Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – 01

Fifteen years into a brutal war between the human and demon worlds, a Hero (Yuusha) and four companions set out to fight for glory. The hero eventually leaves the others behind and races to the castle of the Demon King (Maou) to slay him. The “King” turns out to be a beautiful woman, who tells him slaying her won’t end the war. She convinces him exchange ownership of one another and join forces with her to find the right way to end the war and bring peace to both worlds.

We love anime with a Final Fantasy-like epic vibe to them, and this series truly delivers, and then some. FF can be a bit stodgy, taking itself too seriously for its own good. That’s not the case here, as there’s a nice balance of the serious thematic elements of a huge war, while also finding time for tongue-and-cheek moments. Some are sophomoric (such as Maou’s boobs and fantasies), others are more clever (her horns are just a removable accessory). The entire situation is a bit absurd, and the series itself is aware of this, but it’s not too winky, either. This is also a departure in the typical FF story in that in FF Maou may well be the Big Bad or Final Sorceress Boss the hero builds up to.

Here, Yuusha marches right into the final dungeon and points the sword at her. Every fiber in his uncomplicated Hero being is telling him the only right and proper thing to do is slay her and the war will end and everyone will be happy. Maou represents a more realistic, modern mind who knows things won’t be that simple. Too much of humanity depends on the war for survival to end it carelessly, and yet the suffering the war is causing cannot be allowed to continue if Yuusha and Maou are to claim victory. Yuusha’s initial quest has ended and his duty and purpose usurped. Now he allies himself with his former archenemy and are about to embark on an entirely different quest that will challenge everything he once knew about the world.

We look forward to watching the ensuing adventures, as adeptly directed by Spice & Wolf chief Takahashi Takeo, who reunites the lovely Koshimizu Ami and steady Fukuyama Jun. It was a very gorgeous, fun, and enticing start.

Rating: 9 (Superior)

OreShura – 01

Kidou Eita is a studybug gunning for a med school scholarship and uninterested in love, but his high school life is complicated when he’s assigned the coveted seat next to the coveted Natsukawa Masuzu. One day she confesses to him in front of everyone. While walking home together, she admits it was a ruse to get the other guys off her back. She uses his diary she found in a used bookstore to blackmail him into agreeing to be her fake boyfriend.

As this was directed by the guy who helmed Usagi Drop, and featuring a lovely pastel-y palette, we hoped this series would transcend is long and somewhat silly title. And man, that Candy Land OP was hard to get through. But what was waiting on the other side was a very attractive, nicely-paced school rom-com featuring flawed characters with potential. It is also a thoroughly safe, by-the-numbers affair inundated with well-traveled themes, but we are not averse to watching different executions of those themes, and the execution in this first episode is praiseworthy.

Among some of the finer qualities is how both Eita andd Masuzu are first presented to us. We aren’t just told that they hate love; we’re shown why. Eita’s parents divorced, found new lovers, and vanished, ditching him when he was in the eighth grade. It’s a contrived past, but it certainly explains his aversion to romance. Masuzu’s beauty makes her an object of constant (unwanted) attention and has been asked out 58 times in two months, so it’s no surprise she’s tired of it and gone all anti-love.

In addition to their mutual cyncism, the two are also very bright and perceptive, cutting through the BS with ease. Their thoughtful banter is the highlight of this episode. Our suspicion is that one or the other or both will lose perspective as the fake relationship becomes more real. There is no question that Eita’s lack of gawking at her is attractive to Musuzu, and Eita acknowledges she’s a hottie (Koko’s lil’ sis!) but for now, things are strictly business. We’ll see how long it stays that way, and how Eita’s somewhat annoying childhood friend Chiwa comes into play.

Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Car Cameos: The supermarket parking lot contains a Toyota Yaris hatchback, a Jeep Liberty, an Audi A4, a rare Audi A2, and a Prius. A Nissan Murano also drives past the frame.

From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 14

Humans are, in many ways, gods. One wonders if there was a lesser species of sentient animal living among us (like queerats), that species would view us as such for all of the amazing things we can do that they can’t…even if we don’t have the power of telekinesis (some monks in Tibet may, we don’t know). In the New World, everyone has a cantus, which makes everyone a potential threat to everyone else. One person can become a district-swallowing fiend. Japan is a land of 60,000 potential nuclear bombs – weapons of almost limitless energy.

Mamoru and Maria are no different from anyone else. They want to live alone in the wilderness to be safe from harm, but if they were to become fiends, they would be the ones doing the harm, and they wouldn’t have a say in the matter. As such, both the Board of Education and Ethics Committee are treating them like missing WMDs. Chairman Tomiko has big plans and faith in Saki – indeed in all of Group One, originally – so she gives her a chance to bring the wayward friends back her own way.

This week, the total scale of Tomiko’s influence comes to light, when she tells Saki how old she is: 267 years, 170 of them as the Ethics Chief. Her longevity, and the resulting knowledge amassed in her head, are the source of her power. Because of the threat humans pose to one another, only the bare minimum are entrusted with knowledge. There must be people who are aware and free-thinking enough to make the tough choices and do the dirty work and protect the others. Tomiko has been that, and she intends for Saki to replace her.

Tomiko also easily sways the Board and its much younger leadership because she points out that they totally screwed up the whole “disposing of Mamoru” thing. That’s a factor of their impatience and inexperience, which is why they defer to her. Their reverence for her is palpable. Tomiko then vouches for Mamoru and Maria’s safety if they’re brought back. We don’t know how she can make that guarantee if Mamoru is truly headed to fiendsville, but in any case, the two aren’t where Saki and Satoru left them. They have three days.

Rating: 8 (Great)