Renai Boukun – 07

After establishing its kooky cast, Love Tyrant has proceeded to explore more and more serious dramatic stuff with the trappings of a quirky comedy. Guri first attempts to test out Akane’s “heartache” theory about love by stabbing herself with one of Akane’s kukris.

But after her desire to go to the festival is rebuffed by Seiji, who already has plans with Akane, she goes off on her own and is approached by The Perfect Guy, who is kind, patient, and respects her interests—the opposite of Seiji, leading her to question whether Seiji’s even worth her time.

A lovely festival date with Mystery Guy leads to a romantic setting in which he leans in for the kiss, only to have his eyes shoved into his brain by Guri; a reflex, she says contritely. Nice Guy is nice, but isn’t Seiji, and kissing him feels wrong.

So when she happens to bump into Seiji, who came to festival as per her original wishes anyway, she kisses him, it feels right, and she proclaims that while Seiji may have his issues—not handsome, stubborn, quick to anger, boring, insensitive—but she doesn’t hate him after all.

It’s good to see Guri and the show point out Seiji’s flaws, but also demonstrate how love is more than an equation of pros and cons. As for Perfect Guy, he was under a spell from Maou as part of his larger plan to recruit Guri, which, sure, fine.

Someone else who loves Seiji deeply in spite of his flaws is Akane, but unlike the cupid Guri, she’s supposed to have no need for love. In fact, giving her heart to Seiji is a serious crime against her family, and her mother Suo soon has her captured and bound, and gives her an ultimatum: break up with Seiji, or else.

What ‘or else’ means, precisely, I don’t know, as Akane is technically immortal. As is Seiji, as demonstrated when a group of thugs try to kill him in broad daylight in the park. He’s rescued by his tough little sister Akua, who is then totally freaked out by Coraly, because who wouldn’t be?

(I for one actually have a soft spot for Coraly because my roommate’s cat looks just like him…without the human face of course.)

Shikimi arrives to tell Seiji and Akua what Suo has done with Akane.  In solitary confinement, Akane remembers not giving a hoot about anyone’s feelings and keeping her heart to herself, as her mother wanted. Until she met Seiji by chance in an alley, and for some reason when he says she’s kind, it resonates, and whether she liked it or not, she fell for him right then and there.

Though it definitely weighs down what had been a lightweight rom-com, I appreciate the show elaborating on Akane’s feelings and showing their origins and how she must choose between love and family. I also like Seiji (and Akua!) teaming up with Shikimi to rescue Akane (even though Shikimi is clearly up to something).

Meanwhile Guri and Yuzu don’t have much time together in the second half but they make the most of it, first with Yuzu’s takedown of the cat maid cafe Guri brought them to, then in planning a sleepover, then ditching that plan to join the fight to save Akane.

Renai Boukun – 05

As expected, the pink-haired sadist doesn’t get to torture Seiji for long, as Akane arrives to rescue him, We learn she’s Shiramine Shikimi, cousin to Akane and Yuzu, who loves receiving pain as much as she loves doling it out. She also likes stealing things, particularly from Akane, and Seiji is one such thing.

A fight ensues, and Shikimi is able to repel Akane’s attacks and restrain her, then scolding her for becoming weaker and being a sorry excuse for a “weapon princess”. She’s more impressed with Yuzu’s shield. This is all to imply that Akane and Yuzu have never been ordinary high school students, but some higher calling they’ve yet to share with Seiji.

This is where Renai Boukun ditches the comedy altogether and gets a lot more serious, especially with the newly-arrived Guri telling Shikimi she can’t make her a part of the harem because there’s no real love inside of her.

Your mileage may vary on whether this show needs to be this serious or dramatic; I’m not the biggest fan of it. In any case, all the excitement leaves Seiji knocked out, and he then dies. Not even a fifteen-minute kiss from Akane can bring him back, Sleeping Beauty-style.

His death segues into the episode’s second segment, in which he meets Guri’s father Kami and his…er…neighbor Tiara? Coraly is also there. “Heaven” is little more than an ordinary Japanese living room.

There, Kami (‘God’) tells him he’s killed him “for the time being” so he could meet the one his daughter has latched herself onto. He wants her to one day succeed him as Kami-sama, so he wants Seiji to teach her about love, something she’s not made much progress with despite being assigned cupid duty.

Maou (‘the devil’) also stops by, wanting to convert Guri to demonhood, but as these are not humans, they don’t have a specific deadline in place for either thing to happen. Seiji can’t promise anything, because as Kami is well aware, Guri is a free spirit who will do what she wants when she wants to, which is rarely the same thing for long periods.

Seiji returns to the world of the living, where Akane is chasing Guri with her knives and Yuzu was about to kiss him as well, only for her and Seiji to knock heads. Seiji asks why Guri never let on about her father or the succession; Guri simply explains that stuff is boring and she doesn’t want to waste time talking about it. Fair enough!

Last week ever-darker elements of violence and sexual deprivation were introduced; this week there’s a lot more character drama and a general plot course is set, with various parties vying for Guri’s future just as the girls vie for Seiji. That’s all well and good, but it was also IMO the least funny, and least surprising, episode of Love Tyrant yet.

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)