Fifteen years have passed since the war between humans and demons began. Dissatisfied with their slow advance into the Demon Realm, the Hero abandons his companions to quickly forge ahead towards the Demon Queen’s castle. Upon his arrival at the royal abode, the Hero makes a startling discovery: not only is the Demon Queen a woman of unparalleled beauty, but she also seeks the Hero’s help.
– From MAL
Maoyu is a strange little anime that kind of came out, got a little bit of attention and then disappeared from sight. I’d like to pull it back out from under the bed, dust it off, and remind people that this gem exists. Certainly it isn’t going to make any of the big anime titles tremble in fear because the audience for this is going to remain fairly small, but I have a deep respect for an anime that sets out to achieve a goal and succeeds admirably even if the story here is decidedly unfinished and there’s a number of obvious fan-service choices cluttering up some of the screen time.
It is actually easier to describe Maoyu by talking about what it isn’t. It isn’t a good vs evil fantasy fight between a demon king and a hero. It isn’t really focused on action at all despite the war setting. It also isn’t an actual introduction to Economics though I’ve seen it described as such. Certainly war and good and evil and Economics all come into play in this story, but while you might gain an appreciation for why war and Economics are intrinsically linked, you aren’t going to walk out the other side of this anime able to have a conversation on Economic theory.
This story, for me, felt like a critique of war stories and how these stories all end with the heroes overthrowing the villains and then declaring peace and happiness when the end result of most wars is anything but even for the victor. It also felt like a critique of the real world and the way we continue to ignore real issues due to convenience and comfort. With these two ideas forming the base of the narrative, the story that unfolds is fairly average but the message it constructs is on point.
So what is a demon king (or queen) to do when the hero has come to kill them? Lay down their life? Fight to the death? Recruit the hero into a campaign of economic reform so that neither side needs the war to continue to ensure prosperity? Let’s take option three for a change and see what happens.
None of the characters in this story are given a name. Each are referred to by their job or role. This makes it much easier to generalise the ideas of this story beyond the narrative itself and see these characters as placeholders for people/nations/ideas that we are familiar with in other narratives and in real life. It is a bit awkward at times and discussing the anime by talking about the ‘female knight’ or the ‘senior maid’ might seem a bit odd to someone who hasn’t watched it, but it actually works quite well within the context of the story.
However, it isn’t all smooth sailing. Of course they want to paint a romance into the story that sometimes just feels very contrived and convenient. There are also far too many complications introduced. While on the one hand this makes the setting more true to life with multiple factions both supporting and rejecting reforms, on the other it makes it impossible to bring to any kind of satisfactory resolution to the overall narrative within the anime. Basically, it bites off more than it can chew in its run time and ends up leaving the audience hanging, which would normally be an automatic shelve the disc and never watch again point for me, but somehow this anime managed to make me not care so much about where it was going and more about the journey to get there.
The other point I will make is there is a lot of times where the characters will sit or stand and discuss farming or trade or politics. And I mean, a lot of times. So if characters sitting and discussing things isn’t what you are looking for, then this anime will end up being a firm pass. However, if you don’t mind that as long as you are interested in the topic being discussed, this won’t be an issue.
I really enjoyed this series for what it was and it just felt a little bit different. While I know it has a lot of similarities to Spice and Wolf, I found this one a little more engaging and liked the characters a bit more (sorry fans of Spice and Wolf). I’d have loved for this anime to get a second season but that seems very unlikely so I’ll just have to rewatch the DVD again and enjoy this odd little story.
I’d love to know your thoughts on Maoyu if you’ve seen it. If you haven’t, do you think you would watch an anime like this or does it sound like something you will firmly pass on?
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