I’ve said this before, but I think I like Hataraku Maou-sama better when the focus is on the comedy and not the larger plot. It’s a pretty good plot, actually – very good in fact – and these dramatic episodes certainly aren’t bad. But the writing seems to have a surer hand with slice-of-life and character-based situation comedy than with dramatic speeches and soul-searching revelations (though the action sequences are quite good). As a result there were a couple of moments in this ep that were about as off-pitch as anything Hataraku has thrown at us in 11 episodes.
We’re in a similar situation with Hataraku as with Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge – two episodes left, ongoing source material, leaving the open question of what sort of ending we’re going to get, and with how much anime-original material. The big difference is that Hataraku seems a very good bet for a second season (pre-sales suggesting 7-8K BD/DVD sales, strong LN sales spike). Of course there’s no way of knowing if the Production Committee expected that, but from what the LN folks are saying it appears as if White Fox is adapting this at a very deliberate pace, suggesting that they might have had high hopes (and Katanagatari is the only series they’ve produced that didn’t have at least two cours, with obviously unusual circumstances).
If indeed we get an anime-original end I feel pretty good, as the anime-original eps (like last week’s) have been excellent so far. My problem with this one isn’t so much the course of the plot as the execution – which is rare indeed for this show. There were no surprises among the revelations – at least until the very last one. Certainly we just about knew Sentucky James was the Angel, and the attacker who accosted Emi at the konbini. It’s been obvious for a while that Suzuno was an assassin working for the inquisition, probably with links to Orba – this week just fleshed that out a little. The growing theme here has been the undercutting of the series’ original premise that Satan and his army were evil, fighting against the forces of good in the Church – increasingly the Church’s true colors are being revealed. The obvious implication is that maybe Sadao hasn’t changed his stripes – maybe he was the nice guy all along.
The best part of the three-way (I don’t mean that) between Suzuno, Emi and Chiho was when Chiho (who would have thought she’d be a kuropan girl?) pointed out the above to Suzuno. The rest of it though felt pretty rote; Suzuno spouting Church doctrine, Chiho making a canned speech about friendship. Emi’s rationale for backing Chiho was pretty anti-climactic too – “I don’t want to build a world where friends make friends cry.” The whole matter was so by-the-book that for me it had the effect of trivializing the larger plot, which is too bad because I think the series has set that up beautifully. Frankly I wish this confrontation could have gone a little deeper, and I wish Chiho especially had shown a little more angry resolve and a little less tearful despair.
There wasn’t much with the guys this week, but we finally get to see Ashiya go to the hospital – and to that I say about time, because it’s started to become a real torture watching him roil and groan in agony every week. Urushihara actually proved himself useful this time around – he planted a transmitter in Emi’s bag, and he dug up info indicating that SFC and its manager were suspicious (though I think Maou should have figured that out himself). We also got a major dump of crap from Miki Shiba – goods with instructions to sell them at the flea market, and a bunch of food and drinks. Given the certainty that she’s also of non-human origin and the general lack of coincidences in this show, that will surely have deeper significance. Maybe the guava juice is an antidote for whatever poison Suzuno is using?
The ep wasn’t completely devoid of comedy. I appreciated the “KuroHippo” delivery van, though I suspect non-Edoites won’t get the joke. I loved it when Chiho used Maou’s resolve to teach her how to maintenance and repair the soft-serve machine as proof of his good intentions. I was also surprised – mostly that I hadn’t noticed before – to see that Ente Isla appears to be based on Florence, Italy. And finally, we had that one big reveal – Orba Meyer is in the same hospital as Ashiya, with the implication that he’s been comatose since we last saw him (and that the police have somehow connected him to Ashiya). I think it’s safe to say the fan is being prepared for the shit to hit it next week.