What They Say
Yuri Shibuya is an average baseball-loving high school student. One day, Yuri tries to save his former classmate from a group of hoodlums. Turning on him, they drag Yuri into the bathroom and push his face into the toilet. When they flush the toilet, he is transported to another world! Yuri is then taken to a castle and crowned King of the Demon World. Is he going to end up as the leader of the land, surrounded by his extraordinarily handsome lieges, or will he make it back home?
Both the English and Japanese tracks for this release are offered in 2.0. The mix is fairly basic, with a bit of directionality present during action scenes, but the dialogue and most of the effects staying centered. However, the tracks all come through clear and there is no dropout at any point. Normally, with a title that has quite a bit of action, I’d be disappointed in the lack of a 5.1 track, but I cannot really fault this one. I do not think just having 2.0 is taking away from anything.
Visually, this release shines. The colors and lining are bright and crisp, and the animation fluid. There are some especially nice effects whenever somebody casts magic. The transfer is also clean, as I noticed no problems with aliasing or gradients (or anything else). It just looks really nice.
This is pretty standard Funimation box set packaging; that means a nice design ruined by the flimsy double thinpaks. In fairness, none of my cases were broken this time around, however, they were loose; just about every time I would open one up, at least one of the discs would be loose inside. The front of the case has a picture of the five principle characters set against a purple background. The back has an amusing image of Wolfwood taking Yuri to task, apparently for looking like a slob as he is fixing Yuri’s robes. The thinpaks have various shots of the characters on each side, while the insides have some screen shots and episode listings. Again, it’s a decent design, but the cases are still a problem.
The menu for this release has a nice design and a little bit of animation. It opens with a magical glyph looking like an eight-pointed star spinning out from nothingness in the center of the screen and setting itself against a sepia colored background of the Demon Palace. When the glyph stops spinning, head shots of four of the characters form at the tip of the four main points, and every few seconds the glyph rotates, bringing forth four new characters. The selections are offered to the left and the right of the glyph, with the highlight showing in bright blue making it easy to follow. My only real complaint is that the loop is only 25 seconds long, so the background music can get repetitive fairly quickly.
There are not a whole lot of different types of extras on this release, but there are a lot of what is here. Spread over the nine discs is a textless version of the opening along with a few trailers. Each disc also has its own art gallery. These range from character sketches to concept drawings and virtually everything is in between. If you like image galleries, then this is the release for you.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Kyo Kara Maoh! is the tale of an everyday young man who is magically transported to an alternate world where he is a demon king. Though this might easily be seen as the setup for a serious drama, its penchant for wacky humor, unusual situations, and pretty boys doing pretty boy things actually make it more of a light hearted romp.
Yuri Shibuya is a kind young man with a strong sense of justice and an eye more towards baseball rather than academics. But while he may have a strong sense of justice, he does not actually have the strength to back it up, and his life is irrevocably changed because of it. One day, on his way home from school, he sees a group of bullies picking on a former classmate of his, Ken Murata. When he distracts the bullies, Murata is able to escape, and the bullies turn their attention on Yuri, opting to shove his head down a toilet.
But when they do, a great whirlpool appears which sucks Yuri down the drain. The next thing he knows, he finds himself in a strange countryside. When he tries to ask a young lady for help, she screams and runs off, soon returning with the local mob. They are about to attack him when a large man on horseback named Adelbert von Grantz appears, calling Yuri the Demon King and intending to take him into custody.
Before he can, however, another contingent led by Conrad Weller arrives to rescue Yuri from Grantz and take him back to their castle. They too consider Yuri their true king, but while Conrad and his companion Günter are the souls of courtesy to Yuri, others are not so much so—in particular Conrad’s half brothers Wolfram and Gwendel.
While they do not necessarily disagree with Yuri’s rank, they do think he is too weak to be their king. Wolfram is particularly antagonistic, and Yuri is forced to respond with a slap in the face when Wolfram insults his father. The others try to get Yuri to back down from the slap, but Yuri will not. Imagine his surprise when he finds out that a slap to the face constitutes a marriage proposal in this new world. And since marriage among members of the same sex is openly accepted, Yuri suddenly finds himself engaged.
Wolfram, however, is incensed and throws a knife to the floor in front of Yuri. Yuri picks it up, also not understanding that he also just accepted Wolfram’s challenge to a duel. While Yuri holds his own initially, Wolfram has him running when he introduces magic to the fight. But when a stray fireball hits a castle maid, Yuri’s anger gets the best of him, and the power of the true Demon King comes to the forefront, dwarfing Wolfram’s powers, and ending the fight in an instant.
At that time, they all know they have found their true king. Yuri can only call forth his powers in times of great anger and/or stress, but for better or for worse, he is their new leader. And with him in charge, the Demon Kingdom sets forth on a grand plan for…world peace? Yes, Yuri is going to do things differently for the Demon realm, whether anybody likes it or not.
Kyo Kara Maoh! is an amusing series, even though I would not call it great. Yuri’s impetuous sense of justice and the often disastrous initial results it has keeps things moving along at a fairly good clip. Even the yaoi tendencies are played more for humor than true sexual tension. I have to say that it is not usually a genre that I find amusing, but Kyo Kara Maoh! does it pretty well.
But as amusing as it can be, I do have to say that I thought the season got better as it went along because it started settling into a more serious groove. Sure, there was still plenty of humor, but over the last ten episodes or so, it felt like Kyo Kara Maoh! was starting to go somewhere. Prior to that, it does not really do a whole lot other than exist.
For roughly the first two-thirds of the series, the series meanders from minor story to minor story, with no real flow to it. Essentially, there was never a point at the end of a story arc that I thought the overall plot advanced in any meaningful way. But when Yuri is separated for the first time from his comrades and is forced to fend for himself, and therefore truly gets involved in his new world, the story takes on a new life.
As I said, the humor at this point gets dialed back a little bit in favor of the story, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. It is still there, just not as prevalent. And the story getting better means that I actually have a bit of interest in the second season now, whereas I was previously counting down the episodes to where it would be done. I cannot ask for much more than that.
As an ending note, I do have to question the reasoning behind calling this set “Season 1,” as it actually only has 39 episodes and the first season technically ends after episode 41. On the one hand, I can understand splitting it where they did, as currently only the first two seasons are licensed, and this set hits the midpoint for licensed episodes (there are 78 in all), but it is a bit of a misnomer calling this “Season 1.” Also, since the season still has two episodes to go, this set feels a bit left off at the end as they are still in the middle of a storyline. But, those episodes will end up in the next season set, so I guess it is not a huge deal.
Kyo Kara Maoh! has pretty boys doing funny things, and it has them in spades. I would not personally call it great, but considering I generally do not get into a lot of bishounen humor, the fact that I enjoyed it speaks volumes. I do think the season gets better as it goes along, which for a series as long as this one (this set is 39 episodes alone), that is a good thing. It is a bit sad that they market this as season one, but end it two episodes early to do a half-and-half split across the two sets, as this one now has no real conclusion, but I guess that provides impetus to get the next season too. Mildly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Geneon Entertainment
Release Date: June 23rd, 2009
Running Time: 975 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony BDP-S360 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection upconverted to 1080p, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System