Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Anime Review: Maoyu

Sometime last year I was reviewing on of the Spice and Wolf novels (really need to catch up with those at some point) and someone commented telling me about one of the manga adaptations for this story which I read, enjoyed, and thought "hah this is never getting an anime, it's too obscure!" Well less than two months later one was announced and I happily ate my words, although judging by the rather poor sales so far (I think each volume has been under 2500 units each, not nearly enough to recoup costs) I might have been right thinking that this story was just too niche for people to appreciate, although I think there were other factors involved too.


Maoyu (Maoyu Maouh Yuusha or Archenemy and Hero)



Summary: The demon and human worlds have been at war on and off for a long time and finally the human's Hero has managed to make it all the way to the Demon King's (Maou) stronghold in an attempt to assassinate him, only to find that Maou is actually a lady and she has been waiting for him in order to put into motion a plan that will stop the war. As she explains with her charts and papers the reason the war has been going on so long is because it's profitable for both sides and if they truly want to save their worlds then they'll have to end the war slowly and secretly, something Hero has a hard time understanding but accepts and thus a very strange partnership was born. 

The Good: I was able to actually follow the economic here for the most part which was nice since in Spice and Wolf, even when they took the time to explain everything in great detail, usually lost me there which was frustrating. And in many ways the story feels smart or at least genre savvy, plot wise the characters are on top of things, can figure out how to counter their enemies efficiently, heck its very premise is to take a very well worn trope and run in completely the opposite direction with it. I like those sorts of premises and it was enough to keep me interested in the show all the way through.

The Bad: I've seen a lot of people give this show crap because "look at the character's names, they're all 2D stereotypes!" which seemed especially unfair because it was being said two or three episodes in. In the end neither Hero nor Maou are very deep characters, they have their moments but in the end some of the side characters end up being more fleshed out which isn't necessarily a bad thing, although I would like liked Hero and Maou to be a little less stereotypical in some ways (mainly concerning their relationship) and the story probably would have been better for it. I also saw people giving the story crap since not only did it originate on 2ch (which I had known) but it was actually written without an outline but just taking suggestions from readers (which I hadn't). The story was reworked before being printed so honestly I think a lot of those complaints fall flat but I do wonder if the story would have dragged out it's love triangle for so long otherwise. For me though the biggest problem of the show was it's pacing, which seemed a bit strange from the beginning where it was too slow in one or two places and then too brisk the rest of the time, and even with that it didn't cover the entire story. I, like many people, do tend to gravitate to the adaptation of a story I see first and maybe it's because of that but I do really think that the Kotowaru manga just had the pacing work a bit better and that that makes a world of difference.  

The Audio: It took a little while but the opening song for Maoyu eventually grew on me but then again I said the same thing about UtaKoi's song and they both share a shrillness at points which I don't think many other people like. The ending song felt much smoother and fit the tone of the show a bit better, although as a warning the images for the opening and ending songs both give away the entire story (it's a bit less obvious for the ED but someone translated the cipher and it laid everything out quite plainly). In a bit of an odd twist, this show shares the two lead voice actors with Spice and Wolf (they were the same ones who had done the earlier drama cds) but since it's been years since I've seen SW that I didn't mind and might not have noticed if other people hadn't pointed it out. All the voice acting seemed fine regardless, no real stand out or problematic moments for me anyway.

The Visuals: It did take me a little while to get used to the anime designs vs the designs from the manga I was more familiar with (for comparison's sake, novel art is the far left, the manga is the one next to it and anime is the far right) but after I got used to the character designs everything (except Maou's boobs, physics simply does not work that way and when I looked at some comparisons with the BRs I swear they actually made them look a tiny bit more realistic) looked fine. I was a bit surprised at how painterly some of the backgrounds look since the anime character designs don't look painterly at all but it was a nice touch and worked well with the feeling of the story.


Now for the tricky part, my overall feelings. While I would watch more if a second season came out, and I would buy the Kotowaru manga if it came over, I don't think I would buy a copy of the anime since it had enough pacing issues and such that, well, it just didn't work as well as I think it could have. And even though the anime is streaming on crunchyroll to the best of my knowledge no US anime company actually picked it up for licensing so I'm unlikely to have this dilemma for real anytime soon. With that I give it a 3 out of 5 stars for average, not terrible but could have been better and I rather wish it had been.

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