First Impressions – Hataraku Maou-sama!

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Every season, like clockwork, there’s a show that’s not on my radar screen that crashes the party in a big way.  Well…

Simply put, the first episode of Hataraku Maou-sama was excellent in every way.  I hadn’t initially paid much attention to this series, thinking it looked like a rather textbook LN adaptation, but several folks told me to keep an eye out for it.  They were right – White Fox is developing a pretty darn good track record, and in Maou-sama they might just have their most impressively animated series so far.  In terms of tone and narrative style, their recent offerings (Steins;Gate, Jormungand) have already shown them to have a very distinct and enjoyable style.

Let me say straight up that it’s tremendously exciting to see a new talent like Ohsaka Ryouta come along.  He stepped up his career big-time with a flawless performance as Yuki in Tsuritama, and he’s quietly done some excellent work since, like his turn as Sasayan in Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun.  But with this series Ohsaka truly stakes a claim to be the best male seiyuu to come along since his Tsuritama co-star Irino Miyu – Maou-sama (Satan) gives him a chance (in addition to some linguistic gymnastics) to stretch to screwball comedy and demonic menace, which he handles with aplomb.  He’s ably supported by a very funny Ono Yuuki as Alsiel, his faithful general and life-partner, and by Nao Touyama as hapless MgRonald part-timer Chiho Sasaki.

The premise doesn’t really do justice to just how fresh and creative this series is: Satan, fresh off a defeat at the hands of human hero Emilia (Hikasa Youko), escapes by portalling away with Alsiel in tow.  They end up in modern-day Tokyo – Sasazuka to be specific – quite bewildered by this strange world where magic seems not to exist and their clothes get them mistaken for cosplayers.  Forced to adapt to survive, they change their names to Sadao Mao and Shirou Ashiya, register for their Gaijin cards at the Shinjuku kuyakusho –  which is the same one where I got my Gaijin card, they even got the window number right – and rent a shabby apartment.  Mao decides to work to support the family while giving Ashiya the job of researching how their magic can be restored – as is, they’re stuck with conserving whatever reserves they have in their bodies, with no way of replenishing it.

When it comes to the charms of this show, the devil is in the details (sorry, I couldn’t resist).  Every scene is pulled off with style and the entire episode is perfectly paced and beautifully animated.  We start out with a surprisingly intense and lavish depiction of the battle between Satan and Emilia, and the transition to the modern world happens in a blink – as sudden and shocking to us as it is to the now-human demon lords.  There are lots of great little touches, like Alsiel demonstrating his “magic” by hailing a cab and the real estate agent’s explanation that the landlady “specifically asked that the apartment be rented to shady characters like you two”.  Things also heat up when Mao randomly encounters Emilia on the street in human form without realizing it’s her – he even gives her his umbrella in an act of most undemonic chivalry.

The two main tracks in the premiere both look like winners – the hilariously domestic relationship between Mao and Ashiya at home, and his workplace at MgRonald’s.  Ashiya scolds his Lord for being a bit too free with the little money they have, forcing the pair to subsist on a diet of MgRonald’s – he even gets a Supersize Me reference in.  Meanwhile Mao is throwing himself wholeheartedly into being the best part-timer a burger joint ever had, even considering using the last of his magic to fix the broken fryers so the store won’t lost the contest for selling the most black-pepper fries.  It’s all pulled off in very smart, insightful fashion – about Japanese and world culture, about relationships, and about light-novel cliche.  Hataraku Maou-sama! is definitely a case where the whole is much more than the sum of its parts – in a vacuum nothing about this series proclaims it to be anything exceptional, but it’s so smartly-written and well-executed that it makes a big impression immediately.  This one has a chance to be one of the best shows of the Spring if it can keep things going at this level.

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ED:”Sankaku e.p.” by nano.RIPE

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  1. e

    Oh midori akuma, you have quite persuaded me to keep an eye on this series with thy blogging magic. And as coincidences works in mysterious ways, when you quoted the Supersize Me ref I went 'O_O' then *3*. I've been watching this lately… (you can find all the episodes on Youtube too, including the Giles&Sue Living The Good Life + the G&S' Royal Wedding spin-off ) and was just thinking of tackling its US doc inspiration! I'm in fear&awe oh LiA Lord 8D.

  2. e

    UPDATE: watched it as I waited for my GeK to complete.
    Amusing, that it was. I appreciated the Divine Comedy-esque flavour too ('Malacoda'. So Dante Alighieri).
    I must say my fav moments were the food humour (what's in a tonkatsu and behold teh pouah ot its sacred name), the magic-not taxi cab calling powers + health care&bureaucracy bits. And if Satan in the guise of a cute guy is aiming for conquer via evil fast food hierarchy climbing that's sort of fitting. Oh hamburger&fries evil overlord!
    Also… the landlady looks very much like a witch and vaguely Ghibli-esque. Red herring or not? Could be fun finding out.

  3. i

    This was always on my radar. The trailer was funny, the manga even better and now a premiere worthy of fighting Haiyore for comedy of the season.

    For some reason I didn't laugh too much on my first watch, more astounded at how funny it was I was speechless. On my second run though and knowing what happens I could ROFL everywhere.

    This is the first show in spring I see myself definitely holding onto for its whole run. White Fox, damn you're good.

  4. R

    I am loving it…I was totally amused and laughed out loud numerous times. The animation is good; the characters are cute, and the story is told well in this premier. I didn't pay much attention to this show prior to its premier — it's a nice surprise. I definitely will want to check it out more.

  5. l

    Just finished this a few minutes ago. Didn't have any expectations for this (since I don't read the manga/novel), so I was pleasantly surprised to a small degree.

    Sure, it's generic as hell, but it had some redeeming moments. Leave it to part-timing at fast food to enslave even the most badass of demon lords. You gotta love how they rename franchises. MgRonald, RagDonald, WasBurger …. etc

    Probably the most budget ED I've ever seen, though. All they did was add sepia and rewind everything. LOL

  6. K

    Did not have any expectations going in, and I wasn't going to check it out if it wasn't being animated by WHITE FOX. Really glad I did. So far, Maou is a really likeable character. Intelligent, yet not so much that he appears to be stuck-up.

    When I see the fluidity and the amount of detail put into the animation(look at those flyers/ads in the background!!!), I keep thinking why they aren't putting it to use on more … ambitious IPs.

    I will definitely keep checking this out. Nice to know the 1st series I checked out this season is turned out this good.

  7. C

    I'm sure Enzo can relate in having to acclimate to Japan like Maou-sama did.

  8. l

    I guarantee you. No one, regardless of his nationality, can get an alien card as easily as Maou-sama did. Demon hypnosis powers sure are useful.

  9. As long as the visa is legit (that's the challenge) getting the gaijin card is simple as can be. In fact you can actually get them at the airport on the way in now, though you still have to go to the ward office for your insurance card.

    I would like to think my experience acclimatizing has been a bit less rough than Satan's, but there are definitely elements that I recognize.

  10. f

    i knew satan's true objective was to take over a fast food chain.

  11. k

    I told you! I told you! The source LNs are fantastic and this did them absolute justice, I didn't even know White Fox could animate like this…

    It's also good to see how it had a fantastic reception in Japan. This has the potential for a S2 if things don't go downhill (I've only read until what, vol 3 so I wouldn't know). In fact, it had a much better reception than Oregairu which is adapted from far more popular LNs and by Brains Base.

  12. H

    Just to check, so Hataraku Maou Sama is based on a series of LNs and also has a manga adaptation of them? I had only seen the manga before so everyone talking about LNs left me a little confused.

  13. k

    Exactly. I've never really read the manga but the LNs are really good and loved — Amazon review averages are constantly above four stars.

  14. i

    There a lot of comments about no one tracking this until now but I'm wondering why. From the promotion art and synopsis it might sound generic but its White Fox who were handling it and considering their track record doesnt that warrant as much interest as a new PA Works or Brain Base anime (both of which paled in comparison)?

    Also will you be posting something on Oregairu GE? For the most part I think its not annoying just dull. The whole club to remake socially inept people is so over used I can't care for it anymore. At least Boku Ha infuriated and made laugh in equal measure for a season and a half. I guess making anime like Tonari wont pay the bills for BB

  15. I watched it and will be posting today. I thought the premiere was pretty okay, not great.

  16. a

    I was one of the very few people who was excited for this back when it was announced and it surpassed my expectations. I will be following this one as It's definitely my type of comedy. The animation was also brilliant and the chemistry between the two male leads flowed really well giving me faith that they can support the show. The beautiful crimson haired bishoujo will be an excellent edition to the cast as shes a BAMF all the way.

  17. v

    Maou has the resemblance of SAO protagonist, I went in with the lowest expectation. This was a big surprise as it was genuinely funny. For the first time I agree collectively it has biggest potential being the best one. For me it was honestly one of the few impressive pilot episode I've seen so far. And it was great of them staffs to go extra mile and make up a new demon language.

  18. T

    Yup, I knew besides the fact that you acctually don't hate Index for railgun like most of the web, and that you liked Kamisama Dolls, there was a reason I followed this blog.

    Truth be told I had absolutly no intention on watching this, but thisreally turned out to be pretty damn fun, which is right up my alley, it could very well be my favoirte of the season.

  19. .

    Maou’s Guide to Conquering Earth:

    Step 1: Flip burgers at MgRonalds

    Step 2: Get promoted!

    Step 3: ???????

    Step 4: THE WORLD!

  20. Z

    Not bad. I liked the 'this is Khatsu-Dohm!' and other amusing utterances in their language. My worry is they will stop conversing in this language as they become further acclimatised to Japanese. The clumsy burger girl is sort of annoying.

    My biggest worry is when that Emeila girl showed up again. Please don't go down that route! Rom-com stuff always drags down the comedy elements for me.

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