Let’s face it, Winter 2012-2013 will hardly be a memorable season for anime. Most of the new series are comedy and/or romance shows – which does not mean they are necessarily bad, though definitely not my cup of tea, but that in most cases they are at best aiming at being light hearted fun rather than thought-provoking, challenging stories. Which is probably what made “Maoyuu Maou Yuusha” (The Evil Demon King and the Hero) all the more promising. A series about a fantasy world with a long-running war between humans and demons and a twist – when nothing less than MACROECONOMICS enter in play? Bring it on!
The story so far, as explained by the introductory infodump, is rather simple. There are humans, and there are demons. The two have been at war for 15 years. However, now things are seemingly going to change as a party of heroes makes its way towards the main boss Demon King’s castle. The main hero – aptly named Hero – has left the others behind, in eagerness to reach the enemy’s stronghold and put an end to the war. Which horrors await for him there? What devilish traps, what cunning plans, what nightmarish monsters will he have to confront? What kind of horrifying creature is… THE DEMON KING?
BEGONE, FOUL BEING!
So, turns out the Demon King is actually a (rather well endowed) girl, and has no desire whatsoever to fight the Hero – if anything, she looks like she’s all too eager to engage a different kind of “wrestling” activities with him. If you know what I mean. In between her awkward advances and a lot of Gratuitous Boob Jiggling™, though, the Demon King gets a very clear point across: ending the war now would bring only disadvantages to both sides. As she begins to expose very thoroughly, the actual economy of the worlds is heavily dependent on the war itself. The war effort has united the human nations, as the major danger has quieted down internal quarrels; some countries which have no agricultural capabilities get food supplies from other ones in exchange for their contribution to the protection of the human kingdoms which are further from the demon menace; and so on. Therefore, her proposal is simple: join forces in a secret pact, and instead of ending the war abruptly, try to slowly phase the world out of its current condition, preparing it for peace. After lolling around with a blank stare and a gaping mouth, occasionally spouting poignant considerations like “that’s impossible!” and “demons are evil!”, the Hero is finally convinced by the Demon King’s plan, and the two start their journey together to turn the world into something peaceful, or at least not-strictly-dependent on continued slaughter for its survival.
Then this happens:
Yeah, I confess, I laughed A LOT.
When I finished this episode, I must admit, I felt rather conflicted. The core premise is excellent, despite its true socioeconomic validity could be debated – in fact, the idea that a global war could improve economy falls inside the so-called “broken window fallacy”. To put it simple, it’s true that war requires money to circulate a lot, due to lots of public spending (for soldiers and weapons), and lots of reconstruction. This would surely increase the Gross Domestic Product of both the human and demon nations. But actually improve the economy, eliminate famine and so on? It should not be forgot that lots of the money spent – basically all that goes into weapons and soldiers – has the only purpose of destroying other stuff. In other words, the efficiency of an economy during a war is at its minimum: like Penelope with her shroud, you spend money to build things and then to destroy them and then to build them again and so on. Which means that, on a global level, a perfectly balanced war only means that three, four times the work, resources , and energy are spent to do (and destroy, and redo) the same things that would cost much less in peacetime. So this should mean less food, less metal, less everything for everyone. Of course there’s the beneficial effect of a diminished population, but that’s not exactly what you’d call “prosperity”, right? And let’s not forget that most of the male able workers are also those who make good soldiers, so you get left with elders, children, and maybe women, if the human army is not willing to enlist them.
However, there are many things that annoy me much more than this rudimentary form of Military Keynesianism in here – first and foremost, the unrealistic character interactions. The Hero, for example, is basically a empty container. He lacks any real personality trait: all he does is stand as a mute substitute for the spectator, to allow the Demon King to expose her own ideas. Now, using a character to play the “dumb one” so that other characters get to explain things to him, and thus to us, is a legitimate plot device, but doing so with the protagonist in a situation where there are only two characters makes the whole thing a little dull. There’s not a single moment in which the Hero truly opposes what the Demon King says with his own arguments – he just goes from zealot, righteous anger to holding hands with the enemy, completely convinced by arguments he never demonstrated to really understand. The last scene at the end of the episode could as well be the Demon King stabbing him in the back while laughing “You fell for it, you fool!” and the Hero would have completely deserved it. Well, it could be if the Demon King was not so desperately infatuated with him, and that’s problem number two.
Well, I get that the Demon King’s love is supposed to be comedic at least in some parts, but at the same time it looks like this series is trying to set up some sort of serious romance between the two. Now, a girl falling in love with someone she’s not even seen before, and basically proposing to him as soon as she finds herself in front of him speaks “creepy” in my book – as in, Overly Attached Girlfriend creepy.
More so, due to the aforementioned blankness of the Hero, the Demon King comes out as a character neatly superior to him in personality, intelligence, and culture, and yet she becomes a blushing and blabbering mess as soon as she suspects that such a wonderful man might – le gasp! – think that she’s fat. Which she is not by the way. And this is all not considering the fact that the Hero has led an expedition which has supposedly exterminated hundreds of her subjects. Ok, I get she realized that collaboration is the best way out of the war, but I’d expect it to be a more problematic decision to her, something on the lines of “let’s put aside our personal feelings and work for actual peace” rather than “oh, I don’t mind if you killed a thousand demons or two, the past is the past, now let’s cuddle in front of the chimney”. I like a female character with a good personality, and one of the things that ruins it the most for me is seeing her dump all that to become some bland male character’s faithful follower (Sword Art Online, I’m looking at you).
I’ll skim much faster through the second episode, also because there’s much less that happened. The Hero and the Demon King reach a small countryside village which the King (or rather, Queen) plans to turn into a sort of social laboratory where to experiment the innovations she wants to introduce – which amount to the amazing idea of switching from a three- to a four-year crop rotation! Well, it IS the Middle Ages or something, I guess. She wants to begin teaching the villagers’ children as well, to introduce her new ideas. The Hero keeps on following and compelling explanations for our sake with his blissful ignorance. At a certain point, there’s a very cute moment where they sit together and he rests his head on her lap. Then a girl and a boy, sons of serfs, who have escaped from home show up, and things get suddenly very odd. The protagonists’ maid (yep, they have a maid) addresses them very harshly and wants to report them, because for a serf escaping from his lord’s domains is a very serious crime. Yeah, sorry, but I left my feudal sensitivity in a drawer, somewhere six fucking hundred years ago. Basically, turns out the maid is one of those “harsh but just” characters who show up from time to time in anime, and all she wants from the poor guys is that they learn that “nothing comes for free”, and if they want to be hosted they have to earn it with work. Which is fair enough I guess, but to get there she comes little short of telling them “know thy place, peasants!”. She’s not just harsh, she comes off as an elitist, and the entire scene is pervaded by a weird mentality that made me feel uneasy. The two become new servants in the Demon King’s mansion, eventually, who proceeds to start giving lessons to local children.
And that’s about it.
All in all, the second episode didn’t change my opinion too much. It relieved me in a sense to see that the romance seems to stay a side plot rather than the main one (which is good), but it still feels something coming out of nowhere, seeing how there was not a shred of character building suggesting why should these two actually fall in love – besides being the only two named characters of opposite sex in the series (well, “named” is a stretch seeing how they only get called by their epithets, but you get my point).
My global impression is that of a series with some potential, which is probably going to be nothing special, but still worth following. I will try to blog through all of it anyway. I’m also curious about the source material – the anime is adapted from a Light Novel series, it seems – as it is entirely possible that some of the flaws I find in it are adaptation-induced. I will keep on watching and blogging.