Hataraku Maou-sama! – Conquering the world one burger at a time
April 7, 2013 Leave a comment
Hataraku Maou-sama took me a little by surprise actually. I had expected it to be silly, but the first episode was truly entertaining and the series really plays its jokes as straight as possible. As a premise it is far from unique or new, but in terms of execution, this series seems to take what could have been a slightly bizarre idea and turned it into one that was genuinely funny and entertaining to watch. The episode started with a nice introduction, similar to other fantasy anime, one that set out the laws of a strange world one full of magic and all manner of curious creatures. The shift from fantasy action to the everyday of life in Tokyo was fascinating to watch, not least because Maou and Ashiya truly acted like fish out of water. This is where the enjoyment of the episode came from actually, because, instead of tying together hundreds of gags, these characters played it perfectly straight, with the humour coming from their various misunderstandings and strange reactions to what many consider normal.
Strictly speaking this series is more of a slice-of-life anime with certain supernatural undertones, such as magic existing, and obviously the presence of Maou and Ashiya. It is however incredibly entertaining to see how two incredibly powerful demons with ‘god like’ abilities can turn into two individuals scraping by on what little Maou can earn from working at a fast food outlet. What the first episode managed is to show how difficult it can be to make a decent living when you’re earning the minimum wage. Rather than have Maou and Ashiya arrive in Tokyo with all of the magic and abilities intact, thus allowing them to effectively live like kings we are instead shown them as strange characters in an even stranger land. Their inability to speak Japanese (at least at first) coupled with the obviously strange environment that they find themselves helped to introduce them as characters that are really struggling to get by.
In the end, Maou and Ashiya get by largely on blind luck, with Maou using some of his remaining magic to find out basic knowledge about Japan and Tokyo. Furthermore, they only way they can continue to live is through a series of lucky encounters, such as a local landlady who appears to have a thing for the occult. In fact, what most interested me were the depictions of everyday life more than the supernatural fighting at the beginning of the episode. We see Maou and Ashiya struggling to get by on Maou’s wages, and the sorts of decisions that they make in order to live in Tokyo. That Maou still has enough pride left not to take out a loan is clearly shown, and yet the consequences of his pride speak for themselves with rubbish bags full of leftovers from his work place. Basically, he has to live with the consequences of his decisions, thus meaning that both he and Ashiya don’t have a particularly healthy diet.
This coupled with Maou largely forgetting his own quest to rule the world so that he can help his fast food branch top the sales charts made the first episode really entertaining to watch. It still has the supernatural elements, especially with the appearance of the Hero, but ultimately it seems to be the story of our central characters struggling to get by in a world where they no longer have immense power and influence. The way this shift is portrayed, coupled with Maou’s clear joy at getting relatively small pay rises helped to make the episode both entertaining and really rather funny. Hopefully it continues down this path and plays everything dead straight, simply because it works, rather than use over the top gags and shouting.