What They Say:
Names can be deceiving, something the warrior known as Hero quickly discovers when he storms the castle of the dreaded Demon King that mankind has fought for fifteen years. For one thing, the “king” turns out to be a queen! Even more shocking, though, is that she’s waiting for him with an unexpected proposal. She points out that it would be bad for BOTH sides if the war was to end immediately, as without a common enemy, the individual factions of the winning side are certain to turn on each other in a new series of civil wars. However, she has a plan to end the war, bring democracy and advanced knowledge to humanity, and ensure the lasting prosperity for both sides, no matter who “wins.” But to accomplish this, she needs a collaborator on the human side, and she’s chosen Hero as the one partner she can trust! Is it a deal with the devil, or mankind’s only hope for lasting peace? The traditional rules of Swords and Sorcery are completely rewritten as the “good guy” and the “bad girl” join forces to save the world in MAOYU ~ ARCHENEMY & HERO!
This is Japanese 2.0 only and it sounds fine. There are a few fight scenes, which also sound fine, but the show is largely dependent on back-and-forth dialogue so high audio quality is not paramount. Some of the music cues almost overtake the dialogue though.
I’ve only seen Sentai put their 13 episode sets onto three DVDs. I always questioned this since Funimation typically puts their 13 episode sets onto two DVDs. This time around, same as the blu-ray, Sentai has stuffed more episodes onto fewer discs, with six episodes on the first and the last six on the second. I don’t know who’s behind Sentai’s disc authoring, but they could use some lessons. There’s a clear quality drop, in my eyes, between this two disc set and their typical three disc sets. Maoyu (or Henneko, which they presumably also did this with given the blu-ray) doesn’t particularly need high video quality, though, so it’s doable.
The usual getting it done packaging here. I didn’t really do much with it, but the second disc was creeping out without me noticing, so maybe that’s an issue. For all I know, on a long postal ride, it could have fallen out.
Menu is carbon copy of every other Sentai thing I’ve reviewed. It does let me look at these episode titles, which I always thought were cute in the anime because sometimes it’s just a back-and-forth between Hero and Demon King. Like “You Will be Mine, Hero! ~ I Refuse!” It’s kind of adorable and I’m glad the titles are there for that reason.
All that’s here is promotional spots for Maoyu and, to be honest, they kind of suck. They sell the show as a boob fest and complete fanservice, which it can be at times, but it’s not what the show is about. The ads miss the point of the show and scare off people that could potentially be legitimately interesting in what it has to say. Good on you for putting it on the disc, Sentai, but they’re largely useless. They’re selling us the show we already own.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Ami Koshimizu and Jun Fukuyama know each other. They probably know each other quite well, but who am I to speak on seiyus’ personal relations. I say this because they’re the two leads in Maoyu (Crunchyroll listed it as MAOYU; it’s short for Mao Yusha, which means Demon King and Hero). But they’re also the leads in another similar show called Spice and Wolf. Now, I watched Spice and Wolf dubbed, but that doesn’t mean I can’t see how they interacted with each other so, so easily in Maoyu.
The most impressive thing about the acting is that they don’t sound like Lawrence and Holo. Both of them sound younger in Maoyu. Fukuyama sounds distinctively more juvenile. Koshimizu sounds less haughty. It’s the subtle changes in these performances that make both more impressive because of how similarly Lawrence and Holo and Hero and Demon King interact with each other.
Hell, even the director, Takeo Takahashi, and the script writer, Naruhisa Arakawa, came back from Spice and Wolf to work on Maoyu. Arakawa’s back-and-forth dialogue can be heard on stuff like Nadesico too, but he also did Upotte!! and Yosuga no Sora, so it just goes to show how workman-like anime is made. The director, Takahashi, also worked on Yosuga no Sora, Aki Sora, and So I Can’t Play H, which is only a further indicator. But hey, if he can put out Spice and Wolf and Maoyu, let him work on the smut to pay his bills.
The similarities are extremely easy to see between Spice and Wolf and Maoyu and it’s no more evident than in the dialogue. Hero and Demon King have that same kind of dynamic where the guy’s constantly being taught things by the girl and very rarely does the guy get to teach the girl (when he does, it’s often practical knowledge, like how many Trenni silver coins are in a Lumione gold coin or about apple pies or how to swing a sword or how to sway a people).
The similarities end there, as Maoyu’s themes and messages are a far cry from Spice and Wolf’s. There are a few similarities, mostly in the economics, but Maoyu is going for something greater in scope. It’s characters are not at the forefront of the story, and why would they be. They’re literally caricatures of these titles we have for them. Hero. Demon King. Knight. Young Merchant. Winter King. No one has a name and no one needs a name because it’s breaking down that very idea of title by way of characters like Hero, Demon King, Head Maid, Older Sister Maid, and Younger Sister Maid.
What Maoyu is trying to do is have us reconsider our position. So easily have people fallen into a place where we can be happy, or perhaps complacent. These are the serfs. We don’t know that we can rise above what we are and that’s maybe because of the insurmountable wall before us to do so. It’s a nice piece of social commentary that’s saying we haven’t gotten much better since the days of being a serf. Those in the lower class will still have a tough time rising up, but they happen. They happen with much more frequency than in the days of serfdom. But it’s hard. It’s so, so hard to be able to get into a college and PAY for that college. The money barrier is exactly the same as a serf’s, who has to pay taxes to the landowner and king. But, as I said, much easier now. Maoyu’s asking how much easier, really.
It comes down to luck, sometimes, like the luck of the Sister Maids. They are mere serfs. Further, she has the “blood…of a filthy serf.” in her own words. She happens upon Hero, Demon King, and Head Maid’s home and are taken in. The Older Sister Maid is the representation of the success story and everything that could entail; the scholarship that a lower class might receive. But she’s more than that. She’s the one that overcomes her role in society as a member of the lower class. Anyone can get an education with enough hard work put in, but not everyone can capitalize on it. The Older Sister Maid has capitalized. She became more than just an insect.
The speech in episode nine encompasses this theme entirely. As an aside, I probably would have named episode nine of Maoyu my best of the year had Genshiken Second Season not put in episode 11. In the episode, she gives an impassioned speech not to rise up, but to act as humans. As they are treated now, serfs are less than humans. They obey what they’re told like lambs to the slaughter and this directly harkens back to the Head Maid’s declaration in episode two when the Sister Maids are formally introduced (we see their house burning in episode one). The kicker is that the Older Sister Maid concedes one point in this line: “Throw them if you wish! Perhaps you must, to protect yourself and your family in this cold world. I will not blame you for that. The freedom to choose also belongs to you, as a human. I will shed blood in equal measure to that which is flowing in your heart. But if you would stone me because someone else has ordered it, then you are an insect.” She’s saying that it’s OK to act as an insect if it’s to another ends. If you truly believe that person should be stoned, as the Messenger is soon after, or if they believe their life or the lives of their loved ones to be in danger.
The equality is played up in several ways, but none so prevalent as above. There is one other moment that I loved in the show though, and it’s much more subtle than a huge speech. In it, Knight and Demon King are talking over who deserves to have Hero. Knight asks something akin to whether being the Demon King is a slight on the Demon King herself. She says no, of course. Being a demon or a human shouldn’t matter.
Herein lies the main conflict of the story. Humans v. Demons. It’s something we’ve seen countless times before, but there was almost always fighting because of it. The Demon King wishes to end the fighting, but not through war. See, the war provides jobs and economy to almost the entire country, both human and demon. If the war were just to end with one side victorious, the victors would soon start fighting amongst themselves for resources because, without war, they would become scarce. The Demon King hopes to make those resources. She starts a four crop rotation and introduces corn and potatoes into the economy. She’ll bolster their stocks until it’s OK for the war to end without any further bloodshed, with human and demon standing together, as they eventually do in Gate City. It fights directly against the idea that the victory in war holds the justice and the rules. No, the victor in war makes those rules, but represents neither. Because there is always an alternative.
Maoyu was one of my personal favorites from the winter 2013 season, but that season was also packed with stuff. I mean, that season also had Chihayafuru 2, Love Live!, and, of course, AKB0048 Next Stage. Maoyu was easy to pass up for folks that only follow a few shows a season (I’m lucky to get into the single digits each season…). But it’s definitely worth the pickup, especially for Spice and Wolf fans due to its near identical main creative forces. But aside from that, it plays with a lot of intelligent ideas and themes that are so rarely explored in any medium.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Commercials, Japanese Blu-ray Spots, Social Game Spots, Japanese Previews, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: C+
Video Grade: C+
Packaging Grade: B-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: June 10th, 2014
Running Time: 300 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Radeon 7850, 24” Dell UltraSharp U2410 set at 1920 x 1200, Creative GigaWorks T20 Series II