Ah fantasy. The realm of knights and dragons, angels and demons, humans and…some other type of creature. But we all know those stories inside and out. A champion arises, braving countless foes until they storm the villain’s castle and conquer evil…but then what? With no villains left to stand against, what does good do? More importantly, what happens to the world itself?
Meet the Hero, a nameless protagonist who is on his way to defeat the likewise nameless Demon King. However, our Hero is slightly taken aback when, instead of stumbling into a horrible, terror inspiring beast, he finds a cute girl. But appearances are deceptive in this world of fantasy, as the girl reveals herself to be none other than the Demon King. However, rather than attempting to attack the Hero, she merely provides a cheerful hello and explains her desire to have a calm discussion with him. Not exactly you’re traditional clash between good and evil. As the Demon King reveals her notions regarding war, the Hero comes to see her as more than the force of destruction he had believed her to be, ultimately agreeing to aid her on her quest of peace. Both fabricate a story and leave for a life of anonymity, in the hopes that they can make a difference in a world torn by conflict. Though this may sound a tad hopeful on their part, their rather innocent desire for change is made believable by the series overarching question: What happens when an army wins a war? Short answer: the other side loses. Though this may sound obvious, the ramifications of such a situation are oft ignored in fiction, with a work simply ending once a foe is defeated. Though it is possible for a leader to wish for destruction, what of the populace? Even soldiers may have reservations about carrying out orders. War is chaos my friends and nothing in any world is a clean cut issue.
However despite all this talk of war, Maoyu does not revolve around the battlefield. No, our journey takes us elsewhere, into a realm rarely explored in fantasy: socio-economics. After setting themselves up in a small rural town, the Hero and Demon King begin their grand plot of unity by teaching farmers the benefits of a four stage crop rotation…ok, so it might not be exactly what you expected when you read about a demon and human teaming up to save the world, but you can’t deny that it’s interesting. Soon after, the Demon King pushes education on the residents of Winter Pass Village, teaching agricultural techniques to increase yield. Again, though this seems rather random from an external point of view, it is actually an essential step in ridding the world of war with minimal casualties. You see, with towns sending food to the troops who’re fighting demons, harvest produce nowhere near enough for everyone to survive, thus starvation plagues the land. Should the war end abruptly, trade routes may falter, leading to an even greater disparity in the spread of basic foods. Hence more pointless death that could’ve been avoided.
From this point, the series only delves deeper into issues that would create turmoil between the winning side. Towards the end of the series, there is even a serious arc revolving around the scarcity of wheat and the impact such an occurrence would have on a single currency economy. Let none say that anime cannot be educational because after you watch Maoyu you’re bound to have at least a basic grasp of economics.
In order to truly show the benefits of the Demon King’s work, the series skips ahead in time…like a lot. Now, I’m not saying that I necessarily want to spend an entire season watching wheat grow, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the gradual development of some things. Relationships namely. We are told that the Demon King and Hero possess some level of feelings towards each other, only for him to leave and the series to leap ahead, wherein their relationship has not progressed in the slightest. Said time skips also glaze over a multitude of content, which is only briefly relayed to us at a later date, such as the Hero questing through the Demon World for a year, experiencing tremendous trials and befriending a plethora of bizarre creatures. When you get right down to it, the only thing that truly moves forward with time is the land. Everyone else just kinda…waits around.
Speaking of waiting around, Maoyu’s visuals are not overly strenuously any stretch. Owing to the nature of the series, the majority of screen time is taken up by conversations and deals, in which characters are often simply sitting at a table. The multitude of crowds throughout the series, as well as most random citizens who stroll past the screen, are also presented in rather obvious CGI, contrasting the animated backgrounds. There are brief moments where we witness conflict playing out, but even these moments are not tremendously animated. I believe there was even one soldier in a particular scene who was frantically swinging his sword in every direction…despite not being close enough to actually hit anyone. So yeah. Maoyu certainly doesn’t shine in regards to animation.
Now we come to the characters, which you may have noticed something about: they have no names. None of them. From Hero, to Knight, to Winter King, each player in this political play exists only under the banner of their title. Though this may seem “lazy” to a degree, such a naming scheme serves as a sort of commentary on the traditions of the fantasy genre. By this point we all know who will appear in such a series, Maoyu just skips the frilly edges and plays them straight. Of course this could also be seen as a detriment to the development of personality, as characters do not even have names to identify them. Such a concept is only compounded by the fact that characters’ lives are not often explored to any meaningful degree. Sure we learn what happened in some of the cast’s pasts, but it just doesn’t feel personal. It feels like we’re learning about the backstory of a “Knight” or “Maid” class rather than one unique to a character. There are brief moments where characters seem to shine as individuals, but these are often overwhelmed by the far larger plot in which they are involved. That being said, it is interesting to see these characters thrown into a situation they are not quite used to.
The Demon King and Hero’s relationship also feels somewhat under explored, due to the fact that neither are in the same place for long. Don’t get me wrong, it is sweet to see how naive the Demon King can be in manners of the heart, contrasting her tremendous knowledge in most other subjects, but it just doesn’t seem to go anywhere. It even seems to degrade at some points, wherein the two would become more nervous around each other than they had been earlier. Sure this could be attributed to not seeing each other for so long, but it just happened so much that it became a touch annoying. The Hero himself also continuously mulls over the fact that he is only talented as a fighter, something that is not inherently necessary in the world of peace he is striving to create. Now whilst this is an understandable doubt of self, I can’t help but feel that it would’ve had more impact if said doubts were ever realised. Despite wishing for a more productive set of skills, the Hero is never not needed throughout the series, effectively nullifying his theory…though he himself never catches onto this.
At the end of the day, Maoyu is an interesting series. There’s no doubt about that. However, in delving so deep into the workings of the world, those who dwell within it are left rather…underdeveloped. To me it just seemed as if they never really evolved beyond their title. Taking everything into account, the character that evolves the most over the course of Maoyu is the country itself. Transforming from a country plagued solely by war, to one with the prospect of hope firmly cemented within the minds of its citizens.
Maoyu is a truly interesting take on the fantasy genre, exploring a side not often explored, creating an interesting premise. Unfortunately, it does not stretch far beyond the basics of said concept, severely limiting the impacted of such an endeavour. The archetypal personalities of each character also serve to reduce the series overall emotion. As the series progresses, there is one character however who continues to move above her station, showcasing true emotion and a bevy of hidden talents. Unfortunately, said character is relegated to the back stage for the majority, pushed behind more “important” characters, such as a Hero who is not for one moment outmatched in strength, or a Demon King who possesses every answer in two worlds. Basically, Mayou takes the tradition of a fantasy world, combines it with the issues and benefits of economy and explores how society changes. I just can’t help but think that if said society was more interesting, Maoyu would’ve been too.
Maoyu and all the socio-economics it entails can be found at Madman.