We’re still on our Ghibli high (both from Poppy Hill and from the surprising Super Bowl commercial for the Maserati Ghibli; no relation), and so this week’s OP is from a show that we felt tapped into the Ghibli magic of a totally new, same-yet-different world, where the emphasis isn’t on fighting villains, but on cultures, systems, ideals, and the journey. Later shows that follow this formula with success include Maoyu and Sunday Without God.
Spice & Wolf is also interesting in that its two seasons were produced by different principal studios (Imagin for the first go, Brains Base for the second). This is the OP for the first season, an enticing invitation to be absorbed into its lush world. Fittingly, the name of the song by Kiyoura Natsumi is “Tabi no Tochu (旅の途中)”, or “Journey,” and is suffused with wistfulness and anticipation.
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)