The winter 2013 anime season is lurching into gear, and frankly the pickings don’t look all that great to me. You have the poorly titled “Mangirl!”; “Encouragement of Climb,” a show about…mountain climbing; a comedy title called “Cuticle Detective” that I will stay far away from; and other assorted cutesy or idiotic shows. Of course, some fine anime like Shin Sekai Yori and standbys like Naruto Shippuden are continuing into the new season, but I want a little freshness–in more ways than one. Is there any anime willing to shed the clichés of its genre and warm a jaded fan’s heart?
“Maoyu” seems up to the challenge. The title of the series is a little strange, but with my limited knowledge of Japanese I would guess that it fuses “demon king” (mao_ o_) and “hero” (yu_sha). This fantasy series premiered on Crunchyroll on the 4th of January and is available here. To be honest, the episode title is also odd: “You will be mine, Hero. I refuse!” This at least seems to show that Maoyu won’t take itself too seriously.
The episode begins with some straightforward narration about a war between humans and demons. A band of human heroes has pushed into the demon realm, but their leader (THE hero) separates from his comrades to go fight the Demon King alone. Surprise, surprise, he discovers that the Demon King is actually a young, attractive red-haired woman and that the war isn’t what it seems to be. It’s one step towards tearing down genre conventions, albeit a very small one. I don’t think such a revelation would catch anyone off guard so early into the series.
The Demon King. Terrifying. Simply terrifying.
The main characters bear some mention here. The Demon King is two things: very crimson and very busty. I’ve watched hundreds of anime, and through that time have seen plenty of ridiculously well-endowed female characters. That said, I just didn’t expect to find something like that here; it prevents me from taking her character as seriously as I could have. If Asuna from Sword Art Online had been jiggling every five seconds, for example, the series would have lost a lot of its emotional impact. The Demon King’s personality appears fairly tolerable, however: she is a bit naïve, but determined to see the world. She immediately displays intense affection for the Hero and has apparently been expecting his arrival for a long time. By the end of the episode they are basically married. Oh, and her horns come off, making her completely indistinguishable from a human.
“Hero” himself is, well, a generic fantasy hero. I don’t like his character design. Something about those brown eyes irritates me, but his personality also seems tolerable. If the intro and various scene shifts throughout the episode serve as clues, Maoyu will have a fairly large and diverse cast of characters. Juggling so many can be hard without plenty of time to work with them, but we shall see how the writers do. Those characters that I did notice seem fairly hackneyed as far as anime goes, the three witches in particular.
The Hero. I don’t know if he’ll ever get a regular name.
The intro is a standard J-Pop song with all of the usual imagery highlighting various characters. The ending is much more exotic: a slow-paced song reliant on ambient sounds and ethereal vocals, similar to the ending of The Last Exile. It plays alongside images of what appear to be a book of fairy tales or something similar, depicting characters from the series. This is what gives me hope that Maoyu can manage to throw in some serious fantasy as well as romance and comedy. The episode makes mention of some economic and social factors that could be interesting to see as well.
The animation is very nice. Character designs are standard, but the backgrounds look like marvelous watercolors (at least in some scenes).
Overall, Maoyu starts out trying to throw a wrench in the traditional “hero versus great evil” fantasy plot but is already being weighed down by stereotypes. I would at least recommend taking a look at the first episode. The series, if executed well, has a lot of potential.