And that is NOT a typo.
I’ve said before how this series seems to have shallow writing and is unable to decide whether it wants to be a reflection on war economy or a romance. This episode, I have to admit, takes decidedly the first direction, relegating the romance barely in between the lines. Yet the writing remains shallow. In fact, this is at the same time the most interesting episode so far, and one infuriatingly ridden with stupidity and extremely disturbing (and completely overlooked) implications.
Surely the episode didn’t start well with the Young Maid and the Demon King laying down some profound philosophical considerations on the nature of war (“What is war?” “War is a large scale conflict.”. Well thank you ms. Dictionary). Or with Hero, astray somewhere “off the maps”, in Gate City, busy scaring away an entire army of crusaders with fairies that turn into flying skulls and bad dreams, without even causing a single casualty. Some tough men of war we got here.
But the main plot point of the episode is rather interesting. The humans are trying to retake Bright Light Island, which is a key point of their commercial routes, and would grant independence to the Southern Nations – so that the vicious circle of the Northern Nations feeding them and in exchange asking them to fight the war in their place can be broken. The assault and the battle is carried out in a rather logical fashion – first the humans establish a beachhead, then they prepare to lay siege (with few hopes due to their numbers only slightly superior to the ones of the enemy), until they receive the unexpected help of another army, composed by the crusaders that are bravely running the fuck away from Hero’s magic tricks. At that point, the demons decide to force their enemies in open battle (seeing their numbers, maybe it was not the best choice, unless they were actively manoeuvring to prevent the two armies to join forces), and the resulting clash leads to the death of their captain, who is basically a gigantic talking walrus, and their consequent defeat. For being an anime about achieving peace, this series is rather competent at narrating war.
So what are the problems? Well, many things. First, when the Holy Crusade army leaves Gate City to reach Bright Light they just teleport in. I am not against this possibility, but I have the horrible feeling that this is just a way to handwave troop movements for the sake of plot convenience which has been terribly thought out. I mean, how do the logistics of teleport work? Do you have to set up a portal or can you go wherever you want to? Did the author even realize what tremendous impact such a technique would have on medieval warfare? Troop transport is a key element of war. Having such a versatile and fast means of transportation means being able to set up quick attacks with agile soldiers, sneaking armies behind enemy lines (which conversely would require soldiers to guard the entire territory, and not only the front), and many other tricks. Can it be used short-range for tactical movements as well? Teleporting would make war into a frantic blitzkrieg where more important than countering the enemy’s moves is to foresee them. It would be great material for a war story – but here it’s just used to unnecessarily cut on times (why not saying that the Holy Crusade was scared out of Gate City, like, one month ago?).
And then there’s Demon King. First she helps the humans establish a beachhead, in exchange for some time before their attack, by providing them with the fundamental knowledge that salt can be used to melt the ice around Bright Light, as well with gigantic Escherian pulleys that defy the laws of euclidean geometry. Or that was just the animators being awful at their jobs.
And one might think that she simply wants to put the demons in a position where they will have to surrender and force a treaty. But then, hundreds of demons are slain in the process of establishing the beachhead. And what her plan ends up being is waiting for reinforcements – the Holy Crusade army. So that the humans can rightfully and properly throw the demon army into dismay, slay their leader, and ultimately, following the orders of Knight, “clean up” – that is, kill everyone who survives.
Now, there is only one word for what Demon King did to her people here in my vocabulary: treason.
She’s not trying to achieve peace. She could have done that in many other ways. She could have pressured the walrus lord to leave the island to the humans using her political influence. She could have used deception. Hell, she could have even assassinated him, if that could have been enough to make the garrison surrender. She clearly has superior technological knowledge, and instead of using that to win the war for her people, she’s willingly giving it away to the humans – so that they can win. Because with such an overwhelming technological advantage, humans can and will win. Demon King seems to be even preparing gunpowder now. She purposefully chose the way of the slaughter, helping humans kill thousands of her people’s soldiers who are probably still stranded and confused by the lack of leadership. All while of course Hero drives humans out of Gate City without pouring a single drop of blood – because that would be bad. She does this without ever looking even upset or troubled by the consequences of her actions, and then she goes to enjoy her medal of valour received in a proper Star Wars-esque ending ceremony.
Now, I can understand this series means no harm here – that’s exactly the problem. The writers simply aren’t even thinking. They made a point – that humans and demons’ lives count the same. And then they completely destroyed that point by giving us an episode in which it’s clear that human deaths are valuable, demon ones are a statistic. And that as long as Demon King can wrap her blood-stained hands around Hero’s chest, everything’s going to be fine. If these guys had written Apocalypse Now, it would have ended with Willard killing Kurtz with a bazooka, machine-gunning his way out of the village and going back to USA to live happily ever after with a hot vietnamese chick at his side.
In short, Maoyuu Maou Yuusha confirms itself as a poorly planned, messy affair. If I had held any hopes about it, this is where I lost them. I will keep on blogging it until the end, but it’s very unlikely that my judgement will be anything but negative at this point. I was hoping for the series to focus on the most interesting side of its duplex nature. For this episode it did, and it still failed to deliver any semblance of depth.