Sunday, January 6, 2013

First Impressions - Maoyuu Mao Yuusha

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That was an interesting mix of the conventional and the not-so-much.


OP: "Mukaikaze (向かい風; Headwind)" by YOHKO
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[Commie] Maoyuu Maou Yuusha - 01 [1449FDB1].mkv_snapshot_00.16_[2013.01.05_23.32.10]I don’t think there’s any question that Maoyuu Mao Yuusha goes into the season with extremely high expectations.  In a schedule mostly lacking in really interesting new shows (though heavy on good carry-overs from Fall) there’s a lot of pressure on this series to be a “tentpole” anime for Winter.  Of course that has no direct bearing on quality one way or the other, any more than popularity does – but given the not inconsiderable praise this property has received from fans of its many incarnations, I had pretty high hopes myself.

[Commie] Maoyuu Maou Yuusha - 01 [1449FDB1].mkv_snapshot_00.36_[2013.01.05_23.32.30]The net result is something of a paradox – much like a list of the series produced by Arms, which is an interesting mix of real quality and lowbrow sexploitation.  On the one hand, we have a series whose central premise seems to be a debate on something close to Military Keynesianism, a fascinating and difficult topic even for economists (who’re mostly taught to ignore Keynes these days).  On the other we have a premiere that’s riddled top to bottom with formula and sexual comedy.  We also have what amounts to yet another “round up the usual suspects” cast list, which undercuts the show’s ability to feel like something really fresh and different – for the first episode anyway, when we know the seiyuu intimately but don’t (new viewers anyway) really know the characters.

[Commie] Maoyuu Maou Yuusha - 01 [1449FDB1].mkv_snapshot_00.49_[2013.01.05_23.32.43]Maoyuu Mao Yuusha definitely hits the ground running- we’re pretty much dropped into the middle of the plot without a whole lot of preamble.  We’re told that a war between humans and demons has been going on for years, causing terrible destruction, and a young human known only as Hero (“Yuusha” – Fukuyama Jun) leaves the party he’s traveling with and goes alone to the Demon King’s castle, determined to assassinate him and end the conflict.  To his surprise the demon king is actually a she – Maou (Koshimizu Ami).  Red-haired, very bouncy where it counts and sporting a nice pair (of horns) she surprises Yuusha again by proposing to him rather than fighting him, and proceeds to try and convince him that what he thinks he knows he might not know at all.  Everyone else in the cast appears only briefly for introductory purposes – the merchant who seems to benefit from the war Kamiya Hiroshi), the Prince who seems to realize it’s wrong (Hirakawa Daisuke), his father (Morikawa Toshiyuki), the young woman (Sawashiro Miyuki) and old man (Ginga Banjou – now there’s a blast from the past) from Hero’s traveling party.

[Commie] Maoyuu Maou Yuusha - 01 [1449FDB1].mkv_snapshot_03.12_[2013.01.05_23.35.06]Make no mistake, effectively the entire first ep rests on that encounter between Yuusha and Maou in her castle – and on balance, I’d call it a mixed bag. I like the fact that the series is trying to build itself around a morally and ethically challenging premise – the notion that the human-demon conflict has no moral imperative on either side and is merely being perpetuated for economic reasons - though whether it has the chops to pull it off remains to be seen.  I like the lamp she uses to reveal episodes from the past – a very clever and well-executed conceit – and some of her mannerisms are quite funny.  But Yuusha behaves pretty much like the generic male lead in any generic anime – flustered and stammering at the sight of breasts, not really contributing anything of interest to the conversation.  Ami is also the more interesting seiyuu performance here, a nice mix of energy and snark – Fukuyama is so far at least very much in the barely-contained hysteria mode he can do in his sleep by now.  And I also felt that given the circumstances that were presented, Yuusha acquiesced to Maou’s argument rather too quickly.

[Commie] Maoyuu Maou Yuusha - 01 [1449FDB1].mkv_snapshot_03.40_[2013.01.05_23.35.47]It’s far too early to come to any conclusions after a premiere as self-contradicting as that one.  Is the series going to rely on whether Maou and Yuusha develop any romantic chemistry, or is the politics and economics going to drive the story?  I certainly don’t know, but I find myself rather hoping it’s the latter.  Humor seems destined to be a major component, and there are some nice moments here (such as Maou removing her horns, and a certain embarrassing moment from her recent past).   In terms of the production itself, Arms seem to have delivered at least based on the premiere – it’s handsomely drawn and smoothly animated, with some eye-catching cinematography (such as those lamp scenes) though the character designs are pretty generic.  My overall impression though is that the first episode was very, very talky – and if that continues to be the case, it puts an awful lot of pressure on the writing to consistently give the cast interesting things to say.  As fits the general impression of the premiere, that’s either potentially very interesting or very problematic, and I’m nowhere near ready to guess which yet.

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[Commie] Maoyuu Maou Yuusha - 01 [1449FDB1].mkv_snapshot_08.12_[2013.01.05_23.42.33] [Commie] Maoyuu Maou Yuusha - 01 [1449FDB1].mkv_snapshot_08.15_[2013.01.05_23.42.36] [Commie] Maoyuu Maou Yuusha - 01 [1449FDB1].mkv_snapshot_08.59_[2013.01.05_23.43.20]
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ED: "Unknown Vision" by Akino Arai
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21 comments:

  1. If I am not mistaken Kamiya Hiroshi doesn't play the prince but the young merchant.

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    1. Correct. The prince is the one played by Hirakawa Daisuke(given how he looks so noble, is staring out in a good vantage place like a castle and the one talking to him is wearing a crown). Kamiyan is the young merchant, discussing some of the benefits of the war for him.

      And well, it's ARMS so there really isn't a surprise that the bounciness is so well animated. She may be providing some more of those services later, but it's mostly her and none of the others.
      Plus once their plan goes into motion along with more dialogues, you'll forget all about them to focus on what they're gonna do.

      I got used to the character design but the manga version is much better. The seiyuu cast is top notch as well.
      So far so good though. Love it and I'm looking forward to more.

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    2. My bad - I thought they were both princes.

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  2. Very well said, Enzo -- and that's why I like coming to LiA. When appreciating a show, you have the open mind to comment on the good part and the critical eye to point out the bad -- not wavering in by the popularity and always trying to give an intelligent analysis and deduction of an episode is what, as a reader, I like to see and learn from after watching an episode.

    I was commenting this first episode on another blog -- this episode was overly praised there ignoring the things -- the flying boobs, the overly generic male protagonist, and quick change of mind of Yuusha. I have to be honest, after feeling a bit disappointed by the impression written there, I gained my interest back after reading your post...it's of a totally and a more intelligent level. Thanks.

    ~Ronbb

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    1. On the Male Lead being generic: That's the point. He doesn't even have a name.

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    2. I think they are making fun of old skool RPG protagonists. They are generic, they have no personality, they are nothing but plot devices. But! Is it a good move? Will us viewers enjoy it?Only time can tell...
      (I don't read the source material)

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  3. I enjoyed the first episode, my only real issue that our hero got so stumbled so easily and gave in just as much...at least the demon 'king' has prooved to be likable and the future of this series may be a bright one.

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  4. Generic + formulaic + ridiculous (to some fantastic) boobs + Arms + interesting take on war + two of my favorite seiyuus = Mountain balanced on a fence

    My derivation of Maoyuu Maou Yuusha.

    I think it'll either be a big hit or a big fail and unlike say (IMO for all its fans) Guilty Crown I can't tell from the first episode. Their obvious strengths and obvious flaws but overall it's better than it is worse.

    I guess whichever variables I wrote above become larger will influence how good it becomes (the boobs should remain a negative constant though).

    The only show I've really liked that's premiered so far is Ore no Kanojo to Osananajimi ga Shurabake Sugiru. Tamura Yukari is a riot for me in it. Hope to find more sleeper hits in Winter.

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  5. I enjoyed the premiere episode, a lot more than I thought I would. I don't mind at all the 'generic' character designs, although I did have a lot of trouble with a youngish looking, brown shaggy haired, sword-carrying hero voiced by FukuJun, considering the last show that just ended with a youngish looking, brown shaggy haired, sword-carrying 'hero' voiced by FukuJun in nearly the exact same manner. I commented to some friends that I wondered if this was actually "Maoyuu Maou Yuuta". It's not that he's particularly generic to me, it's that he's an expy of Togashi Yuuta / Dark Flame Master kind of rolled together.

    But other than that, I actually really enjoyed the discussion of economics, although it's REALLY hard to accept that much Broken Windows Fallacy argumentation. I hope they can make it clearer that this is not an unalloyed good, that the productivity destroyed by the war effort is lost, and is only necessary because people can't deal with themselves and each other without the distraction of the war. It seemed to be kind of leaning that way, but I do worry about too much of the Keynesianism (and aside, I'm not sure why you'd think that Keynesianism is on the wane, it's basically how most of the world responded to the recent recession).

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    1. Broken Windows Fallacy, that's also the first thing in my mind when my friend introduced me to the series saying: "Look, it's using economics to justify war." But after reading chapter 1 of the manga, I have to say the author did well to avoid the fallacy.

      The problem with Military Keynesianism is its disregard of opportunity cost (destroyed wealth and resources that have alternate, better use in peace time). However, circumstances render the war possible, DESPITE the wasted resources on war. In short, the Southern countries would not have survived (on its own) without the flow of goods from the Central to support the war with the demons. This unique setting put the Southern countries in a dilemma: war (but still surviving) or self-destruction (by diseases due to lack of medicine from Central and starvation due to lack of food from Central and poor harvest).

      In the real world, military spending has many other alternatives (spending on public goods and consumption goods), and all alternatives have the goal of economic growth. In Maoyu's world, the alternative to military spending is also self-destruction and the deaths of millions of people of Southerners as well as the risk of a Demon's invasion. The choice of goal is no longer an economics one, but also a moral one.

      MINOR SPOILER ALERT

      And as we shall see, Maou's approach to the problem is, first of all, to help the Southern countries to be able to sustain and produce enough food for themselves.

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  6. On generic/formulaic setting and characters that people is pointing out: It's an intended effect.

    I follow the manga and liked this first episode very much. I thought it was really clever how they introduced the characters while doing the initial world-building at the same time through the PoV of those characters. I was fearing this first episode was going to be a hard to digest lecture with power-point graphs and non-stop dialogue.

    The main differences on the experiences are:
    - The LN reads like the script from a play. There's no narration nor inner monologue. The characters are still and just talking a line each. It's practically a skeleton.
    - The manga is more "dark&edgy" and has more details on the economics. It's delivered through long info-dumps, infographs, charts, etc. The art is excellent, quite different from the original art.
    - The anime sacrifices that detail and handled the characterization better, introducing most of the major characters way earlier than the manga. The art is a moe-fied version of the original art from the LN.


    EP1 was the biggest hurdle and I'm very surprised how the anime managed to get a good balance between comedy, fanservice, and the info-dump dialogue.

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    1. For case of Maoyuu, I think we should mentioned about which manga that we're talking about. "Dark&edgy" must be the Maoyuu Maou Yuusha version, while the most popular in western fandom is the "Be mine, hero. I refuse!" version.

      To add differences among media, the "I refuse" version has an even more moe-fied art and has a very good balance of character interactions and plot. So far I think this is my favorite version among others (and if we are talking about general opinion, this version has a very high rating compared to other versions), not to add that (CMIIW) it's the furthest series that available in English. I think I'm still struggling to adapt into the anime's art style after being used to this manga art style.

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    2. There's only one official manga: The one with Ishida's art.

      It is darker&edgier than the anime, and shows a completely redone art. I've never read any other version, but I was trying to focus more on "experience" differences rather than artistic ones.

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  7. I highly agree that the Hero agrees to the Demon King(/Queen)'s plan way too fast, especially considering how determined he seemed earlier. While the audiences did see the situations on the other side of the world that support the Demon King's claim, the Hero didn't actually see any of that. (He did see his childhood's one, but I doubt that is hardly enough to change the perspective of things completely.)

    I understand though that this is so that the story can move on to the next (and more interesting) stage quicker, but it undermined the Hero's character a bit. Nevertheless, I enjoyed other part of this episode a lot, so I will cut it some slack. I just hope that the characterisations will be fine front this point onward.

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    1. That is assuming that he didn't witness those scenes during his journey leading up to this encounter

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  8. Well, this is a serious question for those who live in Japan currently or who is Japanese or had lived in Japan for at least 5 years in the past: what's with the male portrayal in Japanese anime? It's 89% pansy boy "flustered and stammering" and recoiling in sheer terror from mere sign of the edge skin of breast or ass (or if women in general is closer than a feet from them) or 10% perverts who bleeds from nose profusely and does things that would put them into the slammer so fast, they wouldn't what hit them. Forget that women victim in later case seemed to secretly enjoy being disrespected or violated at will.

    Yes, there is massive issue with female portrayal as well, but that discussion is for another day and at least there are more than two prisms. Even the most blatant stereotypes has slight truth in them (i.e. Japanese are short & polite, Americans are rude, many more offensive ones I don't need to mention), even if they've got blown so out of proportion that they become unrecognizable and worse it gets used to attack them, which is big no-no.

    So folks in the opening sentence (including Enzo who is in Japan right now): are there many Japanese males in Japan that becomes "fluttered and stammering" from women? I don't buy that they will recoil in sheer terror; that's just garbage and sheer comic device in anime. I also don't buy that average Japanese males will be "fluttered and stammering", that is stereotyping. But it must be true that there are sizable number of folks who behave this way. Otherwise I don't see why people are putting up this day-and-day out, not-at-all positive portrayal of Japanese males, even if it were in fiction domain. Are they all masochists? Seriously if they are going portray themselves, be a little more positive, for cryin' out loud. Save me the trouble of replying it's just all BS and stereotype: nothing in life is black and white and as I mentioned even the most offensive stereotype started somewhere (again I stress my point above in this one). I just don't get why they keep allowing this negative portrayal. Then they will complain foreigners thinking them as pansy boys, but they will need to shoulder a part of blame for not being outraged at this. Heck, I am not Japanese, but I get annoyed at this. I do realize I may be making a big deal of a little thing, but hey, don't underestimate the power of TV culture on general populace as Japanese anime gets more and more popular among global folks.

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    1. http://www.lostinanime.com/2012/08/are-guys-treated-badly-in-anime-and-if.html

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    2. I see. So it was discussed before. Well sadly this seems like one of the main things that won't change no matter what in Japanese anime; it'd like asking the Christian bible to change virgin birth.

      People like Enzo and a few others including me raise the issue every now and then and nothing really happens as the majority doesn't give a damn. What a shame. Well as I said, less educated foreigner idiots will think of Japanese males as mostly "timid and neutered"- they've already got this stereotype image thing going on well before Japanese anime becoming popular globally lately- and this thing would only work as a reinforcement for them. And there are quite a few idiots and bigots anywhere on earth. This is more like a self-inflicted wound.

      Curiously I don't see Japanese males recoiling in terror and being sexless around women in different Japanese mediums -although my exposure to them is incredibly limited. Mostly Kurosawa films+ a couple more + a few gaki no tsukai clips on youtube.

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    3. Well the status of women was different in the time periods portrayed in jidaigeki films.

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  9. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought the hero acquiesced to her plan way too fast. I was actually starting to worry that the fansub I downloaded was shitty and just didn't translate things correctly and that's why it seemed so disjointed. Good to know it was actually the show, not the translation.

    As for the first episode, I thought it was fine. It's trying to balance comedy with SRS BZNS and that almost never ends well compared to shows that focus on one or the other, but the SRS BZNS is fairly interesting and the comedy was good (the Demon King's last lamp scene was seriously lols) so maybe this show can pull it off. I feel it's doomed to be a trainwreck but I liked ep 1 enough that I hope I'm wrong.

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  10. @Enzo. Do be prepared. The use of titles is more so then the Tale of Genji. Everyone's name is a title.

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