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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Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – 12 (Fin)

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Yuusha coaxes the ancient Demon King to leave Maou’s body, which is his property. The Mage goes to the Winter King & Co. with information about a smallpox vaccine, which could be used to end the war. The crazed one-eyed commander attacks the Maid sisters, but the young soldier intervenes and kills him. Onna-Kishi drives away the Central army. Back in the Central capital  the leader of the church conspires with a demon general, promising him the Southern Triad he’s about to conquer. Maou addresses her people in the Demon realm, telling them her intentions to begin negotiating a peace with humans, an arrangement the Alliance merchant supports. Maou, Yuusha, Onna-Kishi, the three maids have a celebratory feast, and Maou reflects on the progress she and everyone else has made.

This didn’t really feel like an ending. Aside from a few flourishes and jumping from place to place a bit more rapidly, it wasn’t all that grand. But maybe it wasn’t the episode’s intention to feel like an ending. In fact, it’s the continuation and beginning of far more things than it is the end of. Now reunited, Yuusha will remain by Maou’s side, providing awesome displays of power when necessary, or just a warm shoulder to lean on. She has sown the first seeds of liberalism and enlightenment-style civilization, but many, many challenges lie ahead. Maou is proud of the progress and in awe of the humans who have helped her and themselves. But no one’s under any illusions that it’s smooth sailing from here on out.

The demon realm initially takes her announcement of a moot to mean they’re going to war with the humans, not about to make peace. Rogue demons are in league with the human church, scheming in gilded halls to keep the people down with constant war and strife, undermining everything. And they have honest-to-goodness guns, which is worrying. The vaccine likely won’t go down easy, if the potato incident is any indication. And those are just the obvious bumps along the road, many more could spring up that can’t be predicted. So there’s a lot on the demon king’s plate, but she’s come too far and loves the world too much to give up.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • All Yuusha had to do was yell a little and hug Maou for the evil demon to release her? Alright then.
  • Maoyu’s cast ballooned in later episodes, as it had to in such a wide-reaching series about an entire world (two, if you count the demon realm). Still, even with the simplified character names, there was too much going on. The best episodes of Maoyu manage to world-build while remaining focused on a small number of characters or events. This episode was overstuffed.
  • The scene of the maids being attacked by the one-eyed guy could have been left on the cutting floor. We didn’t believe for a second he’d succeed. Ditto the baffling scene of the Mage in some magical place, talking to her two alter egos. Talk about a peripheral character!
  • Yuusha accidentally destroying a mountain – on the one hand, it was funny; on the other, we don’t see how a good number of demons would be upset about him destroying a whole friggin’ mountain. Hopefully he or the Mage can fix it.
  • We like how casually it’s revealed that the church is in league with demons disloyal to Maou. The lie the perpetuate mirrors the lie about the demon realm itself being another world only accessible via the gate, when in reality it’s just deep beneath the human world.

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – 11

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When White Night Country launches a surprise attack against Iron Country, A demon army approaches from the south. The Winter King and Onna-Kishi lead up the defense against White Night, while Yuusha heads south to deal with the demons. He encounters the Mage, who tells him to destroy the gate after she teleports the entire demon army back home. Yuusha discovers the demon world is merely deep underground, and blasts into the central castle where he finds the head maid has been maimed by Maou, who has been corrupted by evil demon kings of the past.

Like Spice & Wolf, Maoyu hasn’t been content to just tell the story of its small cast of characters, but lay out in great detail the mechanics of the world in which they live. Here in Maoyu, though, the hero and demon king aren’t just two people trying to find their way in the world, but are crucial players who will shape its future…especially now that we know the demon world and human world aren’t even separate realms. The series has also been very stingy with the female Mage, but now that she finally has more than a few moments of screen time, she doesn’t waste any time establishing that she’s properly badass…and has multiple personalities to boot!

Yuusha is now faced with the same situation in the first episode: crossing swords with the Demon King (or at least catching her scythe in his palms). But as that goes on, the gears of the world keep turning, with everyone’s favorite alliance merchant making a counter-move to Central’s reissuing of currency. Wheat is used as a food, a currency, and a weapon of war (when Onna-Kishi taints some to prevent a cavalry attack). We also get a peak at three of the “students” Maou, Maid Chou and Onna thought  They’re all making names for themselves. One on the battle lines, one negotiating with the merchant, and Maid Ane spreading the truth in print.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – 10

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Maid Ane’s speech leads to the Winter King abolishing serfdom in a bid to attract people to settle in the Southern Nations, enlisting bards to spread word of the advantages while also spreading literature made on the printing press. Word of a new church rising and other happenings in the South intrigues the merchant, who decides to involve the Central aristocracy in a price war, starting with wheat. The South responds with tariffs, and war becomes imminent, though Yuusha insists on a fight without casualties.

CMaou and Yuusha are playing the long game, but their efforts are starting to show, as the serfs of a good chunk of the continent have now been freed, and the war between men and demons is about to be usurped by civil struggle brought on by a shortage of resources. Or, in this case, the illusion of a shortage. The merchant, playing his own game (or “waltz”, as he calls it), is inspired to cause a huge stink. He thinks on the words Yuusha said to him about the thing that exists beyond profit and loss, and he knows coexistence with demons is a part of that.

His scheme causes the Central Powers to lash out, and in turn forces the Southern Powers to defend themselves from being raided of all their food. Meanwhile, somewhere in the demon world, Maou is still undergoing evaluation as the Head Maid stands guard and recollects her master dreaming up this whole game more than fifteen years ago, before she was the king. It’s nice to see Maou’s lost none of her determination and hope since then, and indeed passed it onto her would-be enemy.


Rating: 7 
(Very Good)

Maoyu Maoyuu Yuusha – 09

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Maid Ane prepares to act the part of the Crimson Scholar. The plan is for the Winter King to deliver her into the custody of the messenger sent by the Central church who claim Maou to be a heretic. As she is paraded out, placed in stocks, and whipped, Yuusha is poised to save her, but she deviates from the set plan and delivers a speech to the masses assembled before her, drawing from what she’s learned from the Head Maid, about not being an insect. She moves the crowd to turn against the messenger, and even inspires the Winter King to place her under his protection, and orders the Centrals to skedaddle.

What we thought would be an action-packed rescue mission in which the hero saves Ane from a public stoning in the knick of time, turned out to be something more akin of a one woman play – and that’s totally okay with us. As Ane was shoved around in stocks and whipped until her back is raw and bleeding, something awakensin her, and she decides to improvise a passionate, rousing, incredibly powerful speech to the people the church want to stone her, and it’s the church officials who end up getting stoned. So Yuusha doesn’t have to lift a finger (though it was nice to have him there just in case things went sour.)

When the head maid called Ane and her sister insects, it was cruel, but it was also true. Though they were serfs – two of seven siblings, the rest of whom were raped or killed or died of disease – they were also humans, and had the ability to choose their fate. They could choose to fall in line and obey whatever master or noble or priest came along, or they could choose to become better than they were. Ane and her sister gained the awareness of that choice and made themselves better. And now the serf, who was so close to death when she first met Maou, has found her voice, and as Yuusha puts it, her words have the power to cause entire armies to withdraw.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

 

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – 08

 

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With Maou away to renew her license, Yuusha tries to use Maid Ane to fill in for her, using the magic ring. However, the young merchant isn’t fooled. Yuusha takes him to Gate City, demonstrates its value, and offers to sell it to him in exchange for showing him something that “cannot be expressed in loss and gain.” Onna-kishi wants Yuusha to officially knight her, and he assents. A messenger from the Holy Capital informs the Winter King the Crimson Scholar (Maou) has been branded a heretic and must be arrested. The King goes to Yuusha, who will give the church Ane, disguised as the Scholar, then rescue her later.

Kings and Politicians are just another kind of merchant: peddling influence and resources. But they are driven by a desire for power, total victory, and the destruction of their foes. But true merchants understand there can be no business if there’s no one to do business with. Thus, every gain comes with a loss, and a balance is maintained. This is what Maou and Yuusha want: not for the demons or humans to defeat and rule over the other; but peaceful coexistence. This is already happening in Gate City, which Yuusha shows to the merchant to prove it’s not just a pipe dream.

The soldiers are gone, but the merchants remain, and they dont’ care if their business partners are demon or human. The city is offered to the merchant in exchange for his help in finding that elusive place beyond loss and gain they’re searching for. Onna-Kishi also moves forward: even if Yuusha will never be hers, she wants to be his; their quiet little knighting scene is wonderfully presented. This is just when her former charge, the church, has made a move against Maou. Were she in the human world, she’d probably let herself get arrested as part of a scheme. But she’s indisposed, so the hero must improvise.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – 07

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After the battle, Yuusha returns to Winter’s Pass Village to spend time with Maou, but Onna-Kishi is competing for Yuusha’s attention. While in the Gate City, he is accosted by the Dragon Archduke’s daughter. Minor earthquakes start cropping up in the village. Maou travels to Iron Country to inspect her prototype for a printing press. While she shares a bed with Yuusha and Onna-Kishi, Maou announces she must return to the demon world to have her king’s license renewed, lest civil war rend the realm. She leaves Yuusha in charge and gives Maid Ane the ability to mimic her appearance.

Maou isn’t about handouts. Better to teach someone how to fish or grow crops or use a printing press than to just supply such things to them already done. After all, if Maou’s plan works out, she won’t be around forever to see it sustained. And so the latest and best weapon in her arsenal is education. The serf girls who became her maids are microcosms of the amazing change education can bring in people. There’s a huge difference between knowing one’s plight but being unable to change it, and not even being aware of said plight, or of the possibility of a better life. The maids didn’t until they were shown and taught.

In this regard, Maou seeks to bring a dark world into the light…but educating the masses is a double-edged sword. The social structure of the current world is a certain, if imperfect, form of stability. Awakening the masses means inviting further conflict. But Maou doesn’t believe keeping one group of people ignorant and subservient to another is the proper way to peace, and in any case, there really is no true peace, as long as people like the disgraced Gate city administrator are plotting in dark rooms. It dawns on us we haven’t mentioned that Yuusha was in bed with two girls this week…but since nothing happened, we didn’t really see the need.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – 06

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The Winter King and Onna-Kishi lead an army to retake Bright Light Island. Maou arrives with know-how and resources to build an ice bridge to the island in the night. They use the bridge to establish a beachhead, but lack the men to mount a successful siege, until Yuusha arrives from the remote Gate City with the human army encamped there. The demons vacate the fortress, and once Onna-Kishi defeats the Ice General in single combat, the island is theirs. The Winter King throws a celebratory banquet, in which Maou and Onna are honored and Yuusha and Rou catch up.

Maou believes war to be a natural escalation of the natural conflict that arises whenever two individuals and by extension two groups cross paths. War doesn’t occur in a vacuum; it requires that steady escalation from more trifling conflicts, just as people aren’t born into adulthood. This week we watch Yuusha nudge a human army out of a demon city to meet up with another human army to root a demon army off a human island. Maou wasn’t after total victory in the classical sense; she essentially shuffled conflicting forces back onto their sides, while giving them a taste of the war she hopes will one day not be necessary.

Still, you have to break some eggs to make and omelette, or in this case, break some big chunks of ice. After showing off her mad agricultural skillz with the crops and science with the compasses, Maou shows her strategic prowess, as well as her engineering and logistical expertise. Her gran plan goes off without a hitch thanks to Yuusha’s assistance a in foreign land, and even Onna-Kishi gets to show off her badass swordsmanship against a giant Sauron-style boss who can take out platoons single-handed.  By moving forces that were exacerbating conflicts back to their own territory, perhaps Maou is on to something here. One thing’s for sure; girls got some big plans.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – 05

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Yuusha has been away from Maou for a year, planning to take Gate City. The Holy Capital and church launch a massive fleet of ships to retake Bright Light Island from the demons, but are defeated at sea, causing the death of the Winter King. The Winter Prince takes the throne and chooses Onna-Kishi as his commander for another attempt at the island. Before she leaves, Maou confesses she’s the demon king, but Kishi already heard it from Yuusha, and is fine with it, and agrees to be friends. Yuusha visits Maou in the night and they dance to the music of the New Years festival.

This week, after a whole year, Maou and Yuusha finally meet and touch, at it was about time. Both were on the edge of doubting their own wills, and their courage was failing, but the power each exerts on the other, if only briefly, was enough to recharge their batteries, so to speak. Bottom line: the power couple can get more done if they’re apart than if they’re both chilling in the same village. So rather than constantly hang off each other, they’re more ships passing in the night. Their faith in one another sustains them, and when it doesn’t, well, they meet again, exchange a few barbs, and try to see who can blush the most.

Yuusha, bred from birth to be a hero to mankind, sees the suffering of the demons and doesn’t like it. It’s clear to him that Maou’s way is better: if there was a clear victor, that victor would believe they could treat their defeated foe however they like, and a vast number of living beings would suffer. Yuusha isn’t on board with that. At the same time, some battles apparently have to be fought even in the service of ending war, so it’s better for such battles to end quickly than get drawn out. Myriad game pieces are being moved about the world, while Yuusha and Maou continue to dance to their own beat, fueled by one another.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – 04

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Maou hosts a young merchant and member of the Alliance for negotiations: she offers the idea of introducing corn crops in regions where previous agriculture had failed. The merchant is intrigued, and smitten by her fire, going so far as to propose marriage before they part ways. Maou has also not seen Yuusha for six months. Yuusha is afraid to get too close to her, lest his demise cause her sorrow. Onna-Kishi trains the town nobles in Yuusha’s stead, and Maid Ane asks her to help teach her how to fight.

Maou declares the second-strongest bond between heaven and earth is having something to gain from one another. It is with that belief that she reaches out to any and all that could help her gain what she desires: world peace. Even if the Alliance, which depends on the furtherance of the war to prosper, cannot share that particular desire, they’ll still make a huge amount of profit from corn, and so contracting with her is still the right move. This week Maou proves adept at negotiating, even while she wears her heart on her sleeve with regards to that ultimate goal of hers.

That brings us to the strongest bond: love. Yuusha, who has exiled himself from the one he gave himself to, can’t quite grasp what use he is to Maou, but in reality, the hero is the most important thing to her. She is uneasy and distracted by his conspicuous absense, and even breaks out the Yuusha pillow! Her…enthusiasm for him is keeping him away because he’s afraid. Not of sex, but afraid of what taking the next step will do: make it that much harder for Maou if she were to lose him. But like Maou, perhaps it isn’t good for Yuusha to think too much about such things.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – 03

With the crop experiments in the village proceeding well, Maou and Yuusha travel to a convent in Lake Country to share knowledge of potato cultivation. The prioress turns out to be Onna Kishi, a member of the hero’s original band. She tells him another member, Onna Mahoutsukai went looking for him and hasn’t been heard from. Kishi agrees to Maou’s terms and will join them at the village where the first new convent will be built. They return home, and Yuusha sets out to find Mahoutsukai.

Last week got an 8 and we feel it deserved it. It didn’t shy away from the inherent cruelty in this world, or the implacable human compulsion to sort themselves by class. We couldn’t find it in ourselves to give this episode the same rating. This week was a little more clinical; we felt like Maou was constantly giving us lectures. Onna Kishi’s introduction was…underwhelming, and Maou couldn’t help but label any female friend of Yuusha’s as an “old flame.” These new characters make Maou weary, even jealous.

In the end, one of them draws Yuusha away from Maou, at a time when Alliance members are talking about assassins. We get it: if a hero hears that someone is in trouble, he has to save them. But leaving Maou alone just seems dumb; even her tagging along would’ve been safer. And why has nothing. gone on between them in all these months? You’d think he’d have the guts to give the woman he’s promised himself to a goodbye kiss on the lips at the very least…but you’d be wrong. Needlessly slow romances annoy us…and the Chief Maid is with us on this!


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

P.S. Goddamn is that ED theme beautiful.

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – 02

Maou decides to begin agricultural experiments and education in a small village. Yuusha meets Maou’s longtime Head Maid. One night two serfs – sisters – break into the stables. The Maid is ready to turn them in, but Maou and Yuusha let them spend the night, and the maid eventually offers them jobs as maids. Maou begins enriching the land and educating the village youth, the first small step in her and Yuusha’s crusade.

Whenever characters have such well-defined traits and limitations – be it a queen, hero, maid or serf – there’s the risk of them becoming mere allegories in service of the plot, at the cost of emotional connection to them. Indeed, every character here is a manifestation of an idea/worldview first and foremost. The Maid is cold, logical, and unyielding, but tempered by her master’s authority. While she may sound cruel in making no distinction between serfs, slaves, and insects, she knows no other way to express these concepts. Her role doesn’t require her to distinguish between insects and humans who can’t or won’t determine their own fate.

But there’s something very weird and cool going on here: despite the characters being such strong archetypes, the sense of order that ensues is comforting and reliable. And Maou and Yuusha remain a cute, warm, and surprisingly witty couple; even if Yuusha doesn’t seem to be doing much yet, it’s clear just his being with Maou lends her emotional and moral support. We like how she gets into the nitty-gritty of agriculture and illustrates just how much careful, intricate preparation will be required to achieve their ultimate goal of peace.

On top of all that work, Yuusha isn’t even sure what peace is and where his place will be in that peace, other than by Maou’s side. After all, who needs heroes in a perfectly resolved world with no enemies to defeat or battles to win?


Rating: 8 (Great)

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)