Isekai, Ranked

If Anime is escapism, there is no better way to escape than plunging Into Another World, where our niche skills and routine possessions may shake the fabric of reality! From MMO-inspired, to hard fantasy, there are many types of shows on this list but no movies nor series we haven’t seen recently. Bring all disagreements to the comments below!

1. Re:Zero − Starting Life in Another World
Re:Zero takes Isekai’s love for fish-out-of-water stories on step further: through brutal, expectation breaking blind sides, it makes the viewer a fish out of water too! Dripping with fantastic animation, Re:Zero’s true strength is the balance of its highly detailed world without over explaining its magic system, time loop mechanic and political systems. It also earns bonus points for  limiting the application of its protagonist’s powerful magic and technological advantages.

2. Sword Art Online (1st season) 
In the narrowest of second places, SAO pairs top shelf animation with an approachable cast and easy to appreciate central conflict. Put its lovingly constructed MMO setting aside, and Kirito’s mistakes and occasional darkness elevate him above his potentially generic good-at-everything character type and Asuka plays the strongest heroine/love interest on the list.

3. Now and Then, Here and There
Imagine if Digimon told a bleak story about sex trafficking child soldiers trapped on a waterless world with a maniac king? NTHT’s intense swerve from adorable into darkness is on par with Re:Zero and, much like Natsuki Subaru, HTHT’s Shu must rely on ‘durability’ and ‘heart’ to make it through. While some of it’s later tragic moments are predictable, this f’ed-up little anime scores major points for telling a complete story and having that story grow Shu from simpleton into a conflicted young adult.

4. Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet
While Red’s post-earth scifi origin may stretch the common definition of Isekai, being trapped in a primitive culture that treats him (and his AI-driven mech Chamber) like a hero of old does not. Beautifully, Gargantia flips the script and makes Red’s overwhelming power, and killing in general, counter productive and at odds with the local people.

5. Yōjo Senki / The Saga of Tanya the Evil
Give us World War I with magic, a gender swapped villain as our protagonist, and God as our antagonist, and you’ve given us something pretty damn original. Like Gargantia, this reborn in another world captures thinking differently about the world can be as powerful and terrifying as unworldly strength. Without question, Yojo Senki’s cast is the most uniquely imagined on this list.

6. No Game No Life
Like Tanya, the Blank twins piss off god and are sent to another world as punishment. However, their punishment is much more stylish and… harem. Underneath NGNL’s acid-soaked panties, over the top protagonists and the psychedelic color pallet, is a show featuring thoughtful puzzles and imaginative spins on classic gamble-to-win story telling. Sadly, its story ends unfinished…

7. KonoSuba
One part jab at Isekai and one part love letter to the starting town of every fantasy MMO, KonoSuba is all parts ruthlessly funny! While this reborn in another world (with a goddess!) show is not as smartly written as NGNL, and it becomes repetitive after a time, the constant frenetic action more than makes up for it.

8. Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash
Quiet, thoughtful, and full of sadness, this hard fantasy Isekai doesn’t care if its heroes are reborn in another world or trapped in a dungeon crawl afterlife. Building family bonds and connecting with people who would not normally be friends is all that matters… and it’s lovingly animated to boot!

9. ReCreators
As a reverse Isekai, ReCreators distinguishes itself by bringing the other world to us. The experience is fantastically animated and packed with clever dialog that somehow breaths sincerity into a profoundly silly plot. The cast is quite diverse, both in design and personality, which keeps the action fresh, yet somehow cohesive throughout. It’s only major flaw is, the final act, which is way to drawn out.

10. The Devil is a Part Timer
No I’m not kidding! This reverse Isekai’s premise that the Devil is trapped in our world and must work at McDonnald’s to get by is charming. While DiaPT’s humor isn’t particularly specific to the devil, the jokes are punchy, and the overall plot develops at a respectable pace. As an added treat, the opening gothic fantasy fight scenes are surprisingly well animated.

11. Log Horizon (1st season)
Most exposition heavy, trapped in an MMO themed Isekai featuring ‘top ranked’ players crumble after a few episodes. More often than not, these shows try too hard to sell the coolness of their game worlds, user interfaces, and central characters. Miraculously, Log Horizon gets better mid season with a simple question: if former NPCs have personalities, can grow and learn, and even die, are they more human than the former players that dismiss them as background texture? Still, it takes Log Horizon six episodes to get going and good lord is it gray looking…

12. Overlord (3 Seasons)
This transported into an MMO Isekai mirrors its main character: it is competent but not sure what it should be doing at any given moment. Sometimes the protagonists are villains and sometimes they are heroes. More often than not, characters are given lavish screen time to develop, only to be slaughtered whimsically. The resulting narrative is full of call backs and revealed foreshadowing… yet hasn’t gone very far in 3 seasons and hasn’t asked any interesting questions along the way.

13. El Hazard – The Magnificent World (OAV/TV)
Predestined paradox, trans-dimensional time jumping high school students (and their drunk gym teacher) are trapped in an Arabian Nights’like land besieged by sentient bugs, a secret tribe of assassins from another dimension, and a death star like eye of god orbiting nearby. If you watched anime in the 1990s it will all be familiar but it still manages to feel original yet cohesive production. The character abilities are wonderful, the tragedy is nice, and plenty is left up to your own imagination to fill in the blanks. A bland, fault free, protagonist and a boy-crazy harem vibe are the only reasons it isn’t higher on the list.

14. Gate: Jieitai Kano Chi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri
This invading the other world Isekai flips the script to deliver political intrigue, clash of culture, and commentary on Japanese society. It loses points for being a overly harem, relying on super dumb/super evil antagonists, and a dull protagonist but it’s fun enough to watch.

15. Drifters
Stylishly violent, strikingly ugly, historical character filled and utterly bonkers, this reborn in another world Isekai’s uniqueness will hold your attention. Even if you do not want it to.

16. Rise of the Shield Hero (2 Seasons)
On paper, this transported to an MMO world Isekai’s “treat the hero like crap,” “watch him accept the role of a slave-buying villain” and ultimately “rise to become the true hero” concept is great. Revealing that the world he’s saving may be less redeemable than the world the invaders are trying to save is also great. Too bad its padded and many of the arbitrary delays and narrative dead ends feel like cop outs.

17. That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
While it lacks the initial hardcore’ness of Shield Hero, this reborn in another world Isekai is pleasantly animated and full of heart. The idea that naming monsters grants them power is a pretty neat mechanic too. It just sort bounces from idea to idea without a sense of purpose of resolution. One minute it’s a story of unlikely friendship, then magic destiny, then town builder, then harem, and onto magic school and isn’t about anything in particular until a hastily thrown together plot ties it up at the end. It scores points for making its hero a slime… although the reborn aspect never feels played with or justified.

18. Angel Beats!
If the gun fetish, kids fighting a loli-angel instead of attending school in the afterlife plot weren’t so dumb and drawn out, this rebirth story’s touching moments would push it much higher. There’s a really good tale of life cut short, reunion after death, and again after rebirth here and it gets major bonus points for finishing the story it had to tell. Totally squandered.

19. Death March / Kara Hajimaru Isekai Kyousoukyoku
Like Shield Hero, this reborn in an MMO Isekai is actually quite good looking. However, its Gary-Stue protagonist, harem and absurd narrative padding make it far less interesting.  OMG how many episodes are about making lunch?! That’s too bad because the concept of code-like “copy and paste” magic system is pretty neat.

20. Wiseman’s Grandson / Kenja no Mago
Despite opening with a modern day man being killed, this reborn into a fantasy world Isekai is more Magic School than Isekai. The only thread that connects the protagonist’s lives is that he can look at magic with an eye for process instead of outcome. The result is harmless easy watching but harem elements, a slow pace and lack of getting anywhere narratively hold it back.

21. How Not to Summon a Demon Lord
This summoned into an MMO Isekai starts off as charming, but ecchi-heavy, before abruptly turning dark at the end of the season. We’re talking ‘make a child watch as her best friend is slowly tortured to death’ and creepo ‘finger-bang a loli cat girl in order to give birth to the demon inside her’ level dark. While those elements elevate HNtSaDL above niche appeal of its harm and MMO content, they aren’t so interesting to earn my recommendation.

22. Problem Children are coming from Another World, Aren’t They?
T
he non-ecchi poor man’s No Game no Life features a talking cat that only some characters can understand and dreadful music. TFW smooth jazz? There’s some cuteness to be had, and the solutions to gambling games can be clever, but the overall vibe is low energy. It loses drama points because its protagonist is as smart as a god and physically stronger.

23. Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit Multi-Target Attacks?
This poor man’s Konosuba is occasionally funny, satire of RPG conventions and family relationships. Mama’s skill that interrupts whatever her son is doing, no matter what it is or where he is in the game world, is particularly charming. Unfortunately, there’s no avoiding the creepo factor of sexualizing that family relationship.

24. Restaurant from Another World
My mom is secretly from another world and my restaurant’s front door connects back to that world each day is certainly unique, but it’s structured more like a food-porn show than Isekai. While the linkages of each patron become clear over time, few characters are not aware of those connections themselves. The result never feels like it gets anywhere.

25. In Another World With My Smartphone
Stories without risk are still watchable when they immerse us an interesting world, or delve into niche details like food or how magic works, or sleeze us with harems and sex appeal. Smartphone fails all of these things. Worse, it does nothing with it’s one idea: protagonist Touya is reborn in a fantasy world with smartphone. Except, GOD GIVES HIM GOD TIER MAGIC FROM THE GET-GO! Ironically, Re:Zero and No Game No Life both use of a cell phones in more interesting ways, and Tanya’s God isn’t even comparable. Unoriginal, unfunny, not dramatic, not sexy, not worth watching.

26. Maou-sama, Retry!
This transported to an MMO Isekai’s trash production values, and bizarre characters are hard to take seriously. The results are sometimes so terrible they are funny, such as incompetent background music transitions and detailed horses hiding at the edges of the frame. Sadly, a bland harem and complete lack of narrative objective kill the mood.

27. Isekai Izakaya
Imagine a low energy, public access style show, with a tourism theme, that featuring a modern Japanese restaurant that serves fantasy world patrons…

28. Isekai Cheat Magician
A loveless summoned to a fantasy world Isekai who’s protagonists are the most powerful and purely good characters could deserve a niche rating. Not this one. The narrative sort of ‘skips the boring stuff’ and, in doing so, skips character development. Hilariously, what the narrative does show is poorly animated, always underwhelming magic battle scenes or people standing around talking.

29. Endride
Without dialog, this stumbled into a magic world Isekai’s vibrant color and crisp art would be watchable. The fact that the world is somehow inside of Earth’s core and the sparse use of mythology are unique, but its dumb-as-bricks whiny teen protagonists have the maturity of a small children. There are many unintentionally funny moments like scientists using gigantic laptops or the king’s magic weapon looking like a safety pin. Ultimately, the cast is so unlikeable that the show itself is unwatchable.

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Hataraku Maou-sama! – 13 (Fin)

Yusa Emi, Maou Sadao

Chiho has a dream about Maou returning to Ente Isla, but he tells her he used all his power fixing the city. Suzuno and Chiho cover for Maou running out during his shift. Emi believes Maou is up to something, and Chiho is worried it relates to leaving, so they follow him until they’re caught. He and Ashiya are working side jobs to pay for the transmitters he used to locate them and save their lives. Urushihara falls victim to a scammer who duped him out of 128,000 yen in merchandise. Emi lets Maou know about the “cooling off period” he can use to make the scammer take the stuff back.

With the last Big Bad dealt with (though he inexplicably ends up in the MgRonald freezer), this episode puts its feet up and kicks back with a series of lightweight stories. Both Chiho and Emi dream of Maou leaving and conquering, respectively, in truth Maou can’t go anywhere for the foreseeable future, having once again exhausted his demon powers in the service of good, rather than evil. Meanwhile, he and Ashiya have to keep working menial jobs to pay the bills, an enterprise that is almost underwhelmed by Urushihara’s carelessness with e-commerce.

Emi continues to not trust Maou even after he practically saved all of Tokyo and her own life for not the first time, but we can’t really blame her. While the event never had much impact beyond her pent-up animosity towards Maou and his cohorts, the fact remains her father was killed and village destroyed by armies under Maou’s command. It doesn’t matter to her how many degrees of separation; he was in charge of the ones who did that. Nevertheless, the pleasant cease-fire continues, with her offering him advice that gets him out of a financial pickle, and even gives him an umbrella to replace the one she took and threw out: his first, but not last, act of kindness that led to their unlikely friendship.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Hataraku Maou-sama! – 12

Kamazuki Suzuno

Archangel Sariel and Suzuno take Chiho and Emi to the top of the Tocho and he attempts to extract the sacred sword “better half” from Emi. Maou arrives on the scene and is ambushed by Suzuno; he removes his uniform so it isn’t ruined. Olba Meyer escapes from the hospital and convinces Urushihara to join back up with him as he brings the moon closer to the earth, increasing Sariel’s powers, but Urushihara, content to remain a NEET, betrays and captures Olba. The citywide panic caused by the moon infuses Moau with enormous amounts of magical power; enough for him to take his true form. Suzuno protects Chiho and the injured Emi while Maou defeats Sariel. A healed Ashiya arrives too late to do anything, but all is well.

We like the decision here to end the Sariel arc with one cool-down episode left in the chamber. Not stretching the decisive battle over two episodes means that not a single minute is wasted in this episode, and it never drags. Right out of the gate, Emi is getting the crap beat out of her by Sariel’s lasers. She’s in this pickle because she depends on sacred power, and precisely because her arch-nemesis is a demon, he is the only one who can save her and Chiho. The irony is as delicious as McDonald’s new dolled-up Quarter Pounders. Sariel is also confident that Maou will never follow through on helping Chiho simply because he’s her manager. Little does he know: Maou is all about proving doubters wrong.

Suzuno finally lets go of her official duties and does the right thing, admitting the Maou of here and now is a kind and virtuous man and she has no quarrel with such men, only those like Sariel who make people suffer for false peace. We love how the episode plays around with Uruchihara’s loyalties by first having him join Olba and then stabbing him in the back simply because he loves his new life more than his old one. We loved how none of Maou’s speech to Sariel included a confession of his love for Chiho, only his solemn vow to protect his underlings. Most of all, we appreciated how much the episode balanced the heavy stuff with some of the most – and best – comedic moments of the series.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Olba sneaks up on an already weak Ashiya and slugs him before leaving the hospital. Why? Guess he just felt like it!
  • Just when you think Ashiya is about to contribute…he arrives too late. Poor guy.
  • Suzuno’s embarrassment at having to fight Maou while he’s in nothing but his boxers is pretty priceless, as is Emi’s delayed reaction to the fact her blouse was wide open.
  • Suzuno’s big hammer is pretty cool, and she’s a fast fighter. Glad she chose the right side in the end.
  • Sariel won’t go down as the most dimensional, memorable villain, but we did like how he started out as a creepy SFC manager.
  • The battle takes place in Shinjuku, and part of the backdrop is the Washington Hotel where we’ve stayed. Always neat to see real places you’ve been to show up in anime.

Hataraku Maou-sama! – 11

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Suzuno recalls her “inquisition work” executing “heretics” for the church in a flashback. After helping Maou prepare for a flea market with Emi and Chiho, she’s confronted by Sarue, who tells her to “do her job” quickly. Suzuno then tells Chiho about her mission, warning her to stay out of it, but Chiho protests, and Emi backs her up, as she isn’t ready to kill Maou at the moment. Suzuno storms off, and Emi and Chiho are attacked by Sarue, who has the ability to nullify Emi’s sacred sword. Suzuno appears and knocks Chiho out. Chiho’s mother calls Sadao, and thanks to Urushihara, he knows which way to go to save her.

Having only seen the slightest bits of his time as Overlord Satan on Ente Isla, our picture of Maou is tempered by all the time we’ve watched him in the real world, being a good, kind person. In that way, we’re like Chiho, Rika, and all the other humans who he’s interacted with; we judge him by what we’ve experienced of him, not by his past in some other world. Emi, as the hero who saved that world, still isn’t quite convinced, but she’s her own boss, and has the luxury of taking a wait-and-see attitude; part of that empathy was cultivated by the influence of Chiho. Suzuno, on the other hand, has superiors and a job to do. She’s been conditioned to put orders above all else, even her personal feelings. This rigidity butts heads with the more flexible Emi and with Chiho, who directly opposes her in her attitude towards Maou.

Now that she knows Suzuno’s true colors, she’s shocked and disappointed, but she isn’t going to lie down and let her kill the man she loves, even if he isn’t just a man. She’s willing to let the past be the past, and Emi doesn’t want to create peace the way The Church aims to; peace at the cost of others’ suffering. This doesnt resonate with Suzuno, however, because she’s paid her dues and her hands are stained, thanks to the church. She’s sacrificed her goodness and even bits of her soul, so it’s not surprising a sobbing high schooler won’t sway her from her duty. That duty isn’t just to kill Maou, but to erase any memory a human might have of him, or of Enta Isle. But something tells us she isn’t going to acccomplish her mission, just to return home, get a pat on the back from the Church, and then go on a bender.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • God, Ashiya’s been ill for an eternity, and this time, he’s out of commission at a time when Maou could use him.
  • Urushihara comes through in the clutch, placing transmitters on both Emi and Suzuno. It’s something Ashiya would never have thought to do, being a technophobe and all.
  • The standoff between Chiho and Suzuno is well-acted by both seiyus. We can appreciate Suzuno’s position, but we have to side with Chiho, as Emi does. A church without forgiveness is no church at all.
  • On that note we especially liked how Chiho asked Suzuno if she ever actually met Maou when he was Overlord Satan, or if she just believed everything she heard about him. Chiho’s love and trust in him is based on personal experiences; Suzuno’s suspicion and hatred is more church brainwashing.
  • Some old man opens his eyes in the same hospital room as Ashiya, to which we can only say: “uh-oh.”
  • We’re wondering if Maou left in the middle of his shift, and if there’ll be consequences to that.
  • Not sure what the flea market stuff was all about, but it reminded us that weird landlady exists…maybe she’ll help Maou too when he’s in a spot?

Hataraku Maou-sama! – 10

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Maou’s manager Kisaki loans him to the MgRonald at Fushima Park, and Urushihara suggests he use the opportunity to harvest magic from those scared of the haunted house there. Chiho invites Emi to come with her to the park, along with Suzuno. After saying hi to Maou, they avail themselves of the park’s attractions, including the water park, haunted house, and reptile house. A series of events leads to the release of crocodiles in the pool, but Maou uses the magic he harvests from the scared patrons to subdue them, flummoxing Suzuno. On the way home, she sees a blue-haired hooded boy who sprouts white wings…

While we didn’t exactly ask for it, this episode nevertheless marked the introduction of Chiho’s massive boobs, usually covered up by her school or work uniforms, immediately followed by their comparison to the older, smaller-boobed Emi. But just because the younger, shorter girl’s boobs are bigger than the older, taller girl’s boobs doesn’t make it funny, mostly because this kind of thing is shockingly common in anime. At this point it would have been funnier if Emi had the bigger boobs. We did appreciate Suzuno picking out an old-fashioned bathing suit before switching to the standby one-piece. We also liked her ulterior motive for tagging along in the first place.

Not much of note happened this week. Not much happened last week either, but it was a far more interesting episode, for many reasons: a strong showing by Ashiya (largely absent and on the toilet this week, because haha pooping is also funny); a fresh perspective in Suzuki Rika (also not present here); the steady, realistic plot of attracting business (rather than just milling around an amusement park and having monkeys jump on one’s boobs), and partially just because last week the animators didn’t try to draw any animals, possibly aware that they weren’t very good at it. Which begs the question, why then feature so many animals this week?


Rating: 5 (Average)

Stray Observations:

  • We might’ve preferred if the episode stuck to Maou at the MgRonald the whole time. Maybe we just miss Working!!
  • We also miss Rika, but we know why she didn’t come along…because driven, ambitious people don’t waste time at amusement parks, unless they’re working there, amirite?
  • Chiho is right, Emi is cute…as exhibited when she bumps into someone and acts all cute.
  • Chiho is also cute, but her cuteness goes mostly unnoticed by a Sadao, who is particularly dense this week. Maybe it’s because he’s on the job…
  • Ordering shit on Amazon with money that’s not his when Ashiya is indisposed with food poisioning…yup, Urushihara is still pretty damn evil.
  • We knew it! Blue-haired kid has wings; he’s definitely not human. Maybe the perfume everyone smells on him is just the way ‘his kind’ smells? 
  • Regarding him, we’ll make a fresh prediction: he’ll get all up in Maou and Emi’s shit, and Suzuno will have to choose to remain loyal to the church or let her new friends be.

Hataraku Maou-sama! – 09

Kamakuzi Suzuno, Yusa Emi, Suzuki Rika, Ashiya Shirou

While preparing to assist Yusa with what she deems to be a “lover’s quarrel” with Maou, Suzuki Rika takes her and Suzuno to the same SFC Ashiya is investigating. He confronts Yusa when she insults Maou, and ends up telling Rika an epic, semi-fictional tale of his and Maou’s rise, fall, and impending redemption. Impressed and even a bit smitten with Ashiya and his friendship, they move to the MgRonalds, which is nearly empty despite the Sasahata Tanabata festival going on outside. After a few failed attempts to lure customers, a friend Maou made at community service delivers a bamboo tree for decorating, which along with the cute Chiho, build up the interest of the festival crowd and get MgRonalds buzzing again, further impressing Rika.

Taking place entirely within either the SFC or MgRonalds and consisting of quite a lot of sitting around talking and observing, this was a compact, no-frills, yet vibrant episode that we really enjoyed. By making the outsider Suzuki Rika the nucleus of the episode, its a way of taking stock of the lives Maou, Ashiya and Yusa have built and the people they’ve met, whom Rika, as an impartial third party, considers to be amazing, inspiring, and just the kind of passionate, driven, modest (and cute!) people she believes hanging around will enrich her life. This despite Yusa’s constant attempts to paint Maou as a villain, because let’s face it, he used to be. But as we said last week, this is a world with shades of grey, and Rika is open to hearing both sides of the story.

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And Ashiya’s side is simply epic. The sprawling, dramatic story Rika tells would be impressive even if he were making shit up, but the funny thing is, he merely adapted pretty much what actually happened between him, Maou and Yusa into a form that an ordinary human like Rika could understand. He’s actually being pretty damn honest with Rika; more than even Yusa was prepared to be, and presenting his tale in a way Yusa never would have considered. He and Maou have fallen, but they’ve dusted themselves off and have gotten back on the ladder. And while it could be argued that Rika could be being a bit of a busybody, her advice for Ashiya to be proud of supporting Maou (not wallow in shame and self-pity) is proof she’s also a kind and decent person.

We especially liked that while her first impressions of Maou were less than inspiring, she seemed aware that she wasn’t catching him at his best, taking to heart the things both Ashiya and Yusa said about him. She trusted she’d see a glimmer of the former “Maou Inc.” owner eventually, and her patience pays off, in a scene where Maou raises the moral of his troops and brings in new business with his sheer will, charisma, and resourcefulness. It’s a lovely little final scene, though all the pleasantness is somewhat interrupted by some ominous purple energy coalescing outside, followed by a thousand-mile stare by Suzuno directed at Maou. To us this meant that while Rika is sold on Maou’s goodness – as we pretty much are – Suzuno still isn’t sold, and in any case has a mission to carry out.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • The blue-haired manager of SFC continues to make every female character he interacts with feel extremely uncomfortable. We’re still thinking he’s another dude from Ente Isla.
  • Ashiya’s stories were accompanied by a montage of raw, hard-scratched illustrations, a nice change of art style that adds to the drama.
  • This week Yusa and Suzuno were on the sidelines because of Rika, but both Ashiya the Strategist and Maou the Field General and Warlord, were in top form, doing exactly what they were always meant to do, only in a vastly different scale and setting.
  • We liked Rika’s blushing upon hearing Ashiya’s tale, followed by what could be embarrassment over falling for someone who cleans another guy’s underwear :)
  • We also liked how Chiho inadvertently started a commotion among the male patrons of the festival, but not instantly…word had to of the cute team member had to spread first.

Hataraku Maou-sama! – 08

Emi Yusa, Maou Sadao, Kamazuki Suzuno, Ashiya Shirou, Sasaki Chiho

Suzuno is continuing to cook for Sadao as Ashiya recovers from heatstroke, initially causing a misunderstanding with Chiho. Over breakfast, Suzuno voices her intention to get a job at some point, and Emi agrees to help her secure more modern garb. Chiho reiterates her love for Sadao. When Suzuno meets up with Emi, she reveals her true identity as Christia Bell, Chief Interrogator for the Church’s Investigation Commission. She wants to team up with Hero Emilia to kill Sadao, but Emi isn’t ready to trust her yet. SFC is stealing all of MgRonald’s business, so Sadao sends Ashiya on a mission.

There’s a lot going on in this busy, vibrant episode, but the two main plots involve Chiho and Sadao’s relationship (such as it is) and Suzuno’s true identity and mission. A lot of exposition is covered during otherwise slice-of-life moments that further underline how the motley group of heros and demons is growing closer and more like ordinary earthbound humans. Even Suzuno; it’s her turn to be the fish out of water. She studied Showa-period tv dramas in preparation for coming to Japan. But despite her fear of the ticket machine (a fear we shared when first faced with one) or utter wonder at television (wait, we thought she watched tv?) the fact remains she’s a tough costumer who seems to be biding her time.

Sasaki Chiho, Maou Sadao

She’s also rocking the boat, something even Emi may not want at this point. Emi had a personal vendetta against Sadao, but her hatred for him is definitely fading, and she can’t deny he’s changed his ways. Sure, he and Ashiya still spew nonsense about ruling the new world they’re in, but like Emi always promising to kill Sadao, at this point its more of an obligation to protocol than actual realistic goals. They’re trying to keep their former roles alive, but in this world, anyone can be either a hero or a demon as conditions dictate. Things aren’t so black-and-white here, something Suzuno will learn the more time she spends around Castle Overlord.

And then there’s the budding romance between Chiho and Sadao. There’s not much Sadao is contributing at this point, but he’s at least aware of her love for him, as she makes it clear to him. Before Emi told her about everything Sadao did back in his world, and before he even saved her life, she fell in love with him, because the only Sadao she knows is the one he’s been: warm, noble, kind, diligent, chivalrous. It’s her life and her choice. This means if anyone takes a shot at Sadao, they’ll be taking a shot at her too, which complicates matters.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Chiho had a lot of cute reactions in this episode. We especially liked her speeding off in Dullahan, and then later apologizing profusely to Sadao. Her reaction to the SFC manager was pretty great too.
  • About that blue-haired dude: could he be another person from Ente Isla? He seems a bit off.
  • Just as in, say, Index, all the religious-political crap is some of the least interesting material in the series. We’d rather see the gang enjoying a meager feast together than hear a bunch of whitebeards braying on about some such gobbledygook.

Hataraku Maou-sama! – 07

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Maou’s new neighbor introduces herself as Kamazuki Suzuno and offers to cook him a meal. Emeralda sends Emi a package full of elixir disguised as vitamin drinks that will help restore her powers. While stalking Maou, Emi notices Suzuno in his apartment and investigates, and is eventually invited in. She warns Suzuno not to get too close to Maou. Maou has his first shift as supervisor, but Chiho is distraught when she sees the homemade bento Suzuno made him. Emi is attacked at a convenience store by an unknown assailant with the ability to nullify her sacred sword, but is saved by the clerk.

And then there were six. What started with just Maou and Ashiya transported to earth has now grown threefold with the addition of Urushihara and most recently Suzuno. While Urushihara started out as the bad guy and then became a web-surfing bum, Suzuno’s true motives remain elusive. She came from Ente Isla, but even Emi isn’t sure whether she’s a human or a demon, or what exactly she wants. All she knows is, she’s quickly inserted herself into Maou. Things take another turn for the suspicious when Emi is attacked not long after metting Suzuno, though her attacker was a guy.

While sweltering in the summer heat, Emi wonders if she’s looking at the Maou and Ashiya situation all wrong: maybe they really don’t mean any harm and simply want to live out their lives as law-abiding humans. Part of her wants that to be true, but she still can’t be sure. And even if she was, parties beyond her and Maou are inserting themselves into their lives, and aren’t going to let anyone have normal lives. They’ll attack without warning in conspicuous places, and they may come with kind greetings and homemade elaborate lunches. But the fact is, they’re all threats to the status quo that both Emi and Maou would rather simply enjoy indefinitely.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Suzuno is voiced by Itou Kanae, AKA Saten Ruiko, SAO’s Yui, Ohana, and others. Her approach with Suzuno is feminine yet mature, balancing her small stature with immense underlying strength.
  • Asakura Azumi voices Emeralda, a bit too airy and feathery for our tastes.
  • Chiho considers the homemade two-level bento (with heart rice inside) a challenge to her position as Maou’s betrothed.
  • We don’t know who voiced the convenience store clerk, but he had a cool accent.

Hataraku Maou-sama! – 06

Yusa Emi, Ashiya Shirou, Maou Sadao, Sasaki Chiho

Lucifer, with the new name “Urushihara,” moves into Castle Overlord with Maou and Ashiya. A messenger informs the high priests of Olba’s treachery, and that contrary to the church’s word, Hero Emilia lives. Ashiya scours the library for sites where he and Maou can replenish their power, but Urushihara comes up with a much more local place, which happens to be Chiho’s high school. Maou, Ashiya and Chiho investigate, soon followed by Emi who continues to watch Maou, but it turns out Urushihara just wanted them to retrieve his PS Vita. The same messenger from Ente Isla moves in as Maou’s new neighbor, whom he catches when she falls down the stairs.

This show is exceedingly good at maintaining a balance between telling a good story without getting to serious or too goofy or self-mocking. There’s a forthrightness to the storytelling, in which even a trope like the haunted classroom serves both as a potential source of demonic power for Maou, and ultimately, a punchline. While the forbidden classroom is indeed the site of a past gate, that gate is the one where Lucifer and Olba recently entered the human world, and where he left his video game. Urushihara has become as domesticated as Maou and Emi, but he still has the ability to manipulate people to do his bidding.

Sort of. He gets his PSV back, but Ashiya hands down rules limiting its use. If Maou is the “father” and breadwinner of this new demonic family that inhabits Castle Overlord, and Ashiya is the dutiful, miserly, naggy “mother”, then Urushihara is their kid: wasteful, impulsive, willful, and at least initially, manipulative, taking advantage of Maou’s wonderment over the power of the internet. Of course, Maou and Ashiya won’t get so easily fooled next time. The mystery investigation may have been a bust, but hey, at least Chiho got to help Maou out.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Chiho has taken the news of Maou and Emi’s identities in stride. Her feelings for Maou haven’t changed, and after all, he’s been nothing but kind and protective of her, so she’s hardly wrong-headed for doing so.
  • No amount of heroic acts by Satan will sway Emi’s ultimate opinion of him, it seems. Even though she claims she can return home at any time, she’s sticking around just to keep an eye on him.
  • We liked how everyone gave Emi grief over destroying that anatomical mannequin. Those bitches are expensive, and she broke the damn thing!
  • We could’ve done without the fat-shaming vis-a-vis the landlady. Poor taste, HMS!
  • The yukata-wearing messenger who moves in has an agenda all her own. We’ll see what she’ll decides to do about Emi, Maou, and his two generals.

Hataraku Maou-sama! – 05

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Maou’s general Lucifer, aided by rogue High Priest Olba Meyer, intends to destroy both Emi and Maou, using the negative energy of the surrounding populace – and Chiho – to fuel his magic. He gravely injures Maou, but he has enough magic to teleport to a crowded area, where he too draws power from the people and stops a highway from collapsing. Emi summons her hero powers and clashes with Lucifer. Once he sets the rubble down, Maou joins the fight, beating Olba and Lucifer to a pulp. Emi’s allies Emeralda and Albert arrive, and they’re confused about Maou, but take Emi’s word for it and then depart. Maou and Emi explain everything to Chiho, who watched it all unfold. Maou fixes the damage to the city and wipes the public’s memories (except for Chiho’s).

Not only was this the most action-packed episode, it was also the funniest by far, and those two qualities actually complemented each other quite well, rather than clashing. Maou in particular calls out Olba (“cue-ball”) on his cliche’d villain bullshit, and while he, Emi, Ashiya and Chiho are put into considerable peril, they come back hard on their would-be usurpers and put them back in their place. When you go after the Hero and Demon Overlord, you best not miss. They did, and struck out.

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This was also one of the denser episodes not just of this series, but of the entire Spring, with an epic, cinematic feel and a lot of well-oiled moving parts humming along in perfect harmony and formidable speed. But in the midst of all the magic spectacle and comedy, the four core characters stay true to themselves throughout. Even while Maou’s keeping an overpass from falling on her, Emi is still reticent about working alongside him. Maou sticks to his guns about liking the world he’s in and working hard to protect it. Ashiya is a proud, loyal…dork. Best of all, Chiho remembers everything that happened this week, and she seems to be cool with it, which is what we’d expect of an open-minded, wide-eyed youth such as herself.

Maou and Emi look upon one another incredulously in the aftermath of all this action, after returning to their ordinary human forms. The question is raised: if the two of them could have summoned this power all along, why did neither of them try to off the other? Both are coy and elusive in their answer, but we can hazard a guess; while Maou still talks about restoring his empire and Emi muses about killing Maou, the fact is, it’s all just talk, and in the meantime, they seem to be enjoying their ordinary human lives…so why rock the boat?


Rating: 9 (Superior)

 

 

 

Hataraku Maou-sama! – 04

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Thanks to Maou, there are no casualties following the earthquake that caused the underground mall to cave it. Emi recalls how she was taken from her father to train to become the Hero, and how her village was destroyed and father killed by Maou’s general Lucifer. After spending time with Rika, the next morning she visits Maou to pay him back, and falls down the stairs. He helps her, and his kindness irks her, considering what he did in their world. Chiho walks in on the two of them together and misunderstands. Maou, Emi and Shiro chase her down, but she’s already been confronted by Lucifer, who wants to surpass Maou.

It must be something about the new world he finds himself in, but at the moment Maou is…just not acting all that evil. He rained death and destruction upon the world he comes from, earning the eternal hatred and loathing of all who survived his ruthless attacks. Emi, the daughter of an angel, has lived her entire life for one purpose; to face and defeat Maou. And now that they’re in a new world, nothing makes sense anymore. Maou is kind and heroic and cares for people, even Emi, and it’s driving her crazy. Being a hero is supposed to be her job, for one thing.

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Her friend Rika also suffered in the past; having been in Kobe during the horrible great earthquake there. In Emi she finds someone she can embrace and talk to without being pitied as a victim or otherwise judged. In Rika, Emi finds someone else dealing with a lot of pain over tragic events of the past. She’s convinced she can never forgive Maou for what he’s done, but you can tell she’s struggling with her certainty.

Meanwhile, Maou inadvertently got the spunky Chiho tangled up in all these supernatural affairs, and his general Lucifer is in this new world to usurp his former lord. If anything can bring the bad old Maou out, it’s insubordination by an underling. And since they have a common enemy, Emi will likely put aside her reservations about continuing to interact with Maou rather than killing him in order to save innocent lives around them, including Chiho.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • We thought at first that Emi, like Kotoura, got herself into a spot when she went over to Rika’s place; but it doesn’t seem that Rika is a villain pretending to be a friend.
  • “May I unleash the Dullahan” is probably the geekiest way of asking to borrow a bike imaginable. So naturally, we’ll be using that line the first chance we get.
  • Emi’s the sole member of the “good guys” in the world at the moment, but two of her compatriots are on their way. They seemed to have a bit of trouble speaking their own language ;)
  • Maou’s landlady has a bit of a Witch of the Waste thing going on.
  • We don’t see much of Lucifer, but he’s the one directly responsible for Emi’s father’s death, and he seems like a bit of a cocky brat, so we look forward to Emi and Maou going at him with gusto.

Hataraku Maou-sama! – 03

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The day after Emi spends the night at Maou and Shiro’s, the guys are picked up by the cops when Maou’s bullet-ridden bike is found. After someone calls Emi at work threatening to kill both her and Maou, she goes to the cops to grudgingly sign off as their guanantor, and explains the situation. Chiho arranges a date with Maou in Shinjuku to discuss the earthquake, but Emi and Shiro tail them. Chiho tells Maou she’s heard voices and he realizes the other world is trying to contact him. A large earthquake strikes, ravaging the underground mall and trapping the four in rubble. Emi uses a spell to put Chiho to sleep after reassuring her, and Maou emerges in his true form, to attempt to free everyone.

We figured Chiho would get dragged deeper into this alternate world heroes-vs.-demons mess sooner or later, and she does this week, by hearing communiques in the aether intended for her ears, but which she can hear and understand nonetheless, likely do to her extended proximity to Maou. The title “Maou-sama goes on a Date” doesn’t do justice in an episode where a lot more goes on than a date. Both Yusa and Maou have a mutual enemy; he’s already taken shots at them. That means as much as Emi has been conditioned to loathe Maou and his general, a temporary alliance is in everyone’s best interests.

This is especially true if Emi wants to minimize harm to innocents, which she does, because she’s a hero. Here’s the thing: when it comes to Chiho, it would seem Maou’s a hero too. He’s talked of his return to glory once he regains his powers, but once he finally gets them back after the earthquake, his first thought is to help others, not further his own goals. Emi even considers pulling out her trump card to slay him in this opportune moment when they’re isolated, but doesn’t go through with it simply because, well, Maou just isn’t acting evil. In the other world, things were black-and-white, but here, so far, things are different.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Emi speaks passable English, but the true awesomeness was when she attempted to converse with her enemy while maintaining the pretense that she was chatting with another customer. She doesn’t entirely succeed, but it’s an excellent, well-written exchange that is simultaneously serious and funny…something this series is proving good at.
  • We enjoyed Emi’s comment to Shiro about how an empty fridge is a sign he’s failing as a general in this new world.
  • However, Shiro proves her wrong by breaking out a strategic fund to upgrade Maou’s wardrobe from his usual “Uniclo” (not that there’s anything wrong with Uniclo!) Chiho notices.
  • We love how Chiho doesn’t back down from Emi for a second, beliving her to be a jealus ex of Maou’s, which is actually the most logical presumption, from where she’s standing.
  • A hotel we’ve stayed at is in an establishing shot of Shinjuku.

Hataraku Maou-sama! – 02

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Hero Emilia, AKA Yusa Emi, confronts Maou and attacks him with a knife; they’re both taken to the Police, who assume it’s a lovers’ quarrel. The next evening, realizing her life is no different from Maou and Shiro’s, she stops by their place, and eventually starts stalking Maou, but he never commits any sins. They meet up another night, and she tells him she’ll leave him alone if he simply continues living a normal life in Sasazuka. They’re both attacked by a magic sniper, and Emi drops her purse as they flee, and she must spend the night at his place. In the night, Maou gets two texts about impending earthquakes, both from Chiho and from an unknown sender.

On Ente Isla in their home universe, Maou and Yuusha were bitter enemies endowed with immense magical power locked in mortal combat. However, now that neither of them have enough magic to fight each other, they’ve arrived at a truce. Right away the show continues having fun with the clash of the worlds, as Emi tries to fight her nemesis with a 100-yen steak knife. Turns out she’s just as domesticated as he and Shiro, with a cushier job answering phones at a customer care center and a much cushier apartment to boot. Initially, it sickens her that Maou is so pathetic, because if the one being she’s destined to slay is a loser, what does it make her?

We do like how rapidly and efficiently Maou and Emi’s relationship progresses from growling adversaries to reluctant companions. Enemies united by common hardship is not a new concept, and it really works nicely, because what else are they going to do in this modern Japanese society? Not that Emi is 10% with this; she even tears up for a minute, wondering what the heck she’s doing consorting with demons. Not to mention her sidekick either didn’t make it through the gate or chose to abandon her, so she’s been all alone in this world, and it’s doubtless comforting to know she’s not alone anymore.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Naturally, Chiho has the hots for Maou. Hey, he’s a dedicated, hard-working, kind, friendly guy. What’s not to like?
  • As such, the mere sight of Emi sets off Chiho’s alarm and considers the scarlet-haired beauty her competition.
  • It’s only been two episodes, but they may have made us realize that we just might prefer magical people in the real world like this one than ordinary people in a magical world.
  • The hero/overlord banter sounded very Chuunibyou-ish at times…only here they’re not just making shit up!
  • “You use the same detergent as I do.” Baw.

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