This show would be so good if it was, y’know, good.
And instead, MMY keeps on cruelly playing with my feelings by teasing me and not delivering fully – but still delivering just enough to keep me somewhat interested, especially in these last two episodes. I started watching this series expecting a fantasy story with a twist, placing emphasis on macroeconomic issues instead of simple field battles. It is a GREAT idea! Think of it, not even Game of Thrones, for all its realistic, disillusioned, stark (see what I did there?) portrait of a fantasy war, goes too deep into economic issues – which is understandable because people is usually more enthralled by epic wars rather than epic currency trade, but is still untrue to the fact that more often than not the latter are necessary to understand the former.
As of episode 11, finally MMY fully embraces exactly this path. After an exceedingly long setup, the initial, simplistic premise of a world which sees humans pitted against demons in an eternal war has evolved into a complex scenario where alliances are being redefined and the very concept of what the characters used to held to be “good” and “evil” is challenged. A new war, this time between human nations, has broken out for merely economic reasons, and it is fought more with money and trade than with soldiers, at the moment.
So why am I complaining?
Well, because for such a promising idea, and considering how there truly is something that is not “useless flesh” to this show, the amount of naivety, writing blunders, laziness, and plain stupidity is disarming. On one hand, for a story whose very premise relies on the fact that conflicts are never entirely between “good” and “evil”, and that you can find common points and shared prosperity even with demons, the villains truly undergo an exaggerated amount of bashing. There is no subtlety whatsoever to the characters: whoever is evil goes around with a big red flashing sign saying “BAD GUY” hanging over his head. Take the one-eyed guy whose origin story motivating his terrible revenge I can’t now even remember. He lacks any redeeming quality. He’s not just an evil bastard, he also lacks any form of charisma and is desperately incompetent (more on this later). On another hand, we are supposed to sympathize with people like the Merchant who, in this moment, is speculating on the war and has plunged the Central Nations into an economic crisis – they are already emitting a new currency to counter inflation, but the attempt of the government to get an earning margin from seignorage is bound not to end too well – because he’s “spreading the future” and “building bridges” and stuff. Never mind that thousands of innocents in the Central Nations will probably starve to death because of his actions; economy does not need ethics, the Invisible Hand will provide to everything.
The second big problem is that the entire story seems to be set up not to tell, well, a story, but to demonstrate, or teach, a thesis. This thesis could be summed more or less as “mercantilism is an economic system superior to feudalism”. Well duh. In order to bring forth this thesis, the events of the story are arranged in a way that no true obstacle ever stands in the way of your heroes and their mission to spread the new ideas in a world that is aching to be renewed. This leads to the complete disappearance of any semblance of tension, and the utter incompetence of villains is instrumental to this. Just like the inquisitor did the stupidest possible thing when he let Young Maid talk freely to an enraged mob until they literally began to throw stones at him, in this episode the battle between the defenders of the Winter Kingdom and the attacking cavalry is a blatant example. Of course, the good guys act in a sensible way, by setting up trench defences and traps to counter the cavalry charge. The answer from the enemy? A blind, idiotic charge with their entire force, through narrow rocky passages, straight into a wall of crossbowmen who only have to shoot randomly in the bunch to hit something. Seriously, who even thinks of riding a cavalry charge on that kind of terrain? The fact that the Central Nations are in the wrong should not necessarily imply that they must have terrible generals.
The third, enormous problem are the characters and their interactions. Looking at battles, treaties, trade and stuff for the entire length of the show would be boring without characters that we can like and care about. And in fact it is, because such characters are almost entirely absent. All characters, instead, seem to only have the function of fulfilling a role as this animated pamphlet unravels before our eyes – which is somehow implied by the fact that their role is, in fact, their name. The two main characters, Demon King and Hero, are basically plot devices: the first one bent on introducing elements of novelty in this otherwise static world, the second simply a powerhouse convenient whenever the writers have to get themselves out of a corner. There’s an army counting 10,000? No problem, he’ll take care of it. Someone is really far away and we need to get there to advance the plot? Easy as pie, he can teleport. Hero is basically a demigod.
In this episode, turns out he can fly – he never did that before, but who cares? Let’s have him go all Superman. Never as in this occasion he made me think of Sword Art Online’s Kirito: a completely hollow shell who advances the plot by the simple fact of being the main character. This episode’s ending, with Hero reaching Demon King in a rush after she’s been changed – possessed? – by the spirits of the old Demon Kings who have turned her into a maniacal blood knight could have been so much more compelling if only the writers had spent more time building these two as characters –as REAL characters, developing their romance in a solid, believable way. Instead, at this point, I basically almost couldn’t give a shit.
Speaking of which. About the title of this post. I’ll let the images speak for themselves.
Stay classy, MMY.