.
What’s wrong with it: It’s punching far above its weight, trying to fit two or three seasons worth of ideas into a single season anime, and trying to do it with a half-season budget. The animation was so-so at the beginning, and went downhill from there.
One result was that there was little time to devote to secondary characters. Female Magician, for example, appears to be three separate personalities, who devoted years to storing up spells to help Hero in his hour of need, but we never learn how her personalities work or why she stored the spells. Likewise, none of the demons gets much more than a walk-on part. The South Arctic General (a giant walrus), for example, takes half an episode to die of excessive speed-lined stills. The Princess Fire Dragon gets a few cameo appearances, and that’s it.
Finally, the ending was rushed. How rushed? Think of a history of WWII that starts out with a detailed discussion of the reasons for the war, a good discussion of the invasion of France and the Battle of Britain, and ends with the line: Then the allies prepared to invade Normandy and occupy Berlin, after which, they would drop a couple of bombs on Japan. None of the major plot lines, either personal or geopolitical, was resolved.
Maoyū is often compared to Spice and Wolf, with S&W being microeconomics, and MMY macroeconomics. If they’d had three times the budget, and better writers, they might have pulled it off. Arms, the production company, had done good work before (Genshiken), but I guess they were saving their budget for their masterpiece pair, Samurai Girls/Samurai Bride, and looking forward to this year’s Valkyrie Drive.
*The Japanese title (まおゆう魔王勇者) is a little confusing. As far as I can tell from the online dictionaries:
まおう = demon king
魔王 = demon king
勇者 = brave person = hero
So it’s demon king demon king hero? Like duck, duck, goose? There’s a lot I don’t know about Japanese.