There’s a word in Japanese, “Jouzu” (上手) which, like so many words, doesn’t translate perfectly into English. It means some combination of “skilled”, “competent”, “expert” and the like – and it’s the word that springs to mind when I consider Hataraku Maou-sama. This is a series that just gets it right – there’s a tremendous sense of surety to everything it does. It looks great, it has great music, a skilled cast, and the dialogue (definitely a strength of White Fox adaptations) is as razor-sharp as you’ll find. The balance between humor and seriousness is spot-on for the kind of show this is trying to be.
Living the life of a part-timer/student in Tokyo myself, needless to say there’s been a lot in the first two episodes of Hataraku that’s resonated with me. The first moment in this ep that really made me laugh was when Emi confronted Sadao and he asked “Is that the knife they sell at the 100¥ shop in Setagaya?” The 100¥ shop is the holy temple of the part-timer, and we make many pilgrimages there. It doesn’t take Satan long to figure out that The Hero is in the same boat he is – shipwrecked on Earth with a finite (and small) amount of residual magic. In fact she can’t even use it to kill him, because if she does she won’t have enough to return home (and that’s assuming it’s true she has enough to begin with, which I have my doubts about).
Emi isn’t my favorite cast member so far, as she seems to be following a pretty traditional tsundere route. Nevertheless the banter between she and Maou is frequently pretty funny, and I loved the way she dissolved into tears when Sadao and Ashiya didn’t open the door right away. As the old saying goes, “Hell is full of interesting people”, and there’s no question that Satan and Alsiel would be the much more interesting folks to hang out with. But it’s the hero’s role to be the somewhat straight-laced tsukkomi most of the time. Emi, at least, is living better than Sadao – her job is a nice, clean phone support tech for “Docodemo” and she’s living in a much nicer apartment than Sadao and Ashiya’s 6-tatami bachelor dive.
The plot is moving along nicely along with the character chart. Turns out that earthquake in the premiere wasn’t merely there for effect – I thought it might be a comment on how Tokyoites casually dismiss all but the major quakes these days. There’s another one this week, seemingly a tiddler – but it turns out that Chiho’s house was shaken up rather badly. A mysterious text later received by Satan threatens that “The earthquakes will continue” – the question of who’s behind them and what their purpose is in targeting Chiho remans a mystery for now. But they’re obviously connected to whoever it was that sniped at Sadao and Emi with magic energy bullets – flattening his precious Dullalan’s tire in the process. Are they targeting Satan, or Yusa – or both?
The best part of Hatataku Maou-sama so far is certainly the comedy and the domestic bliss between Sadao and Ashiya. This ep was full of hilarious moments, like Ashiya’s reaction when Emi pulled the knife on Sadao – which turned out to be because the konjac (truly vile stuff) was boiling over. I also loved Emi’s co-worker bemoaning that the customers needed a dose of RTFM, Sadao refusing to get back in line for on-sale eggs because it was against the rules, Emi stopping for TP on the way home, Satan basing his plan for world domination on making it to full-timer… We’ve obviously seen this fish-out-of-water premise done before, but rarely this well – with this series it’s all in the execution, and so far it’s just about flawless. Jouzu, desu ne?
OP: “ZERO!!” by Minami Kuribayashi