Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Physicist Recommends: Maoyuu Maou Yuushya

Maoyuu Maou Yuushya, literally "The Demon Lord and the Hero", shortened to Maoyuu on Chrunchyroll, is an anime you should see. It is the story of how the lord the demons, Maou, and the fantasy archetype hero, Yuushya, team up to try and save their worlds from the endless war between humans and demons.

Those of you with some knowledge of Japanese may have noticed that "Maou" and "Yuushya" literally mean "Demon Lord" and "Hero", respectively. In the tradition of oral folk stories, all character names are simply their roles, which can get a little confusing at times when characters break archetype, such as when Onna Kishi (Female Knight) becomes a nun. It serves the purpose, though, of making all the characters quickly and easily identifiable, without the need to get a dictionary of strange sounding fantasy names out.

The setting of the story is mostly in the Feudal/Pre-Renaissance era human world, with brief forays into the demon world. After convincing Yuushya to team up with her using a brilliant argument involving the socioeconomic underpinnings of the war and how his killing her or vice-versa will only make things worse for both sides, which I'll leave for you to see yourself, Maou drops out of sight, and sneaks off to the human world with Yuushya, to begin laying the foundations for a sustainable end to the fighting. The human world is in bad shape, with massive famine and religious and social oppression similar to that of the 14th-16th centuries. She plans to do this by INDUCING a Renaissance, introducing such things as the printing press to relieve the church's monopoly on information and the potato to solve mass hunger. At the same time, Yuushya, as the conveniently face concealed Black Knight and Right Hand of the Demon Lord, engineers events in the Demon world to help bridge the gap between humans and demons through trade.

What makes the story good is that, under all the fantasy trappings, it is for the most part real. The issues that are addressed, and the reasons to address them, are perfectly applicable to the world, with simple replacement of the terms "Demon" and "Human" with those of nations or groups. The solutions and the reasoning behind them are never forced or contrived (although occasionally Maou comes across as knowing a bit too much, such as when she literally pulls the smallpox vaccine out of a hat), and the reactions that people have to what is going on are realistic. Even when fantasy elements like magic make an appearance, they could easily be replaced with more realistic equivalents without changing things. All of this lends the show a topicalness that is not often seen in other anime. If you are looking for action, you won't find it here, as there are only a few very brief (and not very good) action sequences, but politics and intrigue, those are present in spades.

The only major flaw with the show, which is an adaptation of a Japanese novel series of the same name, is that it is only 12 episodes. There is a lot of rush involved in getting the show from point a to point b, and in this case point b is approximately the end of the first novel, so there is no real conclusion. Hopefully we will see another series out of the show (for those unaware, Japanese television shows, particularly anime, tend to be only 1 'season', doing a continuous story from start to finish, but sequels are not unheard of). Despite this, the show is well worth the time, as long as you are willing to fill in the blanks a bit.

For those looking for a mostly serious political drama, this show is excellent and should not be missed.

Final Scores:
Plot: 9/10Excellent, must see. Loses one point for obnoxious, but not obtrusive, harem romance subplot. I really wish that particular anime convention would be dropped already.
Animation: 6/10The animation is serviceable, but the focus is on what is happening, not how nice it looks. Extensive use of static, stylized backgrounds. Much of the animation is people talking, so there is not much movement
Voice Acting: 8/10A few characters sound a bit... off, but nothing truly egregious. The voice for 8(?) year old Maido Imouto (little sister maid) is the worst offender. If you don't understand Japanese, you probably won't notice.
Music: 4/10Nothing particularly standout, but nothing really bad either.

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