Not Enough Fighting Is Not Maoyuu's Problem
Maoyuu Maou Yuusha has many problems. It’s a show that for all of it’s intelligence and ambition is seriously flawed. Visually, for instance, as much as the random and tone breaking “fan service” alone would be enough weight to crush a less ambitious show. But, in recent weeks I’ve been hearing quite often this attack leveled against the show that reveals a severe misunderstanding of the two really really endemic faults that run throughout the show.
For some background, Maoyuu has been running five episodes in a show that is almost completely about a large war between a race of demons and human beings that the protagonists, the great hero of humanity and the King of the Demons. In this time, we have seen a lot of war TALKED about, but almost no actual action taking place on screen. This has made the calls that “this show needs more action” a standard among the viewer base. This episode seemed to be all about resolving that problem, filling the screen with violence and action enough to make up for the lack of it in previous episodes. I can’t quite firmly say if fans of the show’s blood lust was saked, but the consensus seems to be that the action was simply not up to snuff. But, why is that?
Simply put, the cries for more action is a vast misreading of the show itself. And in order to demonstrate this to you, I will explain two much, much, much, more pressing flaws in the show then any lack of action. And I will use examples exclusively from episode 6 to explain my problems with the show, that has left it perpetually teetering close to the edge of being dropped like a hot pocket right out of the microwave.
The first major problem is that the show doesn’t know how to set a consistent level of idealism. Maoyuu is clearly designed as a deconstruction of the often simplistic world building endemic in so many fantasy works. The removal things like the silly dichotomy of Good/humans versus Evil/demons seems particularly like a morally gray look at such a setting. So why all the light and fluffy idealism?
The main two characters are almost literally vice-less human beings. In this episode, the hero goes so far as to run a campaign of terror against a bunch of humans to make them end the occupation of a demon city by way of a terrorist insurgency in the city, ala Al-Quaeda. The weird thing is that the show takes time out of it’s way to specifically mention that he was not killing people. Was I the only person who paused the episode briefly to raise an eyebrow?
I’m not saying everything needs to be dark and gritty all the time. Shows like Mirai Nikki are allowed to be ultra-violent, Shows like Ghost in the Shell are allowed to be realistically violent, shows like Sailor Moon are allowed to be sunshine and rainbows. The problem is when you can’t choose which you are that leads to the audience getting taken out of your work. It leads to scenes like the slaughter on the bridge happening in the same episode as the whole sillyness with the old man’s breast rant happening within the same episode.
On that subject, have you noticed that the show hasn’t introduced a single major antagonist yet despite us finding ourselves a solid halfway through the run time of the show? Ever minor episode antagonist has ended up a good guy by the end of the episode, or just seems that way until we meet them. Every single one. Take the old man for instance. The show put all the setup needed to make a cconvincing case that this guy is after his own ends, and then when we’re finally introduced he reveals (much like a variety of other annoying cast members who have been in similar positions) to be a totally alright guy and a potential ally of the power couple.
Which brings me on to my second major flaw, and the flaw that is much more damning of the two. The old man is one of the few examples that the show had to offer of something mysterious or unknown to drive the tension along. Predictably, that ended in an anti-climax. He ended up (at least for now, there may be a twist later, but if so they ruined all the marvelous buildup they had) exactly what he appeared on the surface. Maoyuu is littered with moments like that. Lots of buildup, only to end in an anti-climax.
This is what detractors of the show are really noticing when they say there isn’t enough action. Action is a remarkably easy way of introducing conflict to something. When used well it is among the easiest and most effective ways of bringing a story along. This show seems to have entirely divested itself from the very idea of conflict. There is almost no romantic conflict between the main couple. There is almost no conflict in Demon King’s mission to bring peace to the human and demon worlds. There are no major antagonists or even arc antagonists to stand in her way. Every single plan she has goes off without a hitch. At all points in time we either know what her plan is, or when a new complication arises, it is immediately resolved. There is almost no suspense, almost no tension, and almost no conflict. When people say “We want more bloon ‘n guts” what they really should mean is “We want more conflict”
Within this episode alone. We were told in detail what Hero’s plan was, we saw Demon King provide the needed help to the humans with no buildup, the battle we saw on screen was one where the side we were meant to root for was on a strong position at the beginning and remained so, concluding with a one on one fight that was both irrelevant to the overall battle and so completely free of anything even resembling a threat that it just felt meaningless.
And the show does this all the time. It’s setting is really good, often times it sets up the events before conflict goes head to head really well, but invariably it always ends with an anti-climax. If I were going to make this episode, only without changing anything, I’d remove the entire section of the story with Hero, and put all of that time into creating a scene where the demons start marching towards a counter attack against the humans, AND THEN place the scene where the humans are chased on to bright island. The actual events of what happened can be explained in a sentence or two later, it’s just the lack of wondering “How is the hero doing?” or “What are these men doing here?” that really ruins that section of episode.
Nobody thought Spice and Wolf needed more fighting scenes, no one thought Stein;s Gate needed more fighting. That is because those shows had conflict. Romantic conflict, external conflict, internal conflict. It is totally possible to make a political drama series with almost no action required. It just needs the battles to be taking place over letters or a desk. A show without conflict is boring, and while I can hardly say I dislike the genuinely intelligent at times Maoyuu, someone needs to pizzaz the hell out of it.