Spring 2013 Anime First Impressions – Hataraku Maou-sama

hataraku_maou_sama24126

In my seasonal preview I noted that the only reason I was going to give Hataraku Maou-sama a chance came from the fact that White Fox was animating it and I wasn’t willing to bet against an animation studio that placed their last three works in my yearly top 10 anime lists. I wasn’t terribly excited about it’s prospects because it was sold as a comedy and the director was the one who took one of the funniest anime franchises – Minami-ke – and presided over a season of Minami-ke that somehow just barely made the mildly amusing level.

So, with much trepidation, I queued the first episode up and hoped for the best.

The Story

Somewhere in the multi-verse a demon lord by the name of Satan (or however the Japanese render it) attempts to conquer his world and fails when a hero arises to confront him. Before he can be killed, he, along with one of his top lieutenants, uses his magic powers to open up and escape through a dimensional portal to somewhere. That somewhere turns out to be our world, contemporary Tokyo to be exact. He planned to regroup before returning to his world but quickly finds out that our world does not have magic like his world does and that fact will seriously complicate his plan. While his lieutenant works on finding a way back, Satan goes to work at a local McDonald’s clone to make ends meet. He might have settled down to a peaceful life but he, and his lieutenant, were not the only ones that used the dimensional portal – the hero followed him to Earth and is looking to finish the job of killing the demon lord off.

The Fine Print

Of the dozen or so new anime series I’ve watched, Hataraku Maou-sama is probably the second most surprisingly good series I’ve watched. (Suisei no Gargantia remains number one.)

Hataraku Maou-sama is not a straight up comedy series, which is probably a good thing with the director’s track record; instead, it’s attempts to entertain the viewer by being amusing. Take, for example, this series of scenes where the demon lord and lieutenant navigate the hoops that living in modern-day Tokyo demands. The first step is to …

[Commie] Hataraku Maou-sama! - 01 [377BE214].mkv_snapshot_10.09_[2013.04.11_21.12.23]

[Commie] Hataraku Maou-sama! - 01 [377BE214].mkv_snapshot_10.22_[2013.04.11_21.13.00]

hataraku_maou_sama15258

[Commie] Hataraku Maou-sama! - 01 [377BE214].mkv_snapshot_10.41_[2013.04.11_21.14.14]

[Commie] Hataraku Maou-sama! - 01 [377BE214].mkv_snapshot_11.12_[2013.04.11_21.15.08]

It’s not side-splitting comedy, though I did chuckle a bit, but I was grinning from ear-to-ear over how profoundly amusing this sequence of scenes was. And, so far, the whole series has perfectly executed this desire to amuse the viewer. This alone would be enough for Hataraku Maou-sama to be a success but I don’t think the creators and animators are done adding value to this anime. The second episode added a couple hooks – strange emails, anomalous localized earthquakes, and an attack using magic – that suggest something more is going on as well.

There are, of course, other reasons that help this series turn out so good. One is the characters. There hasn’t been a lot of what would be termed “character development” but watching our three refugees (Demon lord, lieutenant, and Hero) work so hard at carving a spot out in our world is just too heartwarming that one can’t help but like them all. Another is the surprisingly good background music. I’m not one to normally notice the soundtrack but there were several points in both episodes that I found myself mentally complimenting the show for it’s music. There’s also the great vocal work done by the principle seiyuu. And another reason is that White Fox was obviously not given a huge budget to play with but they know how to maximize their resources by changing up the animation style, working the camera angles, and using the background to add weight to a shot.

hataraku_maou_sama01955

[Commie] Hataraku Maou-sama! - 01 [377BE214].mkv_snapshot_13.03_[2013.04.11_21.18.01]

[Commie] Hataraku Maou-sama! - 01 [377BE214].mkv_snapshot_09.59_[2013.04.11_21.12.00]

So, Hataraku Maou-sama has turned out better than I expected and I’m glad I gave it a shot. I definitely recommend giving this series a chance to those potential viewers reading this. As for if this anime can join the other White Fox series at the top this year, only time will tell.

Rating for episode 110.5/12  Strong A
Rating for episode 210.5/12  Strong A
Animation: 3/5 – Good
Anticipation Level: 3/5 – Average to Medium

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Spring 2013 Anime First Impressions – Hataraku Maou-sama”

  1. It is indeed amusing and entertaining. I liked how they developed the plot refinement to the point where the ironic reality really bites.

    In classic Demon Lord vs Hero to save the world fantasy plot tropes, the Yuusha comes from Japan or some other ordinary world, and goes into the fantasy world, learns the way of things, levels up, and achieves their destiny. They have completely reversed it.

    Alsiel, without magic, is just a (tadamo) chuunibyou when he does his posturing.

    The ability of the Japanese, working within their system of production and art, to manipulate their own genres and plot stereotypes is what makes things interesting. I especially liked Heroic Age and the setting of Gargantia, because the classic mecha story line is shown in Valrave the Liberator, where some normal school boy somehow finds a machine and pilots it, having learned none of the military culture or what not to go with it, stuck in a war he cannot particularly change for he lacks political/military power: the rival/friend is always on the other side of the war too. Liberator, however, adds its own plot twists. In its own way, Mecha genre has a variation of the Hero plot from fantasy. However, by merely changing the power level and experience of the boy into a veteran or someone who is already at the 99 percentile of power in the human bell curve, different things can be done with the plot and characters: seen in Heroic Age and Gargantia.

    Without the desire to obtain power, for one has an abundance of power, the question then becomes how to use it wisely and without waste. In the case of not having enough power, one’s options are limited in the beginning. For example, Shingeki no Kyojin is more traditional in its classic plot outline, and given its visceral nature, will provide additional emotional impact to those still at an earlier stage of life where they are still questing for long term goals, abilities, social status, etc. But it’s still predictable once one experiences the general plot outline long enough, for the meta (genre) can only go certain ways. There is only a set number of ways one can obtain power and experience. There is no finite way one can choose to use that power, however.

    I was worried that they would make this current show into a heavy comedy, like Mermaid Bride or Arakawa Bridge. Since my comedy meter can be easily maxed, I wasn’t particularly interested in the initial take. However, judging by the first two episodes, there’s a core of realism and pragmatism which I like and I think contrasts well with the comedic scenes.

    Precisely because the plot outline is very alien and has not been tropified too much, it is very unpredictable to my analytical senses and thus I am curious about where such shows go. For I cannot predict the possibilities.

    Like

  2. I’m so happy that there are two really solid anime shows premiering this spring. Two episodes in and it’s already apparent that Hataraku Maou-sama! and Suisei no Gargantia are going to be the best of the season (although RDG: Red Data Girl is surprising me by how not-crap it is. Judging by the OP it was going to be a super-size reverse harem, but so far the story actually seems to be holding up under its own steam).

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s