Sunday, January 20, 2013

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha - 03

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Confounding?  Yes.  Interesting?  That too.


[HorribleSubs]_Maoyuu_Maou_Yuusha_-_03_[720p].mkv_snapshot_00.25_[2013.01.20_22.36.44]Surely, somewhere, there must be a middle ground between teenaged males in anime who try to hump anything with a pulse, and those who’re so timid that they decline when a beautiful girl offers to have sex with them.  Even when they’re married, for heavens sake.  It’s a small and amusing exchange that takes up mere moments at the end of the episode, but it’s somewhat telling about the contradictions that leave this series in such a bind.

[HorribleSubs]_Maoyuu_Maou_Yuusha_-_03_[720p].mkv_snapshot_03.05_[2013.01.20_22.38.08]I don’t know the source material, but I’m beginning to get a sense that this is a particularly difficult piece of material to try and turn into anime form.  Imagine a fantasy adventure where the world-building doesn’t set up the plot, it is the plot.  For folks of somewhat obscure tastes like myself the prospect seems appetizing, but in practice there are serious problems with turning it into a compelling watch.  In a cast where the characters are nameless avatars by design (taking the Japanese aversion to personal pronouns to new heights), a series that’s so dependent on dialogue has moments where it feels as dry as dust.  As least this one does, so far.  This is surely one of the talkiest anime I’ve seen since, well… Spice and Wolf.

[HorribleSubs]_Maoyuu_Maou_Yuusha_-_03_[720p].mkv_snapshot_03.30_[2013.01.20_22.38.33]I really, really wish Arms hadn’t gotten the director and two stars of Spice and Wolf for Maoyuu Maou Yuusha, because I just don’t see that doing the show any good.  The things that Spice and Wolf did well MMY just can’t match – I don’t see any way the two leads will ever have the chemistry Lawrence and Horo had (though her reaction when he kissed her forehead was my favorite shared moment between them so far), and Fukuyama Jun is really at sea in this series – and there are things I’d hope MMY could be much the better that will only be weighed down by the inevitable comparisons.  People were going to link the two series in any case – it’s almost as if Arms threw down the gauntlet and dared them to do so.  Or perhaps more cuttingly, made it impossible for them not to.

[HorribleSubs]_Maoyuu_Maou_Yuusha_-_03_[720p].mkv_snapshot_05.44_[2013.01.20_22.40.47]All that said, is Maoyuu Maou Yuusha interesting?  Yes, I think it’s pretty interesting most of the time, especially when it shies away from the formula anime clichés that are all the more irritating because they seem so out of place in this series.  I’m still not feeling much from Yuusha – he’s frustrated that he hasn’t really found a niche in peacetime yet and that’s a start, but he’s still basically an accessory to Maou.  Perhaps bringing his old party from the premiere back into the mix will add a little more color to his character, though the scenes with Sawashiro Miyuki’s Knight and Maou verbally sparring over him felt pretty tired and played out.  It seems he’s going to be returning to his old life for a while, returning to the Demon World to look for the missing Mage, who went there looking for him – and while there, to “take care of” a few troublesome demon lords for his wife.  People are criticizing Yuusha in some quarters as being dumb, but I don’t see that – he’s just a simple man who hasn’t had any education and lived the life of war since he hit puberty.  No, it’s not Yuusha being dumb I’m struggling with, it’s the fact that so far he’s a bore.  And that's going to be an anchor for the series as long as it stays that way.

[HorribleSubs]_Maoyuu_Maou_Yuusha_-_03_[720p].mkv_snapshot_06.08_[2013.01.20_22.41.10]There’s no doubt in my mind that MMY is at its best when it dips its toes into the world of politics and macroeconomics, if for no other reason than the fact that in anime terms it pretty much has that playing field to itself.  It’s obviously at least fairly smart material – it’s nice to see a show focus on the way things which are utterly mundane to modern industrial societies (like potatoes and compasses) are game-changers in the medieval world.  The role of religion is a focus, too – a completely different one than exists today, inseparable from the spheres of education and government.  We’re also getting into the genuinely interesting area of the powerful role trading guilds and alliances (the Hanseatic League being perhaps the most prominent) played in this type of economy – in practical terms a more important and powerful entity than many national governments.  Again, trying to fit that into the world of an anime – with the demands that requires for commercial success – is clearly not a simple process, and it’s been an awkward one at times so far.  And it still isn’t totally clear whether this is an intellectual series that occasionally lapses into lowbrow cliché, or a formula anime that has pretentions to be intellectual.  But given what an unusual question that is, it feels as if it’s going to be interesting to find out.

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12 comments:

  1. I still have not seen Spice & Wolf so maybe that is why I can enjoy this more than some people, I have nothing to compare it too.

    The characters being archetypes with no names I find rather interesting. I guess I wouldn't give the series any favorite character awards but it's setting and world building is working for me.

    Although there are some things in the anime I can do with out: mainly the scene towards the end with the Maid & Maou. That is the type of anime humor that does nothing for me really.

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  2. This show continue to build a story at the expense of characters and their development. But that’s how source is written as well. It comes across as more of an educational history book, than a character developing drama. And I’m perfectly happy with that. I wish the writer had done a better job with the romance, and made it somewhat more believable, but that wont stop me from watching it. Having never seen Spice and Wolf, I can't compare it to that. And maybe that's why I enjoy this just the way it is.

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  3. Can't help but agree with all your points. This is one of those anime series I hope to love but it's just not quite getting there. Like you, one of the biggest problems I have is the poor characterization of Yuusha, which makes the romance feel more cliche than anything interesting.

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  4. I like this show but I don't love it so far. I'm worried that with the addition of Knight and the likely impending addition of Mage, this show may start falling into classic harem tropes. It's already shown signs of doing so with Maou and Knight displaying the typical jealousy attributes, adding another female character only stands to make this situation worse. I want to like this show but it's not making it easy to do so.

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  5. "those who’re so timid that they decline when a beautiful girl offers to have sex with them."

    I don't see it, but hey I don't know all 4 billion males, so why not?

    This show is like SAO in that, great premise, but the characters are not that interesting and too much of tropes. I will say there is a plenty potential, but they screw up with the execution with the same old generic plot-devices and character developments. So it doesn't matter to me that they were tackling the economic theories and all these potentially interesting topics; they are just covers while telling the same old crappy story with the same old dreadful trope characters. I dropped this after 2nd episode and am glad that I did.

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  6. Wow...Anon...very smart and decisive of you. I stuck with 3 episodes, and after this one, I am done...I clicked in just wanted to find out what Enzo said...glad that I did and agreed with you that MMY looks a lot more like SAO.

    I haven't watched Spice and Wolf yet, so I can't compare. However, as good as the premise can be, but when the characters are used as plot devices or fanservice, it is done. Yuusha is not just generic, but the series can actually go without him. Maou shone some hope, but I hate it when the creators also use her for sex appeal and fanservice...this is very condescending and humiliating.

    With this episode, it really showed what ARMS, the staff and this show would be for the rest of series -- some interesting dialogue on politics and economics, boring characters serving as plot devices, playing with Maou's boobs.

    Agreed with you...not gonna waste any more of my time into something that I personally despise.

    ~Ronbb

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  7. So far I'm enjoying it quite a lot, the Spice & Wolf vibe is certainly there. I really couldn't care about the chemistry between Maou and Yuusha. I'm here for the feudal economics history, not a rom-com. I could do without the pervert clichés though.

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  8. Spice and Wolf is more interesting.
    This anime talks about fictional world which we totally can't relate to.
    Also, it's hard to love the characters when they are nameless guys.
    Educational? Well, so far, it hadn't added any new value to my intelligence.
    I am going to continue watching though, just in order to be able to complain about it. LOL.

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  9. Honestly, I have more problems with Maou than with Yuusha. Looking at Yuusha, we know he was born into, or at least heavily related to, nobility (cf: flashback at the ball). He apparently rejected (or at least moved beyond) that in order to become the Hero.

    He may have had some basic education when he was young, but clearly from the nobles that are studying with Maou, even education among nobles isn't very impressive; they depend more on experience. Yuusha's experience for the last 5? 10? years has been nothing but combat. He's not dumb (indications are that he's Very Good at the whole Hero business), but in the situation he's in now, it's sort of like asking one of the maids to play vizier for the king. He's adrift with no skills that are even remotely relevant to the task at hand.

    His 'contract' with Maou is technically marriage, but there's no real foundation for romance. Yuusha himself has never been that strong in the romance department. Female Knight clearly had/has a thing for him, but just as clearly never made any real connection. At the same time, Maou has spent the last two months holed up in her room working on the compass. Now that she's out, she's got the whole lonely, "I wanna kiss" thing going, but Yuusha has just spent two months with her basically ignoring him, while also trying to figure out his own place in this new world.

    The fact that he's not immediately romantically inclined as soon as she's ready really can't be seen as a flaw in his character. At best, it's a flaw in the storytelling, as it doesn't really show their interactions, it just skips ahead through time to whatever the latest 'event' is. Essentially, their romance is a side-story to the actual plot, the same as if they were a couple of background characters that you'd barely notice in most anime.

    They've gone from sworn enemies to close allies, but only Maou has had enough background information about the other, plus anticipation to want to fall in love. Yuusha just wanted to end the war and stop the demons. He's still finding his place, and mixing that in with a potential romantic interest who herself still becomes obsessively isolated for extended periods of time... I just don't know what else people can expect.

    Going back to the storytelling aspect -- I agree that the way it handles progression, with large time jumps and minimal explanations, really doesn't do justice to the character side of the story. Clearly there's a lot that's happened between various people (eg: the maids and the townspeople, the students and the maids, Maou's isolation, etc), but we only get told after the fact. This isn't a character-focused story, though I often wish it was more of one; it's just showing us snapshots of the people's lives, and the specific events that are gradually changing the world.

    The problem is that it tries to pretend to a bit of a character-focus when it gets into Maou's and Yuusha's romance in a half-hearted way. Their romance is a somewhat minor factor relative to the story at large. It definitely influences certain aspects of events, but it often feels like they're trying too hard, and with the wrong elements of their relationship. And too much of Arms focusing on 'useless meat'.


    The constant comparisons to Spice and Wolf also bug me. Obviously there's plenty of people to obsess over the specific actors and directors, though I could hardly care less (and would never have noticed that they use the same seiyuu, even though I just re-watched Spice and Wolf a few weeks ago; even knowing, I still don't hear anything similar). I suppose there will always be comparisons to other series in the same genre (of which there are, apparently, only two), but I really can't see these two shows as anywhere close to the same, any more than Gundam and Rurouni Kenshin are the same. They just don't deal with things in anywhere close the same way.

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    Replies
    1. You are totally forgetting the:
      -"Your thighs are so soft~"
      -"You can do whatever you want"

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    2. Excellent analysis of the romantic aspect, its centrality (or lack thereof), and its relationship to script pacing. I didn't really see it in this way -- but to my credit I wasn't really looking.

      A major point you bring up is how easy it is for the viewer to forget the time skip by the time the romance is seen, and further to treat Yuusha as if he were an everyman who consistently refuses the charms of a beautiful woman he happened to meet.

      Intentions, timing, and place are everything in a relationship, as you've indicated. A man seeking only peace (and valor?) whose world is pulled neatly from beneath his feet by the mysterious person he'd first sworn to kill, and who then disappears for another two months; the former, struggling to adjust to his new life, perhaps shouldn't be expected to acquiesce so eagerly to the somewhat spontaneous advances of the latter.

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    3. Great post David.

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