We all know the classic fantasy story: the world is locked in a terrible war between humans and demons, and the desperate humans send a chosen hero and his small band of brave companions forth to defeat the demon king. If the hero wins, humanity is ushered into a golden age of peace and prosperity, and if he loses, humanity is plunged into a dark age of pain and suffering, at least until the next hero can come along and finish the job.
But what if there were a third option, because things aren’t really that simple?
And that is the beginning of this anime, and it is a truly unique one.
The title is “Maoyū Maō Yūsha,” which somewhat literally translates to “Demon King and Hero,” and was officially translated as “Archenemy and Hero,” and it’s often referred to more simply as “Maoyu.”
Titles and translation. Oy vey.
For present purposes, and because I am lazy, I am going with the shorter title, Maoyu.
And I have to say, Maoyu is one of the most unique and interesting anime I’ve ever seen.
The basic premise is that the stereotypical Hero meets his classic archenemy, the Demon King, fully intending to do battle and defeat him for peace and justice and all that good stuff. But, small hiccup, the Demon King is actually a woman, and a highly attractive one at that. That’s not enough to stop him, but it surprises him just enough for her to start talking. With facts, reason, and logic, she’s able to convince him that if they battle, no matter who wins, it will be bad for both races. For that matter, if the war were to simply end, it would be the worst thing to happen to both their races, no matter who was the winner.
It’s a simple, bitter truth: the war is actually helping both races survive, and thrive. So, if they want to end the war without doing far worse damage, then they need to do something completely unorthodox: they need to work together. Specifically, they need to advance both human and demon societies so that no one is reliant on the war continuing. Only then can they make peace.
So, they pledge themselves to each other, and go undercover. She becomes a Scholar and he becomes her Knight, and together they begin reforming society. The Demon King, for lack of a better way to describe this, basically has enough knowledge at her disposal that it’s basically a cheat sheet from our own world history. She introduces such innovations as improved agricultural methods, education, a compass that works at sea, the potato, corn, the printing press, even an early version of vaccines is mentioned near the end of the series. Each of these is a powerful advancement on its own, much less all of them in rapid succession. As a result, the Demon King is revolutionizing civilization with the power of knowledge, improving the world on a massive scale very quickly.
And I have to say, while I knew all of these ideas changed our own society when they were introduced, Maoyu helped me to comprehend how and why. The anime puts it all in a format that I can understand, and which kept me interested. Very well done, I have to say, and quite an innovative approach.
Plot-wise, there were a number of threads spread across a diverse number of characters, weaving together in intricate, complex ways. Most characters were swept up in the influence of these new ideas, but they also implemented ideas of their own. It could be a bit difficult to keep track of, jumping around so much, but things generally made sense.
The story had some of the usual tropes, like a love triangle between the Hero and two women, enemies joining together against the heroes of the story, and international intrigue which necessitated certain sacrifices, but it didn’t conform to them completely, and it sometimes turned them upside-down.
There were complex themes, too, including issues of society, military, religion, etc., which is to be expected of a story about how all these are changed by the power of ideas.
But, for all these intricacies, there were a few things that were lost, I think. What, exactly, was the deal with that Mage girl, for instance? Why were there three of her in one, and what was one of them talking about being “the spare?” Who is the Demon King, really, and is she somehow connected with the deity of this world? What is the nature of that deity, and why does it sound like it actually broke the world? What is the major religion of this world really planning, how do they imagine to achieve world domination?
The series ended with one season, and left off at an obvious point where things were supposed to continue on. Pet peeve of mine: an unfinished story.
But if there is one thing, most especially, which I did not like about Maoyu, it was this: none of the characters had NAMES!
It’s like the writer was too lazy to give them names, or maybe intended to, but failed to come up with them, so they wrote their title in the place of those names, and then never got around to replacing them with proper names. Everyone is Hero, Demon King, Knight, Head Maid, Elder Sister Maid, Little Sister Maid, Soldier, Winter King, Merchant, Dragon Princess, and, my personal favorite, Eastern Fortress Commander. I mean, when a villain is swearing he will destroy someone, they generally use the name, not the station, to refer to them! “I will destroy Eastern Fortress Commander!” just does not make much sense, ya know? Even entire nations aren’t given proper names. It’s all, “Winter Country,” “Bard Country,” “Lake Country,” “White Night Country,” “Treetop Country,” and so on, it’s ridiculous!
Sorry, I didn’t mean to rant there, but it just really annoyed me.
So, there are some decided flaws in how it was written, but I did enjoy most of it anyway. The drama, the influence of ideas, the action, the warfare, the intrigue, the animation, the music, I liked all of it. Every episode felt too short, like, “What, it’s over already? But we just started!” Which says something about how fun it was despite an annoying detail or two.
Overall, I found Maoyu to be intriguing and surprisingly exciting, complex and true to human nature, and generally just a fun way to spend an afternoon. It might be incomplete, really, but it’s not half-bad.
Rating: 8 stars out of 10.
Grade: solid B.