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Maoyuu Maou Yuusha: An Anime Review
Let us start from the beginning, which in this case would be the climax: the Hero is finally entering the hall of the Demon King, a devilish being who has waged war on the human world, and whom the Hero has promised to slay. He walks up to the throne, sword in hand, while we see the friends he has met on his travel wish for his victory.
And here is where the traditional story is derailed. The Demon King turns out to be a young woman, a woman opening herself to a vast amount of fanservice(to the shows credit, this rarely happens after the first episodes). It turns out that the Demon King do not wish to wage war on humans, but the war has become an economic and political necessity: forces in the human world are making too much money on the war, and one country especially is in need for the war funds that the other countries give it. To solve this problem, the Demon King travels, with the help of the Hero, to the human world, and she can thus influence both the demon world and the human world.
To Achieve Peace
The story is clearly a satire or critique of the classic fantasy story of good vs. evil. All characters are named by their function in the story, the main character is for example never given any other name than Hero. The Demon King takes on the name the Crimson Scholar, and we also have the Female Knight and the Young Merchant. But it rises far beyond simply mocking this sword and magic genre: it tells a more realistic version of how peace may be achieved.
The Crimson Scholar function is to help humanity advance. This starts simply by giving humans a food source far more durable than the ones they have: potatoes. She later bring technological advancements and makes an effort in educating the younger generation. And this turns out to make a real difference. There are very few fighting scenes in the show, most of it concerns itself with character growth and how the new discoveries and plants the Crimson Scholar has revealed changes the world. We also get insight into a complex political game.
Then the Young Merchant arrives. Where the Crimson Scholar symbolizes the progress and unselfishness that can bring enemies together, the Young Merchant is a symbol of how trade and selfishness can do it. He is interested in trading with the demon, hoping to earn money, and establishes diplomatic agreements and a bond of trust and dependence between the humans and the demons. In many ways he is the greatest force for uniting the two people, and all for purely selfish reasons.
So where does this leave the Hero? He ponders that himself. While his extreme power is capable of doing much and protect people, in establishing true peace he is hopelessly powerless. The Hero does at one point say that it is possible the Young Merchant will be the one to find the road to a ceasefire, and mostly he is dedicated to helping the Crimson Scholar. He also functions as a diplomat, being famous and revered among humans, and he tries to find the lost members of the group of heroes he originally set out with. His most important contribution may be as a love interest for the Crimson Scholar, and I would argue that she is more of a main character than he is. For large parts of the story he is out of the picture, and we follow her much more. Not usual for an anime or manga of this sort, but a welcome breath of fresh air.
There is also the matter of the church, which refuses progress to happen without the priests agreement(the church is dedicated to the Light Spirit, but the parallels to Christian Churches during the Middle Ages are pretty obvious). They arrange witch trials and attempt to kill the Chrimson Scholar. And several merchants and kings tries to stop the peace, either out of fear or because the gain too much from war. The demons rarely appear as villains except towards the ends.
A Short Note on the Animation
The animation in the anime is pretty good, and it is interesting to see anime with such a clear Middle Age European background. The Crimson Scholar as mentioned lends herself to fanservice which I do not care for, and at some places there is not much to look at, but elsewhere the animation is truly stunning.
Obviously the story is going to poke fun at the fantasy tropes. It is a running joke with how every woman is in love with the Hero. Several action cliches are uttered. But there lies a lot behind the jokes, and the show's attempt to provide a realistic version of achieving peace is quite good. Perhaps a little too good.
I think Maoyuu's greatest flaw is its pacing. The show has to go over several years to be realistic, but it sort of feels like a lot of things stop during the time skips. The Hero and the Crimson Scholar does not seem to have grown closer during a half a year long skip, instead only getting to know each other in those short periods we see them. I understand why this was necessary, but it feels a little unnatural with how the characters just stop while we wait for a trade route to be established or the potato to become popular. Still, you have to admire the show and its message, despite this little weak point. Definitely one I would recommend.
© 2013 Nidag the Goat